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Tom's Ultimate RAM Speed Tests

We found it interesting that the memory choice was of equally small relevance whether we used the latest Core 2 Duo 45 nm 3.16 GHz dual core processor with 6 MB L2 cache, or the outdated Pentium 4 Extreme Edition at 3.73 GHz with its 2 MB L2 cache. Note that we normalized all benchmark results to 100% for the sake of easy comparison, where 100% represents the slowest result. As a consequence, you cannot compare results of the Core 2 Duo and the Pentium 4 directly, as the Core 2 delivers better performance and is much faster across all benchmarks despite its slower clock speed. Please have a look at our CPU charts for direct performance comparison. (Compare Prices on DDR)

The results must look disappointing for the memory vendors, as the largest performance differences we found amount to 7-8% with DivX and WinRAR, while almost all other benchmarks and applications perform alike: a 1-3% performance delta cannot be noticed at all. Some games showed several per cent performance difference between low-latency high-speed memory and conventional high-latency average speed DIMMs. The synthetic benchmarks on the memory revealed even more differences, but these clearly aren’t very relevant in everyday life.

Our conclusion is very simple: you get the best bang for the buck if you stick to the mainstream of the memory market, which currently is still DDR2-800 or 1066, preferably at low latencies. DDR3-1066 and -1333 memory do not yet result in better performance, and so should only be considered by hardcore enthusiasts, who aim for maximum overclocking performance knowing that they will get little benefit for spending a fortune.

It’s worth noting that DDR2 memory is amazingly affordable at its current pricing point. 4 GB kits look especially appealing, but remember that you’ll need a 64-bit operating system to take advantage of all of it.

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