by Ilya Gavrichenkov
12/13/2005 | 02:17 PM
About a year ago there appeared new memory modules that were marketed under Aeneon brand name. This trade mark was the property of one of the largest memory manufacturers – the German Infineon Technologies. You all know that Infineon does supply the memory modules under its own brand name, therefore, the arrival of one more brand seemed quite puzzling for the market at first. However, things started clearing up when they explained that the new brand of the memory modules was intended for the so-called “white-box PC” market.
Later on, this strictly defined application field for the new Aeneon modules was unmasked on the Aeneon’s official web-site www.aeneon.com , devoted to these products. According to the information available on this web-site right now, Aeneon memory modules can be supplied to the white-box PC market as well as to the largest OEMs and system assemblers. As a result, there appeared a product line targeted “for everyone and for no one” at the same time, which was very much like the Infineon product family, but boasted unprecedented combination of attractive price and great performance achieved due to the latest technological innovations and offered excellent reliability during operation (according to the same official web-site).
As we see, Infineon didn’t provide any detailed clarification about the actual positioning and target group for this new memory line, but provided mostly general information. This was one of the reasons why we got curious about these memory modules and decided to take a closer Look at the Aeneon family. Especially, since the memory modules based on Infineon chips have already proven quite successful in our lab (for details see our article devoted to DDR2 SDRAM from Kingston called Kingston HyperX KHX7200D2K2/1G (DDR2-900 SDRAM) Memory Modules Review ).
For our test session Infineon was very kind to provide us the fastest solutions from their current product range: DDR2-533 (PC2-4200) SDRAM with the capacity of 512MB and 1024MB. While most companies have already tackled the production of at least DDR2-667 SDRAM, Aeneon family cannot boast high-speed solutions like that yet. Moreover, the latencies of the memory modules we had at our disposal are quite common: the nominal CAS Latency value at 533MHz frequency equals 4. However, we didn’t expect to see the world’s fastest running memory modules when we got our hands on the Aeneon memory. What we were promised was the unprecedented combination of high speed and attractive pricing, so we would expect the price to be Aeneon’s major attraction.
Anyway, right now let’s take a closer look at the specifications of the DDR2 SDRAM Aeneon memory modules from Infineon. First we will take a 512MB module marked as AET660UD00-370A98X:
The second module type we will look at is a 1024MB module marked as AET760UD00-370A08X:
The memory modules specifications do not mention anything about the supported voltage, because it equals the standard value of 1.8V.
As we see, at first glance Aeneon memory modules look just like many other memory solutions. So, hopefully the famous German quality will reveal itself during the practical tests.
Here I would like to specifically stress the accuracy and thoroughness of the SPD report. The manufacturer documented not only the time when the given memory modules were made, but also the serial number of each product.
Although, I have to draw your attention to the fact, that the Aeneon brand name hasn’t been mentioned anywhere in the memory modules SPD. The modules are reported to belong to the Infineon product line.
As for the work modes, the data from SPD are absolutely identical to what the specification claims. It means that when you install these memory modules into the mainboard, you are very unlikely to need any manual adjustment of the memory subsystem settings.
Aeneon memory modules are shipped in bulk, without any specific retail package. However, you would hardly expect to see a budget solution in a fancy expensive package.
As for the exterior design of the DDR2 SDRAM Aeneon modules, it is something I would like to particularly dwell on. This is what the 512MB AET660UD00-370A98X memory modules look like:
There are no heat-spreaders: it is just a PCB with the memory chips on it. The interesting thing is that these chips are marked as Aeneon. They boast unique marking code, and unfortunately we didn’t manage to find any explanation of the code on the manufacturer’s web-site. The only thing we could guess from the marking was the access time of 3.7ns, which actually stands for CL4 at 533MHz frequency.
The sticker on the memory modules does contain some additional information on the frequency, capacity and timings of the solution. It also states “Assembled in Malaysia”, which explains how they manage to achieve attractive price-to-performance ratio pf their Aeneon modules :)
AET760UD00-370A08X modules with 1024MB capacity look slightly different:
These guys are also dingle-sided, however they are built with twice as large memory chips shaped very much like TSOP chips. Despite the seeming similarity with TSOP, these are none other but rectangular BGA chips. By the way, the sticker claims that the 1GB Aeneon memory modules are assembled in Taiwan, and not in China.
Well, the specifications of Aeneon memory modules suggest that this is a pretty ordinary solutions, however, it is not X-bit labs’ strategy to take specifications for granted blindly :) You all know that very often some evidently budget solutions can acquire a new image after skillful overclocking experiments. And very often the results of these overclocking experiments can turn out quite unexpected. To be honest, we expected something like that from our today’s heroes – the Aeneon memory modules. Why? Well, they are directly related to Infineon, and the Infineon memory chips are often used in DDR2 SDRAM DIMMs designed to run at 900MHz frequency.
First, we decided to test the 512MB AET660UD00-370A98X memory modules. However, before we pass over to discussing the actual benchmark results, please take a look at our test platform configuration:
The mainboard BIOS settings were as follows:
We ran the tests at higher memory voltage set to 2.0V. We didn’t go any further than that because it is not safe to increase the Vdimm beyond 2.0V for the memory modules without heat-spreaders. So, we could only play around the 10% voltage increase. At the same time, I would like to point out that overclocker memory modules built with Infineon chips work just fine at this particular voltage, so we had every right to expect Aeneon modules to fully reveal their overclocking potential at the Vdimm set to 2.0V.
