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Super Talent 4GB PC2-6400

Date: May 4, 2007
Author(s): Rob Williams

Although Super Talent is still growing in popularity, they know how to put together a solid kit of ram. Today we will be taking a look at their latest “Performance” 4GB PC2-6400 kit with timings of 5-5-5.



Introduction


No more than two years ago, having 1GB installed in your gaming rig was plenty. The thought of having 2GB, at the time, was something that would make enthusiasts float in a state of euphoria. All that available memory was a glorious thing. It wasn’t until late 2005 that the need for 2GB was really starting to be seen, with titles such as FEAR and Quake IV. Fact is, if you want to play the latest games at high resolutions, you will want to throw in a healthy supply of RAM.

This is not to say that gamers are the only ones who would benefit from more ram though, as multi-taskers are the ones who would quicker see the benefits. Imagine re-encoding an HD video while playing the latest game at a high-resolution. 2GB might lag, while 4GB will help things run smooth as butter. Adding more CPU cores to your rig helps, but it won’t speed processes up if they are choking on the lack of ram installed.

Do you need 4GB of ram? That’s a question you should already know. If you are using your computer and it lags often while multi-tasking, having 4GB might be a wise idea. It all depends on what you are doing and where the bottlenecks are. As it stands right now, Vista users will be the ones to see the greatest gains from moving to 4GB of ram. Vista is a power hungry OS that loves to eat memory, so adding large processes on top of the OS itself, it will cry for even more. At this point in time, even the largest games on the market at the highest resolutions won’t require 4GB of ram, but things may be different by the end of the year.

Reasons for more memory aside, this is our first review for a 4GB kit. It will certainly not be our last though, as we are undoubtedly moving towards 4GB as a norm. That time will be here before we know it…

Closer Look

When Super Talent released their first performance kit early last year, they used a standard clamshell packaging which wasn’t too appealing to those pondering a purchase. Shortly afterwards, they moved up to this blister pack type packaging, which is certainly memory market-standard. It keeps the modules secure during shipment and that’s all that matters.

The heatspreaders leave a bit to be desired though. To me it looks like a spreader doused with a bunch of candy sprinkles and then painted over. Once again though, they do their job. I am unsure how this method would compare to others, but it’s better than some I’ve come across.

The sticker pasted on each module gives all of the information any user should need. I actually wish more companies would take after Super Talent, because most don’t include timings at all, much less the tRAS value. The only thing better would be to include the required voltages as well.

Overall I can’t say I dislike the presentation of the modules or the modules themselves. What I do care about is overclocking, which we will discuss on the next page.



Overclocking and Testing Methodology, Sandra

Before we jump into overclocking, we need to touch on a few points regarding 4GB of RAM in general. Regardless of your OS choice, if you wish to use 4GB of ram you will need to be running a 64-Bit system. If you are unsure if you are running 64-Bit or not, you can check the control panel of your system. Linux users can type in uname -a which would likely denote the fact there. I plan to touch on the reasons more deeply in the future, but as it stands, 32-Bit systems cannot usually properly allocate all 4GB of RAM.

Attempting to install 4GB of RAM will result in only 3GB of that being used. In the event you can use 4GB on a 32-Bit system there is another limitation… that each application can only use up to 3GB of ram. 64-Bit systems break this limit, as I’ve had 3DS Max use upwards of 7GB of ram at a given time. So, if you want to run a 4GB kit, you will need a 64-Bit OS.

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. The more popular kits are similar to the one we are looking at today. 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. Although pricey, their PC2-6400 kit utilizes the insanely tight timings of 4-3-3-10.

