No Runny Eggs

The repository of one hard-boiled egg from the south suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (and the occassional guest-blogger). The ramblings within may or may not offend, shock and awe you, but they are what I (or my guest-bloggers) think.

Slow blogging, and a price rant on computer memory

by @ 9:08 on March 17, 2006. Filed under Miscellaneous.

I’ve been having some memory problems, which has been leading to the infamous BSOD and numerous program crashes. Hopefully my new memory arrives tomorrow so I can get back in the flow of things. Sorry about the lack of posts; I definitely owe the Blogfather my take on the gay marriage amendment sometime today.

That gets me to the topic du jour this morning – the price of memory, and the general lack of availability of high-quality, high-speed memory in Milwaukee. First, you have to recognize that not all memory is created equal, even beyond the difference between DDR memory (used in most modern AMD systems, including my own, and thus my focus) and DDR2 memory (used in most modern Intel systems), and between memory speeds (in the DDR world, the main ones are DDR333/2700 and DDR400/3200). Low-quality memory will have a preset high CAS (2.5-3 clock cycles in the DDR world, higher in the DDR2) setting and correspondingly-high RAS and pre-charge settings, which produces a noticeable drop in system performance. High-quality memory will have low CAS/RAS settings (the optimal in the DDR world is 2.0 CAS/2 RAS-to-CAS/2 RAS pre-charge/5 active pre-charge), and a correspondingly-high price tag. Side note; I recommend you do NOT root around your BIOS to mess with memory timings because timings that are too aggressive will result in system failures right out of the box.

Since I have a nVidia nForce2 system board that supports dual-channel memory, I also like to take advantage of the performance increase that offers. That requires two identically-sized memory modules; and for optimal performance, those 2 modules should be from the same batch of the same manufacturer (often refered to as a “matched pair”).

With that and the fact I’m looking for 1 GB of memory in mind, let’s see what 2 modules of 512 MB of PC3200 memory goes for in Milwaukee. I could go to Circuit City, take my 1-module-only rebate and a temporary price break on both, and end up paying a net of $85 (with $130 coming out of my pocket and $45 coming back in rebates) for a high-latency set (3-3-3-8). I could go to Milwaukee PC and pay either $120 up-front for some cheap memory (presumably high-latency), $150 for “certified” memory (presumably high-latency; I don’t know if the “certified” is equivalent to “matched-pair”) or $180 for some almost-high-test (2-3-3-6) memory. While the almost-high-test memory can probably run at the optimal 2-2-2-5 settings, there appears to be nobody in Milwaukee that carries memory that will run at those settings by default, and nobody appears to offer “matched-pair” memory (with the MPC caveat)

OR, I could go on-line and pay $66 (including basic shipping) for some low-grade “matched-pair” memory, $91 (including basic shipping and a $15 rebate) for some almost-high-test (2-3-3-6) “matched-pair” memory, or $135 (again including shipping) for “matched-pair” memory that will by default run at the optimal 2-2-2-5 settings and can be overclocked at will. What do you suppose I did?

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