Intel’s Optane H20 is the latest attempt at “hybrid” laptop storage

The new Intel H20 looks like a standard NVMe SSD—but it packs both slow QLC NAND and ultra-fast Optane into separate chips on the same M.2 drive.

Enlarge / The new Intel H20 looks like a standard NVMe SSD—but it packs both slow QLC NAND and ultra-fast Optane into separate chips on the same M.2 drive. (credit: Intel)

Intel’s got a new consumer-targeted storage product, called Optane H20—as in H twenty, not water. The new device is an M.2 2280 format drive, using QLC (Quad Level Cell) NAND storage running behind an Optane cache layer.

This isn’t Intel’s first try at an Optane-backed hybrid SSD—the first, 2019’s Optane H10, made its way into a few consumer laptops but didn’t make much of a splash. H20 is a second try, with a significantly improved QLC SSD and NAND controller.

What’s a QLC?

Conventional NAND SSDs store data by maintaining charge levels in individual cells aboard a solid-state medium. How much data each individual cell stores is configurable and has dramatic impact upon the cost, performance, and longevity of the NAND as a whole: