Gigabyte Brings Solid State Storage to the Mainstream

In an effort to differentiate themselves from other motherboard manufacturers, Gigabyte has introduced a number of interesting add-ons for their motherboards, the most interesting of which is their $50 RAMDISK PCI card.

The card is a regular 32-bit PCI card that features four standard DIMM slots on board.  The card also features a custom Gigabyte FPGA that is programmed to act as a SATA to DDR translator, which convinces the SATA controller you connect the card to that the memory you have on that card is no different than a regular SATA HDD.  As long as you have memory on the card, the card will be available at POST as an actual SATA drive, with no additional drivers necessary. 

The Custom Gigabyte FPGA

The card is powered via the PCI slot, but RAM is volatile and thus if no power is provided to the card then all of the data is lost.  In order to make this solution more realistic for real-world usage, Gigabyte outfitted the card with a rechargeable battery pack that can keep the memory powered and data intact for up to 16 hours with no power.  After that 16 hours is up, your data is lost, but as soon as you apply power to the card again the battery pack will begin to recharge. 

The Battery Pack and SATA connector. You connect a SATA cable from this port to the SATA controller on your motherboard and the RAMDISK will be treated as a hard drive.

Given that the card offers no real backup other than the battery it’s not really suitable for extremely sensitive data, but it works well if your system is on all the time.  Obviously the biggest benefit of using DDR memory as storage is that all accesses occur in nanoseconds, not milliseconds and is thus much faster at random accesses than regular hard drives. Transfer rates are also improved, but you're limited by the bandwidth of the SATA interface so DDR200 memory is the fastest that is supported.

It is an interesting step for Gigabyte, and we’d like to see how the technology evolves over time. 

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View All Comments

  • Waylay00 - Monday, May 30, 2005 - link

    Well if the G70 boards are supposed to be in manufacturer's hands by the 2nd week of June, then when does this mean that they will actually be available for people to buy? Reply
  • Brian23 - Monday, May 30, 2005 - link

    Sorry, I can't count. I ment to say #37. Reply
  • Brian23 - Monday, May 30, 2005 - link

    #36, that's what the gigabit ethernet is for! Reply
  • bob661 - Monday, May 30, 2005 - link

    Too bad you couldn't store any movies on it.
  • patrick0 - Monday, May 30, 2005 - link

    How about using a SSD for a HTPC?! Now that's silence. Reply
  • bob661 - Monday, May 30, 2005 - link

    The swap file idea is excellent. I think four 512MB sticks would be enough and would run about $160 on Newegg. Reply
  • sprockkets - Monday, May 30, 2005 - link

    Of course if you use Linux it has no problems using the RAM as a HDD as it is; look at Knoppix and DamnSmallLinux, both use the ram as a HDD and DSL can run completely out of the ram. You can also do that with Knoppix if you have at least 1GB of ram.

    But then again, no permanent distro goes to ram soooo...
  • Beenthere - Monday, May 30, 2005 - link

    There simply is no justification for the BTX design. It isn't a good design and it doesn't cool Intel's overheating products sufficiently. It's just a marketing gimmick that the Mobo mfgs. were smart enough to NOT adopt despite arm twisting by Intel. Intel is on there way down and the Mobo mfgs. know it. Reply
  • semo - Monday, May 30, 2005 - link

    solid state storage has been around for some time but not as cheap.
    look for hyperdrive
  • tungtung - Monday, May 30, 2005 - link

    That RAMDISK card is quite interesting although there is a Japanese company that make similar product since 1998 (only for Mac though) ... the idea of being able to use older RAM sticks are also the main thrust for that old product ... but that old product (which I just can't seem to remember what or who makes them) has an external power connector + battery backup.

    It is a nice use for scratch disk / temp drive though.

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