by Ilya Gavrichenkov
05/09/2005 | 02:41 PM
While Intel keeps pushing into the market DDR2 SDRAM memory, hardware enthusiasts do not hurry to pay truly serious attention to it. It is no secret that a lot of overclockers prefer AMD based platforms, so this user group remained dedicated to DDR SDRAM.
This situation is most likely to change by the middle of the next year in the earliest case, when Athlon 64 processors based on core revision F appear. These CPUs will be designed for the new processor socket aka Socket M2 and will support DDR2-667 SDRAM. In the meanwhile the memory manufacturers designing products for hardware enthusiasts are still putting most of their effort into further development of the DDR SDRAM product lines.
It may seem that further growth of DDR SDRAM working frequencies should have already faced some technological limitations by now, because this was the reason that pushed forward the DDR2 SDRAM introduction. However, the practice shows that DDR SDRAM still has potential. DDR memory chip makers manage to roll out new microchips featuring broad frequency potential.
I believe you still remember Winbond BH5 chips, which used to be the basis for a lot of overclocker’s memory modules. These chips were discontinued long time ago, but luckily there are Samsung TCCD chips with much better potential that came to replace them. The majority of high-frequency memory modules for overclockers available in the today’s market are based on these particular chips. It is exactly thanks to these chips that PC4400 SDRAM (DDR550) models are no longer a unique thing.
However, 550MHz is far not the maximum frequency Samsung TCCD can go to. One of the leading enthusiast memory makers, OCZ Technologies, decided to prove this point in practice. This company announced and started shipping in mass quantities DDR SDRAM memory modules working at the nominal frequency of 600MHz. Of course, we couldn’t disregard a product with such outstanding specifications.
So, today we would like to offer you a detailed review of one of the most interesting overclocker’s memory modules: PC4800 (DDR600) SDRAM.
Welcome our today’s main hero: OCZ EL DDR PC-4800 Dual Channel Platinum memory modules for overclockers.
The set includes two identical memory modules, each of 512MB capacity. The manufacturer claims that these modules have been designed specifically for Athlon 64 platforms with the dual-channel memory controller and go through all the preliminary testing in these particular systems.
OCZ EL DDR PC-4800 Dual Channel Platinum look very attractive. The modules are covered with copper heat-spreaders with platinum-colored sputtering polished to a mirror-shine. Each module is decorated with the raised company logo. In fact, there are a few disadvantages of this exterior design: the shiny mirror surface of the module heat-spreaders gets stained very quickly, so numerous fingerprints may somewhat spoil the impression made by the luxurious exterior.
Under the heat-spreaders you will find double-side 16-chip modules built with the popular Samsung TCCD chips. These modules do not support ECC as they are positioned as solutions for computer enthusiasts.
The memory modules built from Samsung TCCD chip work at 600MHz frequency, because the chips for OCZ EL DDR PC-4800 Dual Channel Platinum are carefully pre-selected to ensure that this frequency is supported and stable functioning is guaranteed. The manufacturer tests all chips used in the production process for their ability to work stably and reliably at 600MHz with the timings set to 2.5-4-4-10 and 2T Command Rate.
The official specification of the OCZ EL DDR PC-4800 Dual Channel Platinum memory modules looks as follows:
I would like to stress specifically that the reviewed memory modules boast two remarkable technologies. One of them is ULN2 (Ultra Low Noise). It implies that the modules are built on special PCB boasting minimized EMI. The second technology is EVP (Extended Voltage Protection), which ensures that the memory modules can be used safely with the voltage increased up to 3V.
The information we get from the memory modules’ SPD is slightly different from what the official specification claims:
As we see, SPD shows less aggressive timings for 300MHz frequency than those claimed in the specification. It could be done in order to improve the compatibility of the OCZ EL DDR PC-4800 Dual Channel Platinum memory modules with different mainboards. However, you should keep in mind that you will have to adjust the timings manually if you want to achieve the highest performance. If you leave all the settings at their default values the memory modules will run somewhat slower than they actually could.
The technical characteristics of the reviewed memory modules look very attractive. Of course, DDR-1 memory that can work at 300MHz is not something you see everywhere. Especially, since this memory works with quite aggressive latencies (for this frequency). Moreover, since OCZ EL DDR PC-4800 Dual Channel Platinum is based on Samsung TCCD chips, it should also work fine at 200MHz frequency with even more aggressive timings. Therefore, we thought it would be really interesting to see how well this memory would do with different latency and frequency settings.
