Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/1285




It was quite a surprise when Mushkin asked if we were interested in reviewing their latest PC3200 2-2-2 Special. Did they have new memory capable of the 2-2-2 speeds at DDR400 that we had seen in the past with Winbond BH5 chips? Mushkin's answer was even more surprising! Mushkin says that they still have BH6 chips to build PC3200, and they have enough stock to last 2 to 3 more months. No one else in the memory industry has any Winbond BH5 or BH6 left, so we knew AnandTech readers would want to know that Mushkin still has them available.

The exit of Winbond from the active memory market has caused quite a stir. The BH5 chips are gone, which all the DDR400 2-2-2 ultra-low latency used. What many don't realize is that the more recent CH6 and CH5 are also gone, which were being used in Rev. B products that have 2-2-3 timings - with Ras-to-Cas timing at 3. There are still some memory chips from other vendors that can manage 2-2-3 timings, but nothing has come down the pike yet that can fully duplicate Winbond BH5 at 2-2-2 at DDR400.

Since the Mushkin PC3200 2-2-2 Special is clearly the last lot of this legendary memory, we were interested to see what they would do in our benchmarks. Would these Mushkin sticks still astound as BH5 has in the past, or are these the last BH6 chips not quite up to the performance that we came to expect from the best BH5?




Mushkin PC3200 2-2-2 Special

Mushkin has had PC3200 Level II in their product line for some time, but these are no longer available. So, how do the 2-2-2 Special differ from Level II?



Mushkin tells us that the Black High Performance Level II used the Winbond BH5 chips, which are no longer in production. This new 222 Special uses Winbond BH6 chips selected for 2-2-2 performance at DDR 400. They are said to perform just as well as the BH5 at 3200 speed, but may not be as overclockable. Our reference PC3500 memory from both Mushkin and OCZ have also been based on the now discontinued BH5.

It should also be pointed out that BH6 has also been discontinued, but Mushkin has managed to secure enough chips to introduce this new memory with availability for another 2 to 3 months. However, when these are gone, this appears to be the end of DDR400 2-2-2 DIMMs unless another chip manufacturer is able to bring a similar product to market.



The Mushkin PC3200 2-2-2 was supplied with the black 6-layer PCB that is Mushkin's trademark for their highest-performing memory. The review samples also had black heatspreaders, though Mushkin of late has been using heatspreaders of many different colors with their black PCB high-performance memory.

Mushkin PC3200 2-2-2 Special Specifications

 Mushkin PC3200 2-2-2 Special Memory Specifications
Number of DIMMs & Banks 2 DS
DIMM Size
Total Memory
512Mb (available in 256MB or 512Mb DIMMs)
1 GB
Rated Timings 2-2-2
Rated Voltage 2.5V - 2.8V

We confirmed the SPD timings to be set at 2-2-2. While the SPD cycle time (tras) is at a higher SPD for compatibility with both Intel and AMD boards, we found that 2-2-2-5 worked fine on our Intel testbed. nForce chipset boards normally perform best with a higher cycle time (tras) in the 8 to 11 range.




Performance Test Configuration

The Memory testbed for evaluating the Mushkin PC3200 2-2-2 Special is the same used in our earlier reviews of DDR400 and faster Memory.

PMI DDR533: A New Name in High-Performance Memory
Samsung PC3700: DDR466 Memory for the Masses
Kingmax Hardcore Memory: Tiny BGA Reaches For Top Speed
New Memory Highs: Corsair and OCZ Introduce DDR550
OCZ PC3700 Gold Rev. 2: The Universal Soldier
OCZ 4200EL: Tops in Memory Performance
Mushkin PC4000 High Performance: DDR500 PLUS
Corsair TwinX1024-4000 PRO: Improving DDR500 Performance
Mushkin & Adata: 2 for the Fast-Timings Lane
Searching for the Memory Holy Grail - Part 2

All test conditions were as close as possible to those used in our earlier memory reviews.

