Return of the MushKinG Interview

Memory by KeithSuppe @ 2005-05-17

Today to compliment our in-depth Mushkin product review, we offer a true insight into the Denver based company vying for "Lord of the RAM." As surreal as it may seem, quite often company Representatives have little to no working technical knowledge of the products they represent. This interview challenges what I see as an insult to our intelligence as PC user's and the patronizing misconception PC-user's have no working knowledge of their own systems. Read on as we are invited along into the throne room at MushkinG.

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Mushkin begininings

Lord of the RAM
Madshrimps (c)
The Return of the “Mushking”

Mushkin has been making and selling quality DRAM for years now. The Denver Colorado based company has produced a steady & reliable supply of memory to the OEM and high performance PC market for since the early SDRAM days. As overclocking made the transition from relative obscurity into the mainstream, Mushkin was among the first to offer Cas2 PC100 memory, which at that time was some of the fastest and most overclockable memory. More recently Mushkin introduced it’s BLACK series which evolved into some of the most coveted enthusiast parts available. Arguably their best product was their Level-II black line, based on the Winbond BH-5 ICs. These modules were legendary among enthusiasts both for reliability and their ability to clock as high or higher than any other product on the market.

As Winbond ceased production and BH-5 supplies were exhausted, so too did the Winbond Goose laying the Golden IC eggs for a number of memory suppliers. With BH-5 completely exhausted and no product to immediately succeed BH-5 or exceed its performance Mushkin’s focus on Enthusiast parts ebbed. Unfortunately Mushkin became somewhat lackadaisical in the R&D area, often seeing their competition lead them to market with new product developments. Mushkin need only look to the Rocky Mountains for inspiration as their location (Denver) rests at the base of those peaks. Albeit a 4,000 meter spire, or a simple animus for their own complacency, Mushkin has chosen to stage a comeback. In an effort to reclaim what was periodically, albeit briefly theirs, to be the premier supplier of overclocking/enthusiast memory, Mushkin is introducing new products designed to compete head-on with or out-perform all others.

Mushkin has always offered some of the most reliable service for their products, and that tradition continues, with an intensified focus on pleasing the desktop, as well as business computer user. Their immediate customer service and knowledgeable tech-support are available via email or through their toll-free numbers (800-569-1868). The new Mushkin hasn’t so much re-invented itself, as it’s built upon a solid reputation seeking to be the best memory supplier out there.

Read on as Mushkin shares their origins, track record, and future plans, including a refreshing departure from other prima facie Interviews. Madshrimps was pleasantly surprised the questions asked no matter how technical were answered without hesitation. As a writer I haven’t done many “interviews” per se, but found many “Rep’s” have very little technical knowledge of their own product! This is truly a sad state of affairs and more common then you may realize. Mushkin was knowledge and forthright as a company should be under the circumstances. Onward.
  • Questions asked by [M]adshrimps questions will begin with the following symbol [M]:
  • Answers by Mushkin with be highlighted as seen here.

    [M]: How did Mushkin get started, and where did the name derive from?

    Bill Mushkin started the business as a supplier of MAC memory. It quickly moved to become a PC memory supplier when a PC user tried the Mushkin MAC memory in a PC and it ran faster. From here, Bill created an “E-boutique” store on the web. In 2000, Ramtron International, a memory technology company, purchased the business from Bill.

    [M]: Does Mushkin choose any one manufacturer of IC’s or do you search to find the best micro-chips and PCB’s for a given product?

    We choose to offer products based off of a wide variety of IC’s. We learned a lesson with our Level II/BH-5 series where we really hitched most of our horses to that cart, and it took us awhile to recover some lost ground. Currently, we source IC’s from Samsung, Infineon, Winbond, Mosel, Micron, and others. We have a commitment to continually search for the “next great” IC, and in such, the next great modules.

    In regards to PCBs; obviously the choice of board matters, and is considered heavily in house prior to release. Our Level II BH-5 memory was a class leading product, in part due to PCB design, so tailoring the PCB to the IC is nothing new to Mushkin.

    [M]: Getting into specific products, what lines are being offered by Mushkin currently?

    To start, Mushkin classifies its DDR performance memory into three levels: Green – our Enhanced Performance line; Blue – our High-Performance line; and, Black – our Extreme Performance line. (Note that the levels follow that used on the ski slopes of Colorado.)

  • Green (SP)—The SP is our OEM series memory that can use a variety of IC’s based on market supply. Similar in pricing to what one might consider “standard” memory, we offer a higher quality part, and of course a full Mushkin Warranty if purchased from an authorized distributor.

  • Green (EM) Series—While low in price, this is really our “Mighty Mouse” performance modules. Designed for the entry level Gamer or Enthusiast, these modules offer a tremendous bang for the buck. Priced near OEM levels, these modules included Mushkin’s aluminum heat spreader.

  • Blue (HP) Series— The Blue High-Performance Series is a great performing part that offers a tremendous value to the end user. The HP series has traditionally been our entry level Cas2 part, for those users seeking tighter latencies over less expensive parts. We have expanded the series to include parts from 2100 to 3200 and 2-2-2 to 2-3-3 latencies.

