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The Gigabyte iRAM and the Gigabyte GA-965P-DQ6 Motherboard or How To Rip All Your Hair Out!

Well, a while ago now, I got all horny to get my hands on a Gigabyte iRAM or GC-RAMDISK. So I ended up buying one and found out there there is a bit of technical bumbling required to learn all the steps (If your a cheap tightwad like me.) You can read all about those growing pains in our news archives.

Well, I finally decided that it was time to replace my aging dual Xeon 2.4 Ghz Asus PC-DL Deluxe based system with a core 2 Duo E6400 and a new motherboard. I ended up choosing the Gigabyte 965P-DQ6. It had all the things I wanted, like 8 SATA ports, Raid 5, ICHR8 (Shiny and New), Crossfire Support (For my pair of new ATI X1950 Pro Video Cards,) and it was Gigabyte. I kind of figured, well its a Gigabyte motherboard and a Gigabyte iRAM, so it'll work just fine...

I was so horribly wrong.

My first issue I found was the hell of trying to get the ****ing thing to work at all with the ICHR8. ICHR8 gave me a nice delay of like 2-5 minutes, whenever the iRAM was plugged in. I spent many many hours on that, changing this, changing that, IDE mode, RAID, etc. Finally, I plugged it into the SLOW J-Micron Sata controller on the motherboard. After some more headaches with that, IDE mode won't boot from the iRAM and such, I put it in RAID mode. It detected it as a non-raid drive and suddenly I could boot from it. I was incredibly happy, as I could now install an OS on it.

(16 Hours of backup battery my ass. My battery lasted like 3 months if even that, now if I have a power blink that lasts longer than the UPS, its time for a reload.)

So I get all set putting Windows XP on it, with the idea that I can install Linux later. After several hours of getting all my drivers on the thing, suddenly wierdo things start happening. I click start, then shutdown, explorer crashes. I try again, same thing. So I give the 3 finger salute and shut down from task manager. works perfect. Next time I boot up, its fine. A couple weeks later, I start getting wierd crashes again, so I drop in my Ghost DVD, and restore the system back to when it was perfect. It works for a day, then blammo, I start having more crashes again. Please note, sometimes my drivers would go away or other lovely random things.

Now I'm getting pissed off. I like my baby working properly. I end up switching to NTFS and spending two weeks of my spare time troubleshooting the problem before I finally come to the realization (After much testing) that one of my RAM sticks is bad. In fact, two of them seem to be bad. So I pop the two 512 MB sticks out of my old PC-DL and toss them into the iRAM and the 2 GB into the PC-DL. I still have problems with the iRAM corrupting data in FAT32. So, I switch back to NTFS for testing. (chkdsk /v /f is lovely for checking data corruption.) Now, the iRAM works perfectly, although at a tiny 3 GB (nLite helped with that little problem.)

What's more, the 2 GB of RAM works in the PC-DL no problem. I scratch my head and ponder that for a bit, while trying the RAM back and forth before I give up and decide to live with it.

A couple months later, I load Hitman Contracts onto my system, a 2005 game that should work wonderfully with ATI Crossfire. So I'm playing, and its running damned slow. I figure, ah, it must not like Crossfire, even though it really shouldn't matter, so I turn it off and the game runs fine. A while later I figure, what the hell, I'm going to Benchmark this in 3DMark06 and see what I get with CrossFire vs Single Card. I've misplaced those benchmarks (Deleted) so I'm just going to say that there was ~50% performance difference. You'd think, hey that's awesome. Well, it wasn't. My rig was 50% slower with Crossfire on than with it off. I read up on that a little more and saw that the Gigabyte board uses a 16x and 4x config for Crossfire. I shake my head and decide its time to replace this 6 month old motherboard with something that supports full Crossfire.

I check the market, but there's nothing out there that supports 16x and 16x crossfire, so I end up setting my sites on an Asus P5W64-WS motherboard. I chose this board because of the 8x and 8x and 4x and 8x Crossfire configuration that all the reviews online said was still really fast even though the extra 8x goes through a switch.

I order the board and give the old one to my boss so he doesn't think I'm just trying to sell it on him and replace my $280 wholesale motherboard with a $300 wholesale motherboard. I throw in the iRAM on it, and figure I'll just throw it on the ICHR7 in this thing and see if it works. It was magical, instant detection with no 2 minute delay, and it booted off it after a reload. I figured I'd try my other RAID drives, so after a backup, I pop the RAID 5 (3x 250GB WD Sata) onto the ICHR7 ports and it detects and works. AWESOME! So I plug my pair of WD 36GB Raptors in RAID 0 to the Marvell Raid controller, figuring I'll have to redo the array. It warns me it will lose all data and such, so I make the array, boot into Windows and all my stuff is there. By this time, I've already decided I'll never use another Gigabyte motherboard again, I'm sticking with Asus.

All said and done, I'm reloaded on a 3 GB iRAM and all my data is working, system is stable, and Crossfire gives me a ~60% performance increase. I'm incredibly satisfied. I get curious though, since I've had no trouble so far, I'm going to grab the RAM sticks from my PC-DL and try the iRAM with 4 GB.

I plug it in, load Windows on it and all that, and I'm up and running...

Its been three months, without a reload, or a data corruption.

6 Months of horror and screwing around with a Gigabyte motherboard and a Gigabyte iRAM.
3 hours of changing RAM, reloading Windows and drivers, with an Asus motherboard and a Gigabyte iRAM.

Now, it might all come down to the ICHR8 not being compatible with the iRAM in the end, but I don't ****ing care. If you make motherboards and you make storage products, you had damned well make sure your product works with your other products. If it doesn't, you post a notice.

In the end, I ended up being pissed off and dissapointed with Gigabyte for their extremely shoddy iRAM support (We don't support Linux.) I ended up being pissed off at lackluster support with a premium priced motherboard that ran like ****, was never properly stable and caused me no end of frustation. The very idea of the iRAM being incompatible with a Gigabyte motherboard disgusts me.

The motto is simple. Trust Asus, when you pay $300, at least you know they do their **** right. Stay the **** away from Gigabyte motherboards if you use anything fancy, because it will burn you in the end.

Dan

Written by Dan on 2007-06-28 00:54:26

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