by the stash, for the stash
Latest Reviews & Articles
Latest Topic Replies
For most hardware enthusiasts and computer gamers, DDR2 is an almost forgotten term - a relic of a bygone era. Yet, contrary to what most see as the standard, many people still rely on DDR2 product for their computers, servers, home theaters, and workstations. DDR2 is a staple of many popular, small form factor, motherboards, making it still very relevant and important. Unfortunately, many manufacturers have given up the ghost when it comes to producing DDR2 product. Thankfully, there is still a hearty used market for DDR2 product and many memory companies are still producing "budget" or "value" DDR2 products. Today, we are going to be taking a look at one such product - the Kingston 2GB DDR2 stick. Clocked at 800 MHz and available for an affordable price, it looks like a solid product. Let's see, however, how it stacks up against a popular old, second-hand DDR2 product from OCZ.
Specifications / Features:
• 800MHz DDR2
• SPD Programmed at 6-6-6-18 (CAS-TRCD-TRP-TRAS)
• Unbuffered Long DIMM
• Kingston Lifetime Warranty
• Rated Working Voltage at 1.8 volts
• 240 Pin DDR2 Memory Modules
Kingston's ValueRAM Info Site
$22.99 @ Amazon
Kingston decided to opt for the most painful plastic blister packaging known to mankind. Their packaging designer seems to be somewhat sadistic; they put the memory stick in absolute clear sight, without any logical way to extract said stick. Instead of doing the terrible job my x-acto knife and I performed to the front of the packaging, you'd like to think that it would be possible to use a scissor along the sides. Unfortunately, the plastic folds in too tightly for you to safely extract the memory via that sane method. I recommend you use a pair of strong, sturdy scissors and cut, with the scissor at the fulcrum, around the black memory holder - that should do the trick. And, in the future, I really hope that Kingston figures out how to package products using a scissor-free, plastic enclosure (see my Avexir review for an example of memory packaging done correctly).
The Kingston DDR2 Stick Itself:
The memory comes with Kingston's own in-house modules. And, unfortunately, I am not able to determine anything regarding the quality or die process of these particular modules - the serial numbers yield no useful information. Everything is well laid out on the circuit and all of the gold contacts arrived well coated; manufacturing wise, there seems to be nothing to complain about. Separate from the actual testing, I ran two different packs of these memory sticks under Memtest86+ and discovered no errors. Hopefully that means that most of these ValueRAM sticks are rather reliable. At first I was somewhat disappointed that Kingston did not include a heat spreader with these modules. Especially considering how ridiculously hot other sticks like the OCZ Gold and the Kingston HyperX DDR2 seem to get. But, it seems like however Kingston manufactured the ValueRAM, they can easily handle low voltage. They always stay relatively cool, even during overclocking, never getting too hot to touch. Which means these should work great in small home theater builds and RAM filled home servers. I suppose it might be the fact that, with slower timings, these don't secretly require 2.1~2.2 volts like other DDR2 products often do (especially OCZ memory), but instead only require the JEDEC specification of 1.8 volts.
For testing, I used the latest version of one of the newest benchmarking applications, AIDA64; the evolution of Everest. The testing rig is as follows and mimics what might be seen in an ultra-budget DDR2 build:
Processor: AMD Athlon II X2 250 @ 3.0 GHz
Motherboard: Biostar TA760G M2+
Video Card: nVidia 7600 GS (old, but mimics low-power discrete graphics)
To test, I compared the Kingston ValueRAM against one of the easiest to find, used DDR2 products out there on the docks of the electronic bay and on Craigslist - the OCZ Gold Edition OCZ2G8002G 2GB DDR2 PC2-6400 stick (information page here). It's more of an enthusiast item, with an "XTC" heat spreader and timings of 5-5-5-15 (CAS-TRCD-TRP-TRAS). But, considering you can easily find this item for around $25~30 locally, it seems like a logical comparison to make. Before we get into the performance indicators, I thought I'd briefly mention overclocking. I wouldn't particularly recommend overclocking these memory modules. I had no luck improving the latency timings, but I was able to easily increase the speed of the modules a little above 900 MHz by bumping the voltage up to 1.9 volts. So, if you're overclocking your processor, you shouldn't have too much difficulty gaining more headroom via the memory. The OCZ gold, however, proved to be much easier to overclock, but without adequate cooling, the high voltage caused issues in my silent server case - making stability versus performance versus sound levels a major balancing act. Now, onto the performance markers.
In terms of read and write bandwidth, the OCZ Gold and Kingston ValueRAM are roughly ~99.6% within the same performance level - the OCZ Gold just slightly edging out the Kingston memory in terms of read bandwidth. In terms of memory copy operations, however, the Kingston memory is the clear winner, with the two sticks being ~98.2% similar. I ran the benchmark multiple times to confirm, this must mean that Kingston isn't simple recycling old technology, but has improved upon and made their DDR2 product more efficient that we've seen in the past. Those copy cycles will come in handy for most users running memory intensive server applications.
A lot of fast computer games rely on memory latency to push extreme frame rates, so the slight edge that the OCZ memory has over the ValueRAM, in terms of stable timings, will definitely result in the OCZ having 1~2% more frames-per-second over the ValueRAM. Five or so frames per second might be important to a hardcore gamer, but for most users, the latency difference shouldn't be particularly relevant. Overall, however, the Kingston budget memory managed to keep up, considering the inferior timings, and the OCZ Gold originally being expensive enthusiast RAM.
If overclocking isn't a primary concern, and it shouldn't be for most current DDR2 users, then you'd be foolish to purchase a second-hand enthusiast DDR2 kit for 5~10 dollars more than Kingston's ValueRAM product. The read/write/copy performance is more than satisfactory and, considering the inferior timings, latency differences are particularly noticeable. Most importantly, for the end-user, Kingston's product stays incredibly cool, runs infinitely more stable than old, enthusiast DDR2, and needs minimal voltage to function. Not only that, but they also offer this item in a low-profile form factor and include a lifetime warranty, factors that make Kingston the definite choice for older memory products.
Runs cool; requires minimal voltage
Relatively inexpensive for DDR2; readily available
Impressive copy bandwidth
Packaging is atrocious
Doesn't overclock particularly well - especially in the timings department