The memory stability tests were carried out in two consecutive steps. At first we resorted to the Memtest86+ utility version 1.65 to make sure there were no errors during operation. Then we reconfirmed this result by running S&M 1.7.6 and Prime95 24.13 utilities in Windows XP. This two-step approach ensures that we get trustworthy results.
Now that we have explained the testing procedures in detail, let’s get down to the actual benchmarking results.
As I have already said, first we tested 512MB Aeneon DDR2 SDRAM modules (the diagram shows the maximum frequencies we managed to achieve with different timing settings):
As you can see from the obtained results, we cannot assign these memory modules the overclocker’s title. Their frequency potential is relatively low, so it is simply impossible to overclock these memory modules to the heights most enthusiast products can reach. However, I would like to point out a few very pleasing things about the tested modules. First, these memory modules can work wt 533MHz not only with the nominal timings set to 4-4-4-11, but also with the more aggressive timings set to 3-3-3-9. Second, with 5-5-5-15 timings these modules can work at 800MHz. in other words, it indicates that AET660UD00-370A98X has quite good overclocking potential. I believe that this product is worth your attention not only due to its attractively low price, but also due to the opportunity to get some extra performance, beyond the limits claimed by the specification.
Now it’s time we tested the 1GB Aeneon AET760UD00-370A08X memory modules. The following graph displays the obtained results:
It is really sad but 1GB Aeneon modules appeared not as successful as their 512MB brothers. The first evident of this failure is their inability to grow the working frequency as efficiently as we have just seen in the previous case. Even with the least aggressive timing settings, 5-5-5-15, the maximum these memory modules can work at is 740MHz.
Here we could actually move straight to conclusions, however, there remained one question that we couldn’t leave unattended. Namely, we were wondering what could still make us use 1GB memory modules even though they cannot boast a high overclocking potential as their 512MB fellows. Even if you want to have 2GB of RAM in your system, you do not have to go with 1GB memory modules. Most Pentium 4 platforms feature four DDR2 DIMM slots, so you can always install four 512MB modules into the system.
As for Athlon 64 based platforms, the use of four DIMM modules will not be an optimal choice, because in this case the memory controller will automatically shift to 2T Command Rate mode, and hence the performance will drop down quite tangibly. However, we haven’t yet heard anything like that about the Pentium 4 systems. That is why we decided to perform some additional tests and to investigate the differences between 2- and 4-module configurations of the memory subsystem in Pentium 4 platforms.
I would like to address special thanks to Infineon for providing us with the sufficient number of DDR2 memory modules that made this type of research possible. Therefore we compared the performance of a platform built with four DDR2 SDRAM modules, 512MB each (AET660UD00-370A98X) against that of a platform built with two DDR2 SDRAM modules, 1GB each (AET760UD00-370A08X). So, the overall RAM capacity equaled 2GB in both cases. For this test session we used a Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz processor and the memory worked in DDR2-667 mode with 4-4-4-12 timings. Aeneon memory modules work absolutely stably with these settings even though this is not their nominal default work mode.
By the way, the testing of a system configuration with 4 memory modules installed went on absolutely impeccably. The increase of the memory controller workload doesn’t lead to any unpleasant circumstances. The system retains its stability and the overclocking potential of this configuration remains the same. So, the configurations with 4 DIMMs are quite safe from this prospective. At least if you are building a system on an Intel 955X Express based mainboard.
As for the performance results, the results are all given on the diagrams below. First come the results of synthetic benchmarks:
As we see from the results, there is some difference between the performance of the platforms with different configuration of the memory subsystem. A system with two memory modules outperforms the system with four memory modules. And this appears true for both: bandwidth and latency values.
Now let’s see how these factors can actually affect the performance in real applications.
The situation repeats here again. The system using only two memory modules runs somewhat faster, although the performance difference is still pretty small. We are not talking about 3-5% performance drop like the one we get in Athlon 64 based systems when 2T Command Rate gets automatically enabled once four double-sided memory modules are installed. In our case, the difference makes about 1% at most, which can actually be neglected in most cases.
In other words, you shouldn’t be afraid to occupy all the four memory slots of your Pentium 4 system. The performance, as well as the overclocking potential will not be aggravated. However, this is true only for high-quality mainboards based on contemporary Intel chipsets. In other situations the results can be completely different.
I don’t think that Aeneon memory modules will become popular among overclockers and hardware enthusiasts. They cannot boast any outstanding features or superb overclocking potential. So, they should be of interest only to mainstream and budget users. From this prospective, Aeneon memory modules boast some indisputable advantages, such as high reliability, brand name origin and somewhat better features than those stated in the official specs. In other words, Aeneon memory looks like a stable and reliable workhorse.
Moreover, the second part of our today’s test session proved that the use of four DDR2 DIMMs in a Pentium 4 based platform is not just acceptable, but also has some great benefits. At least, this is true for those cases when you need to equip your system with 2GB of RAM. With the help of Aeneon memory modules, we have just shown you that even though their formal specs are the same, the 1GB modules boast slightly worse overclocking potential than their 512MB fellows. The performance drop in case all four DDR2 DIMM slots of the mainboard are occupied is not very bad and can be mostly disregarded.