Background of DDR-2 memory
Before we go any further, I think it's important we go over the different types of DDR-2 240-pin memory (PC-4200 and PC-5400) and why you should even bother spending more and buying the higher performance modules we are looking at here today to sit along side your Intel processor.
- If you know plenty about modern computers, you can skip this part and go to the next page.
If you own or intend on buying a 915 or 925X based motherboard (with 800MHz FSB Pentium 4 processor) and don't intend on overclocking, you'll get away just fine with any PC-4200 memory which runs at 266MHz or DDR-533. This is because your processor only uses an FSB of 800MHz (200 x 4 - quad pumped) so in fact your memory has higher specs than the processor so you can run the memory "underclocked" at 200MHz or use what are called "memory dividers" to increase the memory clock speed to its rated speed of 266MHz and above. If you do intend on overclocking this platform and depending on what memory you buy, you might be able to hit around DDR-600 with PC-4200 memory and then start to run into problems going any higher.
On the other hand, if you own or intend on buying an Intel 925XE based motherboard (with 1066MHz FSB processor - 266 x 4) you'll be able to use PC-4200 memory and run it "1:1" with the processor. This results in lower latencies since both the CPU and memory are communicating at the same pace and neither has to wait for each other to act.
If you intend on overclocking your processor (be it 800 or 1066 FSB versions) via FSB (which is really the only option unless you can somehow find a multiplier unlocked processor...which are usually reserved to engineering samples for media and Intel partners) to a substantially higher clock speed, your best bet would be buying PC-5400 memory. The clock speed of this memory is 333MHz and will give you plenty of headroom for overclocking your processor at 1:1. I would be very surprised to see any Intel processors do over 333MHz FSB with a default multiplier (minimum speed 333 x 14 = 4662MHz) unless you are forking out loads of money for ultra extreme cooling. Additionally Intel has told us that they have no plans to launch a 333MHz bus anytime soon.
Some newer Intel Pentium 4 processors along with enthusiast friendly motherboards provide the option of choosing a multiplier of 14 (for example the Pentium 4 3.6GHz - usually 18 x 200 - allows you to back the multiplier down to 14). So, say if you have a very good cooling setup in place you could set the multiplier to 14 and the FSB to 300 (1:1 so the memory is running at DDR-600) and you'll get a clock speed of over 4.2GHz.
However, if you don't intend on overclocking your processor all that much you can still use dividers to push PC-5400 memory up above 400MHz or DDR-800 or PC-6400 and in fact with one of the modules in this article we almost reached PC-6800 speeds which is a good deal quicker than any of the fastest and most expensive DDR memory available today.
Now you know the differences between PC-4200 and PC-5400 memory, we are ready to continue and start looking at the different modules in this roundup.
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