Date: August 21, 2006
Author(s): Rob Williams
It was only a matter of time before a company would release speedy DDR2-1100 modules, and OCZ has officially become the first. As one would expect, with such speed also comes loose timings. 5-6-6… ouch! We will see if tightening of those timings is possible, and also see if we can push them beyond their 550MHz speeds.
If you are a memory manufacturer today, it’s more difficult than ever to stay ahead of the pack. In the past year, Corsair has made numerous announcements that seemed to blow everything else away, including both the PC2-8500 and PC2-6400C3 kits. Well, OCZ wants the top back, and plan to do so with their new PC2-8800 Gold series kit. Sure, it’s a higher number, but does that mean it’s faster? These modules are equipped with 5-6-6 timings, which are loose any way you look at it. Hopefully it will not adversely affect the overall performance though.
Lets take a quick look at the modules themselves, then we can get into the nitty gritty.
When you purchase a kit from OCZ, you already know what you will receive. All of their modules come in a clean, clear plastic blister pack, with orange cardboard backing. OCZ produces some of my favorite blister packs though, because they have notches at the top to make sure the pack doesn’t open by accident. But on the other side of the coin, they are very easy to tear open and get your grubby hands on.
Since these are from the Gold series, they are equipped with Gold XTC headspreaders. It’s rather difficult to capture how great the spreaders look on camera. They have a glossy touch to them, and paired with a camera flash, you get a poor picture. If you don’t use flash, it still doesn’t help things. The picture over on the official page for this memory does a good job of accurately representing what they really look like.
The only sticker on the modules include the model number, rated frequency, timings and density. Once extra piece of information that would prove useful is the voltage information, but it’s not found here. OCZ, are you listening? :-)
Overall, these are some great looking modules. If you’ve seen anything from their XTC line in the past, you know exactly what to expect here.
At the time of this review, there is one important piece of information I am not aware of… the price. You may think, “Oh, 8800 eh? $600!” That won’t be the case at all, because these are thrown into the Gold mix for a reason. Gold series are designed specifically for gamers who want extreme speed and reliability. They are not designed for overclocking however. Out of the 5 or 6 OCZ Gold kits I have used in the past, only 2 overclocked decently.
That being said, if I were to throw a ballpark figure out there, I would assume these modules would retail for around $350. Anymore than that, it would have made more sense to throw them in the Platinum line.
For such high speed, you are probably curious as to the chips used. They are none other than Micron D9GMH, as you probably already guessed ;-)
These chips are popular lately. They seem to be following straight in the footsteps of the old school D9 fatbodies for their extreme tweaking ability and the extent to which they can be overclocked. So… overclocking chips in a ‘non-overclocking’ kit? Strange as it may be, these chips may have had to be used in order to reach the speeds in the first place. While Elpida, Mosel and Infineon can hit high frequencies, they tend to have serious stability issues in various motherboards, and require a lot of tweaking by the user to get them functioning properly.
Since we are dealing with GMH here, we will likely have a lot of overclocking headroom. I don’t necessarily mean to push these past their 550MHz stock speeds, but tightening of timings. I was fairly confident that these should do 5-5-5 at 1100 speeds, but there was only one way to find out!
I found out quite quickly that these modules are rather picky when it comes to a CAS Latency of 4, meaning pushing the modules as far as they can go while retaining that rating. While DDR2-800 used CAS4 no problem, DDR2-900 was a different story. At those speeds, MemTest proved stable in addition to other benchmarks, but Super Pi would halt almost immediately. If you are planning to run these at 400MHz, you will have no problem, but anything else with CAS4 will be short lived.
Technically, the furthest I can push memory on this CPU is 570MHz, because my 4600+ is unstable on anything beyond 2.85GHz. Sadly, I wasn’t even able to hit that with these modules. Being GMH that they are, I expected to. I guess if GMH were to be fussy, it would have to be on value modules.
When it’s all said and done, I am pleased that the timings were capable of being tightened at stock frequencies. Here are a few screens showing the stability, and the rated speeds. The third picture is a 32 Million Super Pi run at the max overclock.
Onward to some benchmarking!
Throughout all of our benchmarks regardless of what we are reviewing, testing is done in a clean and stand-alone version of Windows XP Professional with SP2. Prior to testing, these conditions are met:
If you are interested in using the same benchmarks as us, feel free to visit the developers website:
The testing rig used for today’s benchmarking is as follows:
The kit I chose to compare the PC2-8800 to is the OCZ VX2 PC2-8000. This kit is the top of the OCZ line, but uses similar chips to the ones we are looking at today. Although the VX2 has far more pushing power than the PC2-8800, we will be using the same settings on both kits.
