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Value DDR3 For Intel's P55: Six 4GB Kits Rounded Up

Value DDR3 For Intel's P55: Six 4GB Kits Rounded Up
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Most of our readers are familiar with performance memory, yet many still don’t understand that the vast majority of it is rated at overclocked settings. Standard DDR3 runs at 1.50V, and components rated at higher voltages are likely to have slower, standard memory under those heat spreaders. When you pay extra for performance RAM, what you’re really paying for is a guarantee that the modules will operate at a speed beyond the ratings of its components.

Performance guarantees are nice, but paying someone else to validate an overclock can put a big dent in the value a mid-priced system represents. After all, most builders don't pay extra for a CPU that has been validated by a third party to run at higher speeds, yet very few overclocking enthusiasts seek better value by risking the chance of a “poor yield” in exchange for a lower price. We willingly take that small risk with processors, so why not apply the same principle to RAM?

Unfortunately, finding the right overclocking RAM isn’t as easy as finding the right processor, simply because there are so many more choices. While many hardcore folks maintain a list of the best memory ICs, manufacturers don’t normally tell you which parts they use (they often change from one week to the next, depending on supply). Further complicating matters is the fact that many manufacturers routinely swap-out components without changing the model number on the package. Thus, the best way to find the best-value overclocking memory is to test everything.

We don’t expect our readers to go out and buy every available low-cost kit, while relying on manufacturers to provide samples could result in specially-prepared or hand-picked parts that inaccurately represent the retail product. But putting the words “budget” and “overclocking” in the same sentence makes it hard to arrange a truly-representative comparison, so we instead logged on to Newegg.com and bought the six module sets that were available for less than $80 as of October 1.

As memory prices continue to trend upward, some of the parts we bought now cost over $80. Yet surprisingly, some have gone down in price. All of these are still inexpensive, so let’s take a closer look at what our limited funds bought.

Ed.: We're giving away nine 4GB DDR3 memory kits to go along with this story; six of which you'll find on the following pages. We've tried to simplify the contest process (we've done a ton of them lately, in case you've missed them) with a Google form, the link to which you'll find right here. For the contest details, check out the last page of Thomas' round-up.

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  • 2 Hide
    Onyx2291 , November 12, 2009 5:13 AM
    Very nice how Crucial edges out so slightly and is cheap.
  • 0 Hide
    El_Capitan , November 12, 2009 5:22 AM
    I've been advocating that Crucial memory kit since time began.
  • 0 Hide
    presidenteody , November 12, 2009 6:30 AM
    should i wait for the price to be cut in half in 6 months? I want it now for L4d2!
  • 4 Hide
    dirtmountain , November 12, 2009 6:33 AM
    Would running these same kits work any differently in an AM3 system with it's ability to handle higher voltages?
  • 1 Hide
    NeatOman , November 12, 2009 6:36 AM
    Why would you guys use memtest86+ v1.7? if "v4" or is out?
  • 1 Hide
    MAD4AMD , November 12, 2009 6:57 AM
    Could you please provide information what memory chips are used in all RAMs. Thank you!
  • 0 Hide
    micky_lund , November 12, 2009 7:08 AM
    looks good, especially for CAS9. spose it makes it better for OCing.
    pity it ain't available in Australia :S
  • 0 Hide
    jrharbort , November 12, 2009 7:40 AM
    I've always insisted that Crucial DDR3 kits are an excellent value, and recommended them to friends for their amazing stability, overclockability, and price.

    These kits totally deserved the Tom's award for best hardware of '09.
  • 0 Hide
    mlcloud , November 12, 2009 9:31 AM
    I've been buying OCZ for all my DDR2 needs (they were very cheap after rebates), but I think I know who to go to for DDR3 (and awesome power supplies)
  • 0 Hide
    coolkev99 , November 12, 2009 12:41 PM
    This is good info, but I wish they would develop some 3gb x 2 kits out there.
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , November 12, 2009 1:01 PM
    coolkev99This is good info, but I wish they would develop some 3gb x 2 kits out there.


