Articles: Memory
 

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Testbed and Methods

Our testbed was built on an i865PE-based mainboard. We consider this chipset (and mainboards based on it) the most widespread and popular solution for the Pentium 4 platform with the 800MHz bus. Moreover, this mainstream chipset differs really slightly from the high-end i875P and we can extrapolate the results we will get on it to i875-based systems as well.

As for the particular mainboard, we chose ASUS P4P800 (see our Review of ASUS P4P800 Mainboard on i865PE Chipset for details). This mainboard provides good performance, and the latest versions of its BIOS are free from any stability issues, which may occur in some other mainboards with certain memory modules and/or memory subsystem settings.

Overall, the testbed looked as follows:

  • Intel Pentium 4 3.2, 3.0, 2.4C GHz CPUs;
  • ASUS P4P800 mainboard featuring the i865PE chipset;
  • Memory modules: Corsair TWINX512-3200LL, Corsair TWINX512-3700, OCZ DDR PC-3700 Premier Dual Channel, OCZ EL DDR PC-3700 Dual Channel Gold, OCZ EL DDR PC-4000 Dual Channel;
  • The memory subsystem worked in the dual-channel mode in all the tests, the total amount of memory was 512 (2x256) MB;
  • NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900 Ultra graphics card with Detonator 45.23;
  • Seagate Barracuda ATA IV HDD, 80GB.

The testbed ran under control of Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP1. The BIOS Setup of the mainboard was set to maximum performance.

Influence of Memory Timings on Performance of Pentium 4 Platform

Our excursion around nearby computer shops brought the following news. Available DDR400 SDRAM modules have drastically different characteristics. You can find very fast modules supporting 2-2-2-5 timings (CAS Latency – RAS# to CAS# Delay – RAS# Precharge – Active to Precharge Delay) next to much slower ones. Many DDR400 modules currently available require the use of CAS Latency = 2.5, but this is not the worst variant. There eve exist some relatively cheap modules that need timings set to 3-4-4-8.

That is why we decided to benchmark our Pentium 4 3.2GHz (800MHz FSB) system with dual-channel DDR400 SDRAM using different timings. This test will give us some clues as to the influence of the memory characteristics on its speed. We will also see if it is really that advisable to search for high-quality DDR400 memory modules. In order to make the review more illustrative, we also include the results shown by a system with a slower processor – Pentium 4 3.0GHz. Moreover, we carried out a few tests using DDR333 SDRAM in the asynchronous mode (remember that this memory actually works at 320MHz in i865/i875 systems).

First of all, let us consider the results of synthetic benchmarks that measure the memory subsystem performance. The Cachemem test brought the following news:

 

Pentium 4 3.2
DDR320 | 2-2-2-5

Pentium 4 3.2
DDR400 | 3-4-4-8

Pentium 4 3.2
DDR400 | 2.5-4-4-8

Pentium 4 3.2
DDR400 | 2-4-4-8

Pentium 4 3.2
DDR400 | 2.5-3-3-6

Pentium 4 3.2
DDR400 | 2-3-3-6

Pentium 4 3.2
DDR400 | 2-2-2-5

Memory read speed, MB/s

2569.3

3452.5

3459.4

3484.1

3511.3

3515.9

3707.4

Memory write speed, MB/s

1141.4

1278.5

1279.2

1356.5

1364.9

1447.3

1601.6

Memory copy speed, MB/s

2093.3

2403.7

2405.5

2470.1

2540.4

2623.8

2939.4

Latency

362

289

288

283

281

276

242

There are several important points to discuss. First, according to Cachemem, the use of DDR320 (DDR333) memory with a processor supporting 800MHz FSB leads to a considerable slowdown of the memory subsystem. You can clearly see it from both: catastrophic bandwidth reduction as well as the significantly increased latency.

 
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