Corsair 5400UL - IntroductionIntroduction
Since our last DDR-2 memory review back in March of this year, the market has change in positive ways for enthusiasts who are on the Intel side of the fence - we have quicker RAM and new platforms which allow for flexible overclocking, such as nVidia's nForce4 Intel Edition chipset (C19).The C19 chipset from nVidia brings a new meaning to memory overclocking with unprecedented overclocking support through a real special memory controller. In older chipsets (such as Intel's 925X and 925XE and in fact all
older chipsets) there was limited memory divider (or ratio) options built into the memory controllers. The dividers determine memory clock speed based on the CPU FSB - for instance, if you wanted to overclock your memory above 420MHz (say 315 FSB with a 3:4 ratio using a 266MHz FSB EE), you would have needed a very overclockable CPU or spend a lot of money on extreme cooling methods which isn't for everyone.The new C19 chipset is somewhat unlinked and unattached (or asynchronous) between CPU and memory meaning you can adjust the memory semi-independent
of the CPU FSB which is definitely a big bonus for Pentium 4 overclockers and just might help pull some enthusiasts from AMD to Intel. Both clocks are still linked deep down in core logic, however nVidia has added a lot of divider options (and we mean a lot!) which allows the user to manually enter a clock speed for their RAM... without having to worry if their CPU can keep pace - flexibility at it's best. Keep in mind changing the CPU FSB will alter memory clock speeds but only up to around 25MHz DDR, which isn't a huge deal. Of course, this setup works both ways...if the user wants to overclock their CPU and doesn't have the memory which can handle the high FSB, no dramas here either. This type of overclocker's nightmare is a thing of the past on nVidia's latest marvel of a chipset and makes testing memory a joy for us.In our DDR-2 roundup in March we compared
several different low latency DDR-2 675MHz memory modules and were happy with our results. Since then companies like Corsair haven't stop working and are pushing even lower latency memory for the Pentium 4 platform and modules which can be overclocked to some pretty serious levels, which is just perfect now we have platforms like C19 to work and play with.While low latency memory for Intel processors isn't anywhere near as critical as it is for AMD processors, tight timings or lower access latency do help boost performance without question. More critical on the Pentium side is bandwidth - and as much as possible. In an article from April this year entitled "DDR-2 Memory Investigation Guide - Making sense of memory settings
" we discovered through extensive testing that higher bandwidth rules over low latency for Pentium 4 - at least on the older Intel chipset we tested with at the time of publishing.Earlier this year Corsair, a memory maker who specializes in enthusiast RAM, launched their 5400UL part which is designed to offer impressive timings (3-3-2-8) at 675MHz DDR and is in fact designed for the C19 chipset but will work on other DDR-2 based systems. Not only that but they make claims that their memory can do over 800MHz DDR with relaxed timings. With our fresh new C19 motherboard, we'll take Corsair's latest performance DDR-2 memory for a spin and see how it performs at stock speeds and just how far we can overclock the sticks. We hope to find out just how Corsair's memory performs against older DDR-2 memory and what type of impact on performance we find by running DDR-2 memory at 850MHz DDR with relaxed timings compared to around 730MHz DDR with tight timings on the latest Intel platform from nVidia.
Corsair 5400UL - The ModulesThe Modules
Without looking at the stickers on Corsair's XMS2 memory, you would be forgiven for thinking that they were all exactly the same. The 5400UL modules are no different and use the regular and effective black heat spreader for heat dissipation. Included is a Corsair sticker which tells you which modules they are - in this case, CM2X512A-5400UL (XMS2-5400 512MB 675MHz
).Corsair offer their 5400UL memory in a matched pair of 1GB (2 x 512MB) or single 512MB kits. All of Corsair's 5400UL memory is hand tested before shipping and includes a lifetime warranty. It's good to know these facts before buying premium (read: more expensive) branded memory.
