The memory market has been rather routine lately. After the introductions of AMD AM2 and Intel Core 2 Duo memory was a unified solution again - with both camps supporting DDR2. Micron had the best chips, as they have almost since the first DDR2 DIMMs became available, and the top of the memory heap could do DDR2-1067 to DDR2 1100 at spectacular 4-4-3 timings and the more mainstream DDR2-800 at 3-3-3 timings. The best memory was expensive, at about $400 to $500 for a 2GB kit, and the mid and value performed almost as well, but at about half the price.

Buyers have shopped for a value/mid memory solution if cost was a big concern. With memory bandwidth not making a huge difference in performance on either the C2D or AM2 solutions, many were not willing to invest in the best memory available. Those who did want the best could choose from Corsair, OCZ, Mushkin, Patriot, Team, G.Skill, Kingston, Geil, and Super Talent but there was very little to distinguish between the top performers. Perhaps a company might have done a better job of binning chips for the high-end, but the real differences were small and they mostly looked the same - different-colored heatspreaders combined with some variations on how to build a heat-spreader that stood out from the crowd.

Enter OCZ with a new idea - memory with built-in water blocks. OCZ Flex XLC is built for record-setting performance in regular air cooling, with the option to cool with water when you want even more. It is sold with the heatsinks and nipples to connect water-tubing and it is aggressively binned to provide unheard of performance levels in overclocking - on either air or water.

The new OCZ solution certainly looks impressive, but AnandTech readers are used to pretty packages. The real question is whether OCZ Flex XLC delivers the performance it promises. Does OCZ's bold new approach deliver the record-setting performance it promises?

OCZ PC2-9200 Flex XLC Specifications
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  • yyrkoon - Saturday, December 09, 2006 - link

    There is no "for shits and giggles" about it, it would help. How much it would actually help would be open for debate (until someone actually tested it).

    For one, it would help, because, IF you for example had air coming in from the bottom, and air exiting out through the top, you would be using convection to recycle cooler air from the outside, and the heat would travel out through the top. To some small degree, you wouldn't even need a pump to accomplish this. This would also keep hot air from recycling, well, at least concerning *from* the memory(to a small degree) , which wouldn't mean a whole lot.

    Now, if instead of using convection, you use forced air, whether chilled or not, dependent on the CFM pushed through, you *could* reduce the temperature on the heat spreaders drastically. This may not cool as well as water, but there would be no chance of water leakage either, and would result in a definite improvement. Granted, I can not see people wanting to go out an buy a <insert brand here> air compressor, for what whatever amount, when it would be cheaper to go water(which, its self, isn't cheap either). I've priced components for a good water cooling system, and we're talking around $400 usd, for a decent setup, which IMO, would be better just spending the extra cash on a better/faster CPU(if possible). Less problems, and hassle.

    Never seen a Dell that uses a plastic "funnel" over the CPU, without a CPU fan directly over the CPU? They exist, and they do very well in keeping the system very cool. Same concept, on a smaller scale.
    Reply
  • Larso - Monday, December 11, 2006 - link

    Though the idea is interesting, I think you would be better off pushing air over the cooling fins the usual way, than to push air through the water cooling intake. Remember that air and water have very different properties and the cooling interfaces has been designed to optimize each of those elements.

    It could be an interesting experiment I must admit, but I suspect you would get just get a lot of hissing noise from the end of the hose - and not a lot of cooling...
    Reply
  • cruzer - Saturday, December 09, 2006 - link

    If you pumped cold air in through the block, you will get condensation in the lines. Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Saturday, December 09, 2006 - link

    Erm, no you wouldn't. Condensation only forms when the air is cooled down by something, such as on a cold window in a warm room, because cooler air is unable to hold as much moisture as warm air so excess moisture has to be dumped as condensation when the relative humidity reaches 100%.

    Pumping cold air through the block carries no risk of condensation because the air will be warmed rather than cooled. In fact it would be an effective way of removing any moisture because the air warmed by the block would have a fairly low relative humidity.
    Reply
  • yyrkoon - Friday, December 08, 2006 - link

    Hell, I'd even venture to say that if you forced room temperature air through these fast enough, even on a warm day, the results would be great. Granted, you would have to be strategic about it. Reply
  • Frumious1 - Friday, December 08, 2006 - link

    I realize you don't normally test water cooling (or cooling products in general), but it seems one of the major points for this RAM is that it is ready to be used with water cooling. Rather than speculating about if it will help or not, how about actually testing it? Seems like this RAM would be great for people looking to build a silent system, as you now don't have to worry about the RAM overheating either with water cooling.

    Also, this wasn't mentioned in the article, but can you fit two DIMMs next to each other? Meaning, could you go all the way to four DIMMs? Reason I ask is that if you can't then there are going to be some boards where this RAM won't work at all in dual channel mode. Hopefully OCZ wasn't so shortsighted as to make the DIMMs take more than a single slot width, but at the same time I don't know how you get effective water cooling without the HSF getting quite a bit thicker than the typical heatspreader.
    Reply
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  • Wesley Fink - Friday, December 08, 2006 - link

    We should have mentioned that the OCZ Flex XLC is thin enough that 4 dimms can be fitted in standard memory slots. We tried side by side slots in a number of boards and the dimms fit fine side-by-side.

    We considered testing with water also, but we did not have the correct fittings available, it would have taken a while to get the fittings we needed, and we wanted to get the info to our readers as fast as possible. OCZ emphasizes the Flex nature of the memory, and we thought you would want to know about the outstanding performance on air with Flex XLC.

    Perhaps we will relent and test with water in a future review, but we're not completely sure we want to go in that direction. We generally find we can overclock using air cooling at speeds similar to some other sites who insist you can only cool with water.

    The "silent" aspect is a good argument for water cooling, but most water systems still have a fan to cool the liquid and a pump for recirculating the fluid. Some water cooling systems are therefore about as "noisy" as a good air-cooled system - though we do agree that many water cooling systems are very quiet.

    Reply
  • brownba - Friday, December 08, 2006 - link

    no doubt the water cooled feature should have been tested.

    I'm also wondering how the heatsink is designed - does the water flow down the front of the stick over the actual memory chips?
    Reply
  • Hypernova - Friday, December 08, 2006 - link

    If you look at the last page on the "Pre-CES Taiwan 2006, Day 1" article that's exactly what they had in there. Reply

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