Behind The Scenes: DDR2

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Marketing Departments + DDR2 = One Very Confused Consumer

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When DDR2 memory hit the market I was honestly anxious to see what the memory companies and their marketing departments would do. During the months leading up to the launch of DDR2 platforms and the actual memory I was lucky enough to get see the development and branding of the new DDR2 product lines from three leading American based memory companies: Corsair, Crucial & Kingston. Little did I know each of these three companies would take a vastly different approach to DDR2 memory.

What To Bring Out First?

The first question that faced the memory companies was a big yet simple question: What should we launch first?

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Crucial: Crucial was one of the first to get DDR2 memory modules on the market and did so with their value line of memory. Their Crucial Memory series was set to JEDEC standards and came without heat spreaders on the modules. Shortly after the launch Crucial was the first to enter the enthusiast market with a new line of Crucial memory called Ballistix. The Ballistix memory line comes with nice heat spreaders (a first for Crucial) and the modules are able to run at low latencies. To date the Crucial Ballistix are only low latency DDR2 533MHz modules (set at 3-3-3-10) on the market.

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Kingston: Being the veteran of the three to the memory industry, they opted to launch a product line that does what they do best — rock solid value minded memory. Their “ValueRAM” was designed with the JEDEC standards in mind and they followed them for their DDR2 Value line. We asked Kingston why they didn’t come out with a DDR2 part in the HyperX performance memory line and this is what they had to say for the record:

“Kingston sells the highest quality of memory modules and we would not release the high-performance HyperX memory until we have done extensive engineering and testing using “production”/commercial grade motherboards. As of now, there is a VERY limited supply in the market. Kingston will launch its HyperX DDR2 products as soon as we feel that the market is ready”

To translate this so the layman can understand this, it simply states that a HyperX line is in the works & Kingston is working on picking out the best IC’s and PCB combinations to deliver the lowest timings and best stability on all the mainstream platforms.

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Corsair: The marketing department that has “The Memory With Muscle” came out with guns blazing on their high performance XMS line right off the bat. Corsair totally skipped the value line and focused on their XMS line for the first few months. The interesting thing is that Corsair launched their XMS part with JEDEC approved timings making it no faster than any of the three companies value lines. Just recently they started carrying PC2-4200 memory branded in their “ValueSelect” line. We asked Corsair why did they bring out their DDR2 XMS memory line before a ValueSelect line and they responded back:

“Because Corsair is committed to delivering the fastest memory in the world to gamers and enthusiasts. For us to introduce a leading edge product that is branded Value Select wouldn’t make sense. Our strategy is to come to market early with leading edge top performing products under the XMS brand, then later launch cost reduced products as Value Select.”

This can be best translated as Corsair started out with high performance memory and plans to continue to put their main focus on their XMS and XMS2 brand lines.

What To Name DDR2 533MHz & 667?

Now a consumer would think that all memory running at DDR2 533MHz or 667MHz would be named the same, but that is far from the case. For starters lets look at how DDR1 and DDR2 memory lines officially get their naming schemes:

DDR1

  • 400MHz x 8 Bytes = 3200 (officially PC-3200)
  • 500MHz x 8 Bytes = 4000 (officially PC-4000)

DDR2

  • 533MHz x 8 bytes = 4264
  • 667MHz x 8 bytes = 5336

As you can tell back in the DDR1 days many of the common speed grades came out at a nice even number so no rounding was needed. This time around with DDR2 so far all the memory on the market has to be rounded. For those who can think back to math class proper rounding would give us PC2-4300 and PC2-5300. Yet when DDR2 667MHz memory came out we saw 3 variants of the same speed. Keep in mind that PC2-5300 is what we come up with when we do the math and round up.

  • PC2-5200 — Crucial (Just Changed to PC2-5300 this week)
  • PC2-5300 — TwinMOS, OCZ, Kingston (OCZ & Kingston have mentioned their 5300 product in various ways)
  • PC2-5400 — Corsair (Just Changed from PC2-5300 last week)

As you can tell we had a wide range of naming schemes from a single speed grade! All the memory runs at the same speed, but for some reason they are being marketed at three different naming schemes, but all run at the same frequency.

Now we can take a look at DDR2 Value versus DDR2 Performance memory!

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