Buyer's Guide - Entry Level to Mid-Range, March 2005by Jarred Walton on March 15, 2005 1:30 PM EST
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MemoryAll of the platforms that we have recommended in this Guide use DDR RAM, which is not surprising. DDR2 is simply not a "budget" product yet. For the AMD socket 754 platform, you'll be best off purchasing a single 512MB DIMM. The AMD socket 939 and Intel platforms on the other hand will be able to run dual-channel RAM for a 5% to 15% performance increase, depending on the task. The best choice for a reasonably future-proof system will be to get 512MB DIMMs, but that is a big price jump if you purchase two DIMMs. If you can scrape together the additional money, we suggest going with 2x512MB on both platforms, and you can run with a single DIMM initially. We will, however, provide a 2x256MB option for dual-channel RAM support.
Price: $62 shipped
"Ultra" and "Value" are normally contradictory terms, but GEIL has put both in the product name of their dual-channel RAM package. Overclocking support is rather limited, so consider this a base recommendation. As always, there are many reputable brands that should run CL2.5 timings in a modern Intel or AMD system. Corsair, Crucial, Kingston, and Mushkin are at the top of our list, but PDP, PQI, and Samsung brands are also good.
Price: $51 shipped
Prices on 512MB DIMMs have dropped quite a bit lately, and we can now pick up a single CL2.5 module for under $60. That's down over $10 from the last Budget Guide, which is pretty impressive. PQI is not as well-known of a brand, but they are still decent, and they work with both AMD and Intel systems in our experience.
With 2-3-2-5 timings and the ability to overclock to 230 MHz to 240 MHz with some tweaking, the PDP DIMMs are a great buy. More importantly, the upgrade to 1GB of RAM will definitely help out in overall system performance for demanding applications like games. PDP has come out with some very good RAM options at incredible prices, as the closest price that we could find for similar RAM was about $30 more. Many of our previous value RAM recommendations have cost about $150 and had 2.5-4-4 timings!
If you want even more stock performance, and especially if you want to try your hand at overclocking (with a 1:1 memory ratio), our recommendation goes to anything with Samsung TCCD blanks. Our experience is that anything with Samsung TCCD chips will have good to great base performance at DDR400 speeds - often with 2-2-2 timings - and overclocking performance usually extends well beyond DDR500. The cheapest brands that we have found with Samsung TCCD blanks are G.Skill, PDP, and PQI. Cost, of course, is quite a bit higher than the basic RAM recommendations above. However, $220 will now get 2x512MB RAM with 2-2-2-5 PC3200 timings. That's about $50 lower than what most 2-2-2 RAM cost in mid-to-late 2004. 2x256MB of TCCD will run about $120, for the curious. The memory is good, but it's definitely a big upgrade from the Budget price range. We'd take the $100 of the 2-3-2 RAM over the lower timings, and PC4000 RAM can be found for about $175 these days.