OCZ DDR Booster - Introduction
Memory is one of the most important things to consider when you want to overclock your CPU. When you push your CPU's FSB to the limits, you aren't simply overclocking the CPU but the memory as well.
Memory modules obtain their speed rating by using the system bus and applying a ratio to it. Be it 1:1, 4:3, 5:3 or whatever your board allows, your memory isn't going to stay in range for long when pushing extreme FSB speeds.
The way to combat memory instability at high bus speeds is to increase the DRAM voltage. To get the overclockers seal of approval these days, motherboards must have a modest amount of DIMM voltage settings; otherwise they simply aren't worth getting. However, sometimes you may get a board with less than stellar voltage selections or a board that simply cannot provide a clean enough signal to the DRAM modules - so, what do we do now? In the past you could consider it junk and find another which can do the job for you. This is now no longer the case thanks to OCZ Technology.
OCZ, known for its memory modules that overclock like a freight train out of control has introduced a module that not only cleans out the voltage sent to the DRAM modules but also allows you to set voltages higher than your motherboards onboard voltage regulators are capable of supplying.
Today come along as we take a look at one of OCZ's most innovative memory products since the introduction of heatspreaders, the OCZ DDR Booster which is your aid for real overclocking.
OCZ DDR Booster - A Closer Look and InstallationUp close and personal
The OCZ DDR Booster looks somewhat like a regular DIMM module, just with circuits rather than memory chips. This is pretty close to the truth, actually. The DDR Booster fits into a standard 184 pin DIMM socket (DDR support only at this stage) which is how the unit interfaces with the PC and that means you will have to give up a precise DIMM slot.
The PCB itself if rather well designs, clean and efficient. OCZ has done a professional job here and has made good improvements since the first reference designs we saw back at Computex this year in Taiwan. To make the unit work, OCZ has used an ICL7107CPL IC unit. This is what gives the unit its switching abilities to distribute the power across the DIMM channels when in operation.
OCZ has placed some alloy heatsinks on the Voltage Regulator units. Since the system is receiving power from the 5v rail, conversion to the 2.5v to 3.9v range will generate quite a bit of heat. While the heatsinks aren't absolutely essential, it's just another feature that has come from OCZ's overclocking experience. The potentiometer is used in order to control the voltage supplied into the DRAM channels. Turning the knob fully anti-clockwise drops the voltage down to 2.5v, all the way clockwise gives you 3.9v. The settings in the middle are all up to the user - simply turn the unit slowly to increase you memory voltage.
Here is yet another great feature. On the PCB, OCZ has placed two LED ports. These are the same as the port 80 on motherboards, however, this time they don't report POST codes but give the voltage that the booster is supplying into the DRAM channels. This comes quite handy if you don't have a BIOS version that gives good DRAM voltage readings (like most of the boards out there actually). This one reads the voltage direct from the IC controller chip and displays them on the LED panels.
The OCZ DDR Booster uses its own connection to the power supply in order to provide voltage to the memory bus as well as the DDR Termination voltage. On the top of the unit there are two x 4Pin Molex connectors, however, they do not plug into any of the HDD connectors of your PSU.
OCZ provides a special ATX adaptor. This adaptor goes between the motherboard and the 20pin ATX power cable; it is from here that the OCZ DDR Booster draws its power. When I looked at the unit I thought why would they do that? Simple, the DDR Booster uses three separate +5v, 1 +12v and 1 -5v. The +5 and +12v could be obtained from the HDD Molex connectors, however, the -5v only comes in off the 20pin ATX power, so an adaptor would be needed anyway. On the booster itself, the connectors have colour coded stickers on them, as do the 4 pin plugs, these have to be matched or your will do damage to the booster and possibly the motherboard due to incorrect voltage. A better approach would be to use a proprietary plug that had the full 8 pin on the socket. This would prevent any other power plug from being accidentally placed into the unit, or the adapters 4 pin plugs being placed into devices like HDD's this could happen with the less experienced overclockers.
This was pretty much a no brain-er for the install. Firstly take the unit out of its packaging. OCZ places a sticker on the potentiometer that warns the user to make sure that on first boot the knob is turned all the way anti-clockwise which prevents the unit from giving the board and memory a +4v surge that could potentially kill the DRAM and motherboard Northbridge quickly and easily. Once this is accomplished it's in to the PC for the DDR Booster module.
You will need to locate a spare DDR memory socket. On Dual Channel boards this is easy as mostly only two are in use, if however, you have all 4 populated you will need to give up a slot. Press the unit down into the socket like you would with a DDR DIMM module till the DRAM locking latches snap into place.
Next is to give the unit its power. Connect the green and blue Molex connectors into their respective slots, taking care not to plug the blue into the green and vice versa. After this is accomplished unplug the 20pin ATX power connector from the motherboard, place the OCZ DDR Booster cable 20pin connector into the motherboard and the PSU 20pin connector into the back of the DDR Booster power adapter cable. You are now ready to power on, if all goes well your system will boot up with the DDR Booster giving the memory modules 2.5v, check the LED panels to be sure. Once this has been confirmed its now time to start the overclocking.
Before you begin overclocking it would be a good idea to check out OCZ's DDR Booster Motherboard Compatibility Chart (located here) which provides important details about your motherboard and the DDR Booster.
OCZ DDR Booster - Test System Setup and Overclocking ResultsTest System Setup
Processor: Intel Pentium 4 3.2GHz EE (800MHz FSB) (Supplied by Spectrum Communications)
Memory: 2x 512MB DDR-533 OCZ (Supplied by OCZ)
Hard Disk: Western Digital 120GB 7,200RPM PATA (Supplied by Plus Corporation)
Graphics Card: ATI Radeon 9800XT (Supplied by Gigabyte)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP SP2
Motherboard: ABIT IC7 MAX3
To do our overclocking results we ran a series of 3DMark03 tests over 20 mins each to determine the most stable FSB possible with each voltage step.
For this we set the motherboard to use its default DDR voltage and allowed the booster to work its magic. We also tested the booster against the ABIT IC7 MAX3's own DDR voltage to see what works better.
Here we can see that when pushing beyond 2.8v the ABIT IC7 MAX3's own voltage system is simply not good enough and this is where OCZ manages to really shine as you can see.
OCZ DDR Booster - Final ThoughtsFinal Thoughts
It is no surprise that OCZ has managed to pull off yet another feat of PC engineering. In the past we have been pretty happy with OCZ products, whether they are heatsinks, PSU's or their special brand of memory...it has always impressed.
The DDR Booster is one of the products that come along that you simply have to look at and wonder why it wasn't done earlier. The design is simple, the idea is magical and simply put it managed to push most motherboard to the edge of the FSB limit.
A few words of warning must be imposed as not all motherboards will accept the DDR Booster, whether it be a DIMM placement problem or incompatibility with the electrical circuitry used for the DRAM on certain boards - don't think you can shove this memory booster into any board and get the results you want. OCZ has a list of boards tested to comply and function with the DDR booster as well as recommended max settings and this is a must read before you go out and buy one.
With all the doom and gloom out of the way, the OCZ DDR Booster is definitely one for the extreme overclocker looking for those extra MHz out of the system that you simply cannot get out with regular onboard voltage. This will also prove a very helpful addition to ASUS users who find a lot of their board's undervolting the DRAM.
Fits into a standard DIMM socket, no volt mods needed
Compatible with most boards
Allows up to an insane 3.9v for DRAM
Simple to use - turn knob operation
Can mix connectors up and possibly fry motherboard - be careful!
We have given the OCZ DDR Booster a rating of 9.5 out of 10 and TweakTown's "MUST HAVE" Editor's Choice Award
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