SPD is programmed at 4-4-4-12 at 1.8 volts. When you first put these low latency modules in your system, you'll have to increase the VDIMM (memory voltage) to 2.1 volts to run at the guaranteed 675MHz DDR 3-3-2-8 tight timings at the aggressive 1T command rate. Corsair claim these defined timings are 100% tested in "high performance DDR2 motherboards" at their labs before shipping. After increasing the VDIMM to 2.1 volts, we had no issues raising the SPD in the BIOS of our C19 Gigabyte motherboard to these aggressive timings and had no issues at all with stability throughout our testing phase.Corsair has chosen to use hand picked and tested Micron "Fat Body" D9 chips for their 5400UL part. These chips are rated at 3ns which translates into CL 5 at 1.8v. Not all the chips which Corsair receives make the cut and only the best clocking chips make it onto the 5400UL memory. The ones which are able to meet the 675 MHz DDR 3-3-2-8 targets are in and the others would be placed on lower grade memory modules.As far as pricing goes, the 5400UL memory from Corsair isn't cheap but you pay a price premium for performance memory with very aggressive timings and claims to be able to reach over 800MHz with relaxed timings and 2T command rate, as we read here
by "The RAM Guy". The lowest price on our shopping comparison website for a matched pair of 512MB 5400UL modules is $276 USD up to $375 USD
($370 AUD to $500 AUD - 1 USD = 1.34166 AUD). For comparison, you'll be looking at around $176 USD up to $368 USD
($236 AUD to $494 - 1 USD = 1.34166 AUD) for Crucial's Ballistix memory with less impressive timings.Now we know all about Corsair's 5400UL memory, we are ready to move onto the testing.
Corsair 5400UL - Benchmarks - Test System Setup and InformationTest System SetupProcessor(s):
Intel Pentium 4 EE 3.46GHz (1066 FSB) (Supplied by Intel
Gigabyte 8N-SLI Royal (nVidia NF4 IE) (Supplied by Gigabyte
2 x 512MB DDR2 Corsair PC5400UL (Supplied by Corsair
nVidia GeForce 7800 GTX reference (Supplied by nVidia
Seagate 200GB 7,200RPM PATA (Supplied by Seagate
Windows XP Professional SP1Drivers:
nVidia Forceware 77.72, nVidia nForce4 SLI Intel Edition 7.13 and DX9cWe've used the impressive Gigabyte 8N-SLI Royal motherboard based on nVidia's nForce4 Intel Edition chipset which offers all the flexible memory divider settings you could ever possibly need (as discussed in the introduction). As such, it's a dream platform for this type of testing environment.Our Pentium 4 EE CPU remained at or very close to 1066 FSB (13 x 266 = 3460MHz) for the entirety of our testing. LDT (HyperTransport bus) was set to 4x for all testing so it was synchronous with the FSB, for optimal performance. We've tested the memory at a range of different settings to give you a comprehensive idea about the performance of Corsair's 5400UL memory;- 675MHz DDR @ 4-4-4-12 1T (default shipping speeds)- 675MHz DDR @ 3-3-2-8 1T (guaranteed timings from Corsair)- 731MHz DDR @ 3-3-2-8 1T (maximum clock speed at tight timings)- 850MHz DDR @ 4-4-4-12 2T (maximum clock speed at loose timings)- 533MHz DDR @ 4-4-4-8 1T (performance of 5400UL over older DDR-2 memory)
The above testing settings should give us a good indication regarding how the 5400UL memory performs at different levels - stock and overclocked, loose and tight timings and the impact of the 2T command rate setting over 1T. We used 2.3 volts VDIMM to achieve every setting except the first (default) which was ran at 1.8 volts - all other voltages were left at their default settings - Yep, that easy when you're working with the C19 chipset!
All the overclocked results were accepted as "stable" since they passed all of our benchmarks several times without any hiccups and no module heat issues were had.These tests should also prove as a solid follow-up to our DDR-2 Memory Investigation guide
which we posted earlier this year. How will the newest Pentium 4 platform take to high clock speeds with tight timings and even higher clock speeds at relaxed timings - let's get into it and find out some answers!
Corsair 5400UL - Benchmarks - SiSoft SandraSiSoft SandraVersion and / or Patch Used:
2005Developer Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.co.ukProduct Homepage: http://sisoftware.jaggedonline.com/index.php?location=home&a=TTA&lang=enBuy It Here
SiSoft Sandra (S
iagnostic and R
ssistant) is a synthetic Windows benchmark that features different tests used to evaluate different PC subsystems.