 INTEL 875P Performance Test Configuration
Processor(s): Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz (800MHz FSB)
RAM: 2 x 512MB Mushkin 2-2-2 Special (DS)
2 x 512MB PMI4200 Gold (DDR533 DS)
4 x 256MB Samsung PC3700 (DDR466 SS)
2 x 512MB Kingmax DDR500 Hardcore Series (DS)
2 x 512MB Kingmax DDR466 Hardcore Series (DS)
2 x 512MB Corsair XMS4400v1.1 TwinX (DS)
2 x 512MB OCZ PC4400 DC Kit (DS)
2 x 512MB OCZ PC3700 Gold Rev. 2 (DS)
2 x 512MB OCZ 4200EL(DS)
2 x 512MB Mushkin PC4000 High Performance (DS)
2 x 512MB Corsair TwinX4000 PRO (DS)
2 x 512MB Mushkin Level II PC3500 (DS)
2 x 256MB Adata DDR450 (SS)
2 x 512MB Adata PC4000 (DS)
2 x 512MB Corsair PC4000 (DS)
2 x 512MB Geil PC4000 (DS)
4 x 256MB Kingston PC4000 (SS)
2 x 256MB Kingston PC4000 (SS)
2 x 512MB OCZ PC4000 (DS)
4 x 256MB OCZ PC3700 GOLD (DS)
Hard Drives 2 Western Digital Raptor Serial ATA 36.7GB 10,000 rpm drives in an Intel ICH5R RAID configuration
PCI/AGP Speed Fixed at 33/66
Bus Master Drivers: 875P Intel INF Update v5.00.1012, SATA RAID drivers installed, but IAA not installed
Video Card(s): ATI 9800 PRO 128MB, 128MB aperture, 1024x768x32
Video Drivers: ATI Catalyst 4.1
Power Supply: Vantec Stealth 470Watt Aluminum
Operating System(s): Windows XP Professional SP1
Motherboards: Asus P4C800-E (875) with 1015 Release BIOS

We only tested the Mushkin memory in our Intel testbed, but Mushkin tests for 2-2-2 compatibility on nForce2, Intel 865/875, and VIA KT400 chipsets. Winbond BH6 is a familiar product, so we were interested mainly to test whether these last of the BH chips were comparable to BH memory that we have tested in the past. While we have found the fastest performance on Intel 865/875 to be achieved at 2-2-2-5 timings, we have found that the best performance on nForce family chipsets is often achieved at 2-2-2-8 timings, or even as high as 2-2-2-11, if the nForce board allows a Cycle Time (tras) setting as high as 11.

Test Settings

For the sake of clarity in this comparison, we have only included memory performance comparisons at DDR400, DDR433, and the fastest memory speed that we could achieve with each memory. Buyers looking for DDR400 2-2-2 memory likely won't much care how it compares to DDR500 or DDR550 memory, but they are probably very interested in how the DDR400 2-2-2 Special might compare to other memory performance in the DDR400 to DDR466 range. The following settings were tested with Mushkin PC3200 2-2-2 Special:
  1. 800FSB/DDR400 - the specified rating of the DDR400 modules. Also the highest stock speed supported on 875/865 and K8T800/nF3/SiS755 motherboards.
  2. 866FSB/DDR433 - a common overclock with DDR400 memory.
  3. Highest Stable Overclock - the highest settings we could achieve with this memory and other memory that we have tested.
These are the same general settings used in benchmarking other memory in the above list of memory tests. DDR400 and Highest Memory Speed have been used for all benchmarking. DDR433 has only been tested in the past for modules with this speed rating.




Test Results: Mushkin PC3200 2-2-2 Special

To test overclocked stability, we used the very demanding Gun Metal 2 - Benchmark 2, which pushes systems with its DX9 routines. To be considered stable for test purposes, Gun Metal, our Quake3 benchmark, UT2003 Demo, Super PI, Halo, and Comanche 4 had to complete without incident. Any of these, and in particular, Super PI and Gun Metal, will crash a less-than stable memory configuration.

Mushkin PC3200 2-2-2- Special (DDR400) - 2 x 512MB Double-Bank
Speed Memory Timings & Voltage Quake3 fps Sandra UNBuffered Sandra Standard Buffered Super PI 2M places
(time in sec)
400DDR
800FSB
2-2-2-5
2.65V
327.6 INT 2882
FLT 2932
INT 4517
FLT 4514
128
433DDR
866FSB
2-2-3-5
2.75V
350.2 INT 2987
FLT 3039
INT 4887
FLT 4856
121
454DDR
908FSB
2-2-3-7
2.85V
364.6 INT 3288
FLT 3271
INT 5091
FLT 5105
115

At DDR400, Mushkin PC3200 2-2-2 Special certainly meets its specifications. We were able to run our complete memory test suite at the most aggressive timings that we could set on the Asus P4C800-E. This certainly matches the timings possible with Mushkin, Corsair, and OCZ PC3500 memory, which was based on BH5 memory. A concession to using BH6 memory, however, is that a bit more voltage is required at all test frequencies for stable operation.




Performance Comparisons

Performance of the Mushkin PC3200 2-2-2 Special was compared to all of the memory recently tested in:

PMI DDR533: A New Name in High-Performance Memory
Samsung PC3700: DDR466 Memory for the Masses
Kingmax Hardcore Memory: Tiny BGA Reaches For Top Speed
New Memory Highs: Corsair and OCZ Introduce DDR550
OCZ PC3700 Gold Rev. 2: The Universal Soldier
OCZ 4200EL: Tops in Memory Performance
Mushkin PC4000 High Performance: DDR500 PLUS
Corsair TwinX1024-4000 PRO: Improving DDR500 Performance
Mushkin & Adata: 2 for the Fast-Timings Lane
Searching for the Memory Holy Grail - Part 2

Memory performance was compared at DDR400, and the highest stable overclock that we could achieve which would run Gun Metal 2 Benchmark 2, Quake 3, UT2003, and Super PI to 2MM places. Where the data was available, comparisons were also made at DDR433.

