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Gigahertz Memory Head to Head

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After a lucrative and fairly exciting couple of years, the memory market has hit its first flat period for some time. With DDR modules fast enough, cheap enough and available enough to not be generating any great surges in interest or demand, and DDR2 now losing its novelty value and settling in to a more steady pattern of sales, memory manufacturers are having to really dig deep in order to come up with anything noteworthy enough to generate a little extra revenue.

Dancing activity LED’s are yesterday’s news, shiny heat spreaders are almost par for the course and a desktop machines equipped with a minimum of a Gigabyte of RAM is pretty much par for the course. This leaves just two approaches to get us to spend; convince us we need more memory or convince us we need faster memory. This particular head-to-head panders to the latter of the two.

It may not be quite the headline grabbing milestone that the first Gigahertz CPUs laid claim to, but Gigahertz memory modules for the desktop, and more importantly the motherboards required to drive them, are finally a reality, and in this review I want to look at two products that prove it.

The first contender is a Corsair part that TrustedReviews has looked at already, though at the time of testing nothing in the bunker had the capability to back up Corsair’s claims that frequencies of 1GHz plus should be perfectly feasible.

The second contender, a member of Crucial’s Ballistix line of enthusiast modules, is actually rated to run at 1GHz, or PC2-8000 if you prefer to work that way, when set to 5-5-5-15 and when fed 2.2 volts.

Providing the platform for this current round of testing will be the ASUS P5WD2 Premium, a rather overclockable LGA775 motherboard based on Intel’s 955X chipset and, on this occasion, equipped with a 3.46GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition CPU.

Corsair XMS5400 v1.2 (Pt CM2X512A-5400UL)

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Strong visual branding seems to be the stalwart of memory manufacturers, presumably due to the lack of room for any high-impact graphics, and so it is that Corsair has remained true to its clip-less, semi-gloss black heat spreaders, though now carrying the purple and yellow XMS2 flash to identify them as DDR2 parts.

We were supplied with a pair of 512MB modules and tested using both in a dual channel configuration only. Although capable of running at 675MHz at 3-3-2-8 and 2.1v, our primary interest on this occasion is with frequency rather than timings.

Crucial Ballistix PC2-8000
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Ballistix , as you may know, was the name given by Crucial to its line of enthusiast targeted memory products. Once again it’s stuck fast to its established livery by adorning these modules in the familiar matt, gold coloured heat spreaders and wrap-around silver metal retaining clips.

Crucial has taken the bold step of rating these modules to a full 1GHz at 5-5-5-15 and 2.2v, with a few claimed intermediate stops at 800MHz 4-4-4-12 and 2.1v and 667MHz at 3-3-3-12 and 2.1v.

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