FAST 2GB DDR Kits - Part 2

by Wesley Fink on January 23, 2006 12:05 AM EST
Part 1 of the 2GB DDR Kit Roundup took a close look at 3 memories based on Infineon memory chips. Since that review in October, a number of 2GB DDR kits have appeared in the market with most based on Infineon C or B die memory chips. There are, however, a few brands that have taken a different approach to memory chips for 1GB DIMMs, and we have included those in this roundup, along with the latest Infineon-based memories.

1GB DDR DIMMs began appearing in the market over a year ago, but it wasn't until mid-2005 that 1GB DIMMs with reasonably fast timings became widely available. These faster 1GB DIMMs finally made the choice of 2GB memory kits to be a reasonable choice in a market that had been dominated by fast DDR 512MB DIMMs.

There are many reasons to choose a 2GB kit over a 1GB kit or 4 512MB DIMMs. Two 1GB DIMMs on the AMD Athlon 64 can still run at 1T Command rate, instead of the 2T required by the 4x512MB DIMMs needed for 2GB with 512MB DIMMs - a definite advantage for the 1GB DIMMs. On the other hand, until recently, the available 1GB DIMMs were generally much slower than the fast 2-2-2 DIMMs that were commonly available in 512MB DIMMs. We normally saw 3-3-3 or 3-4-4 or slower timings for 1GB DIMMs. These poorer timings for 1GB DIMMs took away most of the advantage for the 1GB 1T Command Rate.

There was an additional "gotcha" with the 1GB DIMMs that many enthusiasts quickly discovered. With a starting point of 3-3-3 or 3-4-4 at DDR400, the 1GB parts did not overclock nearly as far as the 512MB parts. For all of these reasons, we generally recommended that most users were better off with 512MB DIMMs - at least until memory timings improved on the 1GB DIMMs.

The time for faster 1GB DIMMs has finally come in the past 6 months, and they are now available from almost every memory manufacturer. In Part 1, we looked at three 2GB kits from Corsair, Gigaram, and OCZ. In this part 2, we put six additional fast 2GB kits through our test bench, with some interesting results. We also updated some parts of our memory test bench, which required retesting of the original three 2GB kits.

Our memory tests differentiate memory in two ways. First, AnandTech has always been an advocate of real world performance measurements, and we've shunned using just synthetic benchmarks in our testing of every type of component, including memory. This is not because synthetic benchmarks are not useful - they are often very revealing of component differences - but rather, it is because running just synthetic benchmarks can severely distort the picture of performance with real applications and real games. That is why we always use games and the pure number-crunching Super Pi in our memory tests. It is also the reason why we test using both Buffered (Standard) and Unbuffered synthetic benchmarks. We have found in much of our testing that the less commonly used Unbuffered benchmarks mirror more closely how games really respond to memory differences.

Second, we moved to testing different memory speeds at the same CPU clock speed in our Athlon 64 memory tests. The AMD CPU, with unlocked multipliers, allowed us to finally remove the CPU speed differences from our memory tests. This allows you to finally see the true impact of memory speed increases and memory timings on performance. As you have seen in past reviews, those performance differences are very real, although they are much smaller than what many memory manufacturers might want you to believe. On the other hand, faster memory speeds and faster memory timings do improve performance, no matter what some nay-sayers are determined to prove.

The New 2GB DDR Kits
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  • PrinceGaz - Monday, January 23, 2006 - link

    "... 2GB also makes sense for the OS future. With Vista coming and 2GB, the new memory recommendation for the new OS, you will be set for Vista."

    I was under the impression that the minimum is expected to be 512MB, and that 1GB will be recommended for good responsiveness under normal use. Having said that, I would personally choose 2GB for any new system as pairs of 1GB DDR (and of course DDR2) modules are now readily available and competitively priced. Unfortunately most big-name OEM systems are still shipping with either 512MB, or if you're lucky 1GB.
  • bigtoe36 - Monday, January 23, 2006 - link

    Being honest we have had some supply issues, and some issues regarding supply that are out of our control. We do have stock and will have more real soon.

  • bigtoe36 - Monday, January 23, 2006 - link

    This was to counter any moans about availability before they were posted.
  • emilyek - Monday, January 23, 2006 - link

    You guys tested the worst GSKILL kit.

