8GB DDR2-800 and Vista

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Product(s):

Provided By: SuperTalent, Crucial & Patriot
Price: ~$219.99USD, ~$399.99USD, ~$105.99USD

 

Introduction:

Memory prices have just crashed in the last few months.  It was not that long ago when a 2GB kit of fast DDR2 would cost you upwards of $400, and now you can snag a speedy 2GB kit for around $100.  Lower 2GB kit prices have cause the super-expensive 4GB kit prices to fall as well and now a simple search online reveals that you can grab a 4GB kit (2x2GB Sticks) of PC2-6400 for around $220USD.  This kit will not have the tightest timings, but offers lots of prowess for those memory hungry applications.

Thanks to the cooperation of SuperTalent, Crucial and Patriot we have been able to test out a couple of 4GB kits as well as a reference 2GB kit of DDR2-800 to see if more is better.  We also drop both 4GB kits into our system to find out if there is any advantage or disadvantage when it comes to 8GB of system memory.  I'm sure that there are not many people running 8GB of DDR2, but we will find out today if it's worth it or not. 

 

Pile of RAM
Pile of RAM
 

Super Talent 4GB Kit:

While we won't spend a lot of time describing and talking about each kit of RAM, we will list the specs and features of each kit so you know what you're getting should you decide to go out and buy a shiny new 4GB kit of memory.

 

The SuperTalent 4GB kit is possibly one of the cheapest 4GB kits of PC2-6400 on the market today.  This kit comes clocked in at 800MHz with 5-5-5-15 timings.  The beauty of this kit is that it runs at 1.8v and should boot with very little issues on most systems.  To properly use 4GB of memory, you will need to have a 64-bit operating system such as 64-bit Windows XP or Vista or one of the many flavors of 64-bit Linux.

 Super Talent 4GB DDR2-800
Super Talent 4GB DDR2-800
Super Talent 4GB DDR2-800
Super Talent 4GB DDR2-800
 Super Talent Heatspreader
Super Talent Heatspreader

 

Although I mentioned above that this kit runs at 1.8v, it's rated "Test Voltage" is actually 2.1v.  Your results may vary, but we had no issues running this RAM at 1.8v.

 

Module Features:

  • 2x 240-pin DDR2 DIMMs
  • Non-ECC, Unbuffered
  • 4GB kit (2x 256Mx64)
  • DDR2-800, 5-5-5-15 latencies
  • Dual rank
  • Chip Architecture: 2x 16 chips, 128Mx8
  • Cast aluminum high-efficiency (HE) heatspreader
  • SPD*: DDR2-800, 5-5-5-15 latencies
  • Made in USA
  • Super Talent Lifetime Warranty


SuperTalent Test Specs:

  • These modules are tested and guaranteed to operate at these specs.
  • DDR2-800 / PC2-6400
  • 5-5-5-15 Latencies (CAS, tRCD, tRP, tRAS)
  • Test Voltage: 2.1V
  • Tested on Asus P5WD2 or P5B Deluxe
  • Tested as a matched pair in a dual channel motherboard

 

On the next page we'll take a look at the Crucial and Patriot kits before we jump into some benchmarks.


Crucial 4GB Kit:

The 4GB Crucial kit is the most plain looking kit of the bunch.  When I requested this kit from Crucial, they stressed several times that this kit was not designed for hardcore enthusiast.  It is built for a person looking for a lot or reliable RAM.  I'm guessing that is because of the lack of heatspreaders.  The best thing about this kit is that it is fully rated and tested to run at 1.8v.  Throughout testing this kit was rock solid at 1.8v and we never had any issues with it at all.  It performed top-notch in terms of reliability, and stability.

 Crucial 4GB DDR2-800
Crucial 4GB DDR2-800
 Crucial 4GB DDR2-800 Labels
Crucial 4GB DDR2-800 Labels

 

Crucial has very little information posted about this particular kit, but we have a bit more info for you.

Memory Specs:

  • Module Size: 4GB kit (2GBx2)
  • Package: 240-pin DIMM
  • Feature: DDR2 PC2-6400
  • Specs: DDR2 PC2-6400
  • CL=5
  • Unbuffered
  • NON-ECC
  • DDR2-800
  • 1.8V
  • 256Meg x 64

 

Although this kit looks the most plain, it is the most expensive kit in the roundup.  We'll see if it performs like it's worth the money, or if you are just paying for the Crucial/Micron name.

