It wasn't that long ago that 2GB of memory was considered to be overkill for most people. There were some applications that would benefit from the additional ram, mostly multimedia related applications, but if you got the spare cash, it is a worthwhile upgrade. Even some games benefited from the additional memory and with Vista finally making it to market, 2GB is no longer considered premium.
Given that dual channel memory configurations are the standard on every mainstream motherboard, it makes perfect sense to jump from 2GB to 4GB. Question is, does 4GB do enough to warrant the additional expense? It's been a while since I've had a chance to personally look at some Mushkin products, and today we'll try to answer the 4GB question with a Mushkin HP2-6400 kit. 4GB of it to be precise.
The Mushkin HP2-6400 kit arrived in a hardened plastic case, similar to the ones used by other manufacturers. The HP2-6400 breaks down as follows; HP2 represents their High Performance Series, with the "2" trailing it denoting it as a DDR2 part. The 6400 means it is an 800MHz part.
The 4GB kit has memory timings of 5-4-4-12 and requires 2.0v to operate at its rated speeds. Memory frequency is pretty straight forward, but the timings are not always as clear. In a nutshell, lower numbers usually will result in better performance at the expense of stability. For those who don't fully understand the series of numbers, these numbers are structured as follows:
DRAM RAS# to CAS# Delay - 5
DRAM RAS# to CAS# Delay - 4
Dram RAS# Precharge - 4
Precharge delay (tRAS) - 12
It's always tricky to find the right balance between frequency and timings, but this particular kit has very good timings considering the speed and capacity. Explaining memory timings in great detail is a whole article in itself, so I invite you to to get a better understanding.
The memory modules are passively cooled with blue aluminum heatspreaders. You'll notice these are not just regular heatspreaders like we normally see as they feature slightly rounded fins along the top. This design is Mushkin's FrostByte Heatsink and the marketing material states they offer superior cooling efficiency. Both sides of the memory module has the Mushkin logo stamped on the right side, just in case you forget what brand they are. :P
The last thing of note before diving into the tests is that the Mushkin HP2-6400 features modules built using Brainpower PCBs. Brainpower PCBs are well regarded amongst the enthusiast community as well built PCBs. Perhaps those sticking with stock speeds may not realize it, but the Brainpower PCBs are well suited for overclocking and high performance memory kits.
Operating System: Windows XP Professional (5.1, Build 2600) Service Pack 2
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM)2 CPU X6800 @ 2.93GHz (2 CPUs)
Motherboard: Abit AW9D-MAX 975X
Memory: 4GB Mushkin HP2-6400
DirectX Version: DirectX 9.0c (4.09.0000.0904)
Card name: MSI GeForce 8800 GTX
The comparison ram kit is the Corsair CM2X1024-6400PRO kit. The timings are not as low as the Mushkin, so we tweaked them to the same timings of 5-4-4-12. What we were unable to do of course was alter the capacity of the two sticks which total 2GB in all.
- Our standard synthetic suite gets an upgrade. We like to use Sandra (System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) to collect some numbers as a base. The numbers collected are consistent and are easily comparable between systems during tests. We stuck with the Memory Bandwidth benchmark for today.DVD Shrink - We ripped the War of the Worlds bonus feature off the disk at 100% and compressed the file from the hard drive to 70%. Times are in minutes:seconds, and lower is better.
- A good indicator of CPU/Motherboard performance is version 4.2, by Xavier Gourdon. We used a computation of 10000000 digits of Pi, Chudnovsky method, 1024 K FFT, and no disk memory. Note that lower scores are better, and times are in seconds.
- Photoshop is perhaps the defacto standard when it comes to photo editing tools. Given that it is so popular, we incorporated DriverHeaven's latest test into our review process. Lower scores are better, and times are in seconds.
Doom 3 @ 640x480, LQ Settings - While higher resolutions tax the video card, lower resolutions rely on CPU and subsystem speed. Higher scores are better.
All benchmarks will be run a total of three times with the average scores being displayed. Any system tweaks and ram timings were configured to the best possible for each platform. The page file size for all testing for both systems was locked at 1536 min/max.