There is definitely no winner here… they both have the same performance. This is a good thing. At stock speeds, our scores were over 10K in Sandra… not too shabby! Max overclock was just shy of the elusive (on my machine at least) 11K.
When benchmarking memory using Sandra, we use special settings for our unbuffered, which you can view here. Various options are turned off in order to minimize the CPU’s impact on the final score.
I can’t explain why the VX2 lagged at the beginning, but it caught back up quickly. In the end, the VX2 inched it’s way past the Gold, but the gain is minor.
It’s almost scary to see how close the two sets of results are here. Everest seems to have far closer results when comparing two new identical sets of memory, than SANDRA does. No clue why, but it gives a reassuring sense of accuracy. We didn’t manage to come close to 10K, thanks to my wimpy CPU, however the results for the given speeds is great. Simply tightening the timings off of stock gained us over 200MB/s here.
Some great results here! Didn’t break through 40ns, but we came extremely close. The Gold beat out the VX2 here at the max OC by 0.6ns… not bad!
PC Mark and 3D Mark are good quick tests to see how an overclock scales, but I put most of my faith into Sciencemark here. Compared to our Everest results, the scores seen here come quite close to each other. Even the top VX2 overclock here exhibited 9300MB/s in both Everest and Sciencemark.
Another oddity crawled up here though. The VX2 beat out the Gold in PC Mark in every test… especially the stock setting. It could be that using CAS4 at those speeds on the Gold held back the score a bit, but it didn’t do it in our previous benchmarks. With each new memory review I write… PC Mark tends to confuse me more and more.
The Gold PC2-8800 beat VX2 in the first round, but failed in the rest. Note the 0 as the second result for the Gold… this is due to the test not running at all because of the issues with CL4 as mentioned in our overclocking report.
When it comes down to it, there are a few things I love about this memory, and things that I don’t. First, this is some great memory if you don’t plan on doing any overclocking or tweaking. It delivers blazing fast 550MHz speeds out of the box, and reliably so. Though the stock timings are a little high, we found that 5-5-4-5-12 with 2.3v worked flawlessly. That minor tweak increased our Everest scores by 200MB/s… not bad for something so simple.
The downside is that the memory is very fussy when it comes to CAS4. At DDR2-800 speeds, I didn’t find any instability whatsoever, but moving towards DDR2-900, problems became evident. I found this quite odd from D9GMH, since all previous modules using these chips I have used, have done 4-4-3 @ 500MHz without an issue. Not only was CL4 a little problematic, but trying to run 1T timings at DDR2-800 speeds was also a little iffy… at first. For that setting, I had to increase the voltage to 2.0v, while other modules on hand do it with 1.8v or 1.9v. Not a big deal really, but this adds to the fact that this is fussy memory.
Another downside as mentioned earlier, is that I am currently unaware of the pricing. I strongly believe that these will retail between $350 – $375, but please don’t quote me on this. Being in the Gold series as they are, I simply cannot see them costing anymore than this.
Is that price even worth it? Yes and no. It’s a yes if you plan on purchasing these modules and -don’t- plan on overclocking. Even if you do purchase them though, I highly recommend at least using 5-5-5 timings… to make things a bit better. Not too many companies out there will guarantee extreme stability at these speeds, so if you want the fastest memory out there that’s covered by a warranty, you won’t regret a purchase.
However, these modules are quite picky when it comes to tweaking… primarily with CAS and possibly 1T at low frequencies. I was also unable to push them past 560MHz with any sort of reliability, so it’s impossible to recommend these for anybody who wants a lot of tweaking headroom. If you are looking for an OCZ kit that will offer you a lot of flexibility, I recommend checking out the 7200 EPP we reviewed last week. It retails for just under $300, and as we found out, it can be pushed quite far.
Kudos to OCZ for trying to push the boundaries here. They are officially the first to release a DDR2-1100 part, and hopefully have a huge slew of firsts lined up for the future. I only wish these had a bit more tweaking ability. As it stands, I am awarding the Gold PC2-8800 an 8 out of 10. If you want great speeds and extreme reliability, these will be worth your time. If you are an overclocker and love tweaking to your hearts content, be sure to check out our review of the Platinum PC2-7200 EPP.
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