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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  • Wesley Fink - Saturday, July 8, 2006 - link

    That is DDR2-533 is DDR2-533 on BOTH Intel and AMD.
  • rallyhard - Friday, July 7, 2006 - link

    Wow, that's some nice memory!
    Kinda makes me feel a little less rediculously proud of the Mushkin XP2 PC2-5300 2gb sticks that I'll possess tomorrow.

    Oh well, at least I paid less than half the price of either of these!

    And to the above poster: Get a life!
  • TheGlassman - Friday, July 7, 2006 - link

    And since they were not tested on AM2, no point for me to consider any of them.
  • ShoNuff - Friday, July 7, 2006 - link

    First in!!! I've allways wanted to do that...reading now.

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