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Appeared on: Thursday, December 29, 2005
Mushkin XP4000 Redline


1. Introduction

Mushkin was founded in 1994 and has been active in the memory business. It is a well known manufacturer in the overclocker community and most users that want to push their systems to the limits, choose Mushkin memory modules because of their quality and performance.

We received Mushkin's latest 2GB dual memory pack, consisting of two XP4000 readline (2x1GB). This is the first time that CDRinfo.com tests Mushkin products, although we have already tested several products from Mushkin's competitors, such as Corsair, OCZ, Kingmax and many others. In many online forums, Mushkin's memory modules are referred to as the best modules around. But let us see for ourselves.

- A Closer Look

The first thing that is noticeable is the red heat spreader with the label and MUshkin logo. As shown below, the full name for these memory modules is "Mushkin Redline XP4000". XP stands for Xtreme Performance and is the trademark for the Mushkin Extreme Performance Black Series. This line of modules aims at satisfying PC enthusiasts and hardcore overclockers that just can't bare the industry's standard clock settings :-)

Although these modules are part of the "Black Series", they are red... The eye-catching red heat spreader eliminates localized hotspots, thus increasing memory reliability and longevity and adding overclocking ability.

Mushkin uses a black PCB (Black Series), and you can find the "Mushkin Enhanced" signature if you look closely.

These memory modules are unbuffered, 184-Pin DDR Synchronous DRAM DIMM modules, tested to work in dual channel mode. Each module shares 1GB of memory, being able to operate at 500MHz (2x250MHz) with 3-3-2-8 latencies, very low timings for this memory size.

The Mushkin XP4000 Redline uses the Infineon CE-6 chipset. The main difference with this Redline product is that in this case, the operating voltages are 2.6v - 2.9v, unlike previous Redline modules that needed higher voltages to achieve the rated frequencies and timings.

The modules come in a good looking, thin package.

- Specifications

Below you can see the table with all the specifications for the Mushkin XP4000 Redline RAM modules.

Product Name XP4000 - Redline
Package 2048MB kit (2x1024MB) (dual pack)
CAS Latency
3-3-2-8
Test Voltage 2.6V - 2.9V
Speed DDR 500 MHz (PC4000)
Type 2x 184-pin DDR SDRAM
Error Checking Non-ECC
Registered/Unbuffered Unbuffered
Manufacturer Warranty  lifetime warranty

2. Test System - Configuration

For these tests, we used two ASUS motherboards that perform similarly. These are the A8N-SLI Premium and the A8N-SLI Deluxe. We used only one video card, since most SLI systems are bad overclockers when SLI is enabled. Setting the DDR clock settings to AUTO should get the memory running at SPD timings.

A strange observation is that in the SPD timings tables, there is only an SPD setting for 200MHz FSB, but the memory's rated frequency is 250MHz (500MHz). Also, the memory modules are recognized as PC3200 (200MHz), but they are actually PC4000 (250MHz). This was observed with all the motherboards we tested, such as the Abit AN8 Fatal1ty and the MSI K8N Diamond. On the other hand, SPD timings are not a problem since the memory can perform faster by changing some BIOS settings. Only server users or novice users that don't want to mess around with their BIOS, will have to work at 400MHz (2x200MHz).

The SPD timings for the 400MHz frequency (2x200MHz) is 3-3-2-8, but the ASUS motherboard wanted to give a little extra in the AUTO setting and set the timings to 2.5-3-2-8.

The CPU we used was an AMD Athlon64 3800+, running at ~2400MHz.

In this review, we will be comparing the Mushkin XP4000 Redline modules with some memory modules we have tested in the past, the Corsair CMX1024-4000PT dual-rank modules (2GB). Below you can see the SPD Timings for the Corsair memory, according to CPU-Z.

