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DDR RAM Round-up

Not yet ready for DDR 2? Then make the most of the original

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TrustedReviews.comGroup Review It may at first seem a little odd that with DDR 2 on the verge of a consolidated mainstream push, some manufacturers are still making a significant play for regular 'old' DDR users, but perhaps on closer inspection it's not as odd as it seems. DDR 2 is the future, of that there's little doubt, but for the time being at least the DDR market remains a large and potentially lucrative one. Contrary to allegations that anyone releasing enthusiast memory today is simply mopping up the dregs of a dying technology, I personally believe DDR's course has not yet run and that it will be with us for quite some time yet, even if only as a budget solution for the more cost-conscious user, writes Wayne Brooker.

Here we pitch DDR products from Crucial, GeIL and Buffalo, three companies known and respected for their solid, mainstream products but with only one having made any worthwhile inroads into the enthusiast sector up until now, that being GeIL.

With the enthusiast end of the memory market fairly crowded at the moment, let's see if any of these new products have what it takes to get noticed.

Buffalo Firestix FSX5000V PC4000

Buffalo did rather well in our last roundup - its PC4300 CL2.5 modules proved to be a very accomplished all round product despite the rather plain looks. For this reason I was quite pleased to hear that the company had released an enthusiast range of high-end memory called Firestix and was quite looking forward to running them through our test rig.

Firestix come in plastic semi-rigid blister style packaging a la Corsair. They are decked out with flame red aluminium heat spreaders, which feature the Buffalo and Firestix logos along with the part number, module type and CL rating on a separate sticker.

Thermal tape is used between the memory chips and heat spreader and spring retaining clips are used for added security.

Rated to run at 250MHz with 3-8-4-4 timings at 2.6-2.8v, I'm told that Firestix rely on Hynix B memory chips which are fairly common in similarly specified modules.

SPD data wasn't read accurately in our test system and was set to 2.5-7-3-3. At 200MHz, performance proved to be off the pace slightly, as can be expected from these timings. It could be argued that I should have forced even better timings than these at such a low frequency but it must be remembered that we're not basing these memory roundups on enthusiast users. A mainstream user is unlikely to manually adjust memory timings so unless I see an obvious mismatch all testing is done using the pre-programmed SPD settings.

Overclocking using the SPD settings got me to a mere 220MHz which was rather a disappointment. Even 3-4-4-8 only just got me past the rated 250MHz to 258MHz, which was again rather a letdown - this is actually lower than the limit reached last time around with Buffalo's mainstream PC3200 and PC4300 parts. Naturally I tried a range of voltages but nothing above 2.8v improved the situation and lowering it only made matters worse.

Of course no two memory chips are alike and I may have just landed myself a poor sample, something I'll definitely investigate if I can obtain a fresh pair of modules to test. That said, performance isn't a long way off what Hynix B equipped memory modules seem to be delivering at present, but it is usually a touch better than this. It could also be a poorly designed PCB but that would be speculation at this stage.

Manufacturer Buffalo
Price £99.99 (inc. VAT) for 512MB module
Price per Meg 19.5p
Rating 70%

Test System Specifications
ABIT AI7 i865PE motherboard - ATi Radeon X800 Pro graphics - Intel Pentium4 2.4c processor

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