Doubling Memory Is a Big Yes
Looking at the results chart to the right, which shows the average results of our stream tests, we see that doubling the size of our memory has definite advantages. Moving from the baseline to 4 gig increased the stream bandwidth by almost 20% and the average of overall performance indexes increased 4.219%.
Note that replacing a pair of 800 sticks running in Dual Channel Mode with a single, faster 1066 stick shows memory performance falling off. The lesson is clear: Always configure your memory to run in Dual Channel.
Performance from simply adding another pair of PC2 6400 to an existing setup should be comparable to 4 gigs on two new sticks, provided each pair is running in Dual Channel. This makes it a pretty cost effective upgrade, particularly if you use memory more aggressively than normal benchmarks would account for.
Gamers, particularly if running voice software like Ventrilo while playing, need the extra memory to keep everything running smoothly. If you like to have five or six windows open at once, particularly if some of them are resource intensive (like if you keep hopping between components of Adobe’s Creative Suite), you also could use the memory.
Finally, we were testing in XP. Vista takes up a lot of everything, but more than anything it is hard on memory. The move to 4 GB will keep those pretty windows and features from sucking the life right out of your system.
So just about anyone can help their system out with an extra 2 gigs, but is it worth trading in your old sticks and getting 4 GB of faster RAM?
From PC2 6400 to PC2 8400
The chart (it’s the same one, I just wanted to save you some scrolling) also shows a good step up when we crank our memory up to the factory specs. Here the average stream performance increased almost 25%, though the overall average system performance only increased 2.76%. Overclocking to 1100MHz created errors after a few hours of rigorous testing, but 1080 has held up rock solid. Of course, the resulting performance increase was less then stunning.
As time goes on, I will try 1090 and continue fine tuning. Some people will loosen timings to get the memory to run at higher speed, but that is kind of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Paul might be a little better with his money in some cases, but the transaction fee (days of tweaking your memory settings and testing the results for stability) makes it an unattractive course of action.
If you use relatively advanced, resource intensive software, and that includes Vista, the falling prices on DDR2 memory can get some nice increased performance out of your system. If you are building a new system, or can find a good use for your older sticks, you may want to go with speed as well as size.
There is a noticeable difference when working with many windows open or working with large image files, as well as smoother gaming. An extra 2 gigs for under 50 bucks, or even 4 new gigs for 100, to have what you want to work on pop up in one second instead of five or more is a better deal than many you will find in the computer store.
This post is part of the series: Upgrading to 4 GB - What Difference does it make?
We increase the amount and size of our computer’s memory to see what kind of difference it makes.