4GB Kit Shootout: DDR2 At It’s Best

Overall Score
Some Old Faces, Some New.
 
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With the rise of DDR3 and a new generation of hardware, the old and gray DDR2 now seems to be relegated to the "El Cheapo" bin of most overclockers digital wet dreams. But, and this is quite the big but, the El Cheapo bin has always yielded fine fruit for those willing to take the ego hit and work with slightly older hardware.

 

Let’s face it, like the peasants from the Holy Grail, DDR2 isn’t anywhere near dead yet, and with motherboard manufacturers still including DDR2 DIMMs in some of their new P45 and X48 boards, and the still steep price and even steeper latency, we can expect to see the old girl still go a few more rounds before we can throw in the proverbial towel for her.

 

In contention for the old format we have, OCZ, G.Skill, Mushkin and Corsair all throwing their hats in this race. These are all well known and highly respected companies when it comes to their RAM. Quality, overclocking prowess and stability at relatively normal voltages. Well, normal for us that is.

A Bit of A History Lesson

G.Skill

 
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Based in Taiwan, this manufacturing company is not as well known in the markets of Europe and America. The G.SKILL corporation was established in 1989 by a group of computer enthusiasts. In 2003, the company debuted as a maker of highly targeted computer memory, focusing on high-quality, high-end products. The high-end offerings are especially well regarded among serious overclockers.

 

Mushkin
 
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Founded in 1994, Mushkin is best known for producing “Enhanced” and "Redline" memory modules. Located at the base of the breathtaking Rocky Mountains in Denver, Colorado Mushkin provides performance enhanced computer products to users worldwide. Exceptional quality, enhanced performance and customer support that is worth it’s weight in myrrh and frankincense are what make Mushkin products the some of the best in the industry.

 

OCZ
 
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Entering the memory market in August 2000, OCZ Technology was built around the determination to manufacture the best high speed DDR and RDRAM. OCZ was founded by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts, and the commitment to the users have not changed over the years. OCZ Technology has been an innovator in many areas. They were the first manufacturer to make Dual Channel optimized memory available to the public, which originally took advantage of nVidia’s Twinbank or Dual DDR architecture, found in their nForce chipsets.

 

Corsair
 
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A pioneer in high-speed module design, Corsair is a trusted supplier to many computer manufacturers. In high-density memory solutions, Corsair has always been one of the first suppliers to achieve advanced qualifications on Intel, Tyan and SuperMicro server platforms. They are also well known for the Dominator and XMS series of high performance high overclocking RAM as well as what is considered to be one of the top power supplies in it’s class, the HX550.

OCZ’s HPC Technology

ReaperX HPC (Heat Pipe Conduit) modules offload heat with extreme efficiency due to a new dual copper heat pipe design. Each memory chip is in direct contact with a thermo-conductive pipe that guides the performance robbing heat away from key memory components and quickly dissipates it through the aluminum fin array.

 

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CPU heatsink technology, now cooling your RAM.

The addition of the extended fin array nearly doubles the total surface area available for heat dissipation while the heat pipes warrant near isothermicity throughout the entire design. The result is a doubling in effective heat dissipation at equal delta T or, in real systems, a significantly lower temperature of the memory modules.

 

Corsair’s Twin Path Technology

Corsair takes a slightly different approach than the standard, while quite effective large heatsink and heat spreader approach.

 

Corsair have developed a unique technology that maximizes heat dissipation while improving reliability, even in the most extremely overclocked memory module. Dual-Path Heat Exchange (DHX) technology utilizes two methods to effectively remove heat from the memory circuit board, convection and conduction.

 


The Dominator System of Cooling

Corsair utilizes not just one heat spreader, but two, one attached to the PCB and one to the memory IC’s. This method is one of those that make you think, why didn’t they think of this before?

 

Along with the heat spreaders, Corsair also provides the nifty AirFlow Hero fan, which is basically a set of three 40mm tachometer-controlled fans to provide impinging airflow to the memory subsystem. With the moderate RPMs required to provide adequate forced air, the Airflow fan is nearly silent. The fan easily clamps onto most motherboards.

