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Super Talent RAM Cache USB 3.0 flash drive prices  (Source: Super Talent)
Ram Cache tech promises up to 300% performance improvement in some uses

With USB 3.0 ports becoming more common on desktop and laptop computers, the number of USB 3.0 storage devices and other gear coming to market is growing. One of the most prevalent areas that USB 3.0 is being embraced is in the storage market.

The new drives are the Super Talent USB 3.0 Express RAM Cache drives. The drives are offered in 32GB and 64GB capacities. The new DRAM caching system that the drives use promise to boost performance by up to 300%. The company claims to be the only firm offering a caching system on its USB 3.0 drives.

Super Talent COO CH Lee said, "We've made the first, fastest, hardware encrypted, and most affordable USB flash 3.0 flash drives, now with the Express RAM Cache, we are offering affordable cache support on USB 3.0."

Super Talent claims that in real world performance tests copying large files and writing large amounts of smaller files the caching system it uses significantly increases performance. The maker claims that adding the caching system speeds up the copy process of 40 MP3 files by 260% compared to a drive without the caching feature. The time savings increases as the file count goes up.

Lee said, "No longer are we talking about a 10x performance increase over USB 2.0, now we are talking about a real world experience that is up to 110x what our customers have experienced before. Adding RAM Cache to our USB 3.0 Express Drive line-up raises the bar we have established with our first three USB 3.0 products and reiterates our commitment and leadership in the USB 3.0 space."

The USB 3.0 Express RAM Cache Drive in 32GB capacity sells for $129, the 64GB version of the same drive is $209, and both versions are shipping. Super Talent also offers the USB 3.0 Express Drive in 16GB for $59 and in 32GB for $99. The 16GB version of this drive was first announced in February of 2010.

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By Dr of crap on 9/8/2010 10:07:35 AM , Rating: 2
Unless this is used as my hard drive -

A - I can wait for the write / read process
my USB drives work just fine

B - I'm not buying until the price drops
my USB drives work just fine (my 4Gb was $15)

By invidious on 9/8/2010 10:24:16 AM , Rating: 4
A - 1080p media can't wait. Playing 1080p on usb 2.0 is unstable at best.

B - 4gb of old tech for $15 or 16gb of new tech for $40? I will take the better storage per dollar and faster performance one. If it lives up to the hype this is a very attractive flash drive.

By XZerg on 9/8/2010 10:52:59 AM , Rating: 2
1080p will play just fine on usb3.0 but having a usb drive that has RAM on it seems a bit overdone... very much doubt people needing that sort of performance from a USB drive...

By Argon18 on 9/8/10, Rating: -1
By amanojaku on 9/8/2010 11:28:30 AM , Rating: 5
You can rest easy with the knowledge that no sane person would steal your firewire drives. For starters, few people can plug the damn things in!

By Solandri on 9/8/2010 12:52:03 PM , Rating: 2
Why limit yourself to just one? I just bought enclosures with USB and Firewire (and most recently eSATA) for my old laptop drives. Firewire hasn't been on my must-have list when buying a laptop, but 3 of my last 4 laptops have had it (I tend to buy mid-grade laptops rather than the low-end ones, maybe that's why). It does work a bit better than USB; albeit the difference is not big enough for me to go out of my way to limit myself to laptops which have it.

By acer905 on 9/8/2010 12:33:26 PM , Rating: 1
... Firewire still exists... who knew.

By marvdmartian on 9/9/2010 8:11:59 AM , Rating: 2
Evidently, Argon18 did.

By hyvonen on 9/9/2010 4:06:28 PM , Rating: 1
Yeah, I wanna see a thumb drive with a FireWire port

By ajdavis on 9/8/2010 11:07:20 AM , Rating: 2
I think the media file examples people are using are a poor fit for this technology. In the IT market this could be nice though. If I make an image of a Windows 7 machine right now it takes an awful long time. If this can just speed that up I'd be willing to fork over a couple hundred bucks. Being able to keep current images (they can change quite often) would definitely improve efficiency and minimize unnecessary downtime.

