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Definition: 3D XPoint

(3D Cross Point) A non-volatile phase change technology that serves as both memory and storage from Intel and Micron. Less expensive and denser than dynamic RAM (DRAM), 3D XPoint is more costly than solid state drives (SSDs) that use NAND flash chips. However, 3D XPoint is considerably faster while using less power.

Micron manufactured the 3D XPoint chips for Intel under the Optane brand, as well as for itself under the QuantX moniker. 3D XPoint has been available since 2017 but was discontinued in 2022.

Both Memory and Storage
3D XPoint has unique attributes. Like all RAM chips (DRAM and SRAM), XPoint is byte addressable and can thus be used like main memory or as a secondary RAM bank. Because it is non-volatile, it can also replace an SSD or hard drive or be used in conjunction with them. Intel's Optane does the latter, combining XPoint with an SSD and storing files in the XPoint bank that benefit from faster retrieval. See byte addressable and SDRAM.

Cross Point Structure
Voltage applied to the top and bottom wire of the selector causes the cell to be read or written, and transistors are not required at each cell like they are with DRAM. Unlike flash memory that has a limited life span, XPoint is not affected by the number of write cycles. (Image courtesy of Intel.)

         Byte        Non-
      Addressable  Volatile   Speed

 SRAM     Yes        No      Fastest

 DRAM     Yes        No      Faster

 XPoint   Yes        Yes     Fast

 NAND     No         Yes     Slower