Articles: Memory

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Not long ago we discussed the new features of the memory controller in Athlon 64 processors of the E revision, among which we noted the unofficial support of memory types faster than DDR400 SDRAM (for details see our article called AMD Athlon 64 Processors on E Core: Memory Controller Peculiarities in Detail . We came to the conclusion then that it was possible to increase somewhat the performance of Athlon 64 systems by using DDR500 SDRAM. Even though this memory is not standardized by JEDEC, SDRAM module makers are offering many such modules to overclockers and PC enthusiasts.

But AMD is not alone in its supporting, even though unofficially, overclocker-friendly memory modules. Intel follows a similar policy with respect to DDR2 SDRAM: Intel’s new i955X and i945P chipsets formally support memory no faster than DDR2-667 SDRAM, but unofficially they can work with much faster modules.

Thanks to this feature of the new chipsets from Intel, overclocker-friendly modules of DDR2 SDRAM available from such manufacturers as Corsair, OCZ and others, may become very popular among PC enthusiasts. But first we must of course evaluate the performance gains we can expect to get with such memory in comparison with the “ordinary” performance of platforms that use standard DDR2 SDRAM.

In this review you will see a few overclocker-friendly modules of DDR2 capable of working at high frequencies as well as at extremely low timings. We will also use them to check if high-frequency DDR2 SDRAM brings any real gains to modern Pentium 4 systems and if it makes sense to keep the memory timings as low as 3-2-2-8.

We should acknowledge as a fact that DDR2 SDRAM isn’t widely accepted as yet. For example, the usage statistics for CPU-Z, a popular tool in the overclocking community, says that DDR2 SDRAM is installed only in 4.2% of all systems this program is launched on. Such a low popularity of this memory type is not to be wondered at just because it hasn’t had any obvious advantages against DDR SDRAM until recently. The next year is going to be a breakthrough for DDR2, however. DDR2-800 SDRAM modules are expected to appear in mass quantities in 2006 and this kind of memory seems to ensure tangible performance advantages in comparison with DDR400 SDRAM. Considering other appealing traits of DDR2 technology like low power consumption and simplified mainboard wiring, this memory type will most likely shatter the market position of DDR1.

A new family of Athlon 64 CPUs intended for the new M2 socket will soon make another favorable factor for DDR2 SDRAM, too. These processors are scheduled to appear in the second quarter of 2006 and will support 667MHz and 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM instead of DDR1 SDRAM. So, our exploration of characteristics of high-speed DDR2 memory modules may be also interesting for people who use the K8 platform, since it is going to add DDR2 support quite soon.

Now that we’ve made sure about the bright perspectives of DDR2 SDRAM, we can examine the products about to be tested.

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