Corsair CMX1024-4000PT (2GB - dual rank)

Here's a rundown of our testbed:

System Specifications
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 3800+ CPU (Newcastle)
Case: Antec
Motherboard: ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe/Premium
Power supply: CoolerMaster 450W
Memory: Mushkin XP4000 - Redline (2x1024MB)
VGA: ASUS 6800GT PCI-E (driver version: 81.95)
Hard Disk Drive: WD800JD 80GB 7200RPM
OS: Windows XP Pro SP2
DirectX: v9.0c

Benchmarks & Applications used


3. SiSoft Sandra 2005

SiSoftware Sandra is a 32 and 64-bit Windows system analyser that includes benchmarking, testing and listing modules. It tries to go beyond other utilities to show you more of what is really going on under the hood so you draw comparisons at both a high and low-level in a single product.

You can get information about the CPU, chipset, video adapter, ports, printers, sound card, memory, network, Windows internals, AGP, ODBC Connections, USB2, Firewire etc. You can save/print/fax/e-mail/post/upload or insert into ADO/ODBC databases reports in text, HTML, XML, SMS/DMI or RPT format.

This version supports multiple sources of information gathering including: remote computers, PDAs, Smart Phones, ADO/ODBC databases or saved system reports. All benchmarks are optimised for both SMP & SMT (Hyper-Threading), up to 32/64 CPUs depending on the platform.

Memory Bandwidth Benchmark

Tests how your memory sub-system compares to other systems with the same or similar memory in other systems. The benchmark is based on the well-known STREAM memory bandwidth benchmark.

Cache & Memory Benchmark

Tests how your CPU cache and memory sub-system(s) compares to other systems with the same or similar CPU & memory in other systems. The benchmark is based on the Memory Bandwidth Benchmark test.

Combined Index: is a composite figure representing the overall performance rating of the entire Cache-Memory performance in terms of MB/s. The value is the logarithmic average of all the results for the entire address space. (Higher is better, i.e. better performance)

For block sizes that could not been tested - the average of previous blocks is used, thus the size of the memory (as long as it is not comparable to largest cache size) is not significant; all cache sizes are significant - larger caches will result in a higher index.

Speed Factor: is a figure representing the speed differential between the CPU’s cache and memory. The value is the ratio of the fastest cache (i.e. L1) bandwidth to the main memory bandwidth. (Lower is better, i.e. the memory is not very much slower than the CPU’s cache)

As the factor is a ratio, it is useful only in comparing different CPUs and memory sub-systems rather than having a direct, physical interpretation associated to its numerical value.

The SiSoft Sandra tests were the first tests we carried out with the Mushkin memory XP4000 Redline memory modules, and we were seeing the first positive signs. The Mushkin memory was the faster memory in all the comparison charts, although not by much. Also, remember that the Corsair memory modules that the Mushkin modules are "competing" against, are high grade modules that received the "CDRinfo Editor's Choice" award because of their excellent performance. This indicates just how good the Mushkin memory has to be if it's going to stand up against proven modules such as those from Corsair.


4. PCMark05

PCMark05 is an application-based benchmark and a premium tool for measuring overall PC performance. It uses portions of real applications instead of including very large applications or using specifically created code. This allows PCMark05 to be a smaller installation as well as to report very accurate results. As far as possible, PCMark05 uses public domain applications whose source code can be freely examined by any user.

PCMark05 includes 4 categorized suites for benchmarking your computer. These include CPU, Graphics, Memory and a Hard Disk Drive benchmark. In our case, we selected to run only the Memory test suite.

Again, Mushkin dared to challenge the best and managed to come out on top. But only by a little, again. To be honest, we did not expect to see any big differences in the scores, since both the Corsair and Mushkin modules are considered to be the industries best memory modules.

