Memory Test Configuration

It was clearly illustrated in Conroe vs. AM2: Memory & Performance that DDR2 memory performance, in timings and required voltage, are equivalent on the AM2 and Core 2 Duo platforms. However, the first generation of AM2 on-processor memory controller does not support any memory timings below 3, or memory speeds above DDR2-800. Both these features are supported on the Intel platform. Timings of 2 are available for RAS-to-CAS and RAS Precharge, and DDR2-1067 is a memory speed option on most Intel motherboards. The lack of extended memory timings and memory speeds makes it more difficult to test the newest DDR2 memories rated at DDR2-1000, DDR2-1067, DDR2-1100, or even higher, on an AM2 platform

For all of these reasons, the Intel platform is the current AT test platform for DDR2 memory. The Core 2 Duo Extreme processor, which has available CPU ratios both up and down, is the processor of choice. When changes are made in future AMD and Intel products the memory test platform will be examined again.

The ASUS P5W-DH is the latest 975X board in the ASUS family and it fully supports the Core 2 processors, including Core 2 Quad. The P5W-DH Deluxe therefore replaced the P5W-D2-E premium used in past DDR2 reviews. A review of the updated ASUS P5W-DH Deluxe is available in the Conroe Buyers Guide.

Since most of the Core 2 Duo/Extreme processors run at a quad-pumped FSB of 1067 (base 266), instead of the FSB800 used on earlier Intel processors, the available options on the P5W-DH Deluxe at FSB1067 are particularly well-suited for benchmarking memory when a Core 2 chip powers the system.

Memory Configuration Options/ASUS P5W-DH Deluxe Motherboard
  Auto DDR2-400 DDR2-533 DDR2-667 DDR2-711* DDR2-800* DDR2-889* DDR2-1067*
FSB-1067 X X X X X X X X
FSB-800 X X X X   X    
FSB-533 X X X          

The memory test bench uses the following components:

Memory Performance Test Configuration
Processor Intel Core 2 Duo X6800
(Dual core, 2.93GHz, 4MB Unified Cache)
RAM 2X1GB G.Skill DDR2-800
2x1GB Patriot DDR2-1066
2x1GB Super Talent DDR2-1000
2x1GB TEAM DDR2-1000
2 x 1GB Corsair CM2X1024-6400C3
2x1GB OCZ Ti Alpha PC2-8000 VX2
Hard Drive Hitachi 250GB SATA2 enabled (16MB Buffer)
Video Card 1 x EVGA 7900GTX - All Standard Tests
Video Drivers NVIDIA 91.47
CPU Cooling Tuniq Tower 120
Power Supply OCZ PowerStream 520W
Motherboard ASUS P5W-DH Deluxe (Intel 975X)
Operating System Windows XP Professional SP2
BIOS AMI 1407 (October 2, 2006)

Core 2 Duo is as much as 35 to 40% faster than the earlier Intel Presler, which makes comparing memory performance between the two processors impractical. Therefore the only results shown in this review are DDR2 memories tested on the X6800 (Core 2 Duo) platform.

Index Stock Memory Performance
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  • christopherzombie - Sunday, November 5, 2006 - link

    I have the same G.Skill "HZ" kit and I can do 1066mhz @ 5-5-5-15 with only 2.2v on an Abit AN9 32X 590SLI. I run at this speed 24/7 with my X2 4000+ @ 2.66ghz. No issues here. Great RAM for the money. I'm glad I didn't speed 50% more $$ for Cosair.
  • formulav8 - Saturday, November 4, 2006 - link

    I guess its just me, but I would think spending $300 for 2GB of memory is the absolute high-end prices. Even with the overall price increase of memory. I guess I am just poor :(

  • Wesley Fink - Saturday, November 4, 2006 - link

    Let's be VERY CLEAR. We are talking about TWO GIGABYTES of memory, which has become the new standard with Vista on the way. The absolute cheapest generic 2GB kit I could find on NewEgg runs am average of $200 - and it is generally DDR2-533. You can find Value DDR2-800, rated at 5-5-5 which we mention in the review, for $210 to $250. The DDR2-800 4-4-4 we tested was $299 - $99 more than the average low-end 2GB kit we could find at a reputable e-tailer. It also does 3-3-3 at 800 and 1067 since it is based on Micron D9 chips - if you can supply the voltage.

    YOU have to decide if it is worth it to spend $99 more for higher rated memory that can do 3-3-3 at DDR2-800 with voltage, 4-4-4 with no voltage, and DR2-1066. If you are shopping for a 1GB kit, the cost for 2x512MB is about half this amount. Until the move to DDR2, we always tested a 1GB kit. We moved the total up when 2GB became more common and it was clear Vista would need 1GB as a minimum.
  • xFlankerx - Saturday, November 4, 2006 - link

    I think people aren't realizing that this is DDR2-800 memory, not DDR2-533. As such, it is Overclocking memory, and the prices are proportional to what the prices were for, say, a DDR600 memory kit for the AMD platform.

