DDR2 The Second Round :: Introduction

03-18-2005 · Category: Hardware - Memory

By John Chen

From the last DDR2 memory roundup, we have explained that DDR2 has both its ups and downs in terms of performance. The ability to carry twice the data than that of DDR is very beneficial, but the lack of low latencies is a big turnoff to both consumers and enthusiasts. Although Centon's offering of extreme low latencies was both a shocker and award winning, the benefits from having low latencies seem to be minimal. Contrary to what many of you might find in other DDR2 memory reviews, low latencies do provide increased performance, but the increase is not as much as we would have liked to see.

The gap between regular latencies and low latencies widens as memory frequencies increase and this can only happen through overclocking. With current Intel LGA775 processors having high multipliers, the overclocking headroom isn't going to be much. The majority of the enthusiasts out there are running their FSB at around the 250FSB-270FSB range, and with a divider of 3:4, that provides an estimate of 333MHz-360MHz of memory speed. This would typically yield a good difference between regular latencies of 4-4-4-10 and low latencies of 3-2-2-8, but depending on your tasks, the increase performance can actually be considered negligible. So does that mean that you shouldn't look for low latency DDR2 memory? Not at all. Enthusiasts and overclockers are always on the lookout for the fastest performance, and if a certain piece of hardware can get us that extra frame per second in the latest games, then it's considered worth buying.

When DDR2 was announced, the JEDEC approved latencies of PC2-5400 memory was 5-5-5-15. First thing that came to my mind was, why bother? Memory manufacturers quickly released so-called low latency DDR2 with timings of 4-4-4-10. Is that even good enough? It's certainly better than what JEDEC specifies. I believe that OCZ was the first to provide low latency DDR2 memory, and Centon quickly followed. Memory manufacturers quickly found that demand began to rise a bit since enthusiasts now have an option of using low latency DDR2. Without a doubt, they quickly jumped on the memory chips. What we have today is a small roundup of contenders that provide DDR2 memory and can actually allow low latency operations despite the rated speed and timings. Crucial attends with their new "bling bling" Tracer PC2-5300; OCZ brings what they started with their PC2-4200 Platinum Edition Rev2 Limited Edition; Corsair returns with their very popular Pro series and speeds of PC2-4300; and Wintec challenges the big boys with their PC2-5400.