 

Patriot 2GB DDR2-800:

To bring some balance to the force, we are also including a 2GB kit of DDR2-800 from Patriot in this review.  Although more and more people are moving to 4GB of DDR2 with Vista, many people won't be upgrading past 2GB for a while.  We thought that the Patriot 2GB kit would make an adequate example.

 

This kit from Patriot comes clocked in at DDR2-800 with timings of 5-5-5-12 at a fairly steep 2.2v.  There is some confusion with these modules as they are stated to be 5-5-5-12 modules on Patriot's site, but claim 4-4-4-12 timings on the package.  In fact, the SPD is programmed at 5-5-5-12 while the actually capability lies in the 4-4-4-12 timings instead.  Patriot does this so that they will post in virtually every system without first bumping up the voltage to the modules in order to boot.  During testing we ran these modules at 4-4-4-12, while we ran the 4GB kits at their rated speed of 5-5-5-15.  That should give the Patriot kit a little extra breathing room.

 Patriot 2GB DDR2-800
Patriot 2GB DDR2-800
 2GB Patriot DDR2-800 Label
2GB Patriot DDR2-800 Label

 

Patriot Memory Specs:

  • Extreme Bandwidth PC2-6400 (800MHz)
  • Eased Latency (5-5-5-12)
  • Bladed aluminum heat shields to improve module stability
  • 100% Tested and Verified
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • RoHS Compliant
  • EPP Ready

 

Now that we've got the memory specs out of the way we'll talk briefly about the road to 8GB and cover the test system.


The Road to 8GB:

One thing that I have learned in this review is that just because a motherboard claims that it supports "Up to 8GB of DDR2" doesn't mean that it will work very easily.  We had a fairly current BIOS on our MSI 975X Plantinum V2 board, but every time we tried to boot with more than 2GB of memory we'd get an nVidia Graphics Driver related error.  Booting would yield a BSOD and an error related to the following - nvlddmkm.sys.  I searched the web for a solution and discovered that many people that had this issue were using 4GB of DDR2.  I found an updated BIOS (that wasn't there when I initially received the memory) and flashed the BIOS to relieve my trouble.  After that, things when much more smoothly with either 4GB kit installed.

We ran benchmarks with both kits, as you'll see in a few moments, then proceeded to attempt an 8GB Vista OS by dropping both 4GB kits in at the same time.  The specs are fairly similar, and both kits rand solid at stock speeds, but when we tried running with 8GB installed we ran into another caveat.  Vista 64-bit now only identified 2GB of RAM!!

2GB Vista
2GB Vista

 

Although it appears to be somewhat unrelated, Windows identified all 8GB of memory when I enabled HPET support in the BIOS.  HPET has to do with Multimedia timers under Vista and seems to have more to do with the video subsystem - regardless, this resolved our issues and we were 8GB happy!
 

8GB Vista
8GB Vista

 

Although we had already overcome a few issues, there were more to be had when running 8GB of memory in our system.  To help understand our trouble populating all four DDR2 slots with their own 2GB stick of memory, we need to refer to some CPU-Z screenshots about the timings of each memory kit.

CPU-Z Crucial
CPU-Z Crucial
 CPU-Z SuperTalent
CPU-Z SuperTalent

 

If you take a look at both screenshots above, you'll notice that the Crucial 4GB kit of PC2-6400 comes with SPD timings set at 4-4-4-12 for DDR2-533 and 5-5-5-18 for DDR2-800.  The SuperTalent PC2-6400 kit is a different story.  While the label clearly states that the kit is a DDR2-800 kit, the memory is actually identified internally as a PC2-5300 or DDR2-667kit.  The SuperTalent kit has memory SPD profiles of 3-3-3-8 at DDR2-400, 4-4-4-11 at DDR2-533 and 5-5-5-13 at DDR2-667.  There are no SPD settings for DDR2-800.  That may post a problem when trying to run them together.

 

With all four sticks installed we set the timings at 5-5-5-15 in the BIOS and managed to boot into vista at DDR2-800 at 1.85v, but when we checked CPU-Z to verify our memory settings we discovered that we were running at 5-5-6-15.  No matter what we set the RAS Precharge time to in BIOS, it would always show up with a value of 6.  I guess we can't complain as I'm sure this is somewhat uncharted territory.

 CPU-Z Timings
CPU-Z Timings

 

Test Info:

Due to the lengthy time we've had this memory and have been waiting for BIOS updates, it's important to notice the test setup below.  We have ran all of these memory kits at their fastest possible speeds - except for the Patriot kit, which we ran at the same speed as the 4GB Super Talent kit for a direct 2GB - 4GB comparison.  When running 8GB of memory, we were not able to overclock a mere 5MHz with rock stability, so the 8GB benchmarks are in fact ran at completely stock speeds.  All the other information is posted below.

