Behind The Scenes: DDR2

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High Performance vs. Value DDR2 Memory

Another interesting story is the heated marketing battle going on in the DDR2 enthusiast market. Right now Corsair XMS and Crucial Ballistix are the only two American companies with a high performance memory line. When you take a close look at Corsair’s 512mb Value Select part versus their 512mb XMS part you would think that you see a difference in their DDR2 533MHz line.

Corsair
Value Select
XMS2
Model # VS512MB533D2
CM2X512-4200
Timings
4-4-4-12
4-4-4-12
IC
Micron
Micron
Heat Spreader
NO
YES
Price
$139.99
$194.99

After a closer look at the Corsair Value Select and Corsair XMS performance series we have found that the only difference between the current models is the use of heat spreaders. Both of the modules have the SPD set at the same timings, use the same PCB, and also the same Micron IC’s. The $55 difference lies solely in the $55 heat spreaders. We spoke openly with Corsair Marketing on this issue and were told that in the future Corsair will begin to use different IC’s on both lines when they become available. While this makes sense and is done all the time in the memory industry it often goes un-noticed to the average consumer. In a sense people are buying a product that has been branded to be the best and are paying more for it, but in this situation today consumers are not getting what they expect and are paying extra for. While there is no doubt that Corsair will bring the usual updates to their XMS2 line with improved IC’s and timings we must live up to our name and bring you the Legit truth on what is going on today.

When you take a close look at Crucial’s 512mb Value part versus their 512mb Ballistix part you see the difference that you would expect in their DDR2 533MHz line.

Crucial
Value
Ballistix
Model # CT16HTF6464AY53EB2
BL6464AA53V
Timings
4-4-4-12
3-3-3-10
IC
Micron
Micron
Heat Spreader
NO
YES
Price
$196.99
$228.99

Now we are seeing what we expect on Crucial’s brand line. There are actual differences shown in the timings of the product, which have been proven in the past to increase performance levels. This would be "true" brand line differentiation and is visible on Crucial’s products.

High Performance vs. High Performance

Vs

One would think that buying a high performance memory module from the leading memory companies would offer a product based around the same specifications, but again that is not the case with DDR2! Right now the two enthusiast lines of memory differ greatly by timings.

Brand Line
Ballistix
XMS2
Model #
BL6464AA53V
CM2X512-4200
Timings
3-3-3-10
4-4-4-12
IC
Micron
Micron
Heat Spreader
YES
YES
Price
$228.99
$194.99

As we mentioned before Corsair launched their XMS2 line with JEDEC approved timings at DDR2 533MHz, which seems odd for a performance part. Crucial went with tight timings on their Ballistix line and run tighter across the board. Crucial’s Ballistix memory is also the first DDR2 533MHz memory that has been launched with CL3 timings. Enthusiasts and power users will appreciate memory with timings tighter than CL4!

It is clear that the marketing battle between Ballistix and XMS2 has begun and so far Crucial has done a great job with the Ballistix line. Crucial has been able to bring a performance product to the market that currently has the tightest timings and the largest price tag. For the pricing we took the lowest price found for Corsair’s XMS2 memory (from PriceWatch & DealTime) and Crucial’s Ballistix memory (direct from crucial). Once Crucial memory hits the mainstream retail market, as Corsair has, expect some lower Ballistix pricing.

Thoughts & Discussion

As you can tell the marketing behind DDR2 memory is far from an open/shut case by any means. From the naming of the DDR2 memory lines to the differentiating of brand lines based on performance we can see that each companies marketing department took a different approach to the DDR2 battlefields. Sad as it may be in the end it is the consumer that bites the bullet. If we, the professional media, can’t keep things straight how do these companies expect the public to be able to?

In the end just remember that DDR2 667MHz for example runs at 667MHz and that while some companies call it PC2-5200 and PC2-5400 it is all the same thing. We are now seeing companies play with naming schemes (marketing techniques) to give their product the leading edge. While in the past this may not have been an issue, but with the sue happy people in the world today this is opening the door to a number of possible issues.

For those of you that recall in late 2003 a group of California citizens sued over the actual advertised size for hard drives. For example, when a consumer buys what he thinks is a 120GB SATA hard drive, they actually get only 111GB of storage space. That missing 9GB is space that could have been used for file storage and is what they paid for. While I am comparing apples to oranges (space versus speed) it is safe to assume that someone will do the math and figure that their PC2-5400 part is really only running at an actual PC2-5336 and will become upset.

It is too early to say which of the three companies we mentioned today took the right marketing path, but it’s quite clear that they took three different ones. It also makes one For the enthusiast or market analyst that likes to follow these new product launches the DDR2 companies have been putting on a great show!

This article was written to give you a sneak peak at what goes on behind the scenes in the marketing departments of multi-billion dollar companies. If you found this article slightly interesting please post something up on the forums and give us some feedback. This is our first attempt at the "Behind The Scenes" articles focused directly on the marketing of products. If there is interest we will continue to write behind the scene articles!

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