If money were no object in buying a new computer system, enthusiasts would almost always choose the fastest memory with the best timings and the largest overclocking potential. The reality for most, however, is that a new system purchase or upgrade is most often a question of where to put your money for the greatest performance return. To make those kinds of decisions on a system purchase, you really need to know the real difference in performance between buying the best and buying something half the price, and possibly putting the money saved elsewhere for a larger performance gain.

These questions of the real impact of memory speed and timings on performance are things that we have talked about in many memory reviews. AnandTech has always been an advocate of real world performance measurements, and we've shunned using just synthetic benchmarks in our testing of every type of component. This is not because synthetic benchmarks are not useful - they are often very revealing of component differences. It is because running just synthetic benchmarks can severely distort the picture of performance with real applications and real games. That is why we always use games and the pure number-crunching Super Pi in our memory tests. It is also the reason why we test using both Buffered (Standard) and Unbuffered synthetic benchmarks. We have found in much of our testing that the less commonly used Unbuffered benchmarks more closely mirror how games really respond to memory differences.

This quest for real performance differences is also the reason why we moved to testing different memory speeds at the same CPU clock speed in our Athlon 64 memory tests. The AMD CPU, with unlocked multipliers, allowed us to finally remove the CPU speed differences from our memory tests so that you could finally see the true impact of memory speed increases and memory timings on performance. As you have seen in past reviews, those performance differences are very real, although they are much smaller than many memory manufacturers might want you to believe. On the other hand, faster memory speeds and faster memory timings do improve performance, no matter what some nay-sayers are determined to prove.

Let's state, right up front, that if you're on a tight budget, memory is often a good place to save a little money by buying less than the best and moving that cash to a better CPU or a better video card. You are likely to get a bigger performance boost with the extra $150 that you save on memory by buying a faster CPU or an upgraded video card. But don't be misled. The upgrade to the next higher CPU would normally increase performance maybe 5 to 10% - about the same as the difference in performance between cheap, slow memory and fast memory with tight timings. Video cards usually yield more than a 10% boost for that same $150.

If you do need to balance and buy less than the best in memory, the need for help is even greater than if you can afford whatever you want. Some Value RAM is pretty basic and slow, and some is just about as good as the best and most expensive that you can buy. For that reason, it was well beyond time for our first Value RAM roundup. There are some disappointments and a few very pleasant surprises. We think that you will be surprised by how much performance there is in some cases, and how little in others, when you're shopping for Value RAM.

The Memories
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  • segagenesis - Tuesday, April 12, 2005 - link

    Meh, I am lost for the life of me here. I dont see what the big fuss is over Value VX when I still cant find it. To save the comments http://tinyurl.com/46vg6 this doesnt look like the memory reviewed in the article being 3-4-4-8.

    Seeing how http://www.newegg.com/app/viewproductdesc.asp?desc... is $87 and I already have some and know it works well... im hard pressed to think I really need to buy "mystery memory".
    Reply
  • Illissius - Tuesday, April 12, 2005 - link

    Finally, is what I can say. However, if you really mean it when say you want to test real life performance, you should test with stuff from the actual standard benchmark suite - Quake 3 might show impressive gains from higher memory bandwidth, but does the same hold true for Doom 3?

    xsilver: While I agree that testing with the insane voltages available on DFIs limits the scope of the article somewhat, and results for lower voltages would've been nice to see (or at least mentioned specifically, it seems they're actually there for the BH5, though not the VX), I'm frankly more annoyed with all the other motherboard manufacturers for not allowing higher voltages (Abit in particular), than I am with AT for going ahead and testing with the only one that does. I wouldn't call it advertisement, more like a fair appraisal of capabilities.
    Reply
  • Den - Tuesday, April 12, 2005 - link

    I thought it was interesting to see in the charts that the Crucial Balistix which are $204 right now ($106 each but 4% off if you buy two and therefore JUST missed the price cutoff for this review) were consistently very good (faster than almost everything in this review) and are the only ones that can be that fast on more normal (non-DFI) voltages. Reply
  • xsilver - Tuesday, April 12, 2005 - link

    Im not saying the dfi is bad or expensive.... its just that if you review with features that only the dfi can provide its not really a review / roundup anymore ..... its called an advertisment.... where's the choice?????
    I expect that dfi shareholders to be laughing really loud right now.... and OCZ too....
    Reply
  • bigtoe36 - Tuesday, April 12, 2005 - link

    Value VX is $115 if you shop around, how does this count it out of a value roundup?

    Should AT have only reviewed value ram that performs poorly?
    Reply
  • OrSin - Tuesday, April 12, 2005 - link

    #40 actually alot people would do just that.
    The DFI mother is not really that expensive.
    Asus and gigabit are the the same price. 6800GT cards are high but if you want the best cards you buy them, to play the games. But how many times have anyone said what type of ram you need to play Doom 3 or HL. No one. If you don't over clock, then $90 ram will slow you system down what 1-2% over $300 ram. I got a A64 3400 and 800XL and kingmax ram. And my system runs alot fat then my friend with with a just 800 and $250 ram.

    Sorry but buying high priced ram are mostly for over clockers and most people don't do that. Alot on these tech sites do, but my guess is even most people that buy $200+ ram don't

    The review was nice to me.
    Reply
  • xsilver - Tuesday, April 12, 2005 - link

    another thing I want to clarify is that you make the assumption that you must be a "mad overclocker" if you buy the dfi because it can do 3.4v and all others that dont have the dfi are just posers..... many people would disagree but you seem to not notice???

    Reply
  • xsilver - Tuesday, April 12, 2005 - link

    wesley
    I understand what you say about making things consistent but arent then you just promoting the dfi board as no other board supports 3.4v? what about people who are going nforce 3 or intel (god forbid :P)
    in trying to maximize the potential of the ram, you are limiting the practical application...

    an analogy would be "in testing a ferrari its performance is great when drive it with brand X of fuel and feed it liquid oxygen".... umm... what about the rest of the people that dont use that?... that's why car reviews talk more about the "feel" & handling of the car, things that can be appriecieated by ALL customers....

    and by specifying that this review was more for "mad overclockers" that may use the dfi then why even review the cheaper solutions that dont even overclock at all... I mean its not exactly fair when you compare the really cheap ram to some OCZ VX values now is it?

    On one hand you try and generalize to the broader market but then on the other you say that you're only catering to the "mad overclockers" that buy the dfi
    your original scientific basis / aim is a little unsound
    Reply
  • bigtoe36 - Tuesday, April 12, 2005 - link

    If your looking for value VX look here.

    http://www.atacom.com/program/print_html_new.cgi?c...

    http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?desc...

    Look closely at the part number is has WV which stands for with winbond die, timings are usually 3-4-4-8 or 2.5-3-3-8 buit its all the same stuff.
    Reply
  • adg1034 - Tuesday, April 12, 2005 - link

    Where exactly can you find the Value VX? Do you have a model number? I was going to buy the Corsair Value RAM, but after reading this, I definitely think I'm going OCZ. Reply

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