 


Test System Information
 

Processor:

Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 - MemoryExpress

Motherboard:

MSI 975X Platinum PowerUp! Ed. with BIOS

Graphics:

eVGA 8800GTX 768MB - MemoryExpress

Memory Setup #1:

2GB Patriot PC2-6400 "Eased Latency" DDR2-800 at 5-5-5-12 DDR2-813
CPU @ 9*271=2.44GHz

Memory Setup #2:

4GB Crucial PC2-6400 DDR2-800 at 5-5-5-12 DDR2-840
CPU @ 9*280=2.53GHz

Memory Setup #3:

4GB SuperTalent PC2-6400 DDR2-800 at 5-5-5-13 DDR2-813
CPU @ 9*271=2.44GHz

Memory Setup #4:

8GB consisting of both 4GB kits listed above at 5-5-6-15 DDR2-800
CPU @ 9*266=2.4GHz

Operating System:

Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit

Memory Usage on First Boot:

  • Setup #1 - 644MB = 31% Used
  • Setup #2 - 1.02GB = 25% Used
  • Setup #3 - 1.01GB = 25% Used
  • Setup #4 - 1.17GB = 14% Used

 

Naturally, we expect the fast CPU speed to increase performance, but we wanted to show what was possible with both 4GB and 8GB based systems.  Keep the CPU speed in mind as we carry on through this review.  Also keep in mind that both 4GB kits and the 8GB kit is at it's maximum stable clock speed.  These numbers show the maximum memory performance.

On the next page we'll jump into the benchmarks.


Synthetic Memory Benchmarks:

To start things off, we will use the popular Everest Ultimate and SiSoft Sandra benchmarks.  We used the latest versions of Everest Ultimate and SiSoft Sandra at the time of writing.  Everest Ultimate 4.0 and SiSoft Sandra XI SP2 were used.  No further introduction is necessary.

 


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 SiSoft Memory Benchmark
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Everest Scores the 8GB setup slower than any of the others, and the Crucial kit scores very well as it has the highest frequency.  The big surprise to me is how the SuperTalent 4GB kit compares to the Patriot kit running at the same speed.  The SuperTalent kit is toward the bottom of the pile - according to both Everest Ultimate and SiSoft Sandra.

 

Synthetic Game Tests:

We now move on to the popular 3DMark benchmarks from Futuremark.  Both of these benchmarks are run at default settings with the GPU at stock speeds.  As you can see below, the system scores very well thanks to a Quad-Core CPU and lots of memory.

 3DMark05
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3DMark06
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3DMark follows the same trend: the system with the fastest CPU clock wins the race.  In these tests, the 8GB system actually bests the 4GB SuperTalent setup in 3DMark05, but the winner is the non-enthusiast Crucial PC2-6400 4GB kit.


Real-World Gaming:

Many of today's games hog memory, and we wanted to see just how much of a hog some of the current titles really are and if more RAM makes these games run better.  To a point, more RAM is better but is 8GB too much?  We'll see.  Thanks to the good people over at FRAPS, I've been able to help test out a beta build of FRAPS for Vista and DX10.  Using this program has helped us get more accurate numbers as well as be able to record screenshots of DX10 titles.

 Call of Juarez
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 Company of Heroes
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 Lost Planet
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 Shadowrun
(Click for full-sized image)

 

I find it interesting that Lost Planet like the 2GB Patriot system running at the same speed as the 4GB SuperTalent system - at least in the Cave benchmark.  In the Snow level, they are tied, but are edged out slightly by the 8GB system.  Finally a win for 8GB!!!  The DirectX 10 Company of Heros is capped at 60FPS and the system scores just below that with an average framerate of 58+.  Call of Juarez is also too close to call.  In Shadowrun we see that the Crucial system performs best.  Once again, the faster CPU wins.

Carry on as we take on some applications with 8GB of DDR2-800!


Synthetic Applications:

First up we'll take a look at a couple of very popular CPU benchmarks and see if more memory has more of an impact on performance than does sheer CPU speed.  Please keep in mind that both the 2GB Patriot system and the 4GB SuperTalent system are clocked in at 2.44GHz, while the 8GB hybrid system is at stock 2.4GHz and the 4GB Crucial system is clocked in at 2.53GHz.  These are the fastest speeds at which each memory setup was stable and represent maximum performance possible from the memory.

