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Unbranded Memory in General
Member Name: isvikthere
Unbranded Memory in General
Date: 15/09/03, updated on 14/10/03 (204 review reads)
Disadvantages: you get what you pay for, more risks of faulty modules, not fit for high performance systems
Most of you will know what Memory Modules look like, they are made of a number of black memory chips grouped on a green bar. Recently - and they copied this from the RIMM modules (*) - on high specification branded memory, the whole module is covered in a thin metal shield with the brand name on it. This shield, sometimes also referred to as a "RAMsink" is supposed to give better heat dissipation, allowing the memory chips to run cooler. Personally I think it is more of a marketing gimmick because with a ramsink they are supposed to look cooler too.
Unfortunately this heatshield keeps you from seeing the memory chips themselves. No brand or lesser brand modules or branded modules of lower specification won't have this heatshield and will still look like memory modules have done for over a decade now.
The branded versus unbranded discussion.
I've browsed through the current Dooyoo-reviews on unbranded RAM and most of them seem to be in favour of unbranded modules because of the obvious price advantage.
First it is crucial (pun intended : Crucial is a well known memory manufacturer) to make a distinction between the manufacturer of the whole memory module and the manufacturer of the black memory chips that are on the module. It is a known fact that there is only a handful of memory chipmakers (or "bakers" if you prefer this term) in the world (e.g. Samsung, Siemens, etc.) and therefore often modules from different manufacturers, be they branded or unbranded, will contain chips from the same origins/bakeries
It's true if you are only looking for extra memory because your computer and the programmes you are running quickly eat through the available quantity and start using the harddisk swapfile for additional headroom a serious performance loss will be noticeable as harddisks are much slower than physcial memory. This can quickly be solved by
adding additional physical memory or RAM. And here, if the memory works in your system that is all you need, so buying unbranded modules can mean considerable savings. Because in normal conditions memory modules either work or they don't and if they don't work, you just return them under warranty to the shop and ask for a new one. Your PC-system plainly refusing to boot (start up) or frequent blue screens in any of the MS-Windows operating systems are common indications that your memory is faulty.
However, as there is always a downside to everything, unlike unbranded, branded memory modules are made up of selected memory chips and will have gone through far more thourough testing than unbranded ones. This is because certain chips even from the same "bakery" have higher tolerances than others.
Also and this is something not dealt with in the opinions I've read sofar on Dooyoo on unbranded modules, memory is more than just the quantity. Those of you that have had the courage to browse through the Basic In and Out System (or BIOS for short) windows at startup (by pressing DEL or F1) will have noticed that there a certain number of settings for the system memory can be altered by the user.
Today's ultrafast computers are often slowed down by bottlenecks of which the average user has no perception, the likes of harddisk access times (**), memory throughput times, etc, whereby your ultrafast processor is waiting for information which can't be fed to it quickly enough by slower subsystems. Now the memory timings can be (or not) one of those bottlenecks keeping your PC that has the latest Intel or AMD processor from achieving peek performance.
And this is where the branded memory modules come to shine. Branded modules will allow you to get far better timings than unbranded ones making sure that added memory or the whole physical memory for that matter operates optimally. Often resel
will refer to this by putting next to the specifications for the memory something like "CAS 2,5" or "CAS 2".
Also memory chips are often referred to by their basic speed expressed in nanoseconds (ns) so you will sometimes see that the highspeed memorychips used on graphic boards today can achieve as low a speed as 4 ns whilst your average memory chip on a PC66 SDram stick sold in 1997/98 was timed at 10 ns. This speed will often be indicated on the litle black memory chips themselves. Take out your magnifying glass and check for yourself. On branded modules the black chips used will most often have lower speeds than on onbranded ones.
Memory Access Timings
In the press these timings are mostly referred to in 2-5-2-2 form whereby each figure in the series stands for a specific timing. A whole book could be written on just this but just remember that the lower the settings the better. Often forcing unbranded memory modules to these lower settings will result in errors. This is because they are being forced into timings they cannot support because of the lower specificatoins of the memory chips they are made of. In a way this is related to overclocking, however branded modules do not suffer whatsoever from these better settings as they were selected, tested and are guaranteed to work with them.
This proves that NOT all memory modules - even when they are of the same physical size (128Mb/256Mb/512Mb/1Gb) and quoted speed (e.g. PC2100/2700/3200 or alternatively 166Mhz/333Mhz/400 Mhz) for the latest lines of DDR-Sdram - are created equal.
In case you are wondering, this timings issue was already playing for the previous generations of computer memory the likes of PC66 or PC100 and PC133 (modules operating at 66Mhz, 100Mhz or 133 Mhz speeds respectively).
So by buying branding modules you really are paying more to get more !
I'm inviting those of you tha
;t intimidated (or disgusted) by all this techtalk and still would like to know a bit more on how to determine optimal memory timings/settings to visit here :
On this site click in the lefthand column on "BIOS opt.guide", then scroll down the center page to "Free Access to the Bios optimization guide!" and then go look under "Memory subystem" to find out about all possible settings.
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH BRANDED AND UNBRANDED
From recent personal experience I can tell you that I had some trouble with a stick of unbranded memory I bought a while back. As it was the second module in my system, the first being a branded one (which today I suggested to Dooyoo for a review) it took me a while to realise that the unbranded module was generating random errors, and this even at the most conservative timing settings. I was only able to really identify the unbranded module as the culprit once I completely removed the primary, branded module from my system and then ran the computer with only the unbranded one in the first memory slot.
But as said there is always the warranty so I took the faulty unbranded module back to the shop, however this time swapping it and a litle extra cash for a branded module identical to the one I already had and which has proven entirely satisfactory.
No more problems since then !
I agree that buying unbranded RAM makes you save money and that the top brands (Crucial, Mushkin, Corsair) can carry hefty pricetags. But there are alternative brands that situate themselves snugly in between the big brands and the unbranded modules. Often these modules use chips from the same manufacturers as used on the big brand modules and have increased reliabilty compared to unbranded RAM. Those are the ones I would advise you to buy. A bit more expensive than unbran
ded but a lot mo
re reliable and better performing.
(*) RDRAM (also referred to as RIMM or RAMBUS) modules are used in certain systems with an Intel chipset. Intel tried to push this patented RDRAM-technology for a while, which although undeniably better performing than SDram, was considered too expensive by computer systems builders which favoured the cheaper DDR-Sdram, which especially at the higher speeds was able to rival or surpass RDRAM-performance.
Intel had to give in and in its newest chipsets now gives its full support for DDR-SDram, phasing out the motherboards or chipsets that work with the pricey RIMM modules.
(**)Always make sure that in whatever Windows flavour of OS you are running that the DMA (Direct Memory Access) or even UDMA box is ticked (for this look under "properties" for your harddisk drive controllers)