Apacer Shows Off DRAM-Mounted SATA Drives, Compact Flash

Thin and light clients are all the rage these days, even in the desktop space -- from Intel's NUC to many diminutive Steam Machines, the idea from OEMs is that even mainstream buyers are going to adopt system form factors the size of playing cards.

If true, it would explain the thinking behind Apacer's latest innovation -- a new style of DRAM that can mount M.2 drives or serial CompactFlash (CFast) cards with support for the SATA 3.0 interface. Interestingly, however, this concept isn't as goofy as it might sound -- right now, there are very few mini-ITX boards with support for full-sized M.2 cards. In theory, this kind of solution would give users with extremely minimal upgrade space enough room to add a larger SSD.

This doesn't make much sense in a conventional desktop, but we've seen a handful of mini-ITX systems where space is at such a premium, this ability would be a meaningful advantage. The board also support CFast -- this is a CompactFlash system with maximum transfer rates of up to 600MB/s, compared to 167MB/s for PATA. CFast isn't compatible with the old CompactFlash system (despite being based on it).

There are two caveats to keep in mind. First, investing in this type of solution would chain your storage to your DRAM -- if you don't have the right capabilities on the motherboard, a dead DIMM would mean you'd lose access to your SSD. Second, this type of interface relies on standard SATA, not the faster PCI-Express interconnect that M.2 also supports. The Apacer cards don't allow the DRAM slot to provide additional performance -- they simply rely on the DIMM slot for power. Cards are sampling now; systems that feature the technology could be in market by Q3 or so.