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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  • shoRunner - Monday, April 11, 2005 - link

    when did value ram cost $200 for a gig... Reply
  • dvinnen - Monday, April 11, 2005 - link

    Anyone else finding these Value VX moduals? The link above timeings are 3-4-4-8, not 2.5-3-3-7. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, April 11, 2005 - link

    Please remember that it is rarely feasible for reviewers/sites to go out and buy all the hardware for a roundup. Wes submitted requests to several manufacturers, and this is what *they* felt like sending for testing. Of particular note is the comments from Corsair - they are not alone in rotating chip types on their value RAM. Maybe that is why several companies (i.e. Mushkin) didn't simply send their cheapest RAM.

    Looking around at various resellers and the pricing Engine, there are quite a few other RAM manufacturers/models out there worth considering. Corsair, Crucial, PDP, PQI, G.Skill, and several others have some really good RAM at $150 or less. You can even find PC4000 rated RAM for around $160 now.

    Trust me, it's not practical to try to do a roundup of ALL value RAM. There are just so many models out there, all with different performance characteristics. If you don't want to overclock (at all), most of the $90 to $120 RAM will work well.

    We should also have a "Your Mileage May Vary" clause in the article, as what Wes achieved is by no means a scientific sampling of each product. That would require at least 10 samples of each, and when you take the amount of time required to test OC'ing on *one* DIMM setup, it would take months to complete a scientific sampling of RAM.
    Reply
  • reactor - Monday, April 11, 2005 - link

    quite right tony, was well done and hope to see further editions of the article. paying less and getting more is always good :) Reply
  • bigtoe36 - Monday, April 11, 2005 - link

    Typos's..."seem" is seen, "we" is were...se we all make mistakes. Reply
  • bigtoe36 - Monday, April 11, 2005 - link

    VX runs well with 2-3-2 timings with lower voltage. I have seem 233fsb 2-3-2 at 2.8V or so which is a little faster than 2.5-3-3 at the same fsb ;-).

    Regarding the modules that we not tested, you have to remember there are hundreds of different types of ram, not all can be reviewed in one go, I suspect this review alone took quite some time to complete as the AT LABs are a real busy place...i know Wesley is VERY busy not only reviewing but also pushing manufacturers to get boards overclocking better and pushing the enthusiast movent forward.

    If only you guys had any idea of what Wes has done for the enthusiast over the past 2 years, i do and please take it from me the boards you are seeing at the moment are the fruits of that work.

    Well done Wesley, nice review as always, even with the odd typo in amoungst the 8K words you wrote ;-)

    Reply
  • bobsmith1492 - Monday, April 11, 2005 - link

    Well, anyway, what about the decent Mushkin CAS 2.5 for $84? It seems like a much better deal than the one they tested.

    http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?desc...
    Reply
  • reactor - Monday, April 11, 2005 - link

    wouldve like to have seen mushkin blue line and twinmos tmii400, both are supposed to be good comptetitors to the Value VX/BH from OCZ. Reply
  • Cygni - Monday, April 11, 2005 - link

    They reviewed Value ram from the MAJOR mfts, they didnt review no name or OEM pieces, just brand name retail stuff. Reply
  • bobsmith1492 - Monday, April 11, 2005 - link

    Who picked these.... :(

    What about the V-data 3200 CAS 2.5 ram for $70/gig at Newegg or the Mushkin CAS 2.5 for ~80? The ones in the review seem more expensive for slower ratings than most of the stuff at Newegg.

    That said, the $115 VX value sounds pretty sweet.
    Reply

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