    Recently, we promoted a special part with Winbond UTT chips on the PC3200 Blue memory modules, with many users reporting 240+ MHz clocks at Cas2 2:2:6 timings at 3.2+ vdimm. While we don’t officially sanction the use of such high memory voltages, we support our extreme enthusiasts in their continued efforts. We also added an Industry first 2GB dual kit (1GBx2) with Cas2:3:2:6 timings, which would make this the lowest latency 2GB kit available in market.

  • Black Series (XP)—This is really the series that made Mushkin famous – our Extreme Performance memory. Of course we refer to the Level II black based on the Winbond BH-5 IC, which has long since gone the way of the dinosaur. However, the Extreme Performance of this category lives on with the fastest modules in the market. Only the extremely best make it to this category. We have several products in development now that are being plugged into the Black XP series as we speak.

  • Redline—This is our new over-voltage technology that is made for the extreme and exacting enthusiast. Not for the timid, and limited in applications where high voltages of 3.2-3.4v can be applied to the modules, as the name implies this line is meant for extreme speed. Individuals who have the knowledge and capability to utilize these modules to their potential should be extremely pleased as in house testing often exceeds 250??MHz at timings of Cas2 2:2:6 timings for our XP3500 part, and 260MHz at the same timings for our XP4000 Redline part. I would caution users that this memory is not for everyone, and the end user should be readily familiar with the art and knowledge required in extreme overclocking. You’ll find the XP3500 and XP4000 in our Extreme Performance lineup, of course.

    (comments Mushkin's Black Series (black PCB) should be considered to be synonymous with their Extreme Performance Series)

    [M]: What about technical support and customer service, will Mushkin have separate services for business compared to personal computing?

    Our technical support and Customer service has been a cornerstone of our business practice and benchmark for our industry overall. We offer what many consider to be the best customer service practices inside of our industry, and our tech support is class leading as well. In addition, we offer support forums for our end users that allow interaction with tech support personal and the ability to troubleshooting system problems. We are always striving to improve our customer service and technical support and know we can get even better. In the future we plan to add more forum topic areas and knowledge bases to help our customers chose the right product and troubleshoot memory.

    [M]: How about warranties, has Mushkin thought about making any changes in this area and will business products differ form personal computing in this respect as well?

    Like many other memory companies in the industry, we have been hit with a wave of fraudulent warranty claims on top of ever increasing warranty abuse. We feel bad about changing our policies because we’ve had a very open and trusting relationship with our customers over the years.

    We feel our new limited lifetime warranty is a good compromise to help us control the problems but give our customers the coverage they expect from Mushkin. With this program, customers that buy our memory from an authorized reseller are asked to register their product on our website. Once registered, their warranty is extended from 30 days to lifetime. Most of our resellers have a return policy of 15 to 30 days so this falls within the guidelines of our new warranty program. This policy will allow us to give better support to our reseller based customers.

    [M]: With so many memory manufacturers in business today, how does Mushkin plan to differentiate themselves from the others?

    This is a great question Keith! Certainly, among the sea of choices consumers have the problem of differentiating yourself from your competition is paramount. We have always strived to be leader and still find the competition playing the copy-cat game. Like the Black PCBs for instance, everyone in the industry knows that’s our trademark. We strive to add value and function to the product and stay away from non-functional gimmicks. Mushkin appeals to the enthusiast’s sense of value and sensibility – and of course, their addiction to extreme performance! Furthermore, our emphasis is not in creating fancy names to products, but towards creating products that meet the needs of our consumers at prices that are very competitive. In the end, all the lights or fancy names won’t mean a thing if the product is still sitting on a shelf because they are too expensive and underperforms or is too confusing for the user to purchase.

    [M]: There seems to be some promising developments in DDR2 across the board in so far as the latencies becoming much tighter. Yet there still doesn’t seem to be a substantial improvement in performance based on these changes, can you explain why?

    Well I think the answer to this could be extrapolated into a whole article really. Maybe you want to take that on sometime? For a short and sweet answer, I’ll surmise by saying that the current P4 architecture for DDR2 is someone inefficient or non-optimized in current form, and that future chipset revisions should begin to show advantages to lower latency DDR2 modules.

    What I really find exciting about our Low Latency DDR2 modules is the flexibility they display. While you are correct in saying that in some cases there are not obvious advantages to running the DDR2 at 1:1 and Cas 3 2:2:8 timings, what we have found in our testing is that these modules offer tremendous headroom in overclocking both at low latency and high 1:1 frequency, or in moderate for DDR2 timings of Cas4 4:4:12 timings using the 3:4 ram divider. What this gives the end users is the ability to tune their system for both their current setup, without sacrificing future upgradeability down the road when lower latency becomes more efficacious.

    Furthermore, when AMD eventually adopts DDR2 as a standard with their A64 line of CPUs, the low latency DDR2 will surely be among the leaders in memory performance on those systems.

    Next, UTT memory--->
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