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Appeared on: Friday, December 01, 2006
Mushkin HP2-6400


1. Introduction

Founded in 1994, Mushkin is best known for producing “Enhanced” memory modules. Located at the base of the Rocky Mountains in Denver, Colorado Mushkin provides performance enhanced computer products to users worldwide. Exceptional quality, enhanced performance and unparalleled customer support are what make Mushkin products the best in the industry.

Mushkin products include an enhanced power supply line and a complete selection of memory upgrades for desktops, servers and notebooks – they offer something for everyone from business user to gamer. Mushkin enhanced memory products are available in several performance categories from standard to extreme, with our REDLINETM series in a class of its own. With customers including everyone from Apple Computer and NASA to gamers and web browsers, Mushkin knows what is important to customers - enhanced performance with uncompromised quality.

- Mushkin HP2-6400

Mushkin Enhanced announced back in October 2006, the addition of the 512MB and 1GB  HP2-6400 to it's product lineup. With the XP2-6400 and the EM2-6400 amongst the most popular DDR2 modules available today, the HP2-6400 offers users a middle ground in terms of both price and performance. The HP2-6400 is available in both 1GB and 2GB dual packs and is rated 4-5-4-11 at 2.1-2.2V.

With DDR2-800 still in the early stages of its existence, users often have to pay a premium for the newer technology. Mushkin feels HP2-6400 is the solution to this problem. According to Brian Flood, Mushkin Research and Development Director :"...The HP2-6400 is ideal for gamers and enthusiasts who desire added low-latency performance at an affordable price...". We plan to find out just how true this statement is correct later in our review.

- Main features

- Retail package

Mushkin provided us with the retail package of the HP2-6400 (GB). Mushkin sells the modules directly, at a retail price of around US$274, making it quite affordable for most users. The retail kit is typical with nothing fancy, just the two modules packaged in a protective plastic shell.

Removing the memory modules from the plastic shell, we have a clearer view. The memory modules are encased in blue aluminum heatspreaders, adding an extra touch of "color" to your system. Mushkin calls them "FrostByte heatspreaders", and are supposed to offer superior thermal efficiency which improves durability and performance. We will see later in our review, exactly how much FrostByte heatsinks actually help. On both sides of the heatspreader, there is the "Mushkin" logo, while one side of each has a sticker with the part number and other information.

The Mushkin HP2-6400 has been designed to work as DDR2-800 with CL4-5-4-11, making them very fast:


2. Testbed

In order to test the Mushkin PC2-6400 modules, we used the following setup:

While for benchmarking, we used:

The Asus P5B Deluxe motherboard offers various CPU:RAM ratio configurations and high overclocking tuning precision. With CPU-Z, we can check the properties of the memory modules. Note that the embedded timings are rather "slow", but you can achieve much faster results with manual settings and of course, the appropriate testing:

For all tests, we manually set the FSB to 266MHz. That made the CPU run at 2.40GHz and we then used the various built-in CPU:RAM ratios to underclock/overclock the memory:

Each CPU:RAM ratio offers a different performance which was benchmarked with various software. For each setting, we tried to find the most aggressive timings that offer the best possible performance. Before each benchmark test, the system had to pass a 30min trial with Memtest86+ v1.65 without producing any errors. All benchmarks were doubly confirmed and all displayed results are the average of both measurements.

- Overclocking

The user has to manually set aggressive timings and of course, memory voltages. All tests we done at 2.25V, since the Asus P5B Deluxe doesn't offer a 2.20V setting. Below are the best timings we managed to get and the real frequency of each memory speed:

The test results are very good. The HP2-6400 is being sold as a DDR2 800 kit, however it can easily reach DDR2 965 without a very high memory voltage. After reaching DDR2 890, the user has to relax the timings (5-5-5-15) in order to reach DDR2 950, resulting in lower performance than other PC2-6400 memory modules. Nevertheless, the overclocking results would be very good, especially at such high FSB frequencies.

Update: Mushkin suggests using the following settings with the P5B Deluxe for a slightly higher FSB:

Unfortunately, this recommendation came after we had completed our tests, so we cannot provide any figures for these settings. Nevertheless, owners of the P5B Deluxe can try it and see if they can't squeeze out a few more MHz!


3. Benchmarks - 1

SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. It should provide most of the information (including undocumented) you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices whether hardware or software. It works along the lines of other Windows utilities, however it tries to go beyond them and show you more of what's really going on. Giving the user the ability to draw comparisons at both a high and low-level. You can get information about the CPU, chipset, video adapter, ports, printers, sound card, memory, network, Windows internals, AGP, PCI, PCIe, ODBC Connections, USB2, 1394/Firewire, etc.

Sisoft Sandra offers two tests, un-buffered and buffered. Below are the test results.

Best performance will be obtained with the DDR2 950 settings.

Before this test packet was created, there was no proper software for measuring vital system parameters such as CPU/Chipset/RAM providing steady and reliable (reproducible) test results and allowing for changing test parameters in a wide range.

Vital low-level system characteristics include latency and real RAM bandwidth, average/minimal latency of different cache levels and its associativity, real L1-L2 cache bandwidth and TLB levels specs. Besides, these aspects are usually not paid sufficient attention in product technical documentation (CPU or chipset). Such test suite, which combines a good deal of subsets aimed at measuring objective system characteristics, is a must have for estimating crucial objective platform parameters.

RightMark offers a variety of test results, including both read/write performance from synthetic and performance tests:

The fastest results were with the DDR2 950 settings again, as was expected.


4. Benchmarks - 2

Science Mark 2.0 is an attempt to put the truth behind benchmarking. In an attempt to model real world demands and performance, SM2 is a suite of high-performance benchmarks that realistically stress system performance without architectural bias. Science Mark 2.0 is comprised of 7 benchmarks, each of which measures a different aspect of real world system performance.

ScienceMark2 is a benchmark utility that is directly influenced by memory performance. The DDR2 950 settings provided the best performance due to the higher FSB (CPU overclocked from default 2.4GHz speed).

A Total SuperPI result from Intel XE6800SuperPI has become an utility to benchmark modern systems. In August 1995, the calculation of pi up to 4,294,960,000 decimal digits was succeeded by using a supercomputer at the University of Tokyo. The program was written by D.Takahashi and he collaborated with Dr. Y.Kanada at the computer center, the University of Tokyo. This record-breaking program was ported to personal computer environment such as Windows NT and Windows 95 and called Super PI.

The software offers up to 32M calculations of PI numbers, however for our purposes, we only tested up to 2M calculations.

 

Overclocking our memory up to 950MHz, resulted in a 6 second drop in time for the SuperPI 2M calculation...


5. Conclusion

The recently announced HP2-6400 comes to fulfill the needs of ordinary and professional users with good memory speed and overclocking performance. The HP2-6400 is designed to run at 400MHz, with enhanced latency of 4-5-4-11.

In our tests, the modules reached 475MHz with voltage up to 2.25V. In order to achieve higher operating speeds, we had to relax the timings to 5-5-5-15, but leave the voltage stable at 2.25V. At 400MHz, the memory can work with tighter timings than the specifications (4-4-3-11), resulting in good performance. Unfortunately, we couldn't reach 500MHz where the memory simply refused to work, but at the last minute (and after our tests had been completed), Mushkin did provide us with a tip concerning the Asus P5B Deluxe BIOS settings which could give an extra boost.

Ending our presentation of the Mushkin HP2-6400 2x1GB kit, we were pleased with its performance and retail price of ~US$273. Users can buy the memory directly from Mushkin. Overall, a good product that keeps its promise of "...low-latency performance at an affordable price..."



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