DDR2-1000+ Memory

DDR2 is a subject whose time has finally come. AMD made the transition to AM2 on May 23rd, so the two main processor makers - AMD and Intel - are now both firmly in the DDR2 camp. While Intel moved to DDR2 with the introduction of Socket 775 (Socket T) almost two years ago, the average enthusiast has not really been too concerned with what Intel was using. AMD was clearly the performance leader and they used DDR. That means many enthusiasts have not paid much attention to DDR2, which has grown up quite a lot since it was first introduced. Now, of course, even AMD is using DDR2 and the Enthusiast world is getting ready to change again with the introduction of Core 2 Duo (or Conroe). Conroe is shaping up as the most significant processor introduction since Athlon64, and - you guessed it - we are still talking DDR2.

No matter what brand you choose or flavor you roll these days, DDR2 is the memory everyone is using in their top platforms. That means your next memory purchase will be DDR2. Whether AM2 or Conroe, you should be looking for the magic combination that produces the best-performing DDR2 memory that you can find (or afford).

If you haven't looked at DDR2 memory in a while, you will definitely need to reeducate yourself. DDR2 no longer means more expensive. DDR2-533 is now priced roughly the same as DDR400 in the same capacity. This is also the rough equivalent in performance, with DDR2-533 performing about the same as fast DDR400. Not only is there parity in current market pricing, there is good news on the horizon. With the market unified around DDR2, and memory manufacturers no longer forced to split resources between DDR and DDR2, there will likely be even further DDR2 price reductions in the future.

As you move up from DDR2-533 you will generally see real performance improvements with faster memory, up to and including the DDR2-800 standard. For more information on how DDR400 performance compares to DDR2 take a look at our AM2 DDR2 vs. 939 DDR Performance article. DDR2-800 is the fastest current standard - supported by both the new AMD AM2 processors and the upcoming Intel Core 2 Duo (Conroe). There are no industry-approved standards above DDR2-800, just as there were no JEDEC standards above DDR400, so memory speeds above DDR2-800 should be considered overclocking. We have not yet seen an AM2 motherboard with support for DDR2-1067, which will be the next standard speed, but we have seen a number of Intel motherboards that support the DDR2-1067 speed. With DDR2-800 an approved speed on the new processors and chipsets, it is likely just a matter of time until official DDR2-1067 support arrives.

Two trends are clear in today's DDR2 memory. First, memory speed is rising, and second, memory timings are getting tighter. When DDR2 was first introduced you were hard-pressed to find a module with tighter timings than 5-5-5. Today we are even seeing DDR2-800 that can run as fast as 3-3-3 timings, and some DDR2-533 memory, which is 1:1 with the 1067 quad-pumped bus of Intel Core 2 duo, can commonly operate at 3-2-2 timings with additional voltage. DDR2 is getting cheaper, faster, and with tighter timings.

Into this evolving market we are starting to see many enthusiast memory manufacturers delivering new parts that boast memory speeds for DDR2-1000 and higher. We first examined a DDR2-1000 part in our OCZ EL PC2-8000 XTC: Low Latency PLUS DDR2-1100 review. That first DDR2-1000 memory based on the latest Micron memory chips proved to be the fastest DDR2 memory we had ever tested. Other manufacturers have been developing their own DDR2-1000 and faster memory based on these same Micron chips. Today we take a closer look at two of those memories rated at DDR2-1000 CAS 5 - Buffalo FireStix PC2-8500 C5 in a 2GB kit (2x1GB DIMMs) and Crucial Ballistix PC-8500 2GB kit (2x1GB). These new memories use the same base Micron chips, but we have seen in the past that binning (sorting by speed grade), SPD programming, and the PCB used for mounting chips can all influence performance. The question then is how do the new Buffalo and Crucial DDR2-1000 compare to the excellent OCZ EL PC2-8000 XTC?

High-speed DDR2 is appearing quickly in the marketplace, just in time for the new demands for better DDR2 performance. We have recently received DDR2-1066 rated (PC2-8500) memory from both Corsair and Kingston. These two new memories are also based on Micron memory chips that have been binned for even higher rated speed. We will be reviewing these new DDR2-1066 2GB kits in the near future.

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  • JarredWalton - Friday, July 7, 2006 - link

    We're working on more memory reviews, and Corsair's offering will be reviewed soon.
  • araczynski - Monday, July 10, 2006 - link

    didn't know that was an option, but that's ok, with the adblock solution i get to kill many birds with one stone.
  • araczynski - Friday, July 7, 2006 - link

    ...i'm getting fed up with the damn intellitext ads all over the place, anyone know of a surefire way to block that crap?

  • araczynski - Friday, July 7, 2006 - link

    NM, found adblock for firefox, brilliant!
  • JarredWalton - Friday, July 7, 2006 - link

    Another option is to simply http://www.anandtech.com/siteinfo.aspx?intelli=y">turn it off in your site preferences. :)
  • lopri - Friday, July 7, 2006 - link

    Excellent review in that it shed light on DDR2 testing methodology on Intel platform. I should admit that I'd been quite ignorant about DDR2 scaling to this date. This article exaplains alot about the way Intel platform works and how dividers are used - in plain English. It seems, in a sense, it's easier to test memory on Intel platform, especially once Conroe arrives, with so many dividers available at any given CPU clock.

    Thanks for an excellent review. BTW, when can we expect the P5W-DH review and/or DFI 975X Infinity review?


    *nitpick1 : On page 5, there is a typo. ;)

    With ratios, memory speed remains constant at 3.46GHz and memory speed is varied by choosing different ratios

  • Wesley Fink - Friday, July 7, 2006 - link

    Thanks, Lopri. The typo is now corrected.

    Now that AMD has moved to DDR2 with AM2, memory dividers and memory speeds work exactly the same, with standard supported speeds to DDR2-800.

    The P5W-DH review will post next week.
  • semo - Saturday, July 8, 2006 - link

    why don't you make a dedicated error reporting section for each article?
    last page fifth paragraph:

    DDR2 Memory on the Intel platform, however, is by definition Double Data Rate, so a 266 base setting is 533 (2x266).
    shoudln't that be "amd platform"
  • Wesley Fink - Saturday, July 8, 2006 - link

    We were talking about how Intel handles memory speed which is why AMD was not also mentioned. DDR-533 is DDR-533 on BOTH the Intel and AMD platform. However, the CPU clock speed on the AMD platform is 400, while the bus speed on the Intel is 1066. AMD double pumps 200 on the clock to achieve 400, while the latest Intel processors quad pump 266 to achieve 1066. The BASE speed is still 200 AMD and 266 Intel.

    1:1 on the AMD is therefore DDR2-400, but Hyper Transport and the on-chip memory controller on AM2 means the memory speed or ratios don't really matter. There is no penalty for running AM2 at ratios, but there is a very slight penalty for running Intel at other than 1:1 (DDR2-533) - in the range of 1% to 5% memory bandwidth reduction.

    The AM2 has massive DDR2 memory bandwidth, but it is not memory-starved and really can't use the extra bandwidth in the current CPU design. It might matter more in future AMD designs.
  • semo - Sunday, July 9, 2006 - link

    ok thanks i think i get it now. and it's a shame amd can't take advantage of the advances ddr2 has made (apart from the reduction in penalty going from ddr to ddr2)

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