Articles: Memory

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In our previous review of DDR2 SDRAM we took a look at memory modules capable of working at frequencies of 1GHz and even higher, yet those were not the fastest modules available. The tough competition between the leading manufacturers of fast, overclocker-friendly memory results in even better products. And since the manufacturers of DDR2 SDRAM chips memory modules are made from cannot yet offer any dramatic improvements in terms of frequency potential, the makers of advanced modules have to resort to various tricks to clock them at ever higher frequencies.

It was at the end of the last summer that Corsair and OCZ, the two leaders of the memory market, announced their new and faster-than-before modules that lifted the frequency bar from 1066MHz to 1100MHz. So, PC2-8000 and PC2-8600 modules were followed by PC2-8800. Their speed isn’t far better than that of the earlier products, but even this small performance growth should be regarded with interest considering the lack of a new raw material for fast memory (we mean DDR2 SDRAM chips that would have better overclockability than today). So, this review is all about the new products from Corsair and OCZ as they provoke just enough of questions to be discussed in a single article. Before talking about each of them individually, we’d like to single out the general principle behind the ultra-fast PC2-8800 DDR2 SDRAM.

There is no magic, actually. The manufacturers of fast overclocker-targeted memory work along three directions. First, they cull chips with greatest overclockability. Second, they develop a proper design of the memory module’s PCB because the wiring affects overclockability, too. Third, they increase voltage on the chips, which is the most efficacious method of increasing a module’s frequency potential. Increased voltage leads to higher heat dissipation, so additional measures should be taken to ensure proper cooling of the memory chips lest their lifecycle should prove too short. For example, DDR2 SDRAM modules rated for a 1GHz frequency usually have a voltage of 2.2-2.3V, which is 20-35% above the normal voltage of that memory type. Corsair and OCZ went further with their 1.1GHz products and increased voltage to 2.4V. Coupled with a painstaking selection of chips, this gave birth to DDR2-1100 SDRAM.

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