Perhaps this is a particularly British phenomenon, but I have never entirely understood why some young men bother taking a small car like a Nissan Micra, and “modding” it—i.e. sticking a more powerful engine in the front, installing blue LED strips on the underside, replacing the exhaust pipe with one of HMS Belfast‘s spare guns (judging by the size and the volume), and so on.
I didn’t really want to understand any of this, especially a few years ago, when some local “boy racer” would roar up the road in their souped-up Rover Metro or whatever, and definitely not when they’d just woken up my baby daughter in the process.
All the above sprang to mind recently, when it occurred to me that for some time, I have been considering something similar for my trusty Eee—a spot of “hot-rodding”, if you will. You could say I have already taken a first step on the “performance upgrade” path, by installing Arch Linux—the system now runs subjectively faster and smoother than its predecessor, even before I start looking at other, more hardware-orientated changes I could make to speed things up further.
And on that note…
Peering under the bonnet
In the nearly two years since I bought my Eee, surprisingly I’ve never got around to unscrewing the plate on the bottom of the machine, which provides access to the bay containing the RAM (and, I believed, the solid-state drive (SSD)). I’ve often thought about whether I could upgrade one or both of these—the Eee 700-series models vary on exactly what one can easily upgrade, but mine (the 8Gb, sometimes known as the Eee 702) is supposed to offer the best options—so during my summer break I finally got the chance to peek inside and find out what the options were.
Summary: it’s the best news possible, in that both the RAM and SSD are upgradable by the user. The photo I took shows the SSD “on top”, with the DDR2 memory module below it—the RAM chip just unclips, and the SSD is screwed in, but both can be upgraded without much “hacking”.
Memory first: the RAM module in my Eee is the 512Mb one it came with (complete with “void warranty if removed” sticker—no worries on that account here!). I am planning to replace it with a 2Gb chip in the near future, as one can find these for under £15 online (barely more than a 1Gb module), and I hope this will improve performance noticeably, as I use ramdisks for temp file storage, and have no swap space on the SSD to save drive wear.
The SSD is another matter. Undoubtedly, the 8Gb drive in my Eee is getting a bit cramped, and it would be nice to have more “headroom” for files on there. I have heard that third-party SSDs generally offer faster file access too, though I don’t know how much I would notice the improvement in practice.
Even now, however, SSDs aren’t cheap, especially as the Eee 700- and 900-series machines use SSDs installed into Mini-PCIe cards (a bit specialist, with a price tag to match). I am eyeing up one of Super Talent’s 32Gb Mini-PCIe SSDs, but am not 100% certain yet whether my Eee can use the SATA model. From scouring the likes of the EeeUser.com forums, I believe it can, but with a price tag of about £60 for a 32Gb unit, and the apparent possibility that you can “brick” the drive and/or the computer if you get the installation wrong, understandably I’d like not to make a mistake!
I’m also put off by hearing that I may have to do a fresh OS install on the new drive, as the hardware differences (e.g. PATA and SATA interfaces) between the old and new SSD might cause problems if I merely “clone” the contents of the old drive to the new one. Hopefully this wouldn’t be necessary, but it does give me pause for thought: would upgrading to a larger/faster SSD be worth the cost, effort and risks involved?
So, plenty to think about in the time ahead, but it’s fair to say I’m very likely to upgrade my Eee’s RAM to 2Gb in the near future—it’s cheap, relatively simple to carry out and (it seems) generally less risky and fraught with potential issues than an SSD upgrade. I might still go for the latter option too, but I think it will require more thought—not to mention the cash 🙂
Stay tuned to this blog for more on how all this pans out…