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ANS-9010B Dynamic SSD Accelerates Computer Image Processing    

Memory prices have plummeted recently so even home users have bought an extra stick or two of RAM for their computer though they might never actually use that much. After excitedly upgrading their system to 4GB or more of memory, however, many people found that only 3.25GB showed up in their operating system. The reason? The 32-bit operating system does not support more than that. The thought of all that memory sitting around doing nothing is as irritating as a boss seeing employees lazing about, so there is now software that allows a part of the main memory to be partitioned and used as Dynamic SSD. This is a good use of memory, but it's simply not enough for enthusiasts wanting maximum performance. The number of memory slots on the mainboard is limited. Even if you buy a few extra sticks of memory while it's cheap, there are still not enough slots for them all. That's just not right!
The ACARD ANS-9010B is a Dynamic SSD in the standard 5.25" SATA interface that uses the standard DDR-II DRAM as its storage media. It can achieve read speeds of up to 180MB/sec and write speeds of 150MB/sec. For small blocks, the access speed can even reach 130K IOPS. Up to 6 DDR2 DIMM memory is supported (Note 1). Since the largest RAM stick on the market at the moment has a capacity of 4GB, this means the ANS-9010B can support up to 24GB.
The ANS-9010B's performance has now been verified in a variety of test reports (please see the ACARD website at The emphasis here will therefore be on computer graphics and the popular image editing software Photoshop. Photoshop usually handles a lot of data so it even has its own memory paging mechanism independent of the system's own virtual memory. The Scratch Disk option under Edit -> Preferences -> Performance is used to set a disk for storing paging data. (Fig. 1)

Figure 1. Specify scratch disks

When the system runs out of physical memory during image processing, data that is currently not needed is written to the scratch disk. When it's needed, it will be read again. The read and write speed of the scratch disk will therefore influence the overall processing speed. It's usually best to set the scratch disk as the fastest drive other than the system drive. Once the process is finished or the application is shut down, the system will release the space again.
If Photoshop is shut down improperly or crashes in the middle of an editing session, this can leave fairly large temporary files behind on your scratch disk. Photoshop's temp files are typically named ~PST####.tmp on Windows and Temp#### on Macintosh, where #### is a series of numbers. These are safe to delete.
If you're getting an error message that the "scratch disks are full", it means you need to clear some space on whatever drive is defined as the scratch disk in Photoshop Preferences, or add additional drives for Photoshop to use as scratch space. It is also possible to get the "scratch disks are full" error, even if the scratch disk drive has free space. This is because Photoshop requires contiguous, unfragmented free space on the scratch disk drive. If you are getting the "scratch disks are full" error message and your scratch disk drive shows a good amount of free space, you may need to run a disk defragmentation utility.

Figure 2. An error message that the scratch disks are full.

In this test, we compared the high-performance off-the-shelf WD Raptor 10,000RPM HDD against the ANS-9010B. To do the test, we used the Action function in Photoshop to record some operations in advance as shown in Fig. 3.

Fig. 3 Actions recorded in "Actions" function

Next, we tested the performance on the same graphics file with different scratch disks as shown in Fig. 4. These actions included image sharpening, copying and pasting of layers, filtering and the merging of all graphics layers. The sharpening function can be used to remove fuzziness from images. Blurry photos taken with an unsteady camera for example can be fixed in this way. The copying and pasting of layers is mainly used for photo editing. As for filtering, there are all kinds of applications and effects including pencil, ripples, blurs and mosaics. Finally, all the different graphics layers must be merged together.

Fig. 4 Test Setup

Following the process used by graphics professionals for large posters, we used a 20310*22179 resolution full-color TIFF file for the test. A stopwatch was used during the test to measure the execution times as shown in Fig. 5. Even though the 10,000RPM HDD performs much better than the standard 7200RPM HDD, it still took around 10 minutes to complete this series of actions. Such a result made us really look forward to what kind of performance we can expect from the Dynamic SSD with its lack of a mechanical spindle. The ANS-9010B's final time did not disappoint either. It achieved an exceptional 3.5 minutes. The results showed that using the ANS-9010B as the scratch disk delivered a 266% performance improvement over the 10,000RPM drive, reducing the execution time from 10 minutes to just 3:15 minutes.

Fig. 5 Test Results

Apart from achieving excellent results in HDD performance benchmarking software, here the ANS-9010B proved once again that the fast access speeds of the Dynamic SSD makes it very suitable for use in applications that require fast access to large amounts of data. Let us all look forward to more test reports from different fields that put the ACARD Dynamic SSD product to the test.

Test Equipment:
CPU:Intel E6320
MB:Gigabyte GA-G33-GDS3R (SB:ICH9R)
RAM:Kingston DDR2-800 1G x2
VGA:ASUSTek Asus EN7300GT (nVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT )
OS:Windows XP Pro SP3
Scratch disk:
1.WD 1500ADFD (Raptor)
2.ANS-9010B Dynamic SSD (PK memory DDR2-800 2GB x6)

Test Software:
Photoshop CS3 Extended



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