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PC133 CAS2 SDRAM Competition Corsair Vrs. Mushkin
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Date: Dec 14, 2001
Section:Misc
Author: HH Editor
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PC133 CAS2 SDRAM Competition Corsair Vrs. Mushkin - Page 1

PC133 CAS2 SDRAM Module Competition
Corsair Vrs. Mushkin

By Dave Altavilla - September 19, 2000

 
Like building a house on a solid foundation, there is just no substitute for good memory, when it comes to performance computing.  Virtually all of the various components in your PC access main system memory
at some point or another.  Whether you are an avid "Over-Clocker" or the conservative type, there is nothing more essential to system stability than a robust Main Memory Subsystem.  Having memory installed that is capable of handling the high end clock rates of today's modern system busses, can be the difference between "rock solidness" and an irritating or sometimes catastrophic "BSOD" (Blue Screen Of Death) system crash.

These days SDRAM manufacturers are punching out memory by the bucket load for the ever hungry consumer market.  However, as with anything else, there are varying degrees of quality and performance within this space.  The "PC133" standard and the memory that supports it, made 133MHz. Front Side Buses for the host processor, a reality.  Furthermore DDR SDRAM capable of 2X the bandwidth of PC133 memory, is coming to fruition.  However, we expect that PC133 SDRAM will be the mainstay system memory for some time to come. 

So, with that said, what separates the trash from the treasure in PC133 memory?  We're going to show you two suppliers of top notch PC133 SDRAM, in the following pages.  We'll put them head to head to compare their quality, performance and overall bang for your buck.

Before we move on, we would like to extend a hearty THANKS to the good folks at OUTSIDE LOOP COMPUTERS for supplying HotHardware with these modules.  OSL has been a sponsor of H.H. for a long time now and we are proud to have them on board.

Specifications Of Our Two Challengers
There is SDRAM and then there is "QUALITY" SDRAM

 

Corsair On The Left / Mushkin On The Right (click)

 

Corsair PC-133 CAS2 SDRAM Module

  • 168 Pin Unbuffered DIMM (Dual In Line Memory Module

  • 64, 128 or 256MB versions

  • 3.3V Operating Voltage

  • CAS (Column Address Strobe) Latency = 2

  • SPD (Serial Presence Detect E2 PROM On Board

  • Discrete SDRAM Chip Sources: Micron, Toshiba, Samsung

 


Mushkin High Perf PC133 Rev. 2 SDRAM Module

 

  • 168 Pin Unbuffered DIMM Module

  • 64MB or 128MB versions

  • 3.3V Operating Voltage

  • CAS Latency = 2

  • SPD E 2 PROM On Board

  • Discrete SDRAM Chip Sources: Mosel Vitelic

 

As you can see both of these modules have very similar specs.  As a result, this review should be a solid "apples to apples" comparison.  The PCBs are almost identical here and the only real differences are the chip suppliers used to populate these modules.  It should be noted that both Corsair and Mushkin do not manufacture the SDRAM on these modules but rather use major sources like Toshiba, Micron and Samsung or in the case of Mushkin's module, Mosel Vitelic.  However, regardless of the chip suppliers used, both Corsair and Mushkin guarantee performance according to their own published specfications that you see above. 

On the other hand, it is also widely known that there are very subtle differences between SDRAM chips amongst the various suppliers.  At the time this article was published, Mushkin was only supplying Mosel SDRAM chips on their "Rev. 2" modules.  Corsair could in fact supply any of the three sources listed above.  However, our module was populated with Micron SDRAM and most all modules we have seen for their 128MB PC133 CAS2 sticks, have the same Micron chips on them.  Regardless, we want to underscore the fact that this article is based on our findings with the Corsair product that utilizes Micron SDRAM on the module.

Subtle Nuances and CAS3 Vrs. CAS2 Performance 

 
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PC133 CAS2 SDRAM Competition Corsair Vrs. Mushkin - Page 2

PC133 CAS2 SDRAM Module Competition
Corsair Vrs. Mushkin

By Dave Altavilla - September 19, 2000

 
It makes sense to break things down a little further for you at this point.  Let's have a closer look at the chip level components on these two modules and what kind of specifications they bear.

First let's look at Mushkin...

 

These are 7ns. 8MX8 Synch. SDRAM chips.  Here is a table of their timing characteristics courtesy of Mosel Vitelic Semiconductor.

Here we see a Clock To Access Time of 5.5ns. and support for CAS Latency of 2 performance up to 143MHz.  Remember, these are chip level numbers.  When there are several of these parts on a module, other timing issues come into play like chip to chip timing, so specifications at the module level may be different.

Now let's look at Corsair's module with Micron on board...

Similar to the Mosel chips, these are also 7ns. 8MX8 SDRAM rated at 7ns.  Here are their timing tables courtesy of Micron Semiconductor.

Our module has the "-7E" parts on it, as you can see in the picture above.  Here we see slightly less aggressive timings with a CAS2 Allowable Operating Frequency of 133MHz.  Now, with this in mind, "specsmanship" between Semiconductor Manufacturers is a delicate game.  Micron may just be a little more conservative in the way they characterize their parts.  Still, looking at the specs, it seems as though the Mosel devices can handle a CAS Latency setting of 2 up to 143MHz. and the Micron only up to 133MHz.

Benchmarks / Comparison Between CAS2 and CAS3 Settings
So, what's the big deal?

Here is a quick look at what sort of performance gain CAS2 versus CAS3 settings can produce.

H.H. Test System
The latest and greatest

LiteOn Mid Tower ATX Case w/ 300W PS, Pentium III 933EB, MSI MS6337 i815 Motherboard and nVidia GeForce2 Ultra, 128MB of PC133 True CAS2 SDRAM from Corsair and Mushkin (thanks Outside Loop), IBM 15Gig 7200 RPM ATA100 Hard Drive (thanks again Outside Loop), Kenwood 72X CDROM,
Win 98SE, DirectX 7.0a


First, we'll get a 10,000 foot view of performance from SiSoft's Sandra Memory benchmarks.

Corsair 150MHz. CAS2

Mushkin 150MHz. CAS2

Corsair 150MHz. CAS3

Corsair 160MHz. CAS3

The first thing to note is that when all things are equal, bus speed and CAS Latency settings that is, both modules perform identically.  The next thing to note in the CAS3 scores (taken only on the Corsair sticks) is there is a fair amount of bandwidth lost.  Even at a 160MHz. FSB, the CAS3 timings can't keep up with CAS2.

Now, how does this affect real world performance?  That's what we have in store next...

 

More CAS2 Performance, The BIG Stability Test and Ratings 

 
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