My i-RAM article is live. It's a lot later than expected, but I had to wait for a few more responses from Gigabyte in Taiwan before putting it live.

The i-RAM we reviewed is the shipping version of the card, which differs in a few ways from what we talked about at Computex. The biggest difference? The i-RAM will retail for $150, not $50 as mentioned at Computex. A big part of the price difference is the initial 1K run of the product; if Gigabyte ramped up production significantly, and transitioned away from using a FPGA to a custom IC for the board, that cost could be brought down significantly. But they'd have to ship a lot of i-RAM boards to justify producing their own IC for these things, and they won't ship a lot without a lower price, and so on and so forth.

The card is pretty cool, honestly the one thing that floors me every time is how quickly you can copy files around on it. I know it's just RAM and it's actually slow as far as memory-to-memory copies, but in Windows all you see is a drive letter, and copying at ~100MB/s is just something I'm not used to on a normal computer.

I'm not sure what I'd do with an i-RAM in my personal system, but if I could fit 8GB or more on one (or RAID two together) then I start having a few ideas of what I could do.
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  • supermicroman - Thursday, November 10, 2005 - link

    Does anyone know where I can get an I-Ram?

    I have been looking for one for days and it is nowhere to be found.

    Did Gigabyte decide not to produce the 1,000 units that were slated for the first production run?

    This would be a perfect for I/0 intensive applications, or for productivity software that can use a scratch drive.
    Reply
  • hegars - Thursday, August 11, 2005 - link

    How about a product that is already out there, M-Systems 2.5" Ram Disks in the 1 to 128Gb area as used but the army with a US military standard (MIL-STD-810F)

    I know its flash so its a little different

    http://www.m-sys.com/site/en-US/Products/IDESCSIFF...">http://www.m-sys.com/site/en-US/Product...s_/SATA_...
    Reply
  • exdeath - Monday, August 8, 2005 - link

    100 MB/s? It can't be that slow.

    I'm pushing 140 MB/sec with two WD740GD Raptor's in nForce4 RAID0.

    http://members.cox.net/exdeath/pc/tach.jpg">http://members.cox.net/exdeath/pc/tach.jpg
    http://members.cox.net/exdeath/pc/raid.jpg">http://members.cox.net/exdeath/pc/raid.jpg
    Reply
  • ksherman - Friday, August 5, 2005 - link

    I dont suppose we have any new information as to how close we are to x86 Macs yet... Kinda interested in the design and features coming up... Reply
  • CrystalBay - Tuesday, August 2, 2005 - link

    1k production of Iram seems pretty meager. I wonder what GByte is thinking. Is it really a usefull hardware addition or does it need a revision or two? Reply
  • noen - Sunday, July 31, 2005 - link

    This thing is not intended for use as a primary drive.
    It's not for gamers.

    I will be buying this as soon as it comes out, for one reason: SCRATCH DISK.

    For anyone who does desktop publishing, DV editing, photography, animation or modeling, this is a godsend.

    I cannot tell you how many hundreds of times working in Premiere or After Effects, Photoshop or Illustrator, I have craved having a 2-4gig ramdrive. This thing will make lives soo much easier for those of us who do any creative work.

    I really can't believe there werent any comparisons using any productivity software, where this product is really intended and would be useful
    Reply
  • waldo - Thursday, July 28, 2005 - link

    I think there has been a bit of forgettfulness.

    1. Not everyone runs the newest 74g Raptor, which is what the comparison was to. Granted if you were willing to spend on this, you might be more likely to have a raptor, but nonetheless, you have more of a speed increase coming from slower.

    2. I believe the majority of us that do have raptors hear them. If they coudl give me more space, I would consider swapping out the raptor for one of these. Although hard drives are not that loud, Raptors are not that quiet, especially when you are a noise freak.

    Lastly, In regards to file transfers, yes, I-ram to I-ram seems rather stupid, unless you had 1 I-ram on one computer, and another I-ram on another computer and transferred them over the network. All of the sudden you might get to use that network cable for more than just bragging rights. Going at 100mb/s seems like a toasty offer over the network cable in comparison to what happens now.
    Reply
  • Turnip - Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - link

    I think the i-RAM needs software improvements, not hardware improvements.

    In its present state, it's an intriguing idea, and all of us techy guys are thinking, "hey, it's kind of cool". But there's not much genuinely useful that can be done with it, without a lot of faffing about or copying, IMO.

    But I think a change of perspective is needed.

    Stop thinking about i-RAM as a small, fast hard drive.

    Now, start to think about some of the details proposed about the new "hybrid hard drives" Microsoft talked about in regards to Windows Longhorn/Vista.
    Memory on the drive, transparent to the user, but used to speed Windows up by, e.g. copying Windows startup files to it when Windows is shutdown.

    Now, what if you consider the i-RAM as a bridging step between these hybrid hard drives and today's hard drives.

    When you hibernate your PC, instead of writing that hibernation data to the HD, it could transparently be written to the i-RAM, allowing faster boots.

    Now take a leap from there, and start to think about what else it could do to transparently optimise your system.

    Windows XP already stores some limited prefetch data to boost application startup speed. Let's think about moving that prefetch data onto the i-RAM and taking the concept further.

    When I first read about the optimisations in the Windows XP boot, I thought they sounded really clever and sensible. Microsoft found that there are sections of the boot where the disk didn't do anything, so in XP, XP does stuff in the background while the disk stuff is read into memory in preparation of when it is needed.

    Now let's look at Battlefield 2, or almost any other current game. Aren't all those splash screens and animations that happen when you run the game annoying? What if, instead of just sitting there, while all those logos are being displayed, the i-RAM started copying files likely to be used onto itself, from the hard drive. That way as soon as you start to load a level, you could get the i-RAM speed boost... Without having to install the entire application onto the i-RAM.

    Well I thought it was a good idea, anyway ;)

    It certainly set my mind off wondering how it could be done, and whether much of it would make much sense even to computers without an i-RAM.

    Hmmmmm.

    What does everyone think?
    Reply
  • MrFantastic - Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - link

    Yeah but if you are gonna have some kind of smart software that predicts what you data you are about to access, that data may as well be loaded to RAM straight away where it is destined instead of the i-ram. The i-ram aint all that much quicker than a HDD anyway! Reply
  • MrFantastic - Wednesday, July 27, 2005 - link

    I am having a hard time being enthusiastic about this thing.

    Pros

    approx 25% faster load times? basically negligiable difference over a hard drive.

    Copying from i-disk to i-disk 4 times faster - what use is that though? not going to sit around all day duplicating files on the same drive just to 'experience' the speed. When duplicating files, or zipping or rendering etc to avoid 10meg/s speeds it is best to have 2 hard drives and copy from one drive to the other at ~60meg/s.

    silent - hdds are not very loud either

    cons

    VERY expensive

    Lose all data if power is lost for a day

    lose a pci slot - this is important to consider if building a media PC with only 1 or 2 slots (since the thing is silent)

    Very Very small capacity, lets not kid ourselves here, even if it was 8gb or 16gig (OMG THE COST!) and even if it was worth the 5 second saving in level loading, I don't think it would be long before a game is too large for it, I may be wrong but with HD-dvd and blueray comming to consoles PC games are likely to also get larger still and some are over 4 gig already. Forget multiple games on it.


    in summary, interesting in theory but flawed in practise.
    Reply

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