If money were no object in buying a new computer system, enthusiasts would almost always choose the fastest memory with the best timings and the largest overclocking potential. The reality for most, however, is that a new system purchase or upgrade is most often a question of where to put your money for the greatest performance return. To make those kinds of decisions on a system purchase, you really need to know the real difference in performance between buying the best and buying something half the price, and possibly putting the money saved elsewhere for a larger performance gain.

These questions of the real impact of memory speed and timings on performance are things that we have talked about in many memory reviews. AnandTech has always been an advocate of real world performance measurements, and we've shunned using just synthetic benchmarks in our testing of every type of component. This is not because synthetic benchmarks are not useful - they are often very revealing of component differences. It is because running just synthetic benchmarks can severely distort the picture of performance with real applications and real games. That is why we always use games and the pure number-crunching Super Pi in our memory tests. It is also the reason why we test using both Buffered (Standard) and Unbuffered synthetic benchmarks. We have found in much of our testing that the less commonly used Unbuffered benchmarks more closely mirror how games really respond to memory differences.

This quest for real performance differences is also the reason why we moved to testing different memory speeds at the same CPU clock speed in our Athlon 64 memory tests. The AMD CPU, with unlocked multipliers, allowed us to finally remove the CPU speed differences from our memory tests so that you could finally see the true impact of memory speed increases and memory timings on performance. As you have seen in past reviews, those performance differences are very real, although they are much smaller than many memory manufacturers might want you to believe. On the other hand, faster memory speeds and faster memory timings do improve performance, no matter what some nay-sayers are determined to prove.

Let's state, right up front, that if you're on a tight budget, memory is often a good place to save a little money by buying less than the best and moving that cash to a better CPU or a better video card. You are likely to get a bigger performance boost with the extra $150 that you save on memory by buying a faster CPU or an upgraded video card. But don't be misled. The upgrade to the next higher CPU would normally increase performance maybe 5 to 10% - about the same as the difference in performance between cheap, slow memory and fast memory with tight timings. Video cards usually yield more than a 10% boost for that same $150.

If you do need to balance and buy less than the best in memory, the need for help is even greater than if you can afford whatever you want. Some Value RAM is pretty basic and slow, and some is just about as good as the best and most expensive that you can buy. For that reason, it was well beyond time for our first Value RAM roundup. There are some disappointments and a few very pleasant surprises. We think that you will be surprised by how much performance there is in some cases, and how little in others, when you're shopping for Value RAM.

The Memories
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  • 2cpuminimum - Wednesday, June 01, 2005 - link

    I have to agree that a value ram analysis would be more useful if it checked stability of less well known brands, such as memory pro. Also it would be useful to review sodimm ram 512MB modules, as many budget laptops come with scanty ram and it is usually cheaper to add it aftermarket than buy more from the manufacturer. Reply
  • Pjotr - Wednesday, May 04, 2005 - link

    Oh, I forgot, the package does say it has EVP! Reply
  • Pjotr - Wednesday, May 04, 2005 - link

    "If you are interested in the OCZ Value VX, note the differences in the two part numbers, one with a "W" and one without.
    Value VX = OCZ4001024WV3DC-K
    2.5-3-3-7 (picture) Supports EVP (Extended Voltage Protection)

    Value = OCZ4001024V3DC-K
    3-4-4-8 Does not Support EVP"

    I bought the OCZ Value 2x512 RAM with 3-4-4-8 timings for $115 at Fry's, so basically I got fooled at that price?

    I have this setup: DFI nF4 SLI-D, X800XL, Winchester 3000+.

    I've tried this RAM and it won't run at CAS2 at all, I think, I need to do some more work. I've tried 3.0 to 3.2 V in general. I do get it to run 2.5-3-3-8 up to about 240 MHz, from there I need to relax to 2.5-4-3-8 and I then hit 250 quite stable, 255 SuperPI stable but not 3DMark stable.

