DDR2 Memory Roundup Q2 2005

Memory by KeithSuppe @ 2005-05-09

Today in our DDR2 Roundup we?re seeking to accomplish two goals. Foremost: to compare performance among several models of DDR2 supplied by Tier 1 memory manufacturers. Second: to exemplify the overclocking community?s influence in re-shaping the world of the Desktop PC. Products have been supplied from Corsair, Crucial, Kingston, Mushkin, and Transcend. Our platform will be the mid-level Abit AA8 Durmax and Pentium-4 550 both water-cooled.

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I've personally advocated the use of SPD settings as preferable to Manual settings both for simplicity and stability at speed. However I have discovered apprehension on behalf of my overclocking Comrades to use SPD settings. Perhaps it's a simple fear of system instability, or perhaps egotistical in that they'll loose that exclusivity once associated with being a member of the esoteric overclocking club. We at Madshrimps are and always will be Overclockers at heart, yet we do NOT feel a need to covet this talent begrudging those whom wish to possess it. The art of overclocking is just that at best, an art form, and just as many mediums in which to express one's talent, there are varying levels of success.

Every Overclocker was at one time a "Noob", and humility goes a long way. While it's certainly advisable to learn all one can about memory experimenting with manual settings (after you research each setting), its unlikely many of us will know more then the engineer's who pre-program SPD into their specific product. This is why I chose to utilize overclocking tools such as Abit's ĀµGuru. While I may have been able to extract more from each module, I wanted to "keep it simple."

Performance Value:

Our roundup shows there are as many options available as there are BIOS settings. Although Low Latency 533MHz DDR2 didn't perform as well as some high speed, high latency parts, I'm actually recommending you carefully consider Low Latency memory due to its SPD versatility. As DDR2 continues to maturate chipset memory controllers will be more capable of exploiting Low Latency parts. nVidia in particular should excel in this respect. Currently all we have to choose from are Intel chipsets, and the i915X is, in my opinion, a relatively poor performer as it tries and fails to accommodate too many standards simultaneously. At the time of writing this article you can purchase an Intel 3.0GHz 530J for $176 an Abit AA8 Duramax for $158 either an nVidia 6600GT eVGA for $177 or an ATI Saphirre X800XL for $299.

$600 for a future proof system in so far as adding a second eVGA when nForce-4 SLI is released for Intel, and the 530J for Longhorn.

For your DDR2 choices;

  • Corsair Twin-2X1024-4300C3PRO = 250.00 USD / 200.00 UK
  • Corsair Twin-2X1024-5400C4PRO = 275.00 USD / 226.00 UK
  • Crucial Ballistix 512MB (each) = 166.00 USD / 105.00 UK
  • Kingston Hyper-X KHX5400D2K2/1g = 278.00 USD / 236.00 UK
  • Mushkin PC2-4200LL = 304.0 USD / 192.00 UK
  • Mushkin PC2-5300 = 299.99 USD / 230.00 UK
  • Transcend PC2-5400 = Online Store


    Based on the data, were presented with a conundrum insofar as DDR2 latencies are concerned. The rule low latency memory will always out-perform higher latency memory under same conditions seems challanged under the influence of Intel's i925X chipset MCH (Memory Controller Hub) which aids in ramping up speeds with it's quad-pumped bus. Further exacerbating the problem is Pentium-4 architecture which has been accurately and astutely described in Van's Hardware Bits and Bytes article as based upon a "Speed Demon...versus AMD's Brainiac" engineering approach. The P4's pipeline depth enables high latencies, thereby perpetuating a virtual read/write log jam in memory optimized for Low Latency performance. While the latter is a personal theory, it's certainly no secret Intel engineer's their chipsets to "play nice" with their processors. In past reviews I've made the inference exploring the depth of Prescott's pipelines one requires a degree in Speleology. Once again we find this design affliction manifesting itself in defeatist performance.

  • Overall Mushkin did very well in this roundup and given the recent changes made over at Mushkin in R&D and customer service I highly recommend looking into their entire product line.
  • Corsair took a firm second, and while it's somewhat more costly the ergonomics and reliability can't be beat.
  • Crucial has done some amazing things with their Ballistix line, and was the only company to spec double sided DDR2. This seems to offer some interesting performance advantages over its single sided counterparts. I highly recommend Crucial for it's parts choice and look to this company for future developments.
  • Transcend is a firmly established company with an excellent reputation and offers some respectable performance especially given it's consistantly competitive price point.

    All the brands represented here today have their strengths and looking over the results I was simply amazed at the performance consistency comparitively. Not only did I find myself double checking, or triple checking benchmark results, I repeated benchmarks as the numbers were often so close as to be indiscernible. As stated above Low Latency brands didn't fare as well as logic might dictate, however; this should NOT dissuade anyone from purchasing Low Latency DDR2. In fact I'm recommending Low Latency parts due to the congruency of DDR2 speeds vs current Intel FSB speeds, thus eschewing the need for dividers/multipliers. With such ad-hoc enhamcemnts there's a propensity for errors to occur between SPD and BIOS versions, as a rule parts run better at 1:1 spec. The best reason I can give for considering Low Latency DDR2 will be nVidia's nF4 (C19) chipset for Intel which will hit store shelves any day. The nForce4 MCH featuring the patented and upgraded DASP 3.0 (Dynamic Adaptive Speculative Preprocessor) should compliment perfectly Low Latency DDR2. I would like to thank all those whom so kindly supplied their products.

    Questions/Comments: forum thread
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