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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  • preacherman - Tuesday, August 08, 2006 - link

    What would be intresting would be a maybe running at least the synth benchmarks on another C2D mobo.. with the same CPU,HDD;DDR2 etc etc.

    This would show us if the mobo as a whole runs at a performance handicap to others mobo or.. as I would hope.. basicly its up or near there in performance with most other C2D mobos with or without DDR2.

    If that is the case then the mobo is truly very good for those of us not wanting to shell out 250e+ for 2x1Gb DDR2 when we already have 2x512Mb DDR sat in our current rigs so we could spend that money on CPU/GPU as you wrote in your atricle and maybe get DDR2 later as and when funds become available.
    thanks.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, August 08, 2006 - link

    quote:

    What would be intresting would be a maybe running at least the synth benchmarks on another C2D mobo.. with the same CPU,HDD;DDR2 etc etc.


    You will see this in the final comparison article. The general performance of the board is about the same as we reported in our Conroe Buying Guide. However, the 1.5 bios has improved performance in some areas.
    Reply
  • yacoub - Tuesday, August 08, 2006 - link

    I am surprised how little advantage DDR2 has over DDR memory. Very interesting. Was the difference greater from SDR to DDR? I forget. Reply
  • Locutus465 - Tuesday, August 08, 2006 - link

    I'm guessing a higher end board with a better memory controller might show DD2 in a better light. Reply
  • retrospooty - Tuesday, August 08, 2006 - link

    The same can be said for DDR.

    MY DFI Lanparty NF4 runs my Corsair BH-5 chips at 260mhz@ 2-2-2-7 timings. DDR2@ 1000mhz@5-5-5 cant even beat that.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, August 08, 2006 - link

    We did a top-end DDR vs DDR2 on the AM2 at http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...">http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?.... Of course, DDR2 bandwidth on the AM2 is huge, even though it doesn't always translate into real-world performance gains. Conroe is not nearly as efficient as AM2 on memory but still outperforms by a wide margin. In the AM2 article we found fast DDR400 and DDR2-533 roughly equivalent, with faster DDR2 speeds providing a bit more performance.

    It appears with Conroe on a VIA chipset DDR2-533 gains more, but real-world is still in the ball park with DDR400. That may be a commentary on the VIA chipset and may not apply to Intel or nVidia or ATI. However, this VIA board is the first to allow a DDR/DDR2 comparison with Conroe.

    There are other boards for Dore 2 Duo coming that will support DDR on Core 2 Duo. For the value builder, it will be interesting to see how this board compares to some of those.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, August 08, 2006 - link

    In some instances DDR was quite a bit faster than SDR. I think it gave about a 10% performance boost on average, and up to 20% in a few special cases. It's also worth noting that the ASRock does offer lower performance than other high-end DDR2 boards, but the price tradeoff makes it justifiable. Reply
  • yyrkoon - Sunday, August 20, 2006 - link

    Well, if you go by pure synthetic benchmarks, DDR is 5x faster than SDRAM most of the time. Actual application performance, may be different. Reply
  • Calin - Tuesday, August 08, 2006 - link

    DDR was quite a bit faster than DDR - just the way it is now with DDR2 and SDR. However, in the budget side of the equation, the processors weren't starved enough for bandwidth, so the difference was very small.
    I wonder what the results would have been if a faster processor would have been used.

    Oh, and maybe the chipset/BIOS isn't optimized for DDR2 performance (as for DDR, all the performance that could have been squeezed in about three-four years of building chipsets was already there).
    Reply
  • Jedi2155 - Tuesday, August 08, 2006 - link

    Did you mean DDR was quite a bit faster than SDR and now with DDR2 with DDR? Reply

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