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AMD Radeon RAMDisk Review

Author: AkG
Date: December 11, 2012
Product Name: Radeon RAMDisk
Warranty: Lifetime
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VMWare Load Time Performance


VMWare is a powerful application which allows users the ability to run a virtualized Operating System from inside their main OS. This program is not only processor and RAM intensive but puts significant load on the storage subsystem with deep, heavy read/write IO requests to the drive. To help give you a general idea on the performance improvements from running a RAM Drive we have timed the time it takes to load XP SP3 from inside VMWare.



This is another area the AMD RamDisk is a great solution. Simply put, if you use VMWare and want the best performance possible this side of an Intel 910 or a SAN, this is the software of choice. Nothing else even comes close to this level of performance. The only thing which will keep it from being perfect is the FAT32 file size limitation. Make sure to set VMWare to use split sparse and not monolithic sparse for the disk image. Doing this will cause VMWare to use and create multiple 2GB .vmdk files instead of one large file for the image, avoiding potential problems.



Game Load Time Performance


For many PC enthusiasts the main reason for using AMD’s RamDisk software is nto for decreased application load times, rather it is for the decrease in game load times a RAM drive has to offer. To show the performance impact a RAM drive has on this crucial area of gaming we have chosen three popular titles: Borderlands 2, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 and Saints Row 3. These games should give a good overview of the potential performance by using AMD’s RamDisk in real world scenarios.

To reduce variables, we have chosen to use map/level load time and not game start up time as our benchmark. We have done this as introductory movies and advertisements on start-up create variables which could potential reduce the comparison's accuracy. Please refer to testing methodology page for specific map or level used in each game.




As you can see the overall improvement is impressive, but RAMDisk's performance does tend to vary from game to game. Some titles still take a moment or two to load due of poorly optimized code and cut scenes which cannot be overridden. As with VMWare, if you want to all but eliminate game load times, the Radeon RamDisk Xtreme will be perfect for your needs.

The other potential negative issue here is capacity. Many of today's games usually weigh in at 10GB or more. This means opting for 32GB of RAM will result in only two or so games fitting on the created drive. Thankfully, AMD's RAMDisk software allows for the creation of multiple disk images that can be loaded individually before loading an associated program. This is more complicated than installing all your games to a single drive, but it will allow for even better performance. Just remember it may not work for all games. Some titles (we're looking at you Rockstar and Ubisoft!) install secondary ‘software’ which can interfere with this solution.


Conclusion


AMD’s Radeon RAMDisk may be a new spin on an old idea but it shows how certain technologies can be resurrected and still have a place in today’s competitive landscape. Creating a dedicated virtual drive from system memory certainly isn’t innovative but the RAMDisk software allows for an easily accessible interface and straightforward integration that will appeal to enthusiasts and novices alike.

Before the drastic memory price drops of the last two years, the premise behind RAMDisk would have been on shaky ground. Now, with 32GB DDR3 kits being available for less than $150, blazingly fast performance is only a few clicks away. And make no mistake about it; when properly utilized, Radeon RAMDisk can accelerate program load times to mind boggling levels. Just be prepared to sacrifice OS load speeds to get there.

In order to get the most out of this solution, an entire program needs to be physically installed onto the drive which RAMDisk creates, leading to some visceral conflicts within an enthusiast’s brain. Will it be ultra quick access storage capacity or system memory? While it may be maddening, prepare for these conflicts since your final target will always boil down to a delicate balancing act between disk space and system-accessible memory. We recommend dedicating 8GB towards system critical tasks but even with a 32GB kit installed, that leaves a mere 24GB available for boosting load times of games, applications and the like. The ability to juggle individual images does mitigate these shortcomings but loading them sometimes feels like a ham-fisted approach.

Due to their capacity limitations, the free versions can house only the most basic of gaming titles but can still work wonders on other applications like Photoshop, PowerPoint and VMWare. However, as a trial, they work perfectly well and will open some eyes to the wonders of RAMDisk.

While it may cost $18.99, the Xtreme version with its 64GB ceiling is money well spent, especially with its expanded access to customer support. Not only can it grow alongside your expanding collection of memory modules but, while operating within its limitations, Radeon RamDisk Xtreme can turn even a bargain basement system into deceptively quick feeling platform.


Pros:
-Low price
-Free version offers a way to try before buying
-Significantly reduces load times
-Simple to use and configure
-Seen as just another ‘hard drive’
-Expert support if things do no go right
-Works equally well on Intel and AMD systems
-Can manually load pre-created images into the RamDisk
-Ability to start, stop and even save the RAMDisk whenever you wish – sidestepping the extended bootup/shutdown issue


Cons:
- Increase start-up and shutdown times when used as a non-volatile solution
- Windows only
- Can only load / create one RAM Drive
- Phone support requires an additional $20 “VIP Support” purchase
- NTFS not supported only FAT16 & FAT32
- Open Source / Freeware programs offer similar features - but lack tech support



 
 
 

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