DDR Memory Performance on Core 2 Duo

The spotlight as of late in the world of memory has definitely been on DDR2 due to the release of AMD's AM2 platform and the renewed interest in Intel's product line thanks to the Core 2 Duo processor series. While DDR2 has been around for a few years, its performance capability is just now reaching mature levels while pricing at the low end of the market has become very competitive. We have recently tested both value based DDR2 and ultra-high performance DDR2 memory for the Intel Core 2 Duo and AMD AM2 platforms with great success.

We are continuing to see high quality value based DDR2-533/667 memory easily reach DDR2-800 speeds with 2GB kits (2x1024MB) selling in the $150 range. In the high performance area there has been a space race for both top speeds and lowest latencies with pricing to match, unfortunately, as we have 2GB kits selling from $400 to $500. As a result of this we have seen the middle sector DDR2-800 products that combine high performance with reasonable prices almost disappear. While not dead, the availability of these items is not growing quick enough, though we expect to see this change in the near future.

2GB of RAM is becoming the new standard memory configuration for new purchases, with DDR2 being used primarily due to the recent platform releases. However, there are a lot of people who still have 1GB of RAM or less. More importantly, due to AMD's great success with the Athlon 64 processor series for the past three years there is an abundance of DDR memory still in use. There are a lot of us who like to utilize our component investments as long as possible but still believe in upgrading when the performance of new component clearly improves upon the previous generation.

At this time, the overall performance of the Intel Core 2 Duo is clearly better than previous generation processors. While the merits of not upgrading to a new Core 2 Duo platform from a recently purchased AMD Athlon 64 system can justifiably be argued, those of us with older systems based on socket 754, early socket 939, or Intel NetBurst LGA 775 systems certainly have something to think about. When faced with a limited budget but a desire to have the latest and greatest technology, it is usually necessary to cut corners or live with a previous generation component for a little longer before doing a complete upgrade.

What can the budget upgrader do? The first step is to do some research, discuss the options, and then figure out the best way to spend limited funds on the next upgrade. If the person is primarily a gamer, that usually means upgrading to the latest video card or adding additional memory. In fact, for most tasks adding additional memory is one of the most cost effective methods of improving performance, at least to a certain point. At times, the need for a new motherboard and processor is the primary concern, especially for those who do a lot of audio/video manipulation or number crunching but still like to relax with a game or two. If these games happen to be mostly simulations or role-playing games then a new CPU is also a cost effective way to improve performance.

With this in mind, sometimes the best option is to mix and match components that are still useful with the latest technology. The move from a socket 754 or 939 system to the new Core 2 Duo platform can be an expensive undertaking. In fact, it is almost as expensive to move from a P4 LGA775 system to Core 2 Duo as it is to come from older AMD systems, except your memory has a very good chance that it will work in the new motherboard. In order to reduce the overall cost of a platform change several motherboard manufacturers offer combination boards that allow mix and match capabilities on the memory and GPU interfaces.


ASRock has built a very good reputation on offering these types of solutions. The more performance oriented crowd will often snub these products due to their sometimes quirky nature but you cannot deny their value. In the case of the ASRock 775Dual-VSTA, this board allows you to move to the new Core 2 Duo platform at a minimum cost. Besides offering good performance for a great price this board also allows you to utilize your DDR memory or AGP graphics card. We provided a preview of this board in our initial Conroe Buying Guide and after numerous requests for additional information we have decided to do a series of articles around this board and other value alternatives.

Our article today will look at how well DDR and DDR2 memory perform against each other on this board. We are not comparing various memory suppliers against each other nor are we comparing this board's memory performance against others, yet. We are simply investigating any drawbacks of using DDR memory with our retail E6300 Core 2 Duo processor on this ASRock motherboard to determine if your money can be better spent in other areas.

Our next article will look at the performance of our EVGA 7600GS PCI-E card against its sibling 7600GS AGP card on this board. We will finish our investigative series with a full comparison of this E6300 equipped board against its AM2 counterpart, AM2V890-VSTA, armed with an AMD 3800+ X2 along with results from other ASRock value boards featuring the Intel i865 and 945P chipsets. Our goal is to lay out the cost and performance of each platform so you can make an informed decision when upgrading on a limited budget. Let's see if DDR2 makes any difference on this budget board or if your ragtag DDR memory is more than sufficient to the task at hand.

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  • Kougar - Tuesday, August 08, 2006 - link

    They mention the OCing details in their Conroe: Feeding the Monster article. IIRC this board was about 300FSB give or take 5. Not bad, considering the nForce4 & 5 series maxes out at 320 tops! Reply
  • poohbear - Tuesday, August 08, 2006 - link

    thanks for this great article, i hope ASrock's efforts w/ PCI-E/agp and ddr/ddr2 solutions gets noticed by some of the big dogs cause im still using my ASrock Dualsata2 and intend on keeping it for my upgrade to dualcore and hang on to it for atleast another year. After that, looks like i'll keep my DDR memory and head on over to the Core duo camp. ASrock really knows how to squeeze the life outta all your components especially since most of these "upgrades" like DDR-DDR2 and AGP-PCI-E do NOT provide ANY performance improvements. just marketing BS so these companies can sell hardware.:( Reply
  • Calin - Wednesday, August 09, 2006 - link

    Moving from DDR to DDR2 allows you to buy cheaper components (a bit cheaper). As for AGP and PCI-E, top of the line cards are PCI-E, on AGP you can find only mainstream (maybe because PCI-E x16 gives more juice to the card than AGP can?)
    Reply
  • poohbear - Wednesday, August 09, 2006 - link

    erm, moving to ddr2 isnt cheaper if i hafta ditch my 1gb of ddr ram.;) as for the PCI-E, im taking about bandwidth wise, PCI-E hasnt offered any performance increases at all. Sure, what's available now is only high end PCI-E, but if they did make a high end 7900GTX in AGP im sure it wouldnt perform 1 fps less than the PCI-E version. AGP8x was simply never saturated enough. Reply
  • saiku - Tuesday, August 08, 2006 - link

    Yes!! I would love to know if I can bring over my AGP 6800GT and my 2 GB of Ram from my Socket 754 world to the Core 2 Duo platform. Great article !!

    Anandtech, just when I thought that you had stopped caring about the "common man", here comes this great article !

    Thank you for remembering those of us who don't spend 500 bucks on 2 GB of RAM !!
    Reply
  • Rike - Tuesday, August 08, 2006 - link

    Second that. Thanks, for looking out for those of us who still have some tight budgets. Reply
  • VooDooAddict - Tuesday, August 08, 2006 - link

    What I find interesting is that even DDR-333 works very well on the platform.

    This makes it tempting to upgrade my existing Dual Xeon 2.66 to Core 2 Duo. It's got 2 gigs of low latency (2-2-2-5) DDR-333.
    Reply
  • VooDooAddict - Tuesday, August 08, 2006 - link

    Also looking forward to the PCIe / AGP comparison. Reply
  • KingofL337 - Tuesday, August 08, 2006 - link

    Does this board allow for any overclocking at all? Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, August 08, 2006 - link

    Yes, figure about 10~15% on average. There is not a VCore adjustment on the board and it is limited already due to design. Reply

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