New RAM in Town Seeks LTR with AM2


AMD and Intel continue to duke it out with price slashes across the board, making this a great time to build that dream rig you've been waiting for. And if processor pricing weren't tantalizing enough, DDR2 kits have plummeted all the way into bargain bin territory, making it possible to pick up 2GB in DDR2-800 flavor for under a single C-note . But if you haven't waded through the memory section of your favorite online vendor in awhile, be prepared to be deluded with a hodgepodge of marketing buzzwords (SLI Ready EPP RAM, Crossfire Certified RAM, Vista Special...).

The most recent advertorial jargon belongs to OCZ, an enthusiast oriented company that's no stranger to creative advertising. Their latest press release touts a new breed of RAM specifically designed for AMD owners riding the socket AM2 wave. OCZ explains it as follows :

With 11 column address bit support by the AM2 memory controller, the number of addresses in each row or page can be as high as 2048 individual entries for a page size of 16kbit. Unlike modules based on standard 10-bit column address chips with an “8k” page size, the new Titanium AM2 Special modules take advantage of the AM2 controller’s feature set and provide a single rank solution with 2GB density using “16k” pages. This allows the controller to stay “in page” twice as long compared to standard memory architectures, thereby achieving unparalleled performance.

It's an interesting concept that, if it delivers the kind of performance dividends insinuated in the press release, could help AMD better weather the Core 2 storm. And because Intel has yet to adopt an integrated memory controller, they'd have no rebuttal, at least until next year when Nehalem debuts.

So should Intel (and all you Core 2 owners) be worried? Not likely. To oversimplify, we're basically looking at a timing tweak that in all likelihood, will boost synthetic benchmarks more than anything else. Even OCZ's press release states that the most benefit will come from " large CAD model processing and memory intense graphics applications such as filters in Adobe Photoshop or video processing. " In other words, casual users, gamers, and anyone else not into professional level content manipulation probably won't have much to get excited over. And while we're at it, add to that list overclockers, XP owners, and budget oriented buyers, because these sticks are only being offered in 4GB (2x2GB) DDR2-667 form with relatively loose 5-5-5-15 timings, at least initially. Even for the recommended applications, I would expect these sticks to be outshined by tighter timed, higher frequency DDR2-800 or 1066 kits.

So far, these AM2 enhanced sticks are only offered in 4GB trim, which can sometimes be a bear to configure on XP and Vista 32-bit based operating systems. Throw in a high price tag, high latencies, and a low frequency, and the appeal behind the technology used in these sticks quickly diminishes.

Looking longer term gets mildly more interesting. As I discussed in a previous blog ( AMD on the Rise, but is the Company Poised to Fall? ), AMD's banking on Barcelona to put them back in the game. If memory vendors can bring similar integrated memory controller technology enhancements to DDR3 sticks and run them at frequencies and timings more desirable to enthusiasts, AMD could potentially put themselves in position to better compete with Intel's Penryn update. If not, well, then the memory industry chock-full of ' marketing-enhanced ' RAM, as I'm dubbing it, just got a little more crowded.


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