High End DDR2 Memory Roundup - Corsair, OCZ, Mushkin, Team

Memory by thorgal @ 2006-11-27

For some people, fast just isn´t fast enough. When you want to build a really high end system, you must search for the best memory out there. Today we take a look at 4 memory kits that are positioned at the upper end of the performance spectrum. Let´s find out which kit comes out on top.

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OCZ PC8500 SLI/EPP: A familiar sight

Madshrimps (c)
The well known OCZ memory package

A rather unexpected arrival in our memory roundup were these OCZ modules. OCZ has a very broad range of memory products of course, and originally we planned on reviewing a Titanium Alpha part, the latest lineup of OCZ memory. But as for all manufacturers, availability is fluctuating nowadays, and FedEx showed up on my doorstep with a different memory part: the OCZ PC8500 Platinum SLI/EPP edition. Quite a name for a memory kit isn't it.

Before we get started, a little word on SLI/EPP programming. EPP stands for "Enhanced Performance Profile", which is a technology that nVidia and Corsair recently introduced. As EPP is an open technology, other memory manufacturers have followed suite, and OCZ is now fully nVidia certified as well.

EPP gives users the possibility to install high performance modules and use them at their full capacity, without lifting a finger, plug and play onto the next level if you like. In the past, only one set of timings was programmed into the SPD (Serial Presence Detect), the chip which contains the necessary data for the memory modules to work properly. With the introduction of EPP, more than one setting will be programmed into the SPD, and it will be dependent on motherboard and applied voltage which setting is chosen during boot-up. A compatible bios/motherboard will chose the best settings automatically when you boot up, thus giving you the best possible performance without the pain of going through hours of tweaking. EPP does need some dedicated hardware to function though: an SLI/EPP capable motherboard and bios with a compatible chipset is needed. And you guessed it; these chipsets are only made by nVidia, at least at this moment.

This is OCZ's take on their kit:

” The new OCZ PC2-8500 Platinum Series is equipped with NVIDIA Enhanced Performance Profiles (EPP) to optimize the modules’ performance on nForce® 590 SLI-based motherboards. OCZ exclusively engineered select high-performance modules with advanced SPD (Serial Presence Detect) settings to allow compatible motherboards to recognize and utilize the added information, ultimately increasing the performance potential of the entire platform.

OCZ SLI-Ready memory modules are programmed to boot at 1066MHz DDR2 with supremely fast timings of 5-5-5. Only motherboards equipped with the custom-designed BIOS, such as those designed for NVIDIA nForce 590 SLI MCPs, can detect the optimized SPD profiles and ensure the memory functions under the best possible conditions. The exclusive OCZ SPD specifications take out the guesswork and provide enthusiasts and gamers with significant overclocked performance with no manual adjustment or compatibility issues.

With the fusion of the sophisticated EPP memory specification and cutting-edge, high-speed OCZ DDR2 architecture, the PC2-8500 Platinum edition is the ultimate breakthrough for advanced SLI platform performance.”

So far so good, but we're not planning to use any nVidia hardware today! Not to worry though, it's not because the settings are not directly "sensed" by our motherboard, that we can't use the modules... The memory actually works fine on most motherboards; you'll just have to do a bit of tweaking yourself to get the most out of them...

Look and Feel

The PC8500 Pt, are part of the Platinum lineup of memory products. In the past, this lineup stood for the enthusiast offerings by OCZ, with some famous examples like the DDR TCCD kits we all got to love. Lately, the lines have started to differentiate a lot more, and a few were added in the process (Titanium, SLI-certified, ATI certified, …). This kit is now part of the "Extreme Gamers" Platinum lineup, a sub division if you like.

About two years ago, OCZ decided to update their enthusiast line of memory modules with a revamped heat spreader design: the now famous "honeycomb grill". For this redesign OCZ has received much and deserved praise from all around the globe, not in the least for having the courage to bring some designing motion into the - let's face it – visually rather dull memory market. If you want to be picky, the design is actually not a real honeycomb, but the overall sight is there... The difference between this heat spreader design and a classical design is huge though: the top of the memory module is open, and the closed heat spreaders have been opened up by drilling dozens of holes in them. This way cooling is improved tremendously of course: air is allowed to move between the different memories chips, and the surface for heat exchange by convection is multiplied.