Results are compared for Quake 3, Sandra UNBufferred Memory Test, and Super PI. SiSoft Sandra 2004 reports 2 results for each memory test - an Integer value and a Float value. Results reported in our charts are the result of averaging the INT and FLOAT scores, which are normally close in value. In other words INT and FLOAT scores were added and divided by 2 for our reported score.




DDR400 Performance Charts



We're sorry that our graphing engine does not allow us to select individual colors in bar charts because it would have been much clearer to show the Mushkin Special in one color, the discontinued BH5 memories in another color, and the remaining memory in the standard blue. As you can clearly see from the performance charts, we will all miss BH5 memory chips, as the top of the DDR400 performance charts still belongs to BH5 based memory. The BH6-based Mushkin PC3200 2-2-2 Special are top performers, but they are still not in the same league with BH5. This is something of a moot point.

Keeping in mind that Mushkin PC3500 Level II and OCZ PC3500 Platinum Ltd are now discontinued, you can see that Mushkin Special is a current top performer at DDR400, along with OCZ 3700 Gold Rev.2 and Kingmax DDR500.




DDR433 Performance Charts



There is a similar pattern at DDR433, with the discontinued Mushkin and OCZ 3500 BH5 parts as the best performers. Once again, Mushkin 2-2-2 Special, OCZ 3700 Gold Rev.2 and Kingmax DDR500 are the top performers of currently available memory.




Highest Memory Speed Performance Charts



We were pleasantly surprised that the new Mushkin Special also showed almost the same bandwidth capabilities as the best BH5 modules that we have tested. While the maximum stable FSB at the maximum 2.85V was DDR454 for Mushkin Special, this is close to the top DDR458 to DDR466 that we were able to achieve with the discontinued BH5 memory.

It is important to note, however, that OCZ 3700 Gold Rev.2 and Kingmax DDR500 show much wider bandwidths than the new Mushkin PC3200 2-2-2 Special. These are the two memories that we have tested with performance very close to Mushkin Special.




Conclusion

There is no doubt that Winbond BH5 will be missed in the memory market. The discontinued modules from Corsair, OCZ, and Mushkin that were based on BH5 remain the fastest memory in the DDR400 to DDR466 range that we have tested. Mushkin PC3200 2-2-2 Special represents the last of the legendary BH chips that you can actually buy. If this is what you have to have, it is your last chance to buy them. However, the Mushkin Special is based on BH6, and while performance is near the top, it is not the equal of BH5-based modules. It is also pretty expensive.

Of the tested memory that you can still buy, Mushkin PC3200 2-2-2 Special is at the top of the performance curve at DDR400 along with OCZ 3700 Gold Rev. 2 and Kingmax DDR500. In the range from DDR400 to DDR454, these 3 memories are neck-and-neck, while above this, the OCZ 3700 Gold R2 and Kingmax DDR500 reach a much higher FSB. We confirmed with OCZ that 3700 Gold R2, based on promos chips, is a current product with no expected supply problems; Kingmax DDR500 is still not in the US market, but is expected in this quarter. We remain cautious with Kingmax DDR500 until we can actually confirm that shipping DDR500 performs similarly to the remarkable DDR500 modules that we reviewed.

The point is that if you have to have the tried-and-proven Winbond BH memory, then Mushkin Special is your last opportunity. While the BH6 memory is not quite the equal of the discontinued BH5, it is very close to BH5 in performance and is the fastest you can buy in the DDR400 to DDR454 range. However, OCZ 3700 Gold Rev.2 and Kingmax DDR500 performed almost the same in the DDR400 to DDR454 range, and both reach a much higher speed. The OCZ 3700 Gold Rev.2 is a proven performer in the market, and Kingmax DDR500 is expected to appear this quarter. We can understand if only Winbond BH will do, but if we were in the market for fast DDR400, we would consider these 3 contenders based on price and proven performance.

If overclocking is more important to you than the absolute fastest performance at DDR400, then you should also consider the excellent performance across the band of memory based on second-generation Hynix chips. These include Corsair PC4000 PRO, OCZ4200EL, and Mushkin PC4000 High Performance. These memory choices are not quite as fast at DDR400, but they are much closer in performance at DDR400 than first-generation DDR500. All three also reach much higher speeds than BH-based memory, with top speeds in the DDR533 to DDR560 range.

With Winbond exiting the memory chip market and DDR2 on the horizon, the quest for DDR memory with fast timings has certainly changed in recent weeks. This chapter is not yet over, however, as we will be looking at a new and unique "Enhanced Bandwidth" solution from OCZ in our next memory review.

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