Date: July 23, 2007
Author(s): Rob Williams
Like a fine wine, installing 4GB of RAM requires an acquired taste. Not everyone likes wine, and not everyone needs 4GB of RAM. However, with Vista and the future looking to change that, many are considering a move on up. Today we are taking a look at a kit that’s not only priced right, but has some overclocking headroom as well.
So, you’ve decided the time has come for a 4GB upgrade and you have no idea where to look. Well, we’ve taken a look at two 4GB kits in the past already, each a stark contrast to the other. Super Talent’s PC2-6400 kit didn’t overclock at -all-, but had decent performance as you’d expect for the given frequency. Then we had Mushkin’s XP2-8500 kit, which is the fastest 2x2GB kit on the market. It sells for $700 though, so it’s overall draw is quite limited.
How about a kit that falls somewhere in the middle? OCZ wasn’t as quick as others with a 4GB kit, which is due to the fact that they wanted to make sure they released a kit that had good overclocking ability and impressed their customers. Have they done it with their PC2-6400 Platinum? We will soon find out.
What’s a “good” price for a 4GB kit nowadays? Just a few months ago, you’d expect to pay no less than $400, but times have changed, for the better. You can now get a good kit for just under $300, which is where this kit falls at. It currently retails for $279.99 at one popular e-tailer, which falls right below the rest of the competition. There are few kits that have a lower price, but their overclocking ability is likely to be lacking, thanks to the fact that OCZ takes the time to make sure their Platinum series excels in that regard.
The other downsides of the others are their timings. OCZ’s kit delivers 5-4-4-15, while most others offer 5-5-5-15. I’ll be frank, there is going to be such a small performance difference with a tRCD and tRP of 4.
At it stands though, OCZ’s kit, when compared to the other 4GB PC2-6400 kits available, is priced right. Even without testing the kit, I could recommend the kit, simply because of it’s price. Many who purchase 4GB kits are not planning to overclock, so it’s a great kit irregardless of that fact. Most other kits cost far more, including the $359US Corsair 6400C5DHX and $358 Kingston HyperX. The only kit to have better timings is Mushkin’s XP2-6400 and it’s CL4. That kit retails for $493, though.
Before moving on to testing, let’s take a quick look at the modules themselves. Typical of all Platinum series, these modules are clothed with a glossy platinum finish, using the XTC heatspreader. These heatspreaders have done well for OCZ, and they don’t plan on changing things up anytime soon. Their DDR3 modules use the same heatspreaders, although there is a small “3” beside the Z to denote the fact that it’s DDR3.
I mentioned, this kit has timings of 5-4-4-15 at 2.1v.
Like all OCZ modules, this kit has a lifetime warranty, which is effective up to 2.2v. As we will find out on the next page though, you are very unlikely to go even that high.
Before we go further, I’d like to clear up some concerns regarding 4GB+ of RAM. The first thing to take into consideration is that you will need a 64-Bit OS, whether it be XP x64 Pro, XP Vista 64-Bit or some 64-Bit Linux distribution. Simply put, 32-Bit operating systems cannot properly allocate all 4GB of ram. Even with 4GB installed, you will likely only see 3GB. Some lucky folks have been able to run in PAE mode to get closer to 4GB, but the OS will never address all of it.
That said, you really have no choice but to get a 64-Bit OS unless you want to waste cash. If you don’t want to upgrade to a 64-Bit OS, you could stick to a 3x1GB setup on your 32-Bit rig, which would still be better than 2GB if you are a big multi-tasker.
64-Bit opens up a new world as far as allocation to a given application as well. In WinXP, no more than 3GB can be allocated to an application at a given time, but on a 64-Bit OS, there is no such limit (that I have seen). I have had 3DS Max use close to 7GB in the past.
Overclocking modules of a high-density always proves an interesting experience. The lower the density, the better the overclock should be, although the performance at the same specs as a larger module decreases thanks to the lack of that density. 512MB sticks sometimes clock better than most 1GB modules and the same applies with 2GB modules as we see today.