In our first test we can see that the 731MHz DDR @ 3-3-2-8 1T setting is out in front by a fair margin with 675MHz DDR @ 3-3-2-8 1T and 850MHz DDR @ 4-4-4-12 2T almost even in the memory bandwidth department. The loose timings at 850MHz DDR seems to negate the high clock speed.With the Corsair 5400UL set to 533MHz it is a good way behind the quickest setting. It's important to keep in mind we are still using Corsair 5400UL to demonstrate a typical slower and older DDR-2 module.
Corsair 5400UL - Benchmarks - 3DMark053DMark05Version and / or Patch Used:
Build 120Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark05/Buy It Here
3DMark05 is the latest version in the popular 3DMark "Gamers Benchmark" series. It includes a complete set of DX9 benchmarks which tests Shader Model 2.0 and higher.For more information on the 3DMark05 benchmark, we recommend you read our preview here
3DMark05 has always been more of a graphics benchmark than an overall system benchmark and as we can see not much separates all the settings. Even still, the 731MHz DDR @ 3-3-2-8 1T setting is able to edge in front at the low resolution with the 850MHz DDR @ 4-4-4-12 2T setting coming out just in front at the higher resolution.
Corsair 5400UL - Benchmarks - Half Life 2Half Life 2Version and / or Patch Used:
UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used:
Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com Product Homepage: http://www.half-life2.comBuy It Here
By taking the suspense, challenge and visceral charge of the original, and adding startling new realism and responsiveness, Half-Life 2 opens the door to a world where the player's presence affects everything around him, from the physical environment to the behaviors even the emotions of both friends and enemies.We benchmark Half Life 2 with our own custom timedemos as to avoid possible driver optimizations using the "record demo_name" command and loading the timedemo with the "timedemo demo_name" command - For a full list of the commands, click here
The results in HL2 are a little more interesting than 3DMark05. The 731MHz DDR @ 3-3-2-8 1T setting at both resolutions edges out in front giving an extra few frames per second over the memory when it is at the 675MHz DDR @ 4-4-4-12 1T setting.The 533MHz DDR @ 4-4-4-8 1T setting is at the bottom of the pack. It's around about one frame per second slower than the memory at default and around 4 frames per second slower than the quickest setting.
Corsair 5400UL - Benchmarks - Doom 3Doom 3Version and / or Patch Used:
UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used:
Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.idsoftware.com Product Homepage: http://www.doom3.comBuy It Here
Doom 3 is the latest game to hit our test lab and is one of the most intensive games to dates. With our own custom time demo we are able to give a realistic rating on what kind of FPS you will be achieving.For more information on benchmarking Doom 3 we recommend you check out our extensive article regarding it here
Under Doom 3 the results are slower than we saw in HL2. The 731MHz DDR @ 3-3-2-8 1T setting is again out in front providing around 2 to 3 frames per second advantage over the 5400UL at default.The 533MHz DDR @ 4-4-4-8 1T setting is a good way behind all other settings and up to almost 8 frames per second slower than the quickest setting, which is quite substantial.
Corsair 5400UL - Benchmarks - PCMark05 ProfessionalPCMarkVersion and / or Patch Used:
2005 Build 101Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/pcmark05/Buy It Here
PCMark is a multipurpose benchmark, suited for benchmarking all kinds of PCs, from laptops to workstations, as well as across multiple Windows operating systems. This easy-to-use benchmark makes professional strength benchmarking software available even to novice users. PCMark consists of a series of tests that represent common tasks in home and office programs. PCMark also covers many additional areas outside the scope of other MadOnion.com benchmarks.
All the results under PCMark05's memory test are quite similar with the 533MHz DDR @ 4-4-4-8 1T setting out of the race; otherwise the results are as expected.
Corsair 5400UL - Benchmarks - ScienceMark 2.0ScienceMark 2.0
ScienceMark 2.0 is a mathematical program designed to stress the memory subsystems of both desktop/workstation and server environments to determine the read/write latency as well as the overall memory bandwidth available between the CPU and the memory controller.- Access Latency
The first of the ScienceMark tests is the access latency - less is better.
