The computer industry definitely moves in fits and starts. One month graphics cards go crazy, breaking performance benchmarks on an almost daily basis (it happened in February), then it is the turn of the CPU giants to bash seven bells out of one with IDF and various other tit-for-tat releases in March. Now it seems April is the memory manufacturers' time.
In fact, Elpida kicked things off early with its announcement of 800MHz DDR2 RAM on 23rd March. Then April comes and Corsair and Kingston both announce on the same day (yesterday) that they have just produced the "World's Fastest Memory". So, as the dust settles, who has actually done what?
Technically, Kingston has claimed first prize. It claims its new memory modules managed to reach 866MHz in lab tests, but their 750MHz standard shipping speed is clearly not as quick as Elpida. Then there is Corsair who appears to come a distant third after proclaiming its 675MHz offering to be the “World’s Fastest DDR2 Memory” which isn’t as daft as it first sounds. You see, Corsair guarantees the clock speed of its memory, while Kingston warns “actual speeds reached will depend on system configuration” and Elpida is still “sampling”.
Consequently, this makes everything rather grey so before I disappeared headfirst into a fiery pit of semantics I grabbed a word with both Corsair and Kingston.
Unfortunately this made nothing greatly clearer as Corsair rep Vivian Lien explained to me that its 675MHz is hugely overclockable, even going to far as to state “someone has already broken the 1000MHz barrier with it”.
Kingston rep Andrew Chatterton was less outspoken, but did reaffirm that performance “depends on the system you are running the modules on” and again flagged up the 866MHz trump card the company claims its boys achieved in its labs.
Ultimately, if I was pressed into a corner and forced into making a judgement call because you had something very sharp aimed at a very soft part of me, I’d play it safe and say the following: Kingston has the fastest officially rated memory ready to ship, Corsair comes second in that category and Elipda will one up both of them once it produces larger quantities of its own modules with the caveat being as long as the other two don’t have any more speed jumps before then.
Getting down to the practicalities, no motherboard manufacturer has yet chucked out a model that can take memory faster than 667MHz so (for a few weeks at least) it is all rather academic. Despite this Kingston is shipping its “HyperX DDR2 750” modules now with capacities ranging from 256MB (£63) to 2GB dual channel kits (£211).
Corsair’s “XMS2 5400UL” (675MHz) modules are also due any minute, but it has yet to reveal pricing. Interestingly, if you sneak onto Corsair’s website and look here you’ll spot a pdf on some PC6400 modules which translates as 800MHz.
If one thing is certain in all of this it is Elpida better get a move on!
Looks like we were in quick with the Corsair PC6400 module spot. It's just announced them officially. Dubbed the XMS2 6400 series, this 800MHz memory will come in two flavours: the (deep breath) CM2X512A-6400, a single 512MB module, and the TWIN2X1024A-6400, a matched pair of 512MB modules. Although pricing has yet to be confirmed, Corsair says it is ready to ships units to resellers now.
I told you Elpida would have to be quick. Corsair just won the race. I'm officially christening April Mad Memory Month now.