For our tests we assembled the following system:
Our testing was aimed at figuring out the top frequency when OCZ EL DDR PC-4800 Dual Channel Platinum would retain stability with different timing settings and voltage settings. We tested the memory stability by running 3DMark 2001 SE and 3DMark05 benchmark packages, which create heavy workload on the memory subsystem, as well as SuperPi benchmark and MemTest86+ utility. Memory Timing parameter was set to 1T at all times.
As we see, OCZ EL DDR PC-4800 Dual Channel Platinum memory modules are pretty flexible. Besides excellent flawless work at frequencies exceeding 300MHz, they also ran just fine at 200MHz with the most aggressive timings. Although in the latter case we had to increase the Vmem to 2.8V, which far not all mainboards support. However, 2.8-2.9V is the nominal voltage for these memory modules, so your mainboard choice may already take that into account.
With the nominal timings set to 2.5-4-4-10, OCZ EL DDR PC-4800 Dual Channel Platinum could work at 313MHz frequency and 2.9V voltage. However, even with the voltage set to 2.7V these modules proved stable at 300MHz frequency. The maximum frequency we managed to make our memory modules work at was 322MHz with the timings set to 3-5-5-10. The CPU-Z screenshot below proves our results:
So, OCZ EL DDR PC-4800 Dual Channel Platinum is a universal memory solution that will satisfy the very diverse needs of the broad overclockers’ community. However, the major strength of this product is exactly its ability to work at high frequencies, which can be very helpful during synchronous overclocking of the CPU and the memory. For example, if you have OCZ EL DDR PC-4800 Dual Channel Platinum in your system, you will be able to increase the clock generator frequency of your Athlon 64 processor to 300MHz without raising the memory frequency divider.
Here i would like to mention one more peculiarity of the memory we were testing. When working at high frequencies (such as the nominal 300MHz, for instance), these modules heat up too much. For example, when we were running the tests in an open stand with the modules working at 300MHz frequency and 2.8V Vmem, they got 60oC hot.
It means that when these modules are used in a closed system case, you might need to take care of some additional cooling.
Of course, the frequency of DDR600 memory modules does look very impressive. However, impressive and efficient are not always synonyms. As far as we know from other test sessions and experiments, lower memory latency is much more important for Athlon 64 systems than high memory working frequency. That is why it would still be a question whether DDR600 can be regarded as a good choice for Athlon 64 platforms.
In order to make all your doubts and concerns vanish, we decided to carry out a small investigation. Within this test session we compared the performance of Athlon 64 3800+ on Venice core with DDR600 SDRAM and DDR400 SDRAM. These are the combinations we tested:
The platform used this time was exactly the same as the one we have just described when talking about overclocking tests. There was only one small difference: during our tests we also used Corsair TWINX1024-3200XL memory modules to obtain the results for DDR400 SDRAM.
So, here are the results:
The obtained results indicate that Athlon 64 system receives a noticeable performance gain from using DDR600 SDRAM compared with what DDR400 SDRAM would provide. And this gain remains there even when the timings are set to quite loyal values of 3-5-5-10. So, it still does make sense to use DDR600 SDRAM in Athlon 64 systems. Although at the same time we have to admit that the performance increase due to the use of faster DDR600 SDRAM is not dramatic and is definitely not proportional to the retail price of rare DDR600 SDRAM memory.
OCZ Technology Company managed to design memory modules on Samsung TCCD chips that broke successfully a new speed record of 300MHz. The company is currently producing in mass quantities very popular DDR600 SDRAM overclocker’s memory kits working at pretty good timing settings.
The use of these memory modules in Athlon 64 platforms should make overclocking much simpler and more efficient, because you do not have to worry about memory frequency dividers any more. Moreover, when the clock generator frequency is raised quite significantly, OCZ EL DDR PC-4800 Dual Channel Platinum memory modules guarantee even faster performance of your system.
In fact, the only drawback we could find about these modules is their high price, which is about $270 as of last week. However, if you are a dedicated overclocker this will hardly stop you. Other users can find some consolation in the fact that this price is not proportional to the actual performance gain you could have once you purchased the modules.
According to the results of our tests we decided to award OCZ EL DDR PC-4800 Dual Channel Platinum memory modules with our prestigious Editor’s Choice Award.