Next to processors, memory is the most important piece of hardware in any computer. Memory is where your computer stores everything - from your operating system, to applications, and the data they use. Having good or bad memory can enhance or hamper performance to the point that the computer is unusable. Today on Dev Hardware, I will be reviewing PC3200 RAM, from Crucial, The Memory Experts (tm). This RAM from Crucial, however, is not aimed at the performance crowd, but the server crowd and those who run simple desktops.
Dev Hardware writer, DMOS, has an excellent article called Memory Bandwidth and Timings that explains how memory works, the different types of memory, and is a highly recommended read for anyone wanting to know more about their computer, or jumping into the market for new memory for the first time. If you don't understand some of the concepts I am writing about, his article serves as a great place to start.
I will admit that I was a bit surprised when asked to do this review; PC3200 RAM has been available for quite some time now, and another Dev Hardware writer, Memphist0, recently reviewed some PC4400 RAM from Corsair. This RAM from Crucial, however, is not aimed at the performance crowd, but the server crowd and those who run simple desktops. Consequently, it doesn't make sense to put it up against Corsair, OCZ, or Kingston HyperX. Crucial says that they do not support overclocking, as it will void the warranty. This is similar to the policy that Intel has towards their processors. I expect this policy to change over time, especially since video card manufacturers are bundling overclocking utilities with their products. On the other hand, there is a market for non-overclocking parts, since the vast majority of corporate desktops and workstations will remain at their default settings and speeds.
I wondered why I was sent only 512 MB, since most people are buying systems with 1 GB of memory in them. I'd recommend more than 512 MB for anyone doing some gaming or someone who is worried about performance. While 512 MB will definitely run Windows or Linux and power applications like Microsoft Word, Mozilla Firebird, and WinAMP, you can definitely delay walking the upgrade path by starting with 1 GB of memory.
Having said that, let's get to the memory.
I got 512 MB of RAM from Crucial in the form of two sticks at 256MB each. This makes sense, since getting one stick of 512 MB doesn't allow the computer to take advantage of the dual channel capabilities of my motherboard and most new computers being sold today.
As stated by DMOS,
"[Dual channe] theoretically doubles the data rate associated with transfers of bits from the memory to the memory controller in the north bridge. To explain this, think of a highway. When loaded with cars, they can all move at the same speed, and you can't make any more cars fit through, without increasing that speed. Unless you widen that highway. Make it twice as wide, and now twice as many cars can travel on it. This is done by adding another memory controller to the north bridge, and having an algorithm tie them together. DDR SDRAM works with a 64 bit bus, so adding two gets you a 128 bit combined bus."
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