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PQI's PQI3200-1024DBU - Low Latency Turbo DDR400 RAM
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Date: Aug 31, 2004
Section:Misc
Author: Jeff Bouton
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Introduction



Recently, several big name memory companies have offered new "low-latency" DDR memory modules capable of running with brisk 2-2-2-5 timings at 400MHz.  Based on Samsung's latest low-latency ICs, these chips have demonstrated remarkable stability, compatibility and speed as well as the potential to overclock in excess of 500MHz DDR when relaxed latencies are used.

One of the lesser known players in this field is PQI Designs.  Not long ago, PQI acquired PMI Memory, incorporating their Turbo Series brand into the PQI product line.  This has given PQI a much broader product line that includes performance memory as well as industrial strength flash storage solutions and other commercial products.  

Today we'll be taking a look at the first of the PQI Turbo Series modules to grace our labs, the PQI3200-1024DBU Dual Channel Ultra Low Latency Memory. This 1GB pack (512MBx2) sports nickel-plated copper heat spreaders, aggressive timings and the promise of high performance. Let's take a look at what PQI brings to the game, in the first Turbo Series memory to be released under the PQI name.

Specifications of the PQI PQI3200-1024DBU - Low Latency Turbo DDR400 RAM
Low Latency=Fast
Part Number:
PQI3200-1024DPU

Package:
1024MB kit (2x512MB) dual channel pack

CAS Latency:
2-2-2-5

Test Voltage:
2.6 V

Speed:
DDR 400 MHz (PC3200)

Type:
184-pin DDR SDRAM

Error Checking:
Non-ECC

Registered/Unbuffered:
Unbuffered
Organization:
Two 64M x 64-bit

PCB Board:
6 Layers PCB

Quality Control:
Comprehensive rigorously tested in pair at dual channel environment

Heat Spreader:
Mirrored Black Copper

Warranty:
Lifetime

The PQI3200-1024DBU is a dual channel pack consisting of two 512MB low latency modules.  They are constructed on a six layer PCB in a 64Mx64-Bit configuration.  Underneath the heat spreaders are Samsung K4H560838F-TCCD modules rated for 500MHz DDR at CAS 3-4-4.  At 400MHz DDR, each DIMM is rated to run at CAS 2, RAS to CAS Delay (tRCD) of 2T, a Row Precharge (tRP) of 2T and an Active to Precharge Delay (tRAS) of 5T, or 2-2-2-5.  These are the very same Samsung ICs that have received attention lately with Corsair's XMS line, Crucial's Ballistix and Mushkin's LII series and have shown an excellent trend of performance and overclocking.  What is also worth noting are the PQI DIMMs are rated for 2.6v, which is within normal limits of today's motherboards.  Previously, higher-end DIMMs with aggressive timings had higher voltage requirements, sometimes beyond the scope of various motherboards.  

    

With companies such as Corsair and Crucial recently releasing low-latency modules set to run at the same aggressive timings, there seemed little to help PQI set themselves apart.  The PQI DIMMs do come with high quality copper based heat spreaders with a mirrored black finish and a lifetime warranty, but aside from that, it's standard fare.  The true difference will be in testing, where we'll see how well the memory performs at its rated speed as well as finding the maximum overclocking speeds.

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HH Test System and SiSoft Sandra 2004



How we configured our test systems:  When configuring our test systems for this review, the first thing we did was enter the system BIOS and set each board to their "Optimized" or "High-Performance Defaults".  The hard drives were then formatted, and Windows XP Professional (SP2) was installed. When the installation was complete, we installed all of the necessary drivers, and removed Windows Messenger from the system altogether.  Auto-Updating and System Restore were also disabled, and we setup a 768MB permanent page file on the same partition as the Windows installation.  Lastly, we set Windows XP's Visual Effects to "best performance", installed all of our benchmarking software, defragged the hard drives and ran all of the tests.  Throughout all our benchmarking, we had the memory voltage set to 2.8v.


