AMD launched a new Radeon branded memory product today called the Radeon RAMDisk. Despite the rather unoriginal name, it is a piece of software that will allow you to use a portion of your system RAM as a hard drive-like storage device where you can install programs. AMD has partnered with Dataram to develop the software.
The AMD Radeon RAMDisk will create drives up to 64GB in size, and is designed to be used with AMD's own Radeon-branded DDR3 modules (though other manufacturer's RAM will work as well). The RAM disk offers up almost-instantaeous access times and impressive read and write speeds for your applications and virtual machines.
According to AMD, the Radeon RAMDisk can reach read speeds as high as 25,600 MB/s with DDR3 1600 RAM and up to 1700% faster game loading times than a traditional mechanical hard drive. It further supports the Windows operating system (Vista and above), and has a minimum system requirement of 4GB of system RAM.
The software costs $18.99 at time of writing for the full version.
The best part about this announcement though is the release of a freeware version of the Radeon RAMDisk that can create disks up to 6GB with AMD-branded RAM or 4GB with RAM from any other manufacturer! While that is fairly limiting in that you are not really going to be able to put much ont there (and installing games is almost out of the question entirely) you can still do a lot with a 4GB RAM disk by installing Office, photo editors, virtual machines (like Peppermint Linux), and other heavily used programs to speed up the important stuff.
You can acess the full press release on the Radeon RAMDisk website.
- Free version – Limited to 4GB or 6GB RAMDisks depending on memory brand.
- Paid version – Create disks up to 64GB
If you have been with the site for at least the year that I’ve been writing here, you will know that I’m a huge fan of RAM disks. So, naturally, when I was passed the press release I just had to try it out.
While the extent of the performance increase is going to vary from program to program, the drive itself is extremely fast. When copying a .iso file to the Radeon RAMDisk, it was limited by my SSD's read speed, for example.
The RAM Disk was set up om my main desktop which has basic specifications as follows:
- Intel Core i7 -860 CPU
- 8GB (4 x 2GB) G.Skill DDR3 at 1333 MHz and 9-9-9-24 CAS timings
- Gigabyte P55-UD3R Motherboard
- 4096 MB Radeon RAMDisk
- 80GB Intel X25-M G2 SSD
- 2TB Samsung Spinpoint hard drive
- Windows 8 RTM
In addition to the file copy tests, I also used the HDTune benchmark to measure transfer speeds. Needless to say, RAM blows solid state NAND out of the water in speed (though it does cost more and is volatile storage).
In fact, it pulled such impressive numbers from HDTune that it skewed the chart a lot. Those little blips underneath it are from my Intel X25-M G2 80GB SSD and my 2TB Samsung Spinpoint mechanical hard drive.
HDTune also reports access times and burst speeds. The RAM disk had a 0.0 ms access time, the SSD has a 0.1 ms access time, and the mechanical hard drive brought up the rear with a 13.9 ms access time. Interestingly, the Samsung hard drive actually beat the SSD in burst speed. The RAM disk crush both of the other drives by a significant margin, however with a burst speed of 5,155 MB/s.
Over the years, I have used a RAMDisk for hosting photo editors as as using the drive for media I was currently working on. It worked well at the time, but the free software was not exactly what I would call stable. However, the AMD software is a mere 6.2 MB download that installs quickly and is easy to configure. The UI is spartan (and resembles Windows Classic), but it gets the job done and has yet to crash on me after trying to break it today (heh). It does not feel "janky" at all, and I have to give AMD and Dataram props for that.
Below are screenshots of the Radeon RAMDisk interface. You can create new disks as well as loading saved ones.
Yes, RAM being faster than hard drive storage is not new information, but I did find it surprising just how much faster it was, even compared to my SSD. Heck, even compared to a DDR2 based RAM disk, it was fast. It really puts into perspective why the hard drive is the slowest aspect of modern computers, and why things can slow to a crawl when the CPU has to reach out past the internal cache and system RAM to the hard drive to fetch data. If you are running a system with a lot of 'extra' RAM, I encourage you to take AMD's new Radeon RAMDisk software for a test drive. It's time to give those DDR3 DIMMs a workout!
Do you use RAM disks to speed up your favorite applications?