01/13/2005 | 03:57 PM
If you ask any ordinary user what the computer performance depends the most upon, he will most likely name the frequency of the central processor, and some people may even define more exactly which processor model should be placed into a decent system case.
If you ask the same question to an advanced user, he or she will spend a few hours of your time explaining the difference between various types of processors, chipsets and graphics cards. The last thing recalled will probably be such a small and unassuming component as system memory.
A common notion holds it that the main and almost only requirement to system memory is its capacity: more memory is always better. That’s right, now that the frequency of the bus supported by the overclocked processors from Intel and AMD often exceeds 200MHz, the characteristics of the memory you use have begun to play a much more important role.
I guess you don’t need long explanations: to ensure the maximum performance during overclocking, the used memory should be capable of either working at high frequencies or with minimal timings. Thus, we can distinguish between two types of memory. First type of memory can work at frequencies much higher than the officially specified 200MHz, but only if we increase its timings. The second type of memory doesn’t get to the highest frequency peaks, but offers you the lowest timings instead. Our article called “Choosing Optimal Memory to Match Intel Pentium 4 Processor” dwells upon the differences between these two memory types in more detail.
Both types of memory have the same worth, and you should choose between them depending on your specific needs. Very recently a third type of memory has appeared that combines the advantages of the other two types, for example Patriot PDC5123200+XBLK modules (for more details please see our article called From DDR400 to DDR533: Six Pairs of Memory Modules from Patriot). This review isn’t about these modules, though, but about memory modules from GeIL’s fastest Ultra Platinum series. And we will start out with the Ultra Platinum PC4200 533MHz Dual Channel DDR Kit (GL5124200DC).
The transparent acrylic packaging allows you to have a look at two memory sticks, 256MB each. The soft padding protects them against physical damage; each module is additionally packed into an antistatic bag.
The modules look gorgeous: the metallic (probably, platinum) sputter-coating on the copper heat-spreaders reflects the world around like a mirror.
The label on the face side to the left changes the background around the numbers depending on the temperature; there are four colors corresponding to different temperatures:
A holographic label with the memory basic characteristics is on the right:
Dropping in on the manufacturer’s website I also learned that these modules use six-layer wafers to minimize interference and noise, while the timings are optimized for the dual-channel mode of Intel’s 875/865 chipsets; the operational voltage range of the modules is 2.6-3.1 volts.
GeIL’s High Performance Copper Thermal Compound is a nice gift to the purchaser of this memory kit.
I tested the Ultra Platinum PC4200 533MHz Dual Channel DDR Kit from GeIL on an ASUS P4C800-E mainboard, in the dual-channel mode, having selected 2.75V memory voltage. Our Pentium 4 2.4C processor can speed up to 300MHz FSB and thus suits for testing any modern DDR SDRAM. I set up the highest frequency and timings first. Then I was reducing the timings, questioning the stability of the memory in the synchronous mode. Before presenting you the results of the tests I want to show you the information written into the SPD chip of the tested modules:
Strangely enough, the SPD timings are much higher than the specified 3.0-4-4-8 combination. Well, let’s check out the right numbers by testing GeIL’s Ultra Platinum 4200:
The memory doesn’t disappoint us at all. It considerably exceeds the recommended frequency and is stable at 285MHz! We evidently deal with memory of the first category here that can work at very high frequencies with rather high timings. If you lower the timings, its operability degenerates greatly – you can see that by the frequency drop from 275 to 230MHz on the transition to 2.5-3-3-6 timings. The memory wouldn’t start up with the minimal possible timings (2.0-2-2-5) at 200MHz, and I didn’t check it out with these timings at lower frequencies.
The tests are not over yet! We’ve also got a couple of even faster modules from GeIL: Ultra Platinum PC4400 550MHz Dual Channel DDR Kit (GL5124400DC).
The packaging is the same, and the sticks still look very impressive.
The technical characteristics of this kit resemble those of the GeIL Ultra Platinum PC4200, too – the same chips with an access time of 3.5 nanoseconds. The Ultra Platinum PC4400 memory is guaranteed to work as DDR550, however.
Checking out the SPD info:
Again the SPD claims different parameter values than the official specification, but our mainboard couldn’t set the timings above the recommended values of 3.0-4-4-8. Let’s not bother about that, but test the modules in practice:
The GeIL Ultra Platinum PC4400 quite expectedly behaves much similar to the Ultra Platinum PC4200. Well, these memory module kits are made on the same chips, with the same technology, by the same manufacturer – they just have to have similar speeds! The only difference is that the PC4400 is guaranteed to work at 277MHz, while the PC4200 is likely to work at this frequency.
GeIL’s memory kits from the Ultra Platinum series left highly positive impression. These memory modules will be a gift for overclockers due to their ability to work synchronously with the FSB at frequencies up to 280-285MHz. When choosing between these two particular kits, which are actually very similar, you may want to pay special attention to their price as the guiding factor. Just check out the prices at you favorite store!