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Going For 4GB: DDR2-1066 Kit Round-Up

Going For 4GB: DDR2-1066 Kit Round-Up

This is an excellent time to upgrade your main memory. Not only have memory prices come down to a level where 4 GB or even 8 GB of memory has become highly affordable, but a memory upgrade provides a positive impact with Windows Vista and an increasing number of game titles and applications. We looked at six 4 GB DDR2 memory kits, trying to find the best bang for the buck.

Intel will soon be releasing its Core i7 processor family, which will only support DDR3 memory due to the fact that the memory controller is about to be relocated from its traditional location on the northbridge right into the CPU. Combined with ramped-up production volumes, DDR3 memory has undergone significant price drops in recent months, finally making mainstream DDR3 memory attractive for the average Joe.

4 GB DDR2 Kits are Just Perfect

However, mainstream isn’t necessarily DDR3-1600 or faster, as many of you pointed out in the comments section of our recent DDR3-1600 roundup. It is DDR3-1066 and DDR3-1333. These are the speeds that have hit the market in ever larger quantities, to finally get to a point where DDR3 can take over from DDR2. However, this point is still pretty far away, looking at current memory prices for 2 GB and 4 GB memory kits, and the fact that even 8 GB kits have appeared at an almost acceptable cost. And let’s not forget that all AMD platforms depend on DDR2 memory (as do the majority of Intel systems).

While 4 GB of RAM cannot be fully utilized on 32-bit operating systems such as Windows XP and Windows Vista 32, you’ll still get between 3.3 and 3.7 GB of effective memory capacity. The exact figure depends on BIOS configuration, among other factors. We still believe that there is nothing wrong with purchasing a 4 GB dual channel memory kit, even if you won’t be able to utilize the entire capacity. Knowing that 2x 2 GB DDR2-800 kits start at as little as $80, that’s still a good deal.

Other Memory Options?

Utilizing more memory requires 64-bit versions of Windows XP or Vista, but the step from 3.3-3.7 GB usable capacity and the full 4 GB is small enough to be neglected in most of the applications today. 3+ GB of memory will provide sufficient capacity for 95% of all mainstream applications, and most of the high-end game titles as well. If you want more, you’ll have to switch the operating system, and that may still lead to driver issues. You’ll get 64-bit drivers for all core components, but the more you look around—think older printers, cell phone / smart phone drivers, and certain software—the more likely it is that you’ll get stranded in your quest for more memory.

Although 8 GB memory kits (which consist of four 2 GB DIMMs) are affordable, these only make sense if you have applications that really take advantage of the increased memory capacity and if it is worth going through the 32 to 64 bit transition. But these kits might give you the same headache as 3 GB kits, because all of them include four memory modules. This may force the BIOS to work with relaxed timings and can cause memory compatibility issues. We put together a short recommendation list to help you navigate the memory jungle.

Check List

Here is our recommendation for memory purchases, which will remain valid even for the next generation platforms:

  • Stay within the market sweet spot to get a good deal: today that’s 2x 1 GB or 2x 2 GB of DDR2-800 or DDR2-1066 memory.
  • Look for quick timings (smaller numbers are better), but don’t spend substantial money on slightly faster modules.
  • Spend additional budget on a faster processor, a faster graphics card or a faster drive instead of fast memory, unless you need overclocking memory.
  • Always get as few memory modules as possible, but equip all memory channels of a system to get maximum performance. The ideal configuration consists of two DIMMs today, and three DIMMs with Intel’s upcoming Core i7 systems.
  • Go for name brand memory.

More Articles

Tom’s Ultimate RAM Speed Tests We cross-benchmarked DDR2 and DDR3 memory at various popular clock speeds and at both slow and fast timings. Is fast memory really worth it?

Tight Timings vs. High Clock Frequencies

Vista Workshop: More RAM, More Speed

Display 33 Comments.
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  • -1 Hide
    ChopstickNINJ4 , September 22, 2008 3:45 AM
    Hmm, then this is a really good deal then:

    kingston hyperx for $75 with shipping

    But even then, prices in the article seem rather high don't they? Just wait for a rebate on the RAM and get it then, hell OCZ has had a new rebate continually for the last 3 months.
  • 1 Hide
    kitsilencer , September 22, 2008 3:52 AM
    I don't know about this...

    What with Nehalem, the X58 and DDR3, upgrading DDR2 seems like a cheap and temporary thrill.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 22, 2008 4:19 AM
    What about this memory kit; I have it and love it...

    Runs rock stable on my 780G based board and this kit can be had for as little as $90. Was there some reason this memory was not included in the tests?
  • 0 Hide
    SenseR , September 22, 2008 5:40 AM
    I use the Kingston mem on 1.066MHz with 4-4-4-12 timings on 2.2V and it is running stable for eight months now. Deffo a go.
  • 4 Hide
    doomsdaydave11 , September 22, 2008 5:57 AM
    lol I love how DDR2-667 performs within .2% of DDR3-1066 :D 
    For me, DDR2-800 seems like a decent way to go. It can be found online for $60 for a 2x2GB set. I'm just rolling with a basic set of 2x2GB DDR2-800 XMS2 from Corsair. It runs fairly fast and cool; haven't tried overclocking them yet, though.
  • 1 Hide
    KILLER_K , September 22, 2008 6:37 AM
    They are all overclocked 800mhz ics amnyway so it doesn't matter. You can but pc6400 modules that do 1066 - 1200 with ease these days. Tom should have picked specific ram ic's like micron d9's , promos, and a few other good ones and compared the overclocking that way.

