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Gigabyte iRAM Solid State SATA Storage Review

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Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Gigabyte
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Introduction and Theory

Introduction


Way back in June of 2005 at the annual Computex show in Taipei, Gigabyte showed off a working demo of a new product called the iRAM.  It featured standard DDR DIMM modules on a PCI card that was attached to a SATA controller on the motherboard and it acted like a standard Windows partition and hard drive.  Though they were only showing of a single benchmark at the time, the results I saw then were simply astounding and the idea of the first low-cost solid state storage device made nearly everyone in the media salivate. 


The device is now available in the US market, and at a lower price than we originally expected.  With a newly designed storage test bed and suite at PC Perspective, we were eager to put one of these puppies through the paces and see if it could stack up to the claims that Gigabyte was making about it.  After all, an 18x performance claim right on the box is just begging to be tested. 


The Theory


The idea behind the Gigabyte iRAM is really very simple, though that doesn't make it any less innovative or unique in today's market.  Gigabyte took some DIMM slots, put them on a PCI card and built some custom logic that would allow those DDR modules to communicate with the system over the SATA bus without the need for any additional drivers.  There are some issues that come with this kind of idea, which is probably why no one had done it before, but Gigabyte feels confident their answers to them are worthy of a retail product.  In order to deal with the volatility of standard PC memory, memory costs and interface issues they made some interesting design decisions that we'll detail as we look over the iRAM itself.

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