OCZ gave the heatspreaders the prefix XTC, and this is their description:

”XTC (Xtreme Thermal Convection) heatspreaders optimize the thermal management of memory modules by promoting greater airflow by means of micro-convection throughout what is usually the dead air space inside conventional heatspreader designs. In this manner, build-up of heat is avoided and thermal dissipation of the memory components is offloaded more efficiently through the honeycomb design. At the same time, mechanical stability is maintained”

For a more complete description of the heat exchange principles, please visit our previous article

Madshrimps (c)
front of the module with specifications

Madshrimps (c)
back of the module, design in all its glory

Here are the specifications for these modules:

  • 1066MHz DDR2
  • EPP 5-5-5-15 (CAS-TRCD-TRP-TRAS)
  • 240pin DIMM
  • Parity : Unbuffered
  • Platinum Mirrored XTC Heatspreader
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Operating voltage : 2.1 Volts
  • EVP (Extended Voltage Protect) : 2.4V +-5%
  • Nvidia SLI™ certified

    Let's see what they're made of.

    Overclocking performance

    Madshrimps (c)
    OCZ PC8500 installed on the P5B-deluxe

    This kit is rated to work at speeds of 1066Mhz at 5-5-5-15 timings. Let's start with these rated timings, and see what the modules can do at a cas setting of 5 cycles. Well, we're pleased to announce that the OCZ PC8500 was able to get up to 1130Mhz DDR, a 6% overclock. The voltage at which the modules reached this setting was 2.4V, nicely within warranty.

    At the cas 4 setting, the performance was the most impressive in my opinion: the PC8500 reached a speed of 1116Mhz with 4-4-4-15 (CAS-TRCD-TRP-TRAS) timings, still within the warranted voltage of 2.4V. This is a significant upgrade from the standard timings and provides a nice performance boost, as you'll see later on. At this setting, overclocking of the OCZ modules proved a little more difficult than the Mushkin modules, as these modules were very dependent on the correct TRAS setting. The highest memory speeds were thus recorded at a TRAS setting of 15 cycles.

    Finally, at the cas 3 setting, the PC8500 reaches the very respectable 843Mhz setting at timings of 3-3-3-9, 2.4V.

    Below are once more the screenshots for the different cas and system settings.

    Madshrimps (c) Madshrimps (c) Madshrimps (c)

    Left to right (click to open) : Maximum CAS3, CAS4, CAS5

    On to the Team Group modules now ->
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    Comment from Sidney @ 2006/11/27
    Very nice article; can hardly wait for the mid-range to come out for comparison.
    Comment from geoffrey @ 2006/12/22
    Nice round up man, usefull info in there

    My 2*1GB TEAMPGROUP don't seem to overclock as well as yours Thorgal. At 3-3-3-8-3 I could not post @ 825MHz @ 2,45V.
    Comment from jmke @ 2006/12/22
    825 is still very nice
    Comment from thorgal @ 2006/12/28
    Originally Posted by geoffrey View Post
    Nice round up man, usefull info in there

    My 2*1GB TEAMPGROUP don't seem to overclock as well as yours Thorgal. At 3-3-3-8-3 I could not post @ 825MHz @ 2,45V.
    Only saw your post today, Geof. What Team Group kit did you get ?

    I've got another team group kit here, the one that I bought myself, the 667Mhz "333" Micron kit, and it also does about 800Mhz cas 3. Haven't thoroughly tested it though, as the kit does much better on cas 4 (over a 1000Mhz, and still pushing).
    Comment from geoffrey @ 2006/12/28
    Teamgroup Xtreem Kit 2x1024MB DDR2-800 4-4-4-10 (D9)
    Comment from thorgal @ 2006/12/28
    Originally Posted by geoffrey View Post
    Teamgroup Xtreem Kit 2x1024MB DDR2-800 4-4-4-10 (D9)
    My guess is these are only a different binning of the PC5300 "333" kits (the one I have). Did you test the max on cas 4 already ?
    Comment from geoffrey @ 2006/12/28
    No, not really, I have P5B Deluxe incomming, I shall test it as soon as I can. Got to instal a few Win Xp setup and still have to do some shopping so it might be for the end of next week.
    Comment from blind_ripper @ 2007/03/19
    hhhmmm is it just me or dos my kit suck !
    max c4 32m is atm 2.6vdimm @ 550mhz .
    not really tight timmings but not loos to , not im on chipset 975X or is this normal for this chipset ?
    now im testing C3
    Comment from geoffrey @ 2007/03/20
    Mine seem to pass 525MHz at CAS4 on 965 chipset, keeping in mind my previous results on C3 I should suspect there is more left in yours sticks Blind-ripper.