 PMCore
PMCore
SuperPi
SuperPi

 

The Crucial system is faster in these tests as they are more CPU intensive that memory intensive.  Interestingly, the 8GB system managed to edge out the 4GB SuperTalent system in SuperPi.  The 2GB Patriot system showed very well here and give hope to those that don't want to spend their money on 4GB of memory when they build their Vista system.

 

Workstation Applications:

In this next section we'll cover the workstation related applications Cinebench and POV-RAY.  In real application, these programs are very system intensive and can demand huge CPU and memory resources.  Take a look and see how they stack up in our tests.

Cinebench
Cinebench
POV-Ray
POV-Ray

 

As expected the Crucial system edged out the other products due to the faster clock speed of that setup and the other kits jockeyed for third and fourth place.  Cinebench multithreaded shows better performance with 8GB that with a similar clocked 2GB and 4GB setup.  That is interesting and continues through POV-Ray.  In POV-Ray, the faster CPU takes the cake, but the 8GB setup beats out both slightly faster clocked 2GB and 4GB systems.


Media Applications:

We wrap up our suite of tests with a look at ConvertXtoDVD, DVDShrink and Photoshop CS2.  Both of these programs are widely used and quite popular.

 ConvertX to DVD
ConvertX to DVD
 DVD Shrink 3.2
DVD Shrink 3.2
PhotoShop CS2
PhotoShop CS2

 

All of the above benchmarks are timed, and lower is better.  ConvertX to DVD is directly tied to the CPU and uses quite a bit of memory.  It proves to be the fastest on the Crucial setup and slowest when running on the 8GB system.  DVDShrink never ceases to amaze me.  This little application has been around long before multi-core processors, yet it proves to be fantastic when running on a Quad Core system.  It completed a "Shrink" of Shanghai Noon to a tidy DVD-5 movie in a little over 3 and a half minutes on two of our systems.  In this case, RAM doesn't appear to help at all, and the 2GB Patriot system kept up with the 4GB Crucial system.  Both the SuperTalent and 8GB hybrid setup scored quite a bit slower.  Finally we check out PhotoShop CS2 using DriverHeaven's benchmark.  The 8GB system came in ahead of the SuperTalent setup but behind the 2GB Patriot system and the 4GB Crucial system.

It seems that 8GB is more than required and is in fact a hindrance as the system takes longer to address the extra memory.

 

Final Thoughts:

As we wrap up this article, I'm left feeling a little relieved to be honest.  We've all heard the horror stories about how much of a RAM pig Vista is, and our earlier look at RC2 showed that this was true.  The truth is, Vista has been refined a bit, and although it has a long way to go, it doesn't require 8GB of memory to get you there.  I'm sure that if you run lots of applications at the same time, you will certainly need 4GB of memory, but 8GB may be a long way off for all but the hardiest of power user.

Many gamers and enthusiasts will likely end up with a 4GB system as the prices of memory have dropped recently and make this very inviting, however 8GB would only be required if you are running tons of applications and at the same time trying to play BF2142 or some other bloated EA title.  The truth is, gamers don't usually bog down their gaming systems and often spend hours cleaning them up and making them as lean as possible.  In this situation 8GB would be serious overkill.

In time we'll see more applications require more memory, and as memory prices continue to fall developers will get sloppier and care less about optimizing performance.  Instead of fixing the software issue, we will all tend to through more hardware into the beast until it runs like Windows 2000.

As far as scoring the memory kits - they all score great.  Why?  Here's the deal.  Although the SuperTalent kit was the slowest 4GB kit, it was also the cheapest and can be found for a little over $200 online.  That's an amazing value for users that need a 4GB kit.  The Crucial kit is not designed for overclockers or enthusiast and even lacks heatspreaders - but it is fast and just plain rocks.  It comes with genuine Micron DDR2 chips and a lifetime warranty.  You can't really beat that.  Finally, the 2GB Patriot kit we used for reference is a good kit.  It has pretty lose timings, but we were able to tighten them up during some preliminary testing.  You'll be seeing more Patriot memory around here very soon.

RAM Envy

As far as combining both 4GB kits goes - having 8GB of memory in your system is just plain cool.  If you show up to a LAN with 8GB of memory, you'll be the envy of your friends, enemies and fellow clanners.  You could even create a virtual RAMdrive and launch your game from RAM.  Two second level loads here we come.

I'd like to thank all the companies that had part in this review.  Crucial is super as always, and SuperTalent has come through and was actually the first company to drop a 4GB kit our way.  MemoryExpress provided the Patriot memory, so big thanks to them as well.

If you have any questions, comments or general feedback regarding this 8GB article, please head on over and post them in the forum at the "Comments" link below.