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PQI's PQI24200-1GDB DDR2 Turbo Memory Kit
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Date: Jan 06, 2005
Section:Misc
Author: Jeff Bouton
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Introduction and Specifications

Competition can be a blessing for consumers, a headache for manufacturers and a driving force for an entire industry.  Where a market once may have been dominated by one or two big companies with a handful of smaller competitors striving for their piece of the pie, nowadays the scales are somewhat more balanced.  A good example of this is with the CD/DVD-ROM market, where a few big names like Plextor and Pioneer set the standard for years.  Today, there are many equally good offerings from lesser-known names at lower prices.  No longer is it necessary to pay a little extra for name recognition when there are quality alternatives for an economical price.

We've seen a similar trend in the memory market as well.  A few years ago we had several major players like Corsair, Crucial and the pricey Mushkin.  Today though, companies like OCZ, Geil, and Kingston have also gained their fair share of the enthusiast market with comparable performance, quality and warranties to the bigger names.  That trend is continuing to change with even more companies getting in the game with offerings well worth considering.

One of the most recent companies to make waves in the memory market is PQI.  After merging their business with PMI, PQI now offers a wide spectrum of memory options including flash storage, DDR and DDR2 memory.  We got our first taste of PQI back in August '04 with a review of the PQI3200-1024DBU Turbo DDR Memory and we're still impressed by this memory to this day.  These modules offered exceptional performance and overclocking potential, and they are still a worthy DDR1 option.  Today, we are going to add a second chapter to the PQI storybook with a review of the PQI24200-1GDB DDR2 Turbo Memory Kit.  While it still has higher latencies than DDR memory, the PQI24200 comes with very aggressive timings for the DDR2 line.  So, let's take a look and see what PQI brings to us this time around.  Then we'll put it to work and see how it compares to the competition. 

Specifications of the PQI PC24200 DDR2 Turbo Memory Kit
1GB of Turbo Lovin'

Part Number:
Quality Control:


Package:
Organization:
CAS Latency:
Test Voltage:
Heat Spreader:
Speed:
Type:
Error Checking:
Registered/Unbuffered:
Warranty:
PQI24200-1GDB
Rigorously tested in dual
channel environment
1GB kit (2x512MB)
Two 64M x 64-bit
3-3-3-8
2.0 V
Mirrored Black Copper
DDR2 533MHz (PC2-4200)
240-pin DDR SDRAM
Non-ECC
Unbuffered
Lifetime

One of the seemingly little things that we like about PQI's products is their packaging.  While it can be a little hard to get open, it does an excellent job of shielding the memory in a plastic air bubble.  We have several other packages on hand from other companies that do not offer the same kind of protection.  Inside the package was a matched pair of DIMMs with copper heat spreaders donning a black mirrored finish.  What was also noticeable was the weight of these DIMMs, which gave an immediate impression of quality.

  

Each module is configured with 512MB of PC24200 DDR2 memory rated for 533MHz.  Additionally, the modules are rated for more aggressive timings than we've seen in the past with DDR2.  When DDR2 first came out, we saw initial offerings set to run at CAS 4-4-4-12, often negating any performance gains over low latency DDR1 modules.  The PQI24200 memory comes rated for CAS 3-3-3-8 at 533MHz, quite a bit lower in the latency department than offerings before this.

  

Rated for 2v, these memory modules have a single sided configuration consisting of 8 64MB chips.  The heat spreaders come with an adhesive side to adhere to the flat side of the module, where a thermal pad backs the chips themselves.  Other than that, there is very little else to point out about this memory.  When we look at the specifications and overall construction, we got a sense of real quality, but that's only part of the picture.  After all, you can't how good memory is just by looking at it!

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Compatibility and HH Test System

Compatibility Testing:  One of the first things we like to do with a new set of memory is install it in a series of motherboards to give us some idea of compatibility.  For this, we installed the PQI24200-1024GDB into three of the most recent motherboards we've reviewed, an ASUS P5GDC-V Deluxe I915G, an MSI I915P Neo2 Platinum and a Foxconn 925XE7AA-8EKRS2 I925XE.  In each case, the system worked flawlessly with the PQI24200 modules, and we did not experience any odd behavior whatsoever. 

