In Search of True DDR2 Bleeding Edge Memory

Conclusion

Choosing DDR2 RAM can be a challenge : The asking price is obscene, the specifications are often bewildering and the price range is huge. After three weeks of testing offerings from 16 different vendors, however, our buying recommendations are unwavering : Today, Corsair offers the fastest DDR2 modules available on the market. These modules aren’t cheap, and most likely will appeal to PC enthusiasts, but they also offer optimal performance levels. The only other vendor that offers comparable figures is the newcomer Patriot Memory with its DDR2-1000 memory modules. With maximum data transfer rates of 8.6 GB/sec for reading, both of these vendors proved unbeatable, and no other offerings achieved genuine memory speeds of 500 MHz.

Which to choose ? Indeed, you can find 1 GB memory modules at under $60 and get decent performance. But cheap isn’t optimal - if you go for Corsair or Patriot Memory you’ll spend a lot more.

Those inclined to seek out the best price/performance ratio should opt for Infineon’s budget Aeneon RAM instead. The vendor sent us only DDR2-533 modules, but they convinced us with their extraordinary overclocking potential, topping out at 406 MHz (DDR2-812). This raises the question of what modules with DDR2-667 on their labels really should be able to offer. A-Data’s offerings proved a pleasant surprise : These modules achieved a record value of 3.2 GB/sec during write testing.

Altogether we were able to determine that at default speeds (DDR2-667 or 333 MHz), very good RAM modules attain data transfer rates of 7.5 GB/sec while reading, and 2.5 GB/sec while writing. Top overclocking speeds boost these values to 8.6 GB/sec and 3.1 GB/sec, respectively. Our weakest performer at default speeds was Geil’s device, which had the lowest values. From the get-go, TakeMS proved a total disappointment, and only worked at speeds of 200 MHz (DDR2-400). For that reason, we will not include this candidate in our next round of tests.

It’s also interesting that devices from firms we’ve tested the least come from vendors that build their own products from start to finish. According to our data, only A-Data, Aeneon (Infineon), Crucial/Micron and Samsung make their memory chips themselves.

Some vendors, such as TakeMS for example, buy the chips and overwrite the labels with their own using a laser etching tool. Others omit this step, and use the chips as-is with original labels intact on their memory modules, along with their own stick-on labels and logos. Companies such as Kingston buy memory wafers in order to cut, package and assemble their products themselves.

In our upcoming live stress test, we’ll report how the top candidates we tested here - from Corsair, Patriot Memory and A-Data- perform when test units are purchased anonymously through retail channels. Those results should be interesting, indeed.

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