    I have the utmost respect for AT reviews, and your analyses, but when I read "Mid-Range" and saw the pic of the GBHZs (my favorite memory, from the AMD days), that left me a bit confused. I design PCs for others as a hobby, as do many many other people. And anyone who does knows that very few people are going to be willing to spend $300 on memory that they don't really need. Also, I'm a huge proponent of Memory Dividers, as they help majorly, and don't make you sacrifice performance.

    The prices for the enthusiast memory may be proportional, however they are still VERY high. The massive FSB potential and overclocking of the Core 2 Duos has made it mandatory that you use high-speed memory in your system. DDR2-533 simply won't overclock far enough. So we HAVE to use DDR2-800 like we used DDR400. And with Vista requiring 2GB, the memory prices need to be much LOWER than they are right now. Going from $100 for 1GB DDR400 for a smooth and overclocked system, to needing to spend $250 for 2GB DDR2-800 for a smooth and overclocked system is a hard slap in the face for most people, including designers. As one of the people I was designing for pointed out, "Its a sad day when your memory costs more than your processor."
  • xsilver - Sunday, November 5, 2006 - link

    I would just like to clear up something further as their are many conflicting views.

    is it possible to use ddr667 ram and still not hit the wall with your ram until 500FSB or so?
    Using dividers of course, and taking the 5% hit in performance? (its not even 5% is it?)

    Isnt this the best way to build a overclocking system on a budget?

    I agree with Wes when he says that this ram is really only $99 more expensive than base ram but I guess its just the sad state that the ram market is in and people are looking for the best value they can. So categorizing $300 ram as "semi-performance" ram is just sad to see.

  • Steve Guilliot - Friday, November 3, 2006 - link

    ... "paying through the nose gets you miniscule performance gains"?

    The core architecture has never been memory bandwidth starved, and every single memory article seems to re-inforce that. Why didn't Wesley use 0 fps as the baseline for his scatter plots? Becuase if he did, the results wouldn't be exaggerated enough to notice on the graph. Doesn't that tell you something?

    Sorry, but 1% gain is not worth spending and extra $200 on 1066 memory. That would be useful advice that needs to be reinforced when the money could be spent on better graphics or processing or monitor. Instead, the enthusiast community seems bent on justifying it's fascination with fast memory.

    Look, memory was important with the P4, but let's move on and recognize that Core does not need fast memory.

    Sorry for the soapbox, and this is not just a problem with Anandtech; it's on all the enthusiast sites.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, November 3, 2006 - link

    High quality memory is important for overclocking. If your RAM can't go beyond DDR2-800, an E6300 would be limited to a maximum OC of 2.8 GHz - still fast, but a lot of people are hitting 3.2GHz+. An E6400 would be able to hit 3.2 GHz at DDR2-800 (with 1:1 ratio), and again you can almost certainly go further.

    As Wes states on page 5: "Memory speed can definitely improve system performance, but not to the extent of an upgraded video card or a higher speed processor." If you've already maxed out the other areas, or at least come close, then you will probably be willing to spend more on RAM as well. If you're pinching pennies elsewhere, then RAM is probably not going to be something you want to spend a ton on either. Of course, these days $300 for good quality 2GB kits isn't really that bad.
  • Steve Guilliot - Saturday, November 4, 2006 - link

    Also, even if someone had "maxed" out other areas, I still wouldn't recommend throwing away money on faster RAM. If you're even above entry level, then you have at least a x9 multiplier. DDR2-667 will be fine for maintaining the ideal 1:1 divider while overclocking. Ok, let's stretch it to DDR2-800 for giggles. But DDR2-1066? Please.

    I suppose a fool is easily seperated from their money, but most people who have money value it. My recommendations alway involve eliminating waste no matter how much someone is willing to spend.
  • Steve Guilliot - Saturday, November 4, 2006 - link

    So, you would recommend $300 RAM to someone who couldn't afford to pay more than $163 for an e6300, or $200 for an e6400? ... and e6600's are only $280.

    The statement "Memory speed can definitely improve system performance" is what set me off in the first place, since it is a gross exaggeration and underpins the focus of the article. I know the enthusiast community is a benchmark driven one, but cmon: 1% is not a definite improvement. Consistent maybe, but "definite" implies "noticable". Nope, 1% is not noticeable.

    On a related note, most of my ranting is equally applicable to the quest for ever-higher FSB's.
  • xsilver - Friday, November 3, 2006 - link

    cant u use memory dividers instead?
    I dont have a core system, but I would suspect that you can run something close to ddr 800 at 400fsb?

    and then use the extra saved cash for a better video card/cpu?

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