    Their pc4000 2 gig kit (speed-binned version of that kit) is the same price as the 2-3-2-5 chip ($200) and will do DDR580

    Their $250 kit 2-3-2-5 would contend with the Mushkin and the Crucial at a much lower cost.
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, January 23, 2006 - link

    The Silver Editors Choice Corsair 4000PT, and the OCZ PC4000 Gold and PC4000GX XTC, also based on UCCC chips, are all in the $205 to $230 price range for the 2GB kit from e-tailers. So $250 for a UCCC kit seems in line but hardly a bargain.

    As for testing the worst G. Skill, we asked all the memory manufacturers to supply their "best" 2GB kit for our roundup. The manufacturers decided what to supply, and we expect Enthusiast memory makers to know what is best in their line.
  • irev210 - Monday, January 23, 2006 - link

    The crucial memory is amazing memory.

    I was able to get it stable at 3-3-3-8 @ 300mhz, but you really need to spend some time on the settings, it is VERY picky memory. Both tras and drive strength play huge factory in memory stability.

    Yes, it is suspected that due to really high RMA they discontinued, however what anandtech doesnt report is what actually happens to the memory.

    Even at 2.8vcore or less PLUS active cooling, 1 2 or 3 months down the line your memory will just start dying.

    Thinks like memtest86 will check out fine, but then while gaming, your rig will just lock up. Random bluescreens, random lockups...

    There is a big story to these ballistix, it is too bad they simply have a HUGE rate of failure. Do a ddr2 roundup, then you will see how many people use micron fatbodies for their high performance ddr2 memory. You dont see that with the high density memory, and obviously i suspect due to stability issues.

    My advice for memory is the g.skill F1-4000USU2-2GBHZ based on samsung ram, it has been doing well, and g.skill has awesome customer service.

    I personally am going to wait for ddr2 before going with 1gb sticks, then ballistix 2gb set is on my list. But that is just me.
  • Bull Dog - Monday, January 23, 2006 - link

    I'm another Ballistix memory user here. I ran mine at 2.75v the whole time and they just died after a while. Screw you Crucial/Micron. I will NEVER buy your products AGAIN. (I don't care if they have zero problems eitehr.
  • gooser - Monday, January 23, 2006 - link

    Now what about the tracers?? I just purchased the 2 GB tracers last week knowing about the issues with the regular ballistix after a couple of months. I have read that the tracers use a higher quality power modulator, thus dont have the same problem. Anyone?
  • lopri - Monday, January 23, 2006 - link

    Lots of work and outstanding comments. Thanks. This review, along with the Part I, is significant in that it puts an end to the 1GB system memory standard. It's declaring that an *era* of 2GB system memory is finally here.

    However, with these super high-clocking 1G sticks (512MB sticks also for that matter), there is one *realer* question that's haunting my mind. With the current crop of DDR memory reaching speed of DDR550~DDR600, one has to wonder - What's the good if CPUs can't handle the speed of memory?

    Yes, I'm questioning the capability of A64/Opteron's memory controller. Because even the best current AMD CPUs often fail to keep up with the speed of memory. You've got a PC4800 DDR memory? Good luck, pray your CPU can run it at that speed. This issue is, at least for me, very real. I just don't see the point of high-clocking memory when the truth is CPUs' memory controllers are the limit. (And to some extent motherboards, of course)

    In the light of this, would it be possible for you to test the quality of each revision of AMD CPUs' memory controllers? Preferably with recent cores - namely, Venice, San Diego, Toledo, Manchester and their Opteron equivalents. The more detailed, the better. Rev E3, E6, E4, and even the steppings.

    While reading this excellent review, I couldn't shake the issue of memory controller off my head. These days a stick of RAM seems only as good as the CPU's memory controller it relies on. Unless one is just happy to see her/his RAM passing memtest @DDR600 all day long.

    Again, thanks for your hard work on this review, Wesley. However, I'd really like to hear from you about the issue that I'm bringing here. I'd much appreciate it.

  • dlerious - Monday, January 23, 2006 - link

    If my CPU can't keep up with my RAM, I just drop the multiplier (and/or divider) down until I find the point where both run as high as possible at the voltage and temps I'm comfortable with.

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