Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Tech Link (Memory): Corsair Dominator DDR2-1111: Dual-Path Cooling Pushes Performance

AMDTech has a new memory review. They were able to request a new set of goodies from Corsair*. I am not against such RAM, but lately, things are really getting boring. I mean, yes, these RAM are great, they ran at DDR2-1111, cool. But hey, did you know that you need 2.4v to make it run at that stock speed? When will they ever reached such speed within the JEDEC standard.

I'm sure hardcore enthusiasts will not have any issues shoving such voltage, provided their motherboard can supply a stable and clean vDIMM. But hey, this DDR2 memory needs to mature, and fast. I am always excited to see fast DDR2, but I am disheartened to know that they must have such high voltage requirement to run at their stock settings. I guess I'll have to stick with my Micron DDR2-533MHz which can run at DDR2-1000@2.7v@CL5-5-5-15. True, not the best timing, but hey this RAM is like 2+ years old already and I never even have fancy coolers over these RAMs. This is why I am not prepared to shove anything higher than 2.4v on these DIMMs anymore, since the new RAMs I am seeing is basically the same anyway, just with better cooling. Oh well, enough with the New Year rant and go check out the review.

Final Words

As was mentioned in the recent review of OCZ Flex XLC, the best DDR2 memory in the market is able to run at DDR2-800 3-3-3 timings and DDR2-1066 at 4-4-3. Those performance levels still have not changed. However Corsair Dominator PC2-8888 has added a new benchmark for enthusiast memory of DDR2-1233 at 4-4-4-12 timings. It was exciting to be running DDR2-1067 at 4-4-3 timings and reaching DDR2-1100 at 4-4-4 was something once thought impossible for DDR2. Now with Dominator running DDR2-1233 at 4-4-4 timings memory performance has pushed the envelope even further.

Now that memory is unified, with all major platforms running DDR2, the performance of DDR2 has moved forward with incredible speed. It doesn't appear Micron D can be pushed much further - even with aggressive binning - so we wonder what the next milestone will be and which memory chip or memory manufacturer will take us there.

For now if you are looking for the very best overclocking memory you can buy for your new rig, then Corsair Dominator PC2-8888 should definitely be on your list. So should OCZ PC2-9200 Flex XLC. Both memories provide remarkable performance and push DDR2 performance to new levels. The absolute fastest memory tested is definitely Corsair Dominator DDR2-1111, which reached DDR2-1315 at 5-5-5-15 timings and the even more remarkable DDR2-1233 at 4-4-4-12 timings. If your platform will be 680i or 650i then Dominator is your best choice. OCZ Flex XLC is a bit slower at DDR2-1300 on the same platform, but it is also an excellent choice.

If your new rig will use an Intel 965X chipset then Corsair Dominator is again a good choice. We reached over DDR2-1200 on an ASUS P5B in very limited testing. For a 975x motherboard we would tip the scales to the OCZ Flex XLC. Flex seems more at home on the demanding 975X platform and reaches higher overclocks, but Dominator is no slouch on the 975X either. The Corsair Dominator may be just an SPD upgrade away from being equally excellent on the ASUS P5W-DH Deluxe.

It's a lot of fun reviewing memory like the Corsair Dominator. It certainly isn't cookie cutter, and the performance levels reached truly make the testing worth the effort. Corsair has done a good job in analyzing the problems with pushing DDR2 speed, and their solution is both unique and effective. The 4-layer fins on Dominator cool very well, and when coupled with the three-fan and near silent airflow memory cooler, you can take DDR2 to new speed levels. The same can be said for the recently reviewed OCZ Flex XLC, which finds a different but equally effective solution to pushing memory speed to higher levels.

The question that remains is whether the speed gains also yield the performance increase that make the product worth what it costs. The unfortunate reality with Core 2 Duo and AMD is that neither platform is particularly bandwidth starved or bandwidth sensitive. This means the sometimes massive DDR2 speed increase we are seeing in innovative new designs like the Corsair Dominator often make only a small difference in bottom-line performance. Performance is better with the higher speeds as clearly demonstrated in out test results, but the real increases are very small.

The question then is whether memory that sells for $600 for a 2GB kit is worth it. You can certainly buy a 2GB kit for less than half that price that will provide most of the performance of the $600 kit. For those who measure their system purchases on a value basis it will be difficult to justify $600 for Corsair Dominator PC2-1111, even though it is the fastest memory we have tested. However, Corsair Dominator PC2-8888 was not designed for the value buyer. Many other companies, including Corsair, have memory products that will satisfy the value equation. Corsair Dominator PC2-8888 is for buyers who have to have the best - the fastest - the top performance - regardless of cost. If they buy PC2-8888 they will definitely get the best available on the memory market.

The Airflow fan unit is also available at Newegg and other vendors for about $20. If you have enthusiast memory or overclock, the Corsair Airflow fan is a great and useful accessory and a very good value for what it does. When you consider an 80mm fan jury-rigged into place will already cost $5-10, the $20 Airflow looks better, installs easier, and doesn't cost much at all - and it just might extend the life of your RAM if you run at higher voltages.

Source:Corsair Dominator DDR2-1111: Dual-Path Cooling Pushes Performance

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