HotHardware's Test Systems
Two Time the Fun...
SYSTEM 1:
S754 - AMD Athlon 64 3200+ (2GHz)


MSI K8T Neo Motherboard
VIA K8T800 Chipset

PQI PQI3200-1024DPU Turbo Series

Kingson HyperX PC3500
Geil PC3200 Ultra

ASUS GeForce 6800
On-Board 10/100 Ethernet
On-Board Audio


WD 30GB Hard Drive
7200 RPM IDE


Windows XP Pro SP2
NVIDIA ForceWare 61.77
DirectX 9.0c
SYSTEM 2:
Intel P4 2.4GHz


Albatron 875P
Intel 875P Chipset


PQI PQI3200-1024DPU Turbo Series
Kingson HyperX PC3500
Geil PC3200 Ultra

ASUS GeForce 6800
On-Board 10/100 Ethernet
On-Board Audio


WD 30GB Hard Drive
7200 RPM IDE


Windows XP Pro SP2
NVIDIA ForceWare 61.77
DirectX 9.0c

Performance Comparison with SiSoft SANDRA 2004
Raw Bandwidth

First test we ran SiSoft SANDRA 2004's Arithmetic and Floating point test on the PQI3200-1024DBUs, on both AMD and Intel platforms.  As a frame of reference, we compared the results to those from both Kingston HyperX PC3500 and Geil PC3500 Ultra.  

Within both test sets, we saw little variation among the different modules.  The PQI Memory, running at 2-2-2-5, actually registered slightly slower on the AMD system when compared to the GEIL Ultra at 2-3-3-8 and the Kingston HyperX at 2.5-3-3-8. The difference was roughly 30MB/s, which is very little in the big picture.  When we switched over to the Intel platform, we saw a wider range of performance variations, with the PQI3200 Turbo Memory taking a firm lead over the GEIL and Kingston HyperX modules.  On the 875P board, the PQI3200 managed to top the comparison modules by an average of 100MB/s overall, with the GEIL Ultra holding a firm second place.

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PCMark04 & Comanche4 Performance Testing



Performance Comparison with PCMark04
Overall Memory Score

In our next series of tests, we used PCMark04.  PCMark04 is an all-in-one testing package that can assess CPU, Memory, Graphics and Hard Drive performance, and issue an overall score as well as individual scores for each area of the test.  Today, we are going to focus solely on the Memory Performance module to see how the three different brands compared.

The PCMark04 test showed a different performance delta than seen with SiSoft Sandra 2004.  Here, we see the PQI and GEIL memory were neck-in-neck on the AMD system, both running at CAS 2, where the Kingston HyperX settled into the third slot at CAS 2.5.  When we shifted to the Intel test bed, the PQI Turbo Series once again took the top spot, where the Kingston HyperX managed to beat out the GEIL by over 170 points.  The PQI3200 was much faster on the Intel board, topping the second place memory by 135 points.

In-Game Performance Comparisons
System Memory Affects Framerates?  You Bet!

For a more "real world" performance assessment, we ran a round of NovaLogic's Comanche4 at the default settings with audio disabled to see how the scores varied.

While the scores didn't offer staggering differences, both test systems turned out their best performances with the PQI Turbo Memory installed.  Given the more aggressive timings, the systems running the PQI3200-1024DBU memory managed a minimum of an additional 1FPS over the next fastest modules.

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Overclocking Performance with Sandra04



Next, we turned our attention to overclocking the modules.  To do this, we used our Intel test bed to determine both the maximum speed of the PQI3200 at 2-2-2-5 timings as well as the maximum attainable speed regardless of timings. We locked the PCI divider to 66/33/100 in order to focus on CPU and Memory performance.  