    Good Day
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , September 22, 2008 12:46 PM
    Wow that could have actually been a useful article if only you had done the test on an AMD system as well...
  • 2 Hide
    Ryun , September 22, 2008 2:04 PM
    devoncokeWow that could have actually been a useful article if only you had done the test on an AMD system as well...

    I was thinking the exact same thing. I think it's pretty well known, at least here, that you see little difference between DDR frequencies when they're above the Bus speed (for those processors still using the north bridge as a memory controller).

    I would really like to see comparisons between DDR2 memory with a Phenom. I was looking for this the other day and turned up with little direct comparisons of DDR2-800 vs 1066. It'd be a really good article to read, and one that I think Tom's should jump on. It'd also give people a chance to see what an IMC can do and maybe help some people out when they're picking out DDR3 for their Core i7's.
  • 2 Hide
    MadHacker , September 22, 2008 3:41 PM
    I think writers @ Toms has to learn what Overclocking percentage means...
    100% overclock is running it twice as fast as spec.
    so running at 106% overclock is more then twice as fast?
    I think their concept of overclocking percentages is mixed up.
  • 0 Hide
    darckeen , September 22, 2008 3:55 PM
    bleh, these are the best high clock ddr2s on the market. guess they don't qualify since they are 1100mhz lolz.
  • 0 Hide
    Morphuess , September 22, 2008 5:27 PM
    ChopstickNINJ4Hmm, then this is a really good deal then:kingston hyperx for $75 with shipping [...] 6820104060But even then, prices in the article seem rather high don't they? Just wait for a rebate on the RAM and get it then, hell OCZ has had a new rebate continually for the last 3 months.

    That isn't the same Kingston ram featured in this article. The timing for that RAM is 7-7-7-20, although it is very affordable. I'm thinking of picking up a set of it myself.
  • 0 Hide
    hellwig , September 22, 2008 6:14 PM
    According to OCZ's own website:
    OCZImportant Note: Due to the width of the heatsink, Flex II memory kits cannot be installed on motherboards that require the modules to be inserted in sockets side by side. A maximum of one Flex II dual channel kit will fit on any motherboard with dual sockets.

    I guess it's a good thing this review was done on an Asus board with staggered memory channels (A->B->A->B). If your motherboard groups your memory channels (like my old Gigabyte and Asus boards, i.e. A->A->B->B) then these modules will be worthless as they will be running in single-channel (cause you couldn't put two modules on the same memory channel). I think this fact alone means they are worthless as performance memory. You'd get better performance out of 667-dual channel if you have a mother board with grouped memory channels.
  • -2 Hide
    Anonymous , September 22, 2008 6:36 PM
    there's nothing interesting with memory technologies since before DDR2 came out. now, the FSB and RAMs had catch up with the CPU not like before.
    but there's an interesting comment i've read above. Why not test a quad core with a heavily threaded application, i'm sure there will be big differences in memory/ram speeds.
  • 2 Hide
    eodeo , September 22, 2008 7:27 PM
    ddr2-800 is as fast as it gets with sane fsb400. overclocking higher than fsb 400, ddr2-800 is only usefull untill ddr2-1066, fsb 533.

    And like said before, most ddr2-800 kits go to 1066 with relative ease.

    EVERYTHING above fsb 533/ ddr1066 is useless. Face it, acknowledge it, learn it.

    Daredevils that push their system to 600+fsb do so for a very short of time just to prove that they can. Not many of those and usefulness of these test is debatable.
  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , September 22, 2008 8:21 PM
    Where the heck is G.Skill... Would beat all of these in clean..

    Heppy customer of G.Skill for several years..
  • 0 Hide
    LVDAX , September 22, 2008 10:59 PM
    While 4 GB of RAM cannot be fully utilized on 32-bit operating systems such as Windows XP windows xp and Windows Vista 32, you’ll still get between 3.3 and 3.7 GB of effective memory capacity.

    Ummm... Am I the only one that knows about PAE???

    Besides the fact that you didn't do all your homework the article was very well written and informative. Thanks

    P.S. Next article idea... PAE and how it home users can benefit from it. BTW i do not recommend PAE if you use non-standard devices as it can have issues with drivers.
  • 0 Hide
    eodeo , September 23, 2008 12:13 AM
    What is PAE? I dont know about it. Please share :) 
  • -1 Hide
    JonathanDeane , September 23, 2008 1:00 AM
    eodeoWhat is PAE? I dont know about it. Please share

    PAE stands for Physical Address Extension or something like that :)  basically its a software trick that reminds me of paged memory, I also think that it requires programs that are designed to use PAE in other words no games will make use of it and only a handful of programs make use of the added RAM.
  • 0 Hide
    eodeo , September 23, 2008 1:09 AM
    so... its useless. ok

    I really cant think of a single reason one shouldn't use win xp x64 instead of win xp 32bit- save for 16bit app support (think old dos games, that can be run on dosbox anyway..)
  • 0 Hide
    JonathanDeane , September 23, 2008 1:30 AM
    eodeoso... its useless. ok

    No for some programs it is probably really cool :)  I imagine they use it allot for server type things or large data bases. Please note that I am no expert by any means when it comes to PAE lol
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