  

When we installed the memory modules into our Foxconn test board, when we set the memory timings by SPD in the BIOS, the system defaulted to a 4-4-4-12 configuration.  So we loaded the latest version of CPU-Z to poll the SPD data and discovered that the SPD was not programmed as we would have expected.  The lowest timings we found were for 3-3-3-9 at 200MHZ (DDR400) and 266MHz (DDR533) was programmed for 5-4-4-12.  Nonetheless, these modules are rated for 3-3-3-8 at 533MHz DDR, so in our SPD tests, we manually set the timings to match the ratings on the label.

HotHardware's Test System
Not all are created equal...

SYSTEM 1:
Socket T - Pentium 4 530 (3GHz)
A Foxconn 925XE7AA-8EKRS2 Motherboard
I925XE Chipset
PQI24200-1024GDB
Corsair XMS2-PC5300 1GB
Radeon X600 XT
On-Board 10/100/1000 Ethernet
On-Board Audio
WD 30GB Hard Drive
7200 RPM PATA
Windows XP Pro SP2
ATi Catalyst 4.12


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 hit the Windows Update site and downloaded all of the available updates, with the exception of the ones related to Windows Messenger.  Then, 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 of our standard benchmarking, we had the memory voltage set to 1.9v.  When overclocking, or experimenting with lower latencies, we set the memory voltage to 2.0v.

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Performance with SPD Settings

 

Performance Comparison with SiSoft SANDRA 2004
Raw Bandwidth

We began our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA, focusing our attention on the Memory Benchmark.  We started by setting the memory by SPD, but as we said earlier, the test board set the timings to 4-4-4-12.  So, in the these tests we manually set the timings to the correct 3-3-3-8 timings the memory is designed to run at.  For comparison, throughout the review we compared the performance to 1GB of Corsair's XMS2 PC5300 as a reference point, matching timings and speed as close as possible.


PQI24200-1GDB
(3-3-3-8)

XMS2-5300Pro
(3-3-3-8)


The PQI Turbo memory stacked up well against the Corsair XMS2 memory we used for reference.  The PQI memory came in around 40MB shy of the Corsair in both the Integer and Floating point tests.  This is a marginal difference in performance overall.

Performance Comparison with PCMark04
Overall Memory Score

The next benchmark we ran was the PCMark04 Memory Performance test, isolating the test to memory intensive benchmarks on both modules.

We continued to see a slight performance advantage in favor of the Corsair XMS2, but again, the scores were very close, giving the edge to Corsair by 16 points.  In the next round, we'll shift from the synthetic testing to some more real world examples to see how each module compares.

In-Game Performance Comparisons With Wolf: ET
System Memory Affects Frame rates?  You Bet!

For this run, we loaded Wolfenstein: ET with the graphics set to the bare minimum.  This reduces the effects of the video card on the results, allowing us to see a truer representation of the memory's performance.

Interestingly, contrary to what we were seeing with the synthetic tests, Wolfenstein: ET favored the PQI24200-1GDB Turbo memory by almost 4FPS.  Next, we'll see just how much lower we can set the latencies on these modules and then we'll run the same set of tests again to see what performance gains are possible.

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Performance with Lowest Latency

To get this next batch of results, we manually lowered the latencies of each memory kit to 3-3-2-4.  This was the lowest possible settings we could achieve with the PQI24200 Turbo series.  We set the Corsair XMS2 to the same settings as a reference.

Performance Comparison with SiSoft SANDRA 2004
Raw Bandwidth


PQI24200-1GDB (3-3-2-4)


XMS2-5300Pro (3-3-2-4)

When we look at the effects of the lower latencies on SANDRA's results, we saw the PQI memory hit the same speeds as the Corsair at 3-3-2-4, while the Corsair modules led the results within 31MB in the Integer test and 43MB in the Floating Point test.

Performance Comparison with PCMark04
Overall Memory Score

Again, we saw the PCMark04 results favor the Corsair memory with a 14 point difference, a tighter margin than the previous test.

In-Game Performance Comparisons With Wolf: ET
System Memory Affects Framerates?  You Bet!

With Wolfenstein: ET, neither the Corsair or PQI memory scores climbed more than a fraction of a frame, although the PQI Turbo series maintained the upper hand by around 4FPS.

