2GB For The Road - Crucial 2GB PC2-4200 SODIMM

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Product: 2GB kit (1GBx2) DDR2 PC2-4200
Provided By: Crucial
Price: $282.99USD

Introduction:

Many people have come to accept that 2GB of memory is pretty much the sweet spot for home computers that are used for gaming and graphic/video editing.  However, many laptop computers ship with 512MB and only a limited number come with 1GB of memory.  You can find some expensive laptops that ship with 2GB of memory, but they are very expensive and are built for the mobile gamer.  Today we are taking a look at a 2GB kit of PC2-4200 from Crucial that is built for mobile users everywhere.  We are going to find out if 1GB is enough to run today's applications efficiently, or if the move to 2GB on your laptop is a worthy upgrade.

Crucial Package
Crucial Package

The memory arrived in typical Crucial fashion - in a brown cardboard box that ships inside a UPS Express envelope.  The memory arrived in three business days and was unscathed by the rapid trip up here to Canada.

I thought that it may be shipped in a smaller package as the memory is much shorter than tradition DDR2 modules, but even the anti-static bags are even the same size as regular DDR and DDR2 bags.

Anti-Static Sleeves
Anti-Static Sleeves

 

The memory had plenty of room to breathe inside the bags and is quite unique to look at.  Each of the modules pictured below are 1GB for a combined total of 2GB for this kit.  You'll notice the two rows of chips on these modules.  There are also two rows on the back side as well for a total of 16chips per stick.  Each of these little BGA chips are 64MB in size and are unbuffered.

2GB of PC2-4300
2GB of PC2-4200

Below are the specs of these modules as posted by Crucial.

  • Part Number: CT2KIT12864AC53E
  • Module Size: 2GB kit (1GBx2)
  • Package: 200-pin SODIMM
  • Feature: DDR2 PC2-4200
  • Configuration: 128Meg x 64
  • DIMM Type: UNBUFFERED
  • Error Checking: NON-ECC
  • Speed: DDR2-533
  • Voltage: 1.8V
  • Memory Timings: CL=4
  • Specs: DDR2 PC2-4200 • CL=4 • UNBUFFERED • NON-ECC • DDR2-533 • 1.8V • 128Meg x 64

On the next page we'll take a look at our test system and pull a few benchmarks to see how this works in the real world.


Test System:

Our test system is an Acer TravelMate 2428AWXMi.  Below is a full list of the specs.

  • Pentium M 745A (1.8GHz/2MB)
  • 14.1" WXGA wide TFT LCD
  • 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM (2x512MB) Nanya
  • 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM (2x1024MB) Crucial
  • 100GB 5400rpm HDD.
  • Windows XP Professional SP2
  • Adobe Photoshop CS2
  • Adopbe Premier Elements 2.0

This notebook is a great little laptop, but because it is running a 745A processor it is limited to a FSB of 400MHz.  This is short of the 533Mhz of the Crucial PC2-4200.  Because the laptop cannot run the memory at its rated speed, we are interested in memory size and usage, not bandwidth and speed in this article.  As such we have tested out a few applications known for memory usage.

Below are a few screenshots taken from CPU-Z of the memory configuration in our system.  With Speedstep enabled, the CPU speed shown is 600Mhz not the rated 1.8GHz when running at full throttle.

CPU-Z Main
CPU-Z Main
_____________________________________________

CPU-Z Memory
CPU-Z Memory
_____________________________________________

CPU-Z SPD
CPU-Z SPD

As you may have noticed, CPU-Z reports the memory as PC2-4300 - contrary to the PC2-4200 that is stated at Crucial's site.  You'll also notice that the laptop is not setting the memory at the correct timings for PC2-3200.  The timings should be 3-3-3-9 and they are 4-3-3-9.  I can't blame the memory as other DDR2 that I've had in this laptop was all detected at 4-3-3-x.

On the last page we'll take a look at a few real-world tests and draw some conclusions.


2GB On The Road:

We installed the memory without issue and fired up some Adobe Photoshop CS2, Adobe Premier Elements 2.0 and broke out the stopwatch for Windows boot, shutdown, hibernate and resume tests.  As laptops get more and more capable, many people are making the move to portable computers so that they can take their work with them more easily.  We chose popular applications as the indicate how demanding tasks will respond to extra memory.

We started off with DriverHeaven's Photoshop benchmark and the results were interesting.

PhotoShop CS2 Bench
Please click image for a full-sized chart.

In some tests, the 2GB kit won hands down and in other tests it lagged way behind.  The laptop was plugged into power the whole time and was running at full speed so CPU had no effect on this test.  We re-ran the tests to confirm the results and they were consistent over multiple runs.  Even though the 2GB kit trailed in a couple of tests - overall performance was still better with the 2GB kit.

Next up is Adobe Premier Elements 2.0.  This test shows how quickly video effects are processed and the results exported to different formats.  We converted the test video to Windows Media, MPEG-2, and Quicktime.

Adobe Premier Conversion
Please click image for a full-sized chart.


 

Although the results above don't show much improvement when running 2GB of DDR in your laptop, the overall feel of Adobe Premier is greatly improved with the extra memory.  If you load up a large video clip and try to scroll through the keyframes - 2GB on memory is a tremendous improvement over 1GB.  This is hard to capture consistently so we couldn't include this in the results.  If you use Adobe Premier, you'll know what I mean.  If you don't have enough memory, it caches the video on the drives swap file and has to constantly access it as you pan through the video.  More ram alleviates this issue.

Finally we come to the tests that everyone is familiar with - Startup, Shutdown, Hibernate and Resume.  If you own a computer you've no doubt performed the above functions countless times.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Hibernate feature it allows you to "shut down" your computer without closing down the applications you were using.  In this state the computer uses very little power and when it's resumed, all of your applications are still running as if it had never been turned off.  When we ran the Hibernate test we opened Internet Explorer 6, Firefox 2.0, Nero Burning ROM 7, uTorrent, NOD32 Antivirus, Windows Media Player and WinAMP.

Windows Tests
Please click image for a full-sized chart.

There is a small difference in Windows Startup, Shutdown, Hibernate and Resume although you probably won't be able to feel the difference.  2GB speeds things up, but only marginally when it comes to booting up Windows.

Conclusion:

Although the benchmarks don't show a lot of difference in our tests, I believe I can feel better response from the computer after it's been running a while and I have a lot of applications open.  According to the benchmarks posted above, this perception could all be in my head, but when it comes to actual editing of video, 2GB is really noticeable.  It prevents hard drive caching to the swap file and greatly increases performance - even though we weren't able to capture the results consistently in a benchmark.  If we had a new Core 2 Duo laptop that took advantage of memory bandwidth, I believe we'd see greater difference in the performance of the 2GB kit.

Pros:

  • Brings 2GB DDR2 to the road.
  • Fair Price for a 2GB SODIMM kit.
  • Solid Memory works without issues.

Cons:

  • Marginal performance improvement over 1GB Kit.

 

BCCHardware.com Rating
Quality:
10/10
Performance:
8/10
Software Pack:
n/a
Stability:
10/10
Features:
9/10
Value:
9/10
Total Score 9.2

 

If you need more memory for your laptop, the jump to 2GB is a good one to make.  This memory performed with rock solid stability throughout our testing.

I'd like to thank Crucial for firing us over this sweet 2GB kit. 

If you have any questions or comments, please post them in our forum at the Comments link below.