Eee 701 Planetoid

2011/09/15

Hot-rodding an Eee 701: upgrading the RAM

Filed under: Hardware — Tags: , , , , — Tim @ 20:43
Photo of RAM and SSD in an Eee 701SD

RAM (lower) and SSD (upper) in an Eee 701SD

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how I have been thinking for some time, about various ways to boost my Eee 701’s performance—partly by a change of Linux operating system, but also by upgrading the RAM and SSD (storage) to larger/faster alternatives.

I explained that whilst I felt upgrading the SSD was desirable, but would need to wait (on the grounds of cost and complexity), boosting the RAM was something of a “no-brainer”—it was more affordable, easier to undertake and would hopefully result in noticeable performance gains. With that in mind, I put in an order for a 2GB DDR2 memory module from Kingston’s ValueRAM range (around £15), figuring that a 400% increase in RAM capacity would be sure to have an obvious effect… wouldn’t it?

The module arrived this morning, and when I got the opportunity, I reached for the screwdriver and popped off the RAM/SSD cover on the Eee’s underside. Thankfully, Asus made upgrading the RAM pretty straightforward—simply release the two metal clips either side, give the module a gentle lever-up at the “middle” end, and it springs up at a slight angle, allowing you to swap over the RAM modules.

Readout in "hardinfo" (note the "Total Memory" figure)

Readout in "hardinfo" (note the "Total Memory" figure)

Aside from a brief scare when the Eee wouldn’t power on (I think the battery wasn’t plugged in fully!), I was soon looking at the output of “hardinfo” (a system diagnostics app for X), informing me that the system was now looking at a nice 2GB of RAM.

If you’ve read this far, I expect you’re curious to hear whether I can notice any difference in the Eee’s performance yet. Well, it’s early days yet, but first impressions are undoubtedly positive.  Before the upgrade (512Mb RAM), bubblemon showed about 30% “water” (i.e. RAM used) simply by starting the X display, and opening Chromium (even without loading a Web site) would push the level up to more than 50% (not a “scientific” benchmark, but you get the idea). Opening more than four or five “multimedia” tabs (e.g. YouTube) in Chromium would slow the system to a crawl, and I didn’t really want to “push” this, as the Eee has no swap partition (to avoid excessive wear on the SSD). I didn’t know what would happen if I ran out of system RAM with no swap to fall back on…

Now, when I start X, under 5% of RAM is in use, and starting Chromium still leaves me with over 90% RAM free—the “rubber duck” in bubblemon hardly has any water to float on! I haven’t done any proper benchmarking tests, but subjectively the Eee seems to run a bit more smoothly than before, with application windows opening and closing more quickly. Perhaps later on, I should replicate the “five YouTube tabs” test of a few days ago!

So, it’s a bit soon to proclaim a huge difference in performance, but so far I’m very pleased by the Eee’s new RAM “ceiling”, and hope it should be enough for the rest of the machine’s lifespan.

The irony of owning a laptop with 25% as much RAM as data storage capacity (for the unitiated, an extremely high proportion for a computer that’s not a mobile phone), is not lost on me, and I haven’t ruled out the possibility of upgrading the SSD in the future, once I can be sure of overcoming the potential (and actual) issues, such as “cloning” the contents of the old drive to the new one, and ensuring I buy the correct model of SSD…

…but for now, I think I’ll stick happily with what I have 🙂

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