Gigabyte i-RAM review

By Mictlantecuhtli
Jul 29, 2006
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  1. Gigabyte i-RAM is, as some of you might already know, a SATA hard disk device that uses normal DDR memory sticks.

    Thanks to that, it's faster than conventional hard disk drives, the bottleneck being SATA-1 interface which limits the transfer speed to 150 MB/s.

    The good news is that the transfer rate stays there. Random access memory is also quick for, well, random access. Seek times are pretty close to zero milliseconds.

    I got this drive yesterday, and I don't yet have all the memory I want for it, so I took 1 GB off my mainboard and put it into the i-RAM (2x Kingston PC3200 512MB ValueRAM).

    XP x64 installed fine (and quickly) to it after I had removed unnecessary features with nLite. After installing the OS and the applications I use most, I have about 150 MB free on this partition. Yes, not much, but enough for now. I can install the space-consuming applications on other partitions.

    The thing I like most about this is of course the speed. While ~135 MB/s might not sound like much (many drives, especially RAID-0 combinations, have higher max transfer rates), it's constant, and the random access time is what counts more in desktop use.

    There is no delay in refreshing desktop icons or accessing start menu items. Right-click "New" context menu appears instantly unlike in my other Windows installation. The responsiveness overall feels much better.

    It's quite amusing to defragment the partition with PerfectDisk too, it takes about 10-15 seconds total.

    I have read complaints about instability with i-RAM, but so far I've had no problems. I'll install Acronis TrueImage later for backups, and the whole PC is behind an UPS. Not that it really matters, because the i-RAM has its own backup battery, charged by the PCI bus.


    Pros:
    - speed, of course
    - ease of use, it's just a SATA hard disk


    Cons:
    - capacity (how much is enough, really?)
    - price / GB ratio


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Another review by the Tech Report
  2. kitty500cat

    kitty500cat Newcomer, in training Posts: 2,407   +6

    Isn't SATA 150 actually 150 megabits per second instead of megabytes? Also, where can this thing be bought?
  3. Mictlantecuhtli

    Mictlantecuhtli TechSpot Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 4,916   +9

  4. IBN

    IBN TechSpot Maniac Posts: 625

    Realistically who would this product be suited to?
  5. Julio Franco

    Julio Franco TechSpot Editor Posts: 6,443   +268

    Crazy people like me, I guess? I haven't bought it but if it gets more memory support and I have some cash to burn laying around I might jump ship.
  6. Ipsofacto

    Ipsofacto Newcomer, in training Posts: 34

    Is this just for 64-bit machines or will it work on 32-bit?
  7. Mictlantecuhtli

    Mictlantecuhtli TechSpot Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 4,916   +9

    Should work on any computer that has a free SATA connector.
  8. Savage1701

    Savage1701 TechSpot Enthusiast Posts: 279

    I've got a bunch of these. I use them with a UPS on old Motherboards that work as glorified PCI power supplies feeding my main systems. The main systems use them for pagefiles, video editing, IE and FF caches, etc. They are spooky fast for this sort of thing. Instant cursor response, faster load times, faster program response times, etc. I have raided them successfully. I have loaded XP Pro onto them for fun and enjoyed the 5-7 second boot times. To me these drives are the way to go. I am suspicious of flash-based SSD's. And it's sad, because RAM is cheap enough to make a decent-slzed system drive. Just an FWIW.
  9. mopar man

    mopar man TechSpot Ambassador Posts: 1,492

    Hmm, this is interesting. You could easily use this as the OS drive, with all applications/games on another drive, correct? If so, I will go this route sooner or later.
  10. Savage1701

    Savage1701 TechSpot Enthusiast Posts: 279

    i-RAM as system drive

    Mopar - Yes, as I posted before, I tried it for fun. Now, there are caveats - You better have a UPS on your main system since the battery backup of the i-RAM is realistically good for maybe 6 hours, not the 16 they say. The good news is that if your computer is shut down but still plugged into the UPS it would probably last almost forever since the i-RAM leaches standby power from the 5VSB "wake up" line, so your system drive on the i-RAM could survive a really long outage. Another caveat I have heard is that since the i-RAM is not using ECC RAM you could end up with corruption eventually. You probably ought to ghost the drive every day as well. You would probably want another i-RAM drive for the page file, or else you might be defeating much of the purpose of having your system on a SSD RAM drive. Gigabyte does not recommend RAID'ing them. I can tell you that they RAID with Marvell controllers on my ASUS boards just fine, but my 9500 series 3Ware RAID controller won't detect them, and 3Ware has confirmed to me that indeed the 9500 series will not utilize them, so your RAID controller may or may not work. Also, these cards burn an adjacent slot because they are so wide, and they will not work in the last slot of a motherboard that has headers at the bottom of it, since the i-RAM battery will mash against them. The possible solutions are as follows: you could use a PCI riser/wearout extender that will raise the card about an inch from the MB. That would clear the headers in the last slot. You can also do what I did - buy a cheapie case and an old, $10 MB on ebay that is full of PCI slots, hook up a PSU, short it so it stays on, and plug i-RAM cards into it. The i-RAM draws no intelligence from the PCI slot it is in, just power, so I connect the old board holding the i-RAM's back to my main computer via e-SATA cables and e-SATA pci brackets from the cards to main CPU. A hassle? Yes. But the speed is worth it.
  11. Mictlantecuhtli

    Mictlantecuhtli TechSpot Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 4,916   +9

    Yes, you can use it just like a normal SATA drive. I have Vista Ultimate installed on 3x i-RAM in RAID-0 at the moment. All applications so far have fit into the same partition, but games are on a different one.
  12. EZmann

    EZmann Newcomer, in training

    Great thread - thanks all.
  13. Obi-Wan Jerkobi

    Obi-Wan Jerkobi TechSpot Maniac Posts: 592

    All they need is a DDR2 i-RAM controller! With increased RAM support. That would be awesome, 4x2GB sticks. 8GB each card. Maybe with 8GB in the 2 PCIs and 16GB in 2 box versions you could manage 32GB, the equivalent of a cheap WD-RAPTOR. :D I wish I could afford that, but at least my disk is fast enough...
     
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