    3GB modules don't make a lot of sense due to the way memory chips are organized. In order to do it "right" (same physical organization), you'd have to use different chips on each side of the module, such as 1gb chips on one side and 2gb chips on the other, and I'm not even sure such a module would be compatible with current memory controllers.
  • 0 Hide
    enzo matrix , November 12, 2009 1:11 PM
    What about Mushkin ram? I'd like to see them included in future articles.
  • 0 Hide
    jodpel , November 12, 2009 1:19 PM
    I had an idea in my mind that they look at the test results from every shipment of memory they get from the fab... the stuff that tests poorly gets sold as value and the stuff that exceeds specs gets heat sinks and sold as performance RAM.

    I was always leery of buying value RAM because I figured it failed a spec somewhere along the line and got thrown in the "sell it to Mikey because he'll buy anything" bin at the virtual store.
  • 0 Hide
    Ryun , November 12, 2009 1:27 PM
    "OCZ’s maximum data rate of only 1,240 MT/s came from our second attempt to test the memory. Both modules in our first kit threw errors even at a modest 1,066 MHz data rate."

    Glad you found this as well. I, and others on newegg who ordered that set of sticks, got DOA memory. Gave me errors and couldn't OC at all. It's crap RAM.
  • 2 Hide
    Crashman , November 12, 2009 1:45 PM
    jodpelI had an idea in my mind that they look at the test results from every shipment of memory they get from the fab... the stuff that tests poorly gets sold as value and the stuff that exceeds specs gets heat sinks and sold as performance RAM.I was always leery of buying value RAM because I figured it failed a spec somewhere along the line and got thrown in the "sell it to Mikey because he'll buy anything" bin at the virtual store.


    From the samples Tom's purchased it appears that there are two grades of memory: "Everything Else" and OCZ Gold.
  • 1 Hide
    void_pointer , November 12, 2009 2:25 PM
    Providing results for Memtest86+ and SiSoftware Sandra is important (IMHO), but these results really don't tell us much about real-world performance of apps/games/etc. The Crucial kit gets a win based on max data rate (and price), but there is no guarantee that you'll see a performance increase when you crank up the data rate and run your favourite app/game/etc., because the way it accesses memory with the cranked-up latencies actually cause a reduction in performance.

    If we could get a small sample of benchmarks with real apps (e.g., one or two games, an encoder or two, a file compressor or two) I think readers would have a far better understanding of what "Super-Value" means for them (and their apps/games/etc.)
  • 0 Hide
    notty22 , November 12, 2009 2:29 PM
    I think its the end user, the home builder that is being cheated out of quality and value in the current ram market. With all these supposed ram modules available at different speeds/timings then multiply that by meaningless things such as color and non functional heat spreaders the end result is story after story of ram NOT WORKING at default bios settings for a given processor/memory configuration. All I know is it seems like its russian roulette building a system and expecting your ram to work with default bios settings.
  • 0 Hide
    tpb , November 12, 2009 2:57 PM
    I have found that memtest86+ simply isn't good at finding problems from overclocking.
    I have an AM3 motherboard with 8 gig of ram and I could run memtest86+ for hours and not have any problems, boot into windows and have unpredictable crashes from minutes to hours later.
    If I boot into windows and run the memory tester in the link below, the problem shows up within seconds or minutes.
    I have no idea why this memory tester appears to be better than memtest86+.
    After you get the system working reliably, run one of the CPU stress programs at the same time as the memory test to heat up the CPU and ram and see if the system is still reliable.

    http://hcidesign.com/memtest/download.html

  • 0 Hide
    rockyjohn , November 12, 2009 3:07 PM
    I used Crucial in my last build and am very happy with it.

    I agree with those who stated it would have been informative to see some applications used in the test. Also, it would have been more informative if they had included one or two of the performance RAM for comparison.
  • 0 Hide
    philosofool , November 12, 2009 3:19 PM
    That crucial memory kit isn't compatible with many Gigabyte boards. I went through RMA hell over it. It's not crucial's fault, but if you're a system builder, you should know this.
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