Gigabyte I-RAM Storage Device
Now that we've ran the i-RAM through the typical drive benchmarks, we're going to get to the part that we think many of you are most interested in: real world usage. Meaningless points and performance speeds are great for comparison, but the real fun is watching it perform. As such, we've rigged up a few tests that we deemed the i-RAM would be ideal for: installing as a boot partition or gaming drive. The size limit of the i-RAM prevents it being used for much more than either application, and even then could probably only support one modern game at a time. For the boot drive tests, we timed how long it took to install Windows XP SP2 from start to finish, and then how long it took for our GA-8N-SLI to completely boot up into Windows.
Installing Windows XP was a little tricky as we had to make sure we stopped our watch for any user-input screens and other sections that would lead to variances in the timings. For example, formatting a 4GB drive compared to a 250GB drive would ensure the 4GB winning. As such, we timed only the install process and nothing else and stopped when the first Windows XP screen was completely loaded. The i-RAM came in at the fastest time, but it wasn't really a runaway with the RAID 0 array only a minute and half behind. Other factors such as reading files from the CD come into play here as well, and we figured the boot time would show more of a difference. Percentage-wise, it did, as the i-RAM finished first, a full four second faster than the RAID 0 array, and 6 seconds faster than a single Barracuda. That's approximately 11% faster boot times than the RAID setup, and 16% faster than a single drive.
4GB only gets you so far, as many of today's games can take up nearly as much, and in the future they will take up even more space. For games with extremely long loading times (read Battlefield, Doom, etc.) the i-RAM could come in handy by decreasing load times. We took that premise to task by loading in the Catacombs level on all three drive setups:
Initial loading of this level on our usual drive, the Seagate Barracuda V, took almost 35 seconds of waiting before we could get in and play. That's a lot of thumb-twiddling and mouse-swirling between levels. RAID 0 arrays didn't fare all that much better, shaving off just over a second and a half. Using the i-RAM really sped things along, however. It still took 26.3 seconds to get to fragging, but that's over 8 seconds quicker that the original timing, almost a 25% improvement.