For the casual user, may not be a name they'll be familiar with, but for enthusiasts, Mushkin is actually quite well known. They have a history of making quality products, and speaking of their ram products in particular, they tend to be quite speedy and overclockable.
There's no shortage of PC4000 ram manufacturers, and Mushkin actually has a couple of different products for you to choose from, depending on the budget. Today, we'll be looking at their High Performance Black PC4000 memory, which is their top-of-the-line product.
512MB (2x512MB as tested today)
4.0ns Hynix IC's
500MHz (PC4000) Unbuffered DDR Modules
CAS latency: 3 clock cycles
RAS precharge: 4 cycles
RAS active to precharge: 8 cycles
Command rate: 1T (1 cycle)
Aluminum heat spreader for thermal diffusion (Flat Black)
Jet Black 6-Layer PCB
The sticks we'll be looking at aren't normally sold as a kit for Dual Channel users. We'll be testing them in Dual Channel mode though, but just in case you have some reservations, Mushkin did test them on DC motherboards.
"Tested compatible with VIA, AMD, Intel, NVidia and Sis chipsets. Overclockability of your system is dependent on all other components including but not limited to Motherboard, CPU, graphics and PCI cards and other peripheral devices. Our PC4000 eliminates the memory as a potential bottleneck when overclocking. Tested on motherboards with the KT400, P4X400 and NForce2 and Intel 865, 875 chipsets most of which are officially supporting the PC3200 (DDR 400) spec."
Mushkin High Performance Black PC4000 Memory
I don't have any pictures of the packaging, as I destroyed it while getting the ram out. I am uncertain if what I got was the retail packaging, but both ram modules arrived in an anti-static bag, encased in a large, plastic air bag to protect it during shipping. There's no documentation, but the Mushkin's target audience will certainly not need any.
Mushkin's products carry a limited lifetime warranty, meaning that if it's a manufacturer defect, they will replace your ram (shipping not included). If you run your memory out of spec, modify it, or simply put it through a ton of abuse, your warranty can be kissed good-bye. This is the case with most manufacturers, but at least Mushkin states it clearly so there's no misunderstanding.
Like many other manufacturers, Mushkin uses Neng Tyi aluminum heatspreaders. These are anodized black, which gives them a sophisticated look with the silver tabs. I've never felt heatspreaders were mandatory, as our pasts tests have shown that they don't always help in overclocking, but they do do the job as the Mushkin modules became quite warm during testing.
Mushkin's ram modules are built on a 6-layer PCB process. Lower quality PCBs are made using a four-layer process. The power and ground layers are sandwiched between the two outer signal layers. Though this process is cheaper than six-layers, the modules are vulnerable to signal noise which can cause instability and corruption. In a six-layer design, two additional grounding layers are placed on the outside, shielding the modules more efficiently, which is especially important as we move from PC3200 and up.
The memory label has very little information about the ram. Only the brand, the memory size, and speed are indicated here. There's no mention of memory timings, though on their website (and confirmed via the BIOS of our test system) the timings are indicated as 3-8-4-4-1T.
Overclocking and Stability Testing
Since we're using a 200FSB (800MHz) ABIT IC7-MAX3 motherboard, the first thing I wanted to try was what are the tightest timings I could run the Mushkin PC4000 at 200FSB. After a bit of tweaking, it seems that 2-3-3-5 is about as low as I can go at 1:1.
200FSB (400MHz) @ Tweaked
vCore needed a boost to 2.65v though, but the ram was able to past Memtest at these settings. Next up was the rated speed of PC4000 (DDR500 or 250FSB) at 1:1. At default timings, 250FSB was no problem at all, though we needed another bump in voltage up to 2.75v.
Next thing we did was to adjust the timings and to see what the Mushkin would allow us to tweak to. At 250FSB, the best we managed was…
250FSB (500MHz) @ Tweaked
The ram was completely stable, and passed MemTest without any problems at 2.5-4-3-7. Memory voltage was at 2.75v, and even with an additional bump to 2.9v, we were not able to tweak it any further. I have read reports that there are some voltage fluctuations on the IC7-MAX3 at 2.9v of -/+ 0.1v, which I can confirm by watching the BIOS readings, though at 3.0v, the problem seemed to have gone away. I was still not able to tweak the ram further though, and the system would repeatably hang at POST.
We relaxed the timings back to the Mushkin default of 3-4-4-8, and went forward with the FSB once again, adjusting the voltages as required until we settled on our final overclock.
280FSB Max OC
At 1:1 CPU and memory, we settled on a final OC of 280FSB. I'd be lying if I said the ram was running 100% reliably, as I did experience lockups when running stress tests. All our benchmarks ran fine however, and although I am going to present those numbers, just keep in mind that we were at what I would say 75% stable. This was at 3.0v, and a Delta 80mm 68cfm fan blowing directly on to the ram modules. I removed one module, and retested the overclocking in single channel mode, but our end result did not change.
Lowering the speed down to 274FSB at 2.8v was enough to keep things running smooth.