                                                                           
                  The AirFlow module works on almost any motherboard and just about any memory kit, not just the ones from Corsair. Nifty.

The Test Subjects

 

This test includes only 4GB kits, (2x2GB), which for such a long time, enthusiasts of all classes found to be simply, out of our price reach, and by a significant margin. Now with the afore mention DDR3 rise, what was once a pipe dream, is now reality, and with good speed and low latency as well.

 

Starting us off from Corsair, we have the TWIN2X4096-8500C5DF what can only be described as simply, a massive kit, not only in GB size, but physical size as well. With 5-5-5-15 latency timings, the RAM is quite quick and tight for such a large set @1066Mhz EPP.

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Continuing our march, we have the Mushkin Enhanced EM2-6400 2x2GB set. This set runs at 5-5-5-18 at 1.8v.

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G.Skill comes in with what should be quite familiar to XCPU’s members, DDR2-1000, which can be found for $85 on Newegg. This oddly rated RAM runs at 5-5-5-12 and in full 500Mhz mode, the RAM runs at 5-5-5-15.

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Finally, rivaling the Dominators in size, OCZ sent us their ReaperX PC2 6400 kit. It’s actually the tightest of the bunch, and this helps quite alot in the synthetic benches, but as this is an overclocking and value test, we didn’t perform those tests.

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16,5,Testbed,

TestBed

Processor: Intel Xeon 3060
Motherboard: DFI UT-P35-T2R
Video Card: Sapphire HD3870
Power Supply: Coolmax 700W Modular
Hard Drive: WD Raptor 74GB SATA
Case: Silverstone TJ06
OS: Windows Vista Ultimate
Ambient Temperature: 65°F (18.3°C)

Results

All the kits tested overclock to at least 1200Mhz @5-5-5-12 stable. The G.Skill however, caused many a BSOD when it came to the Folding@Home stability test. This would be an issue throughout the rest of the tests.

The kits once again performed admirably, and all at 5-4-4-12 at even this speed. The G.Skill however was an exception to this rule and required 5-5-5-15 and at it’s best during the 1200Mhz test, only ran at 5-5-5-12 with a 2T command rate instead of the 1T rate the other kits were able to sustain. This isn’t that much of an issue for most users and enthusiasts in general, but for benchmarkers, this possibly could be.

All kits remained well within operating temperatures during the overclocking tests. This bodes well for stability.

In measuring the AirFlow Hero against both a 80mm and 120mm high performance fan, the Dominator unit performed consistently well and also with a similar level of quiet.

Conclusion

I really was impressed by the results of these tests. In the synthetic tests (not included) the kits all scored around the same in both SuperPi with a 0.3 – 0.5 +/- margin, which falls well within the test margin of error, and in 3DMark Vantage, for which the scores were so similar recording and posting really doesn’t show any discernible difference in the kits. However, the OCZ ReaperX, with their low latency, and high overclock potential, should possibly be the best choice for overclockers and benchmarkers.

All the included kits had the famed Micron D9 IC’s, which especially aided in overclocking as well as stability and its low voltages. Out of the entire test bed, only two really rose to the top of the pile, Mushkin and OCZ. The Mushkin stands out because of what could be considered the best customer service department ever fielded by an earthly company. Mushkin will gladly spend time on the phone with the end user, discussing timings, voltages and even suggesting what kit would be best for a user’s set up. Many a XCPU member can attest to this concrete fact.

OCZ’s RAM, also stands out in terms of performance and it’s speed. It dominated the not included synthetic results as well as consistently placing high in our overclocking tests. While I did beleive that both the Corsair as well as the OCZ’s heatsink applications to be, well, gimmicky, they did end up making a difference in the temperature tests. Frankly, I’m amazed, and quite happy.

G.Skill’s kit performed well, especially considering the price, and the Corsairs also lived up to the company’s pedigree.

I can confidently give all the kits the XCPU’s Gold.

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