By amanojaku on 9/8/2010 11:14:13 AM , Rating: 2
All you need to know is written above:
Super Talent claims that in real world performance tests copying large files and writing large amounts of smaller files the caching system it uses significantly increases performance. The maker claims that adding the caching system speeds up the copy process of 40 MP3 files by 260% compared to a drive without the caching feature. The time savings increases as the file count goes up.
I learned this when writing programs and analyzing customer software for performance: you always want to write to the fastest storage, which is DRAM. No matter how small the data is it still takes resources to initiate, complete, and verify the write. Outside of CPU registers, no current storage system is as fast, or expensive, as DRAM. Even NAND flash is slower, as seen in expensive cache modules for enterprise SAN arrays: DRAM stores data in 1ns, while NAND flash does it in 2-4ns. The above numbers are WAY faster than consumer device memory, but I'm using these extreme numbers to make a point: their numbers are closer to each other than the values of consumer memory, and DRAM is STILL 2-4x faster than flash. Compare your desktop RAM at around 20ns and flash at 65us. That's a "mu", not an "en".

What's this got to do with USB sticks? Well, there are thousands, if not millions, of I/O writes per file. File systems may have 4-64KiB clusters, and an MP3 file may be 6MiB or more. That's 12,288 writes at a minimum for a 4KiB FAT32. A 4.7GiB ISO is approximately 1,232,077 writes; that's 80 seconds, ideally. The largest USB flash drive I've seen is 256GiB. We're talking hard drive replacement and/or backup. You need a cache to optimize storage writes as you probably won't write a single 58KiB Word file to a drive like this. You will most likely drag all of My Documents (more specifically My Porn Pics, My Stupid Ass Jokes, and My Stupid Ass Party Photos) to this, as well as ISOs, EXEs, etc...

Your old 4GiB stick doesn't need a cache. You aren't dropping a lot of data in there, anyway, so you can wait 3 (4GiB/4KiB @ 65us = 68 seconds, plus overhead) minutes for the drive to fill up. Maybe even 10 minutes. 256GiB at that rate would take ~3 hours, longer for lots of small files. A cache can speed up those tiny writes, or ensure the disk has enough data in the buffer to write at the optimal speed. You've seen this with CD-R software, where the larger buffer was best. Same for hard drives. Large storage necessitates cache.

By semo on 9/8/2010 11:49:20 AM , Rating: 2
IT professionals and enthusiasts need the speed. Who do you think these drives are targeted for?

By Motoman on 9/8/2010 11:54:40 AM , Rating: 2
A. For small stuff, current USB 2.0 stuff is OK. But, on occassion, I have found myself trying to copy, say, a 20Gb server backup file onto a 32Gb USB 2.0 USB stick - and that process is GLACIAL. Takes over an hour.

B. The 32Gb price for that RAM Cache unit is about twice the cost of what I paid for my 32Gb USB 2.0 unit. If it's a bajillion times faster, as advertised, then it's worth it.

By Solandri on 9/8/2010 1:07:36 PM , Rating: 2
USB 2.0 is about 20-25 MB/sec in RL benchmarks. A 20 GB file copy that's USB-limited should only take about 15 minutes.

The slowness you're encountering is due to the speed of the flash memory in your USB stick. Solid state memory is still a lot slower than hard drives. The high speed SSD drives being put into new laptops get around the problem by having multiple controllers writing different parts of the file to multiple portions of flash memory simultaneously. Like a huge RAID-0 array of 4, 8, 12, or 16 drives. Unfortunately, most USB stick drives only have one controller so suffer from the full slowness of flash.

Also, adding a RAM cache will not help with a large transfer like a 20 GB file copy. It only helps when there's a cache hit due to some commonality in the files. I suspect the "40 MP3 files" they're talking about in the article are the same MP3 file being read over and over 40 times. Except for databases, real-world usage patterns rarely have that high a cache hit rate.

By ekv on 9/8/2010 2:09:20 PM , Rating: 2
I was kind of thinking the ram cache would act as a cache AND a write buffer. But that would only help if the controller could write to more than one flash chip at a time. I don't think the Express Drive series does that.

Why? you might ask. Super Talent also has a USB 3.0 RAIDdrive series that does emulate a RAID 0 setup. This is an older article but it suggests a serious performance improvement,705134/Super-Ta...

If you want performance, RAIDdrive is the way to go, though I could only find it for $219 (32 GB). Ouch.

By ekv on 9/8/2010 1:46:41 PM , Rating: 3
A - ditto.

B - $15 / 4 GB = 3.75

For Express RamCache drive
$129 / 32 GB = 4.03
$209 / 64 GB = 3.27

For Express drive
$99 / 32 GB = 3.09
$59 / 16 GB = 3.69

Prices appear cost effective, especially considering USB 3.0 vs. 2.0 speed advantage (not to mention RamCache advantage).

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