Browsing through any e-tailer at their 4GB kits gives off the idea that performance and 4GB just don’t go hand in hand. Although PC2-6400 is market standard now, it’s not “performance” by most enthusiast standards. Especially with 5-5-5 timings. In fact, the only company to -really- throw 4GB performance kits into the mix has been Mushkin, but they are very expensive offerings.
All of that said, overclocking these modules didn’t prove that exciting, but I pushed them a little further than I expected:
You might notice some similarities there. First, all the overclocks use identical timings, and an identical vdimm. Extra voltage had virtually no effect here, though your experience might prove different. Since I was just about to touch DDR2-1000 speeds, I tried voltages from 2.2v up to 2.5v, and not one setting helped that become stable. I even loosened the timings to 5-5-5-18, which didn’t help a thing.
So in my experience, you will not need to bump up the voltage beyond stock at all, even though the EVP is 2.2v. We didn’t have a superb overclock here, but given the price and the fact that it overclocks at all, it’s a sharp looking kit.
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:
The testing rig used for today’s benchmarking is as follows:
Sandra is always the first benchmark to come to mind when we need to do memory benchmarking. Or CPU benchmarking. Or storage benchmarking. You get the idea. It’s a superb all-around tool that we rely on quite often.
Next on the list is Everest 3.5, with it’s read/write and latency tests. These benchmarks are heavily CPU bound as well though, so the higher your CPU frequency, the better effects your memory overclocks will have.
This is not a memory benchmark per se, but rather one that stresses a single core of your CPU to it’s full potential. Because it crunches such an insane amount of digits, tighter timings and faster memory generally offers better results. We choose to run with an 8 million test, as anything lower flies by too fast on a Core 2 Duo and it’s hard to generally see the differences that way.
Though it’s no longer in development, Sciencemark is a tool I still like to keep in my chest… err thumb drive. It gives results far more in-depth than other benchmarking programs out there, although you’d have to be an engineer to care for -all- the information it delivers. It generates a bandwidth result just like Everest and Sandra does, and is effected by higher CPU clocks.
Here, we compare our overclocks of the memory being reviewed alongside other recently evaluated sticks. These graphs include benchmarks with each kit of ram at DDR2-1000 4-4-4-12-13 2.1v along with each kits own top overclock. While the DDR2-1000 results should not vary much, the top end overclocks will, given that each kit will top out differently.
For reference, here are the top overclocks for each kit of ram included:
(Kits that could not reach DDR2-1066 speeds used a stock CPU frequency)
Entering the 4GB realm has never been easier, thanks to the lower prices. This particular kit retails for $279.99 as mentioned, and I consider that a great buy. If I were to personally run out and pick up a 4GB kit today, this would be it. Why? It offers better timings then the competition that is more expensive, has some overclocking-ability and also has a lifetime warranty.
As we found out through our tests though, stock speeds are likely to be better than overclocked settings, unless you happen to find a better sweet spot than I did. At stock speeds, these modules can handle 1T timings, while anything higher requires 2T. What this does essentially is add latency and decreases the overall performance. In order to offset moving to 2T, an overclock of DDR2-1000 and higher would be required, which I was unable to hit.
Also, CL 4 is simply not possible on these modules. I strengthened the voltage all the way up to 2.5v and even then, the computer would simply not POST. Again, you might have better luck there, but I highly doubt it unless you want to lower the DDR2 frequency.
In the end, I recommend these modules to anyone who wants to upgrade to 4GB of ram, and don’t care to have extreme overclocking ability and who don’t want to spend upwards of $500 for another kit that supports CL4. If you do want to go the CL4 route, you could go with a 4x1GB combination, but that will wipe out the 1T possibilities. Both configurations cost roughly the same, however. It’s hard to go wrong with OCZ’s Platinum PC2-6400 so I am awarding it an 8 out of 10 and our Editors Choice award.
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