PCMark05
Memory Test
Mushkin XP4000 REDLINE Corsair TwinX2048 - 4000PT
Memory Read 16MB 5912.645 5901.163
Memory Read 8MB 6048.656 6049.526
Memory Read 192KB 10768.931 10765.924
Memory Read 4KB 27958.372 27955.679
Memory Write 16MB 5914.397 5917.826
Memory Write 8MB 5951.548 5954..624
Memory Write 192KB 7031.874 7029.424
Memory Write 4KB 21512.807 21516.387
Memory Copy 16MB 5736.785 5738.492
Memory Copy 8MB 5783.541 5780.454
Memory Copy 192KB 4430.348 4428.336
Memory Copy 4KB 11456.478 11459.116
Memory Latency 16MB 11.724 11.864
Memory Latency 8MB 13.984 13.289
Memory Latency 192KB 134.880 134.880
Memory Latency 4KB 734.751 734.751


5. Performance Test v5.0

Passmark PerformanceTest is an award winning PC hardware benchmark utility that allows anyone to quickly assess the performance of their computer and compare it against a number of standard 'baseline' computer systems.

Twenty seven standard benchmark tests are available in seven test suites plus five advanced testing windows for custom benchmarking. CPU Tests, 2D Graphics Tests, 3D Graphics Tests, Disk Tests, Memory Tests and CD/DVD Tests. In our case we selected the Memory suite Tests.

- Memory Benchmarks

This suite contains a number of tests that exercise the memory sub-system of the computer. (Random Access Memory- RAM)

Memory - Allocate small block
This test measures the time taken to allocate & free small zeroed memory blocks (around 100KB block size)

Memory - Cached
This test measures the time taken to read a small block of memory. The block is small enough to be held entirely in cache (if one is present)

Memory - UnCached
This test measures the time taken to read a large block of memory. The block is too large to be held in cache.

Memory - Write
This test measures the time taken to write information into memory.

- Advanced Memory Benchmark

Memory Speed Per Access Step Size
The first test type, ‘Memory Speed Per Access Step Size’ accesses a large block, of memory in various sized steps. First, it runs through the block of memory sequentially, accessing every value. Next it runs through the same block again, except this time it accesses every second value. On this occasion, it runs through the block twice in order to access the same amount of data as the initial step. Next it runs through the same block again, except this time it accesses every fourth value and so makes four passes. And so on, until a certain maximum step size is reached.

The size of the block of memory used for this test is one quarter the amount of system RAM. The size of the steps varies from 1 (continuous sequential access), to one quarter the size of the block of memory ( i.e. one sixteenth of the system RAM ).

Memory Speed (MB/Sec. per Step Size)
Mushkin XP4000 REDLINE
Block Read Speed 19.78
Block Write Speed 23.39
Corsair TwinX2048-4000PT
Block Read Speed 18.70
Block Write Speed 22.79

Memory Speed Per Block Size
When a computer program wants to use a section of memory to store data, it makes a request to Windows for the amount of memory it requires. Windows allocates the memory to the program ( unless system resources are very low ) and returns to the requesting program the address of the first memory slot in the allocated block. It is possible that some programs may request very large amounts of memory. The ‘Memory Speed Per Block Size’ test like the ‘Memory Speed Per Access Step Size’ test, is composed of many steps. During each step of the test, PerformanceTest requests a block of memory and runs through the block measuring the average access time. However on each subsequent step the size of the requested memory is increased, until finally a block close to the size of the system RAM is requested. In this way it is possible to observe the different access speeds for the different sizes of blocks.

Typically it is possible to see very fast memory access for blocks which are small enough to fit entirely into the L2 RAM cache, and slower access times for larger blocks accessed from main RAM. In the case where system resources are low, swapping to the disk may even be required for very large blocks.

Memory Speed (MB/Sec. per Block Size)
Mushkin XP4000 REDLINE
Block Read Speed 185.88
Block Write Speed 234.39
Corsair TwinX2048-4000PT
Block Read Speed 172.80
Block Write Speed 215.44

Now, this is a test that gives a clear lead to the Mushkin XP4000 Redline memory modules. There is a big difference of almost 40 memory marks that is clearly reflected in the memory speed graphs.