At 2-2-2-5 we managed to increase the speed to 432MHz DDR, running the bus at 216MHz and the processor at 2.6GHz.  Next, we set the timings to 2.5-4-4-8 in order to see just how high we could go.  Our first test was to leave the bus at 200MHz and adjust the CPU:DDR ratio to 2.5, which would push the memory to 500MHz DDR, but that resulted in the system not POSTing.  However, this appeared to be an issue with the board.  When we left the ratio at 1:1, we were able to achieve an impressive 520MHz DDR by increasing the bus speed to 260MHz, running the CPU at 3.12GHz.  Not only was 520MHz an outstanding result, we suspect that we may have actually hit the limits of this motherboard since we peaked at the same 260MHz when we initially reviewed the board earlier in the year. Consequently, look at 520MHz as an impressive gain, with the possibility to go even higher.  Next, we'll run a few tests for reference to spotlight the gains achieved by the various overclocks.

Overclocked Performance with SiSoft SANDRA 2004
Pushing It Further

As you can see, with the memory clocked at 434MHz DDR, we managed a gain of 8.5% with the integer tests, increasing bandwidth by 403MB/s.  In the Floating Point tests we saw a gain of 363MB/s, equating to a 7.6% gain.  As we continued to increase the speed to 520MHz, we found gains in excess of at least 1200MB/s in each test, pushing past gains of 20% over the stock results.

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More Overclocking



After seeing such impressive overclocking gains at both aggressive and conservative timings, we thought we'd run rounds of FutureMark's PCMark04 and Comanche4.
Overclocked Performance with PCMark04
Overall Memory Score

With PCMark's Memory module, our test bed added over 600 points when running the memory aggressively at 432MHz.  Once we increased the MHz to 520DDR, the gains increased by over 1000 points.

In-Game Performance while Overclocked
System Memory Affects Frame rates?  You Bet!

We continued to see healthy gains with Comanche4 as well, increasing output by 4FPS at 432MHz and tacking on 14FPS at 520MHz DDR.  Yes, we do need to factor in the CPU MHz increases as well, but this is still a good representation of what the common user could achieve with the PQI3200 Turbo Memory using commonly available hardware.

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Final Thoughts


The PQI PQI3200-1024DBU Turbo Memory modules offer some of the lowest latencies available on the market at 400MHz DDR.  While PQI may not be widely recognized as high-performance memory providers, they are competing on the same level as the bigger name companies.  Crucial, Mushkin and Corsair all offer low-latency solutions based on the Samsung K4H560838F-TCCD ICs, and PQI is right up there, too.  

In our tests, the PQI3200-1024DBUs turned out terrific performance along with impressive overclocking results. Perhaps the overclocking results with aggressive timings were a little low when compared to similar modules, but you can't help but be impressed by the 520MHz we hit with conservative timings.  As we mentioned earlier, we believe that at 520MHz, the limitation may still have been our motherboard and not the memory, so these numbers could go even higher in the right system.  We should also note that this was some of the most stable memory we've used to date. We installed it on a wide range of motherboards briefly, including NFORCE 3 250Gb, VIA K8T800, ATI IGP9100, Intel 865PE and 875P, none of which encountered any issues.

In the end, we found the PQI PQI3200-1024DBU Ultra Low Latency Turbo Memory to offer excellent performance, stability and overclockability at a competitive price point.  At the writing of this review, the PQI PQI3200-1024DBU Turbo Memory was retailing for $245, which is quite competitive when you factor in the low latencies this memory can run at.  Corsair's XMS equivalent runs $40 more, while Mushkin's LII tops out at $330.  We believe this makes the PQI3200-1024DBU Ultra Low Latency Turbo Memory one if the best values currently available for low-latency PC3200 DDR memory.  Anyone looking to get on the low-latency bandwagon should strongly consider PQI's PQI3200-1024DBU kit. 

We Give the PQI PQI3200-1024DBU Ultra Low Latency Turbo Memory a HotHardware Heat Meter Rating of 9.5

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