Review: RAM Doubler 2
Publisher: Connectix Corporation
68030 or better, or PowerPC
8MB real RAM
Price: $49.95 (street)
The title of the new RAM Doubler is somewhat of a misnomer. It actually triples the amount of RAM that you can effectively use. It also improves on the speed and reliability of the original RAM Doubler, and allows you to set the exact amount of RAM you would like to have. There is a slider in the RAM Doubler 2 control panel which lets you select the desired amount of RAM in increments of half the amount of real RAM installed. However, holding down the option key allows the selection of an arbitrary amount of RAM. In general, the more RAM you choose to give yourself, the more performance penalty will be incurred. I haven't noticed slowdowns with any of the settings as long as I abide by Connectix's suggestion that no one application be allocated more RAM than the difference between the amount of built-in memory, and the amount used by the system software. Thus, while RAM Doubler will allow you to have more applications open at the same time, it won't let you allocate three times as much memory to Photoshop, or any other single application without a performance penalty.
Even with this limitation, RAM Doubler 2's work is amazing. It locates small chunks of RAM that applications aren't actively using, and makes that memory available to other applications. It finds RAM that isn't likely to be accessed again, and compresses it. Finally, if all else fails, RAM Doubler 2 will swap seldom accessed memory to disk. This may sound bad, but it happens only rarely, generally when you allocate one application more memory than recommened. In addition, RAM Doubler's disk swapping algorithm is based on the same technology as Connectix's old Virtual software. It is much faster than the virtual memory software built into the system software. Still, to avoid any potential performance degradation, and the overhead of keeping track of extra memory, it is best to set the slider in the control panel to only the amount of memory that you actually plan to use.
If you have plenty of RAM already, RAM Doubler 2 is also worth a look because of its file-mapping option. This does not increase the actual amount of RAM, but reduces the memory requirements of PowerPC native programs. The built in virtual memory from Apple also has this feature, but it requires that you allocate megabytes of hard disk space equal to the amount of RAM you have in your computer. RAM Doubler doesn't require any disk space for its file-mapping option.
Since RAM Doubler reallocates memory that applications aren't actively using, it possible to allocate applications more RAM than they will likely need without fear of wasting memory. In the above case, Netscape is given 9MB of RAM, even though it is using only about 7MB. If during the course of its operation, it decides that it needs more memory, it will be available. In the mean time, that memory can be used by other applications.
The prices of RAM have been greatly reduced in recent months. They have come down so much, that for many machines, RAM Doubler costs the same as 8MB of real RAM. If you have 8MB or less of RAM, and there is space in your Mac, it is probably better to buy more real RAM than to invest in RAM Doubler, as you most likely want to allocate more memory to one application. The same advice holds true for PowerPC Macs that have less than 16 MB of RAM. However, if you already have enough memory to allocate to a single RAM hungry application, RAM Doubler 2 is your best choice for increasing your memory. It will seamlessly allow you to run additional applications, and is much more cost effective than investing in real memory.
RAM Doubler 2 is clearly the next best thing to real RAM. It seems very stable — even more so than the previous version. In fact, I have not crashed since installing it two weeks ago. While in certain situations with a small amount of real RAM, it isn't as useful as real memory, it is an indispensable utility in most other situations. If you want to run more programs simultaneously, or to reduce the RAM requirements of native applications without using hard disk space, you won't find a better buy than RAM Doubler 2.
|This review is ©1996 Michael Tsai. Michael holds absolutely no relation to Connectix Corp., other than being a satisfied customer. Comments and criticisms dealing with this review may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.|