Ups and Downs: Memory Timings Put to the Test

Conclusion - Consider Carefully

In most of the disciplines, you can see that it no longer matters as much what memory timings you have as it did only a few years ago, when SDRAM or the first DDR generation were still hot. Or, to put it another way, having faster or slower RAM will not tip the balance in favor of or against the latest AMD and Intel processors.

We observed one interesting result in many of the gaming benchmarks: while the Pentium 4 3.2 GHz is normally just a touch faster than the Athlon 64 3200+, it quickly falls behind the Athlon if you only use slow memory modules.

Things start getting untidy when you combine compute-intensive tasks with large quantities of data such as file compression. In such categories, the memory timings make or break performance - the Pentium 4 processors either take the lead or bring up the rear, depending on whether the memory timings are fast or slow. We were duly impressed by the Athlon 64 FX-51's scores, which maintained its ranking no matter what kind of memory it was given. This steadfastness is largely due to the integrated memory controller.

The moral of the story is clear: while we still recommend buying brand-name products to ensure compatibility (especially for dual-channel systems), but you don't necessarily need the fastest timings. In today's market, you only need fast modules if your computer will be computing a lot or encoding video. For any other application, slower RAM will definitely cut the mustard.