    I'm a bit disappointed now... any hints? Shouldn't I be able to get better timings at 240-250 MHz too? The memory chips are marked OCZ, not blank. Don't know exact markings right now.
    Reply
  • Baldeagle76 - Friday, April 29, 2005 - link

    Edit I am an idiot and don't know how to read page 2. Thanks for a good article. Do compliments from idiots count ? As far as the voltages go I was happy to see what it "could" handle if this is not anything that I would ever do in my motherboard, the curiousity inside me found this interesting. I thank you for pushing the ram to the limit because in the long run I think the ram that tolerates that type of voltage would have an advantage in OC'ing. I was very curious about the posts earlier saying that you can keep your Ram at ddr400 (effective) and increase your FSB and have no asynchronous lag. This probably isn't the place for that discussion but I nonetheless was very interested in this information. Maybe a review of that is in order for the next Ram test if you have the time ?
    Reply
  • Baldeagle76 - Friday, April 29, 2005 - link

    I have a question. After reading this article I went to NEW EGG to look up the current prices of RAM. Specifically I was looking for the prices on the Value VX ram. Sadly, I did not find anything that fit this description. I don't know if it because I don't know what I am looking for. In None of the titles of the RAM did they mention Value VX. Value was mentioned but how do I know if it is the VX or not? Also looked for the OCZ value BH5 and again I am not sure if I don't know what to look for or if they are out of stock because I didn't see any. It might be helpful for consumers making purchases based off of the articles on Anandtech to include the manufacturer part number so we know whether or not we are getting the same thing reviewed or not. Maybe you could help me out with this because I was looking at getting some of this 512x2 for a second machine i am building but would definetly want the stuff reviewed and not stuff I don't know how good it is. Just including the manufacturer part number would be very helpful in this regard, especially for ram.
    Reply
  • Baldeagle76 - Friday, April 29, 2005 - link

    Reply
  • alexXx - Tuesday, April 19, 2005 - link

    wow, honestly now. For a reputable website, why is it that the level of english used in this article could be bested by a 4th grader.
    YOU CANNOT pluralize 'memory' If you want to refer to more than one you use 'pieces of memory' or 'memory sticks'. Also when you say 'the memories' you can bloody just say 'the memory'. It is not a hard concept. Would you see this in a newspaper? NO. Same should go for online articles.
    Reply
  • wakeboarder3 - Tuesday, April 19, 2005 - link

    I just got some of this ram, 2 gigs after reading the review "0CZ4001024WV3DC-K" And all I can say is WOW!!!!! 2-2-2-11 @2.9 220 X 11 on my 2500m/ABIT
    And for $115 a gig. Runs better then my old bh-5
    Reply
  • CanadianDoc - Monday, April 18, 2005 - link

    #93 As Wesley said in the opening paragraph, the PURPOSE of this RAM review is to help the reader find the combination of components yielding the best overall "system performance" for the money.

    That's the Big Picture that you need to keep in mind.

    In that context, the combination of Crucial Ballistix RAM, a DFI nF4 mobo, and a Venice 3200+ CPU at 10 x 280 MHz is a very attractive one, in terms of system speed versus cost.

    Of course, "system performance" can include other things than just speed, such as fault tolerance, noise, heat, portability, availability, etc.

    I happen to value low noise as well as high speed, which is why I suggested the other components, too. I simply hope that my comments give other readers a few ideas of their own.

    And that's the point of these forums, isn't it?
    Reply
  • JoKeRr - Sunday, April 17, 2005 - link

    #92 this is a ram review.

    wesley: it's interesting to see that the new BH-5, tccd, Micron rev.g, and UTT chip, at 2-2-2-5 timing ddr400, they never reached over 3k on sandra unbuffered test. However, going back to the old P4 2.4C test bed, Mushkin and OCZ 3500 BH-5 running at ddr400 2-2-2-5 had over 3.1k each.

    Guess the old BH-5 is still faster than the new one.
    Reply

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