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Reviewed by: Trevor Flynn [08.12.03]
Edited by: Carl Nelson

Manufactured by: Corsair

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How much is too much?

Memory speeds as of late have been ramping up at an incredible rate. Even though the highest speed "supported" by any motherboard currently on the market is PC3200, we've recently seen manufacuturers release modules with speeds as high as PC4000. Now we all should know two things by now. First off, if you are running an AMD XP based system, for best performance results your memory must be running in sync with your processor FSB. This in turn dictates that if you wish to overclock your processor, you are going to need to have some high performance memory to match the high FSB speeds at which you'll want to have the processor running at.

Now where the real question lies in my mind is for those of you who either are not overclocking your processor, or not overclocking it to any high extreme. What type of performance gains can you expect, if any, from higher speed memory run out of sync, an versus lower speed memory run in sync with the processor? Also, what type of performance gains can be expected from using a dual channel setup as opposed to a single channel setup, and do these gains increase as CPU bandwidth increases?

To help us answer these question we will be putting Corsair's XMS3500 DDR400 memory through it's paces. Corsair is pretty much a legend in the memory business, known for putting out very high quality memory, at a premium price. The pair of modules we'll be looking at today are 2x256MB sticks, implemented using 32Mx8M DDR SDRAM chips with 5.0 nanosecond access time. They come with an integrated aluminum head spreader to help out with thermal performance, and are guaranteed to perform at 434mhz (217mhz FSB) with low latency settings of 2-3-3-7.


Before we get into the testing of these chips, I'd just like to take a second to mention the aesthetic factor. Although it comes at a premium price, one thing that has always been nice about high performance memory is the included heat-spreaders.

The pair of chips that we received came with a nice polished aluminum look that looks so much better than the bare chips themselves. According to Corsair's website, the modules currently being shipped come with the following black heat-spreader.

Now in reality, the heat-spreaders tend to be a lot more for show than anything else. If you have a case window, the little added touch of a nicely colored covering can make you feel a little bit better about the wad of cash you just dropped paying for such high performance ram.

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