So where am I going with this? 4GB kits can indeed offer performance, not just density. Although most are not amazing overclockers as we see with 2GB kits, most will push out a little extra power. Sadly, this kit offered no such thing. In fact, it’s overclocking ability was close to nil, with extra voltage offering no help to the cause. My maximum overclock was 415MHz 5-5-5, which I don’t consider to be an overclock at all, so I excluded it. Even at that point, I am doubtful the modules would last that long, although it did pass 500%+ in MemTest for Windows. Here are the settings I did benchmark with:

The CAS was virtually stuck at 5. More voltage didn’t help a thing. When I did indeed attempt a shot at CL 4, the computer beeped at me on the reboot and forced me to change the settings before moving on. I tested CL 4 at voltages ranging from 2.0v – 2.5v. Needless to say, the overclocking potential of these modules is indeed non-existent.

Testing Methodology

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:

Because of the lackluster overclocking results, we will mainly be comparing each setting to one another.

Sandra XI

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.

Not much of a surprise, but 1T helped bandwidth just a wee bit, while using tRCD and tRP of 4 hurt it. Odd, but not uncommon.



Everest, Super Pi, Sciencemark

Next on the list is Everest 3.5, with it’s read/write and latency tests. We broke through the 8K mark in our read tests and burst through 5,500 in our write. These benchmarks are heavily CPU bound as well though, so the higher your CPU frequency, the better effects your memory overclocks will have.

Once again, 1T helped out here, though the Write is virtually locked with the FSB speed.

These modules can’t brag about their spectacular latencies, but at the stock setting, it’s on par with 2GB kits.

Super Pi

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.

Sciencemark

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.

With those out of the way, let’s compare this 4GB kits performance to other kits we’ve reviewed in the past.



RAM Comparisons, Final Thoughts

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:

Given the fact that this kit didn’t overclock and has low stock speeds to begin with, we can basically already garner where it will rank on the graph. Since the Super Talent kit could not hit the 500MHz minimum for our Everest Latency and Super Pi charts, the stock setting was used instead.

Final Thoughts

Since this is the first 4GB kit I’ve reviewed, it’s almost difficult to give a final thought. This is primarily thanks to the fact that I have not used other comparable 4GB kits, so I am unable to compare it’s performance on that regard, in addition to overclocking ability. The fact is, if you want a performance 2x2GB kit, you will need to pay upwards of $500 for Mushkins PC2-6400 which has been known to overclock to PC2-8500 speeds.

To gather a better idea of how to rate these modules, I headed over to a popular e-tailer to take a look at what they are offering in the 4GB arena. At the time of writing, this particular Super Talent kit retails for $329 which isn’t too bad, all things considered. Just two weeks ago the same kit was $379, so prices are rapidly dropping.

Because of the total lack of overclocking ability though, you can pick up an equivalent kit for less money. Mushkin for example offers a similar speced kit for $10 less, while both GeIL and G. Skill offer ones for $35 less. At that point, it’s difficult to recommend Super Talents kit because those others offer the same performance, for less. Of course, prices are not set by Super Talent themselves, but rather the e-tailer. Therefore, if you do some shopping around you may very well be able to score this kit for less than $329.

That said, I am awarding the Super Talent 6400 4GB kit a 7/10. If you are in the market for 4GB of ram and find a good deal on these modules, you can’t go wrong. Just don’t expect extreme performance as the package suggests.

I believe these modules would have fared better if Super Talents chip selection was different. I am unsure what these modules use, but I have a feeling they are not Micron, but rather Hynix or some other brand that rarely overclocks well. Although those chips are cheaper, they have no real reason to please enthusiasts. I am hoping to see ST release more 4GB kits in the future, but to choose their chips more wisely if it’s going to be called a performance part.

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Addendum

This review was originally posted with a rating of 7/10, but after deeper consideration I have changed it to an 8/10. Normally we don’t do this after a review is posted, but I realized I was unfair in my overall judgement (which could have been the result of finishing it up at 3:00AM). These modules well earn an 8/10, good overclocking ability or not. Even pairing up 4 1GB modules together for the same speed would likely cost you more than these, but these modules here at least allow you to keep your 1T timing. Thanks to a few of our readers for bringing these points to my attention.

I have also added a piece on page two about the requirements for using 4GB of ram.


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