RSS Feed

HCW Tech Blog

For the latest info on computer hardware, tech, news, video games, software tips, and Linux, check out our new improved front page: HCW Tech Blog

Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [08.27.06]
Manufactured by: OCZ Technology


Performance Testing

Judging performance of memory is a tricky subject for most hardware reviewers (at least it should be). I mean, memory is memory, and for the most part, one pair of modules should run at the exact same speed as another pair, provided the timings are identical and correct. Therefore, you could just say that this memory performs as well as it should at PC2 6400/4-4-3-15. The other aspect you must consider is overclocking, which we did on the previous page.

So is that the end of the review? No way! We need to look at some aspect of performance! So this is what I decided to do: How do all these timings affect performance? I mean, are you better off with a higher memory speed, but loosened timings? How about tight timings, but with no overclocking? Where does CPU speed fit into all this? That's what we're going to find out.

So I tested this memory with my maximum overclocks with tight and loose timings, and at stock speed. Here's a quick run-down of the settings used:

CPU Speed: 2.40 GHz | Memory Speed: DDR2 800 | Timings: 4-4-3-15
CPU Speed: 2.35 GHz | Memory Speed: DDR2 940 | Timings: 4-4-3-15
CPU Speed: 2.82 GHz | Memory Speed: DDR2 940 | Timings: 4-4-3-15
CPU Speed: 2.60 GHz | Memory Speed: DDR2 1040 | Timings: 5-5-5-15

So what we have is a standard benchmark to compare the rest against. In the first configuration, we can find out what an increase in memory speed does, while the CPU and timings are relatively the same. With the second config, we'll see how much a higher CPU speed figures in performance, and in the third, we find out how adversely loose timings will affect performance, even though the memory is runnign as fast as it can, and CPU speed is higher than normal.

Our test rig is:

CPU: AMD Athlon X2 4600+ AM2 (2.40 GHz)
Motherboard: Foxconn C51XEM2AA-8EKRS2H-WTF (NFORCE 590-SLI)
Video Card: GeForce 6800 GT 256 MB

Software: WindowsXP 32 bit with latest updates, latest drivers, etc, etc.

The first test, of course, is SiSoft Sandra 2007's Memory Bandwidth Test.

The memory controller on the CPU itself, so it makes sense here that the configuration with the highest CPU speed yields the most memory bandwidth. Comparing the 2.6 GHz DDR2 1040 result with the 2.4 GHz DDR2 800 result is interesting; even though the CPU has a lot more bandwidth available to it, the performance remains the same; anything gained from the higher clock speed is lost with the loose memory timings. Furthermore, adjusting the memory speed itself while maintaining the same CPU clock speed offers no bandwidth advantage over stock settings.

This time, the combination of a lower HTT bus and CPU clock speed is what affects memory latency results the most. Our fastest setup was once again the DDR2 940 setup with the CPU running at 2.82 GHz. The same DDR2 940 speed with a slower CPU is 3ns slower than that. And although the memory was set to 5-5-5-15, the relatively high clock speed kept things snappy, allowing it to keep up with our tighter settings.

How does this affect the one thing that matters? Let's fire up Quake 4 to find out!

The numbers that stand out the most for me are the bottom two. The very last result we have listed is the stock speed DDR2 800 with 2.4 GHz CPU speed. Look at what happens when you lower the multiplier, yet increase the HTT speed. The end result is a slower CPU (2.35 GHz) but an increase of 10 FPS in Quake 4!

I am always conflicted when the time comes to review memory. On one hand, we want to make sure our readers are informed about new products that are constantly coming out, and how they perform. However with memory, there are only a few things that set each other apart:

1) Price
2) Overclocking Performance
3) Warranty
4) Looks
5) Long-term reliability

With #1, that's an easy call to make. However price only really matters if the ram stands up to the other 4 or so variables. So we're not going to just say that the cheapest ram is the best, but we have to point out when something is obviously overpriced. In the case of this PC2 6400 SOE Urban Elite from OCZ, its limited edition status increases the price a bit, but it is also one of their fastest DDR2 kits, just shy of their "Platinum" series, which is even more expensive.

#2 is a tough one to call; I might be able to get this kit to run at DDR2 940 with tight timings or DDR2 1040, but you may not. Maybe you buy a kit, and only get about 20 Mhz out of it... There's no way to be sure. On the other hand, maybe your kit will maintain tight timings at DDR2 950 and above... The only thing we can go by, besides the one kit I am able to test, is overall reputation of the manufacturer. And there's no doubt about it; OCZ has some of the best overclocking ram out there, even if it's not necessarily 'guaranteed' to run higher than spec.

Warranty - almost everyone who sells high end ram offers a lifetime warranty. Only a few allow you to set the voltage as high as OCZ though, so that counts for something.

As far as looks, that's really up to the individual to decide. For most, looks don't matter at all; windows on cases are a bit passé... Still, if it matters to you, I have to say that the Special Ops Edition - Urban Elite are probably the coolest looking memory modules I have ever seen.

Long term reliability, again, is a bit beyond the scope of what I can do in a single review. Once again we have to look at manufacturer rep, and once again OCZ has a good rep in this regard. On top of that, you have a lifetime warranty. So you could say that the memory will last as long as the system its installed in. Or longer.

Overall, I was highly impressed by the abilities, speed, and looks of this memory kit. I made sure to reserve my opinion until I got a chance to start reviewing a competitor's kit. You'll get that review in a few days' time. For now, I'll say that the OCZ SOE Urban Elite stands above its competition, and is deserving of our Editor's Choice Award.