6. Half Life 2

Half life 2 is no doubt the most anticipated pc game of all times.

Physics - From pebbles to water to 2-ton trucks respond as expected, as they obey the laws of mass, friction, gravity, and buoyancy.

Graphics - Source's shader-based renderer, like the one used at Pixar to create movies such as Toy Story® and Monster's, Inc.®, creates the most beautiful and realistic environments ever seen in a video game.

AI - Neither friends nor enemies charge blindly into the fray. They can assess threats, navigate tricky terrain, and fashion weapons from whatever is at hand.

Lower latencies will result in higher gaming frame-rates. The Corsair memory operates at 3-4-4-8 latencies, while the Mushkin XP4000 at 3-3-2-8. This difference translates to around 4 more frames per second, since the frequency is the same for both modules. We realise that this may not seem so important, but it is, because 3-3-2-8 timings will allow more room for overclocking at considerably lower frequencies than other memory modules. But let's move on to the most interesting part of this review... Overclocking.


7. Overclocking

Mushkin has managed to associate its name with overclocking throughout the years. So we were very impatient to try out the XP4000 Redline modules to see how they stand up to overclocking.

We initially tried to reach the rated operating frequency of 500MHz (2x250MHz). As expected, the memory worked like a charm and passed all the torture tests.

We then increased the voltage with increasing frequencies while raising the timings at the same time. We were happy to see that the memory can work at 3.1v, but voltages higher than this are dangerous for the motherboard. However, we had the feeling that the memory could handle even more voltage.

The highest operating frequency we got was 577MHz (2 x 288.3MHz), which was something to shout about. Fantastic overclocking potential. We then reduced the voltage and came up with a system running at 2x288.3MHz and 2.8v. We simply fell in love with the Mushkin XP4000 Redline modules :-) We should also point out that the timings remained considerably low, at 3-5-5-10.

The system passed all the torture tests and we had it going for 2 days with the Mushkin memory in an overclocked state. Although we expected to have two toasters instead of memory modules at these high frequencies and voltage, the memory was not that hot to touch, not even when we cranked it up to 3.1v.

We re-ran some tests with the memory operating at 577MHz to see the difference in performance.

As already mentioned in the first page, Mushkin is well known to most PC enthusiasts and is considered to be a must for overclockers. The XP4000 Redline justifies this reputation and reported a major boost in performance in most cases. With the memory capable of such high overclocking, it might be safer to knock it down a notch and overclock it at 550MHz for 24/7 use. At 550MHz, we managed to get 3-4-4-8 timings.


8. Conclusion

Most memory manufacturers already offer 2GB memory packs, since the need for DDR memory is increasing. However, there are manufacturers who chose to increase memory sizes with a cost in performance, increasing timings and reducing operating frequencies. This is where Mushkin comes in to make a stand with its Mushkin XP4000 Redline memory modules.

We were quite amazed with the Mushkin XP4000 Redline. The memory's rated frequency was 500MHz (2x250MHz in dual channel mode), and in all our tests proved to be one of the fastest memory modules available on the market. SPD timings are 3-3-2-8, which are amongst the lowest timings you can get for 2GB DDR memory. But the true quality of the Mushkin XP4000 Redline comes to the fore when you overclock these modules.

With an operating frequency of 577MHz, it is about the best memory overclocking potential that we can find in a memory set. The modules can even be overclocked at the standard voltage, reducing the risk of damage to the system's mainboard. This is what I want from Santa this year! For great performance, the Mushkin XP4000 Redline receives the CDRinfo "Best Performance" award.

The Mushkin XP4000 Redline 2GB memory is priced at US$340.00 from Mushkin's web page.

The Good:
- Excellent performance at 400MHz, 500MHz and 577MHz
- Cool operation
- Fantastic overclocking potential
- Very good timings

The Bad:
- SPD settings only for 200FSB (needs BIOS changes to get to 500MHz)
- High priced



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