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Newbie seeks advice on choosing RAM...

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January 24, 2009 9:46:43 PM

Hello everyone, thanks for taking the time to read this, my first post. Rest assured I've read the FAQ sections in both this category and the "Memory" category but I'd still really appreciate (need!) some help and advice.

I've been shopping around for components with which to build a new "mid-range" gaming PC. I won't be building the thing myself - I'll hand everything over to somebody who knows what they're doing - but I'm trying to save a few pennies by buying the components myself online.

So far I've got;

Gigabyte EP45-DS3R Motherboard

Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 CPU

Now I'm totally lost in the minefield that is RAM selection. I spent a lot of time researching motherboards and processors and believe I've got myself a decent partnership in the EP45-DS3R and E8400. I think it would be a shame to screw things up with the wrong RAM selection. How do I choose what speed of RAM to buy? The motherboard has a FSB of 1600MHz and has 4x DDR2 1200MHz Dual Channel slots which it also says support DDR2 1333MHz+ (which presumeably refers to overclocking?). The E8400 CPU is FSB 1333MHz. With regards to choosing RAM, what is the determining factor in all this? I've been getting conflicting advice about having to match the RAM speed to the FSB speed... Somebody else spouted a calculation at me but then didn't seem so sure of themselves afterwards...

I'm on a tight budget but I will try to get hold of 4GB of the fastest DDR2 RAM that the system will support without overclocking anything (I'm not quite ready for OC'ing yet!). I also don't want to waste money on pointlessly over-speccing components. Is it just as simple as buying 2 x 2GB or 4 x 1GB of DDR2 1200? It says in the m/b manual that enabling "Dual Channel" will double the speed of the memory... does that influence my RAM selection? Will DDR2 667 run like 1333? Told you I was a newbie!

Thanks in advance for any help you can give.

Andy





January 24, 2009 10:59:18 PM

Don't worry about it too much if you don't plan on overclocking. Get some decent ddr2-800. Your motherboard should automatically adjust the ram/fsb multiplier to an appropriate value.
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January 24, 2009 11:37:38 PM

There is no real performance advantage in running your DDR2 faster than double the FSB rate.

Your confusion is coming from those hype numbers the board manufacturers and Intel toss around.

Here is all you need to know, in a nutshell:

- The actual FSB speed of your processor is 333Mhz. It is then multiplied by 9 in the case of the E8400. Any of those other numbers like 1333 and 1600 can be ignored for now. They can be a bit more important with DDR3.

- DDR stands for Double Data Rate. Your RAM runs at double the FSB speed, in this case that would be 667Mhz. You can apply multipliers beyond 2 if you like, but it won't get you much if anything.

- If you buy, for instance, 1066Mhz memory, the motherboard may see it and try to run at that speed, applying a different multiplier to the DRAM to make it run that fast... so in your case 3.2 x333.

- Most boards can handle auto assigning a different multiplier to your RAM. Where they get confused is usually the voltage. If you toss some 1066Mhz RAM requiring 2.2V into your computer and expect it to run, you will often be disappointed.

The answer:
Get memory that will run at low voltages. Frequency doesn't matter much, but you really should have memory that will support a moderate overclock.

Newf has given you a good suggestion.

This kit is very popular but just went up in price:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
January 24, 2009 11:52:03 PM

AndyBlair1972 said:
...I'm on a tight budget but I will try to get hold of 4GB of the fastest DDR2 RAM that the system will support without overclocking anything (I'm not quite ready for OC'ing yet!). I also don't want to waste money on pointlessly over-speccing components. Is it just as simple as buying 2 x 2GB or 4 x 1GB of DDR2 1200? It says in the m/b manual that enabling "Dual Channel" will double the speed of the memory... does that influence my RAM selection? Will DDR2 667 run like 1333? ...

The ram I listed will automatically install at DDR2-800 speed using 1.8v, probably at 5-5-5-15 latencies.
For your system to run the most stable, either add 0.1v to the 1.8v, or do what I do and change the speed within BIOS setup DOWN to 667MHz. In dual channel you will get the "1333" MHz bandwidth your system needs. At DDR2-800 speed your system will be running the ram asynchronously which causes no harm but offers no benefit.
This ram (which nobody on this forum likes) will not need a voltage bump. Since no BIOS changes of any kind are necessary, this is the easiest way for a first-timer:
Kingston 4GB DDR2 KVR800D2N5K2/4G $38+ship 1/24/09
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Please buy 2 sticks of 2GB ram instead of 4x1, and the motherboard manual will show you where to install them for dual channel operation.
Please note:
You WILL be making adjustments in BIOS setup for this system. Setting up things like boot drive order, power management, Fan speed settings, etc. Changing ram speed and/or voltage is no big deal. This is not the same as overclocking your system. It's just setting things up the way you want them.
Buying DDR2-800 ram will give you some headroom should you want to overclock a little down the road. DDR2-667 has no headroom for this.
DDR2-1066 is just asking for trouble, so don't even go there...
January 25, 2009 12:02:06 AM

Newf said:

This ram (which nobody on this forum likes) will not need a voltage bump. Since no BIOS changes of any kind are necessary, this is the easiest way for a first-timer:
Kingston 4GB DDR2 KVR800D2N5K2/4G $38+ship 1/24/09
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


I like Kingston :)  Used them for years with never a bad stick. I just like the pretty heat spreaders more and G.Skill has been reliable too :p 
January 25, 2009 4:38:10 AM

Thanks everyone for all your help! I really appreciate the explanations and the recommendations and I'm glad I didn't just dive in.

To recap; my best bet is to get 2 sticks of 2GB DDR2 800.

newegg.com unfortunately doesn't ship to the UK, so I've sourced these from a UK company;

http://www.pixmania.co.uk/uk/uk/1743570/art/g-skill/ddr...

http://www.pixmania.co.uk/uk/uk/729892/art/g-skill/pc2-...

I think these are the same two G.Skill kits mentioned by Proximon and by Newf?

One is CL4 and the other CL5 yet they are both virtually the same price and both are listed as using 1.8-1.9V. Presumeably it's a no brainer and I should go for the lower latency CL4?

Would the CL4 G.Skill benefit from being slowed down to 667MHz in BIOS as per Newf's suggestion for the CL5 kit?

Thanks again, I think I'm almost there!

Andy
January 25, 2009 5:55:58 AM

They look vary similar. I would say the CL4 should be snapped up before the price goes up :) 

I doubt you'll get better latencies at 667Mhz, but it will be nice when you decide to push that CPU up to 3.6Ghz.
January 25, 2009 9:24:49 AM

Quote:
they look vary similar. I would say the CL4 should be snapped up before the price goes up :) 


Just bought 'em!

Quote:
I doubt you'll get better latencies at 667Mhz, but it will be nice when you decide to push that CPU up to 3.6Ghz.


...and you can expect a whole lot more dumb questions when I do!

Thanks again, I'm glad that's taken care of.

Cheers,

Andy
!