Ram Type

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Rampant RAM

Alas, poor DDR2, we knew it. DDR2 isn't quite dead yet. With every processor save Core i7 unable to make all that much of DDR3's increased speed, and years of favor from both AMD and Intel, DDR2 remains the most prevalent RAM around today. And with prevalence comes cheapness - both for the RAM itself and for motherboards that support it. The cost of 2GB of the stuff comes in at under $40 these days, so if you're still struggling along with just a couple of gigs, now's a fine time to add a couple more. Vista will happily eat it right up, and you'll notice significantly quicker loading times in a lot of current games. More than 4GB of DDR2 is generally a waste, even in 64-bit Windows, but the low prices means making a custom SSD with something like the Gigabyte iRAM drive is no longer entirely crazy-talk. Still pretty crazy, obviously.                                    Both DDR2 kits come from Transcend, which has built up a reputation for affordable, reliable RAM. We're looking primarily at the difference between DDR2-667 and DDR2-800, though admittedly the point's becoming moot as the price gap between the two closes fast, in the wake of DDR3 finally becoming affordable. You've also the option of DDR2-1066 or 1200, if you've got one of the high-end Core 2s with their fruity mega-front-side bus. And a suitable motherboard to match, of course - it's just a waste if your cheap-ass/geriatric motherboard can't hit those bus high notes, or if your older Core 2 doesn't have a muscly enough cooler to reach so far beyond its means. Both kits are very much no-frills, eschewing any sort of heatsink or spreader, and leaving the PCB a plain-jane green. So, they are to be avoided if you're into the whole sexy on the outside, sexy on the inside thing, unless you want to drop a few more notes on some fancy coolers for them - their affordability does make them a fantastic option, if you're more interested in customizing a PC to look good than achieving sky-high benchmark results. Of course, two 1GB sticks, is madness for a new build - two 2GBs of RAM will serve you much better, and leave space for a jump to 8GB in the event you get round to switching to a 64-bit OS later. However, as most early Core 2 adopters will have gone for two 1GB sticks and anyone building a new system today really should go for DDR3, to think about people looking to expand rather than replace their RAM is only sensible. Don't forget that you will need to match your existing memory in terms of frequency and latency if you are adding to your existing RAM. What clock? Unsurprisingly, the stock 667 vs 800 speeds made almost no difference to our benchmarking results. DDR2-800 gave a few extra frames here and there, but the appeal of the 800 sticks is overclocking potential. We couldn't quite get them to crack 1GHz, but a third-party heatsink and a well-ventilated case should coax them into successfully counterfeiting 1066 sticks. Alternatively you can just track down higher frequency sticks if that's what you're gunning for. The 667 sticks fall over a lot quicker, but they still happily made 800MHz with a spot of volt-modding. A year ago, that would have been hugely significant, and just cause to save $40-odd in favor of an easy overclock. In the bright light of mid-2009 and the fairly representative example of these Transcend sticks, however, the price difference is essentially non-existent. So, you might as well go for the extra headroom of the officially-rated 800MHz stuff, but it's something to bear in mind while doing your shopping around. If you do find 667 sticks that are a few quid cheaper than the cheapest available 800, you're really not going to miss much. The exception is if you're planning on going for whopping overclocks using a motherboard with a generous front-side bus, but even then 1066 DDR is only a few dollars more expensive. It can soon get out of hand as you keep upgrading to the next stock speed settings. Just start by checking how fast your motherboard will go and don't go any quicker than that. Cheap as... What is the take-away message from DDR2 right now then? Buy whatever you want, pretty much covers it. It's all dirt-cheap, apart from the pointlessly elaborate stuff with heatspreaders that are the size of Russia, and until it becomes a quaint obscurity, it's only going to get cheaper. If you're into hardcore overclocking, clearly you need to spend more, but if you're simply after a system upgrade, the only real rule of thumb is to make sure it's matched to your existing RAM and to not spend more than around $40 per two gigabytes. Transcend is certainly good value stuff, being essentially re-badged brand RAM. Even so, there isn't anything to recommend it over anything else on the market with a bargain price tag. It does come with surprisingly detailed and helpful instructions though, free from usual, terrible English and thus is a very safe bet for anyone who's been too frightened to attempt a memory upgrade before now. If you're not able to follow Transcend's instructions, then you're probably also incapable of reading these very words. In which case, we can say anything we like about you and you'll never know. For all your Discount Computer Parts, Games and Notebook requirements visit us at http://usacomputers.rr.nu and http://sacomputers.rr.nu

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