We see a similar story here with the 675MHz DDR @ 3-3-2-8 1T setting providing the best performance by a good deal.- Memory Bandwidth
Now we come to the memory bandwidth side of things, this is just like the Sandra memory benchmark - higher scores are better.
The 675MHz DDR @ 3-3-2-8 1T setting is again out in front with the 533MHz DDR @ 4-4-4-8 1T setting well behind.
Corsair 5400UL - Benchmarks - MP3 EncodingMP3 Encoding
Using a program called CD to MP3 Ripper (v1.50), we timed how long it would take to convert our retail copy of "50 Cent - Get Rich or Die Tryin'" from CDA to MP3 format using the bit rate size of 128kbit for the entire album. Obviously lower is better.
Oh boy - how uninteresting
Corsair 5400UL - Final ThoughtsFinal Thoughts
First up let's talk about the results concerning that of nVidia's new nForce4 Intel Edition chipset. Interestingly, it would seem that this particular platform desires low latency over high clock speeds, which is a direct contradiction over our claims earlier in the year that the Pentium 4 demanded high clock speed over low latency on the Intel 925XE chipset platform.It would require further investigation (which we're preparing to do) but at this early stage we'd guess that since the nForce4 Intel Edition chipset uses a similar architecture to the AMD Athlon 64 platform in terms of the HyperTransport bus, the low latency is important. High memory clock speeds have always been important for the Pentium 4 architecture through the way it's designed and always will be but with the nForce4 Intel Edition platform, it seems we need a good mixture of both to really see some good figures produced.Corsair has quite recently released 8000UL (1000MHz DDR) memory which would be a perfect companion for the nForce4 Intel Edition chipset especially when using a 1066 FSB processor, like the Pentium 4 3.46GHz EE which we used here. The timings of this memory isn't that great but with such a high memory clock speed which runs synchronous with the FSB, the performance potential could be quite impressive and it is something we will be looking into over the next couple of weeks.Not to forget Corsair's 5400UL memory, it's a good product. Our benchmarks show it isn't really worth upgrading to Corsair 5400UL from older DDR-2 on an older motherboard unless you want to get into overclocking on one of the new Intel chipsets. If you own an 800MHz FSB Pentium 4 processor and are into overclocking, you'll likely see some great figures running the 5400UL in sync with your processor FSB. The 5400UL allows some headroom for overclocking above 800MHz FSB (on the right motherboard!) if you want to overclock your CPU past default speeds.Theoretically and based on our results here today you could take a Pentium 4 640 (200MHz FSB x 16 = 3200MHz) and overclock it to 3400MHz (212.5MHz FSB x 16) by increasing the FSB to 212.5 (DDR 850 / 4 = 212.5) and still run the memory and FSB in a perfect performing 1:1 ratio - We'll also be looking more into these types of settings.Corsair's 5400UL memory is quite quick and when you start to fine tune the memory on a motherboard which it is designed for, such as the Gigabyte 8N-SLI Royal, you do begin to see performance increases in games such as Half Life 2 and Doom 3. Even though the performance increases are small, every bit of performance counts.In conclusion, if you're looking at buying a new Pentium 4 motherboard and it's looking like it will be one based on nVidia's new chipset and you have a good budget to work with, we'd easily recommend the Corsair 5400UL to you as it brings many possibilities to the platform and provides headroom for overclocking both CPU and memory even if you don't intend on running both at 1:1 for optimal performance. Corsair told us that the 5400UL has hit around 1000MHz DDR on certain motherboard but our best efforts yielded us around 860MHz on our Gigabyte motherboard.Corsair just need to magically work out how to produce, say...2000MHz DDR memory at timings of 2-2-2-2 1T and we'll have a memory module which is not for the faint of heart! "Any idea when it will be ready guys? ;)
Perfect companion for nVidia nForce4 Intel Edition motherboardsImpressive performance through tight timingsGreat overclocking ability at 850MHz with loose timingsLifetime WarrantyHand tested before shipping- Cons
ExpensiveCorsair's 8000UL is looking like a better buy every minute for true enthusiast P4 usersRating - 8.5 out of 10 and TweakTown's "MUST HAVE" Best Performance Award