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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  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, April 12, 2005 - link

    #52-#55 - There are Part numbers for ALL the memories in the review in the chart on Page 2. OCZ responded in post #44 that the 3-4-4-8 and 2.4-3-3-8 were the same VX memory. The parts are rated at what they can do at standard voltage - not what they can do at 3.0V and above.

    #45 - Continuing your analogy. If a Ferrari (Value VX) were available for the same price as a Chevrolet Cobalt, then I think readers would expect me to include the Ferrari in my review of Value cars - despite the fact the Ferrari might need hard to find racing alcohol (3.0V to 3.5V) to run properly while the Cobalt only needed easy to find unleaded regular gasoline (2.6V).

  • adg1034 - Tuesday, April 12, 2005 - link

    Isn't that what he did with the Value VX? Check out the article...
  • Zebo - Tuesday, April 12, 2005 - link

    How bout the real "value" modules which really are cheap and contain same chips as high end ram? Just not speed binnned but who gives a rats ass for that kind of value.

    Some I can think of right off top off head are:

    Crucial's with micron G's = Ballistix for half price.

    TwinMOS with Winbond VX = OCZ VX for less than half price.

    Kingston VR with Hynix BT = All those high end sparkly packaged 4200 modules for half price.

    And so on.

    Meh not what I was expecting.
  • Hardtarget - Tuesday, April 12, 2005 - link

    good article except for one thing! I wish you had compared generic Samsung OEM ram.

    I don't know about the US but in Canada right now OEM Samsung game is super cheap. you can get 1gig for 100 bucks canadian. It's incredibly popular.

    Would of been a great starting point to the article and good to see how it compares to non oem versions.
  • Ranger123 - Tuesday, April 12, 2005 - link

    I think you need to clear up the issue regarding Corsair not providing memory. Corsair's response indicates why they chose not to supply their Value Select parts, but it doesn't explain why no XMS modules were provided. At least a couple of the XMS kits meet your criteria and I assume that these are the parts they were referring to when they said that OCers should look at their parts that are "geared to performance and overclocking".

    I can see 4 possible reasons for Corsair's refusal to send an XMS kit:
    1. Corsair misread the AT request and thought only the Value Select parts qualified.
    2. Corsair doesn't want anything in their XMS line associated with the phrase "Value RAM".
    3. As others have suggested, Corsair knew their modules wouldn't perform well and decided that no result was better than a bad result.
    4. Corsair is using the same rotating chip trick on these XMS modules that they are on the Value Select, they're just not admitting it.

    Given Corsair's reputation I would assume that it's one of the first two, but if Corsair is resorting to some questionable practices I think the AT community would want to know. Maybe you can contact whoever you deal with at Corsair and get an explanation.
  • Crassus - Tuesday, April 12, 2005 - link

    When I saw the headline of the review I expected the review to be somewhat different, to be honest. The tests in itself are not bad at all, but if you still have the samples I ask you both in my name and the names off all the folks complaning about the voltages to perform at least some tests at Voltages around 2.8 - 2.9 Volts to allow us to see how these RAMs perform at other boards (e.g. nForce3+4) and how far they will go in MHz @1T.

    I, too, have to question the ethics of this review in the light of the recent debate. How do we know that the samples you tested are of the same kind as we can buy, if its up to the manufacturer to send you whatever they see fit? Especially when it comes to !value! parts I doubt it will be too much of a problem to recieve them through other channels who will not be as interested in the outcome of the review as the manufacturer (Retail chains or online shops?). You may even consider buying them yourself anonymously to remove any doubt and sell them off lateron. Shouldn't be too hard with a community like this one or an online auction site.

  • Backslider - Tuesday, April 12, 2005 - link

    I'd like to comment on my experince with Value and Special Edition type RAM.

    While recenly building a set of PCs, I was reading articles similar to this one. I was convinced that in order to get a good system with future potential of over clocking I would need to buy the more expensive (non-value) RAM.

    I happly paid approx. 50% more for this "Extreme Memory", thinking it would be perfect for a stable system. However, after I built my pair of systems I ran into trouble.

    One of the two systems failed to install Windows. And to make a long story short, I ended up with a bad pair of RAM. I RMA'ed them to and received yet another faulty set of RAM. Finaly, I sent them to the maufacturer for an RMA. This time I received a set that hardly squeek by at stock speed. Overclocking by even 1% means instant BSOD.

    Since this happened, I've been buying Value RAM. (from a different manufacturer) And havent run into any problems yet.

    I also find it interesting that the manufacturer of the faulty RAM that I received, declined to Anandtech's request for test samples. Also, there reasoning was a bit questionable considering that their out of their "XMS" line, I received 4 (pairs) of modules that all performed VERY differently. (1 great, 2 bad, 1 not worth the RMA)

    Thats just my input, based on my experience and nothing more.

  • Den - Tuesday, April 12, 2005 - link

    #54 (and 52).
    I agree, if you are certain you will never overclock you should just get cheap ram with ok timings at stock speed. Interesting that the timings on the picture that you mention (2.5-3-3-7) match what is in the article here.

    I understand why the articles don't have links to buy it, but it really would help if they would at least include the manufacturer's part/model number, then we could be sure.
  • segagenesis - Tuesday, April 12, 2005 - link

    #53 - Actually clicking on the image you can see the ram is marked differently than the newegg page (wtf!) as 2.5-3-3-7 in the picture but 2.5-4-4-8. Ummm...

    Unfortunately I must be somewhat critical when my eyes spin around an article that gives praise to memory for $115 yet doesnt mention *where*. Let alone just a single link to buy it at any price.

    Now granted the Corsair value runs at 2.5-3-3-7 also and likely has little headroom for people who want more out of less, but I consider it a good deal for those like me who dont overclock memory. *takes a breath* With the OCZ being $148 off the same site vs. $87 Corsair, for stock performance its not exactly "value" to me unless you are an overclocker. More like "value if you take the risk". A damn shame Corsair would not submit samples.
  • Den - Tuesday, April 12, 2005 - link

    re: #52
    has timings a little closer but you are right, it sure would be nice if they put actual model numbers in the reviews instead of leaving us to guess.

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