OCZ PC2-4200EB: Reaching for DDR2-800by Wesley Fink on December 21, 2004 3:37 PM EST
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In our first DDR2 roundup, DDR2 Roundup: Reaching for 667 and Beyond, we quickly dispelled conventional wisdom about DDR2 performance and timings just a few weeks after the launch of DDR2. While all of the eight DDR2 memories that we tested were rated at the expected 4-4-4 timings, we found that almost all of them actually performed very well at DDR2-533 at 3-3-3 timings. Even more significant, every memory in the roundup also performed well at DDR2-667, the next expected speed bump, at 4-4-4 timings. All the DDR2 also reached DDR2-686, which was the test limit of the best Intel 925X that we had available at that time. That first roundup certainly proved that the misgivings about ramping DDR2 were unfounded.
What was not different in our performance tests in that roundup was that DDR2, at 533 and 3-3-3, still performed about the same as fast DDR400 memory. As we first saw in the 925X/915 launch review using the Intel D925XCV, DDR2 had to reach higher frequencies at lower latencies if it was going to give old faithful DDR a run for the money.
While sales of the platforms using DDR2 - the 925X/915 motherboards - have been lackluster in the 6 months since launch, the developments around the new Intel technology have been coming fast. Most significant of these was the launch of the 925XE chipset, which increased the FSB from 800 to 1066, and also brought DDR2 back to a 1:1 performance ratio, since the 266 multiplier of 1066 is a direct DDR2 conversion to DDR2-533. The widely expected move to DDR2-667 just didn't happen, as we now have a new 1:1 DDR2-533 and a new "next" speed bump of the 3:4 ratio of DDR2-711.
The 1066 FSB was a very limited introduction with just one $1000+ CPU at the new 1066 speed - the 3.46EE Socket 775 CPU based on the Xenon .13 technology. However, more 1066 are on the way, although we do not expect a wholesale switch by Intel until some time nest year. Despite the limited first launch, 1066 is where we are going in Intel and Socket 775, and manufacturers quickly embraced the new 925XE chipset on Enthusiast-oriented boards like the Abit Fatality AA8, the Asus P5AD2-E, and the Gigabyte 8AENXP-D. The 925XE is clearly, and quickly, the new board of choice among Intel enthusiasts, and not just for the 3.46EE chip. The new 925XE boards offer very flexible options to extract the most from any Socket 775 chip - 800 FSB or 1066 FSB.
So, what do we feed the new 925XE beasts? Several manufacturers like Corsair, Crucial, and OCZ introduced DDR2-667 memory. Most 667 were just hand-picked 533 that performed a bit better, since every DDR2-533 that we tested already reached 667 with ease. Most offered official 3-3-3 timings at 533 and decent timings at 667, but the reach at the top was only a bit further than the best of the regular DDR2-533. No one, it appeared, was doing much more with DDR2 memory. That is, until today.
Today, we are benchmarking the first of a truly new breed of DDR2 memory. It is rated modestly at DDR2-533, but at the very unmodest timings of 3-2-2-8. This is the first DDR2 actually to claim memory latencies more in line with what we see in DDR memory. Add to this that OCZ has heard the cries for fast 1GB DIMMs because these are 1GB DIMMs rated at 3-2-2-8. What's more, we are seeing early reports that this OCZ PC2-4200EB (Extended Bandwidth) is reaching unheard of performance levels on 925XE motherboards. That's a lot to live up to, and we couldn't wait to see what this new memory could really do in our memory testbed.