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Has Intel Invented a Universal Memory Tech?

The mysterious XPoint memory in Intel’s new Optane solid-state drive is a step toward universal memory

4 min read
Photo: Intel
Learning to Drive: Intel’s Optane storage device is a zippier solid-state drive. Memory modules are next.
Photo: Intel

Today’s computers shuttle data around a byzantine system of several different kinds of short- and long-term memory. No wonder, then, that engineers have long dreamed of one memory technology to rule them all, a universal memory that would simplify computing and streamline the path of data.

In March, Intel announced that it will sell to data centers a new kind of solid-state drive, called Optane, that it says could lead to this kind of simplification. Optane drives are nonvolatile, like flash memory, which means that they should use relatively little standby power and that they’re fast, like DRAM. “It really starts to marry the worlds of memory and storage together,” company CEO Brian Krzanich says in a promotional video, over the swells of heroic music. The technology “comes close to being the holy grail of memory,” says Intel executive vice president William Holt in the same video.

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A Circuit to Boost Battery Life

Digital low-dropout voltage regulators will save time, money, and power

11 min read
Image of a battery held sideways by pliers on each side.
Edmon de Haro

YOU'VE PROBABLY PLAYED hundreds, maybe thousands, of videos on your smartphone. But have you ever thought about what happens when you press “play”?

The instant you touch that little triangle, many things happen at once. In microseconds, idle compute cores on your phone's processor spring to life. As they do so, their voltages and clock frequencies shoot up to ensure that the video decompresses and displays without delay. Meanwhile, other cores, running tasks in the background, throttle down. Charge surges into the active cores' millions of transistors and slows to a trickle in the newly idled ones.

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