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Performance at BY SPD Overclock

For next round of testing we set each kit to run with their SPD timings and raised our test system's FSB as high as possible.  We didn't have an unlocked processor to isolate the memory from the CPU, but we ran the test with a 3:4 divider and increased the bus accordingly.  We found the peak bus speed with the PQI memory was 220MHz, where it topped the Corsair at 216MHz.

Performance Comparison with SiSoft SANDRA 2004
Raw Bandwidth


PQI24200-1GDB (3-3-3-8)
220MHz FSB/ 293MHz (DDR586)


XMS2-5300Pro (3-3-3-8)
216MHz FSB / 288MHz (DDR573)

Running the PQI memory at a higher overall bus speed didn't mean it was the best performer while overclocked.  Here, we see the Corsair memory was still faster, even with a bus clocked 4MHz slower than the PQI scenario.  The Corsair XMS2 managed the faster overall result, with a difference of roughly 80MB overall.

Performance Comparison with PCMark04
Overall Memory Score

This time around, the PCMark04 scores didn't follow the same pattern as SANDRA.  Here, we see the PQI24200 Turbo series beat out the Corsair XMS2 by 17 points overall.

In-Game Performance Comparisons With Wolfenstein: ET
System Memory Affects Framerates?  You Bet!

The Wolfenstein: ET scores were still a tight match up, with the PQI memory taking a 2.4 frame lead over the Corsair modules.  In the final segment, we're going to raise the latencies and see just how high we could go with our test bed.

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Performance at Highest Stable Overclock

For our final round of tests, we set each kit to run at 4-4-4-12 and raised our test system's FSB as high as possible.  In this segment, the peak bus speed hit with both sets of DIMMs was 251MHz. 

Performance Comparison with SiSoft SANDRA 2004
Raw Bandwidth

PQI24200-1GDB (4-4-4-12)
251MHz FSB/ 336MHz (DDR672)

XMS2-5300Pro (4-4-4-12)
251MHz FSB/ 336MHz (DDR672)

The Corsair memory managed to maintain an edge over the PQI24200 by 100MB on average, in both the integer and floating point tests.  Both sets were the fastest modules when compared to SANDRA's integrated reference set.

Performance Comparison with PCMark04
Overall Memory Score

With PCMark04, the PQI24200 dipped below the comparison Corsair DIMMs by 92 points overall.  This was a wider margin when compared to the stock results, but in the end we'd have to question if these differences would be noticed in the real world.

In-Game Performance Comparisons With Wolfenstein: ET
System Memory Affects Framerates?  You Bet!

Even with Wolfenstein: ET, the Corsair memory managed to push ahead of the PQI24200 memory for the first time in this review, although these results were still very tight.

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Summary & Conclusion

Benchmark Summary:  Overall, the PQI24200 Turbo Series DDR2 memory competed quite well with the Corsair XMS2 5300.  Granted, the XMS2 memory is very aggressive performance memory, we felt it was a fair comparison to see how the PQI DDR2 fits the current market.  We found with the synthetic test that the results swung back and forth, with only the highest overclocking test leaning more towards Corsair.  And in the Wolfenstein: ET performance tests, the results typically favored the PQI24200 Turbo memory.

Back when we first experienced PQI's PQI3200-1024DBU low latency Turbo DDR400 RAM, we were very impressive with its quality and performance.  The same holds true with this latest offering of the PQI24200-1GDB DDR2 Turbo memory.  When compared to the competition, this memory performed quite well, and even managed to run stable with lower timings than it was officially rated for.  Overclocking yielded modest results at stock timing, but when we relaxed the latencies, the only limitation was the test board we used.  In the end, we think the PQI24200-1GDB deserves a place in any DDR2 set up.  The stability, quality, performance and overclocking was all excellent, and it comes in a bit less expensive than some of the bigger name brands.  We should also note that all of PQI's DIMMs come with a lifetime warranty, so it's a win/win scenario all around.  Priced near $240, these DIMMs weigh in at a very affordable price point for 1GB of high performance DDR2, making it a solid choice.

We Give PQI's PQI24200-1GDB Turbo Memory a Hot Hardware Heat Meter Rating of 8.5...

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