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Tested Components: Disks and Memory

We took three completely different hard disk drives for our test:

  • Slow energy-efficient hard disk drive from Western Digital that belongs to Caviar Green series (WD20EARS);

  • New 600 GB high-speed Western Digital VelociRaptor HDD (WD6000HLHX) with 10,000 RPM spindle rotation speed and 32-MB buffer;

  • One of the most widely spread SSDs - Intel X25-M G2 (SSDSA2MH160G2) built with 34 nm NAND flash memory.

You can refer to the HDD section of our site for details about these products. For now, we will just remind you their speed level using a simple synthetic benchmark called CrystalDiskMark 3.0.

  • Western Digital Caviar Green (WD20EARS)

  • Western Digital VelociRaptor (WD6000HLHX)

  • Intel X25-M G2 (SSDSA2MH160G2)

As you can see, these devices vary dramatically in their performance even though all of them are quite modern products. The WD Green series is designed to be energy-efficient and offer large storage capacities while the WD VelociRaptor has the highest rotation speed among all hard disk drives with SATA interface. Intel's SSD is just a very good and fast drive based on NAND flash memory. The SSD is expectedly ahead of its competitors in every application save for sequential writing of data. When processing random-address data blocks, it is many times as fast as the traditional HDDs. The HDDs vary between themselves, too, as they differ in such parameters as spindle rotation speed, recoding density and platter size.

As for the amount of system memory, typical desktop computers have as much as 4 gigabytes of it today. A 64-bit OS is needed to access that amount, but that's not a problem anymore. The most popular Microsoft Windows 7 OS feels the most comfortable, especially if accompanied with many applications, on 4 GB of system memory. By the way, this is why we have been equipping our testbeds with two 2GB modules for the last couple of years.

Meanwhile, with the 64-bit versions of Windows 7 being so popular and with inexpensive but high-capacity DDR3 SDRAM modules being widely available on the market, many users are quite ready to expand their system memory up to 8 gigabytes. Windows 7 is not an obstacle as each of its 64-bit versions will easily support that.

So, there are no technical problems. You just need a 64-bit OS and appropriate memory modules. Having more memory, your computer will access the HDD less frequently, improving the overall performance. In other words, increasing the amount of system memory may be considered as an indirect way of optimizing your disk subsystem. That’s why we are going to cover this issue in our review which is otherwise concerned with disk storage.

Today, every major maker of memory modules for enthusiasts offers 2x4GB memory kits. It doesn’t take much trouble to develop such modules since 2-gigabit DDR3 SDRAM chips have long been available. For our test we will use DDR3-1600 memory provided to us by Mushkin (the part number 996808).

This is a pair of dual-sided 4GB DDR3-1600 modules rated for 7-9-8-24 timings at a voltage of 1.65 volts. The memory kit supports XMP and contains two profiles: DDR3-1600 by default and DDR3-1333 with aggressive timings of 6-8-7-21.

The modules are equipped with the exclusive Ridgeback cooling system that consists of aluminum plates contacting with the memory chips and of a small heatsink above them. The whole arrangement is exactly 40 millimeters tall, which is considerably taller than ordinary memory modules.

Overclockers are often skeptical about increased-capacity modules but the overclockability of the Mushkin 996808 kit is no different from that of ordinary single-sided 2GB modules and installing the double amount of overclocker-friendly system memory looks quite a viable way to upgrade a top-performance computer.

Well, we need to check this out in practical tests. Let’s move on to them right now.

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