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Appeared on: Wednesday, May 30, 2007
SO-DIMM 2GB PC2-5300 Roundup

1. Introduction

Memory requirements, both in capacity and performance, have increased as operating systems become more and more demanding. The arrival of Windows VISTA has had a huge impact on the memory industry with many users looking towards a memory upgrade in order to satisfy the memory demands of Windows VISTA and improve their system's overall performance. Laptop users have seen the recent 2GB SO-DIMMs appear on the market. With an Intel 945G based laptop, you can use either a single or a pair of 2GB SO-DIMMs and boost overall system performance. This is what we are going to be looking at in this roundup. First, let's meet the contenders.

- Crucial PC2-5300 DDR2 2GB SO-DIMM

Crucial offers the PC2-5300 DDR2 SO-DIMM memory in 1GB and 2GB modules. The memory specs are typical for this category:

Crucial memory modules comes well packaged in anti-static plastic bags to keep them secure from any static discharge.

Each package includes only one module and can be bought directly from Crucial at the retail price of US$308.99:

A label on the package has all the information you need to make your choice:

Crucial, a division of Micron, uses Micron memory modules. Each memory module has eight memory chips (4 on each side), of 256M capacity each:

Above, the Crucial logo with product details, and below on the reverse side, the Micron logo with memory details:

Under Windows, we can see more information:


- SuperTalent PC2-5300 DDR2 SO-DIMM

SuperTalent offers PC2-534020 DDR2 SO-DIMM memory modules in 512MB, 1GB and 2GB capacities. The memory specs are exactly the same as with the Crucial PC2-5300 memory:

The retail kit arrived in a plastic case. with a retail price as found at several online stores, around US$240:

SuperTalent also uses Micron SO-DIMM modules (128MB x 16) in order to reach 2GB capacity. The code is T667SB2G/M and more information can be found in this pdf file.

Under Windows, we can see more on the features of the SuperTalent PC2-5300 2GB SO-DIMM modules:

While System properties shows us that the total memory size is indeed 2GB:

2. Test Configuration

In order to test the Crucial and SuperTalent memory modules, we used an Asus A6JA (v2.17 BIOS) with Intel's 945G chipset. The laptop didn't have any problems recognizing the 2GB memory modules, but you should check with your laptop vendor before buying any memory modules for your laptop. All tests were carried out with the same benchmark utilities. We also include the results for the 1GB Nanya DDR2-533 and Corsair 1GB DDR2-533 modules to provide a typical comparison scenario for those users considering upgrading.

Here are the tested modules:

We tried to cover what would be a typical user configuration, at least for the modules we had in our labs. The following software was used to benchmark all modules:

And we used the following operating systems:

Unfortunately, the Asus A6JA "default" processor (Intel CoreDuo T2300 @ 1.66GHz) doesn't support 64bit instructions so we couldn't install either Windows X64 or VISTA 64Bit builds, to allow us to use the full 4GB memory capacity (2x2GB). Another problem is that the Asus A6JA with the latest BIOS, only sees 3GB. We don't know if other Asus models have the same "limitation", check your manual or with your vendor.

When installing 2x2GB SO-DIMM, only 3GB was recognized under Windows XP SP2, as follows:

The two Crucial PC2-5300 2GB SO-DIMMs installed for 2x2GB tests:

3. Test Results - XP

Under Windows XP, we tested the performance of all possible combinations. What was apparent was that the 3D Mark 06 score was not greatly affected (only one point should be considered as minimal):

But other, synthetic benchmarks were affected. Comparing the 2GB Crucial and 2GB SuperTalent PC2-5300, in some tests Crucial was faster, while in others SuperTalent. Looking at the specs, the SuperTalent has a small advantage due to the fact that is has 5-5-5-13 timings, while the Crucial has 5-5-5-15:

4. Test Results - VISTA 32Bit

Under Windows VISTA 32Bit, we ran the same benchmarks to see if and by how much performance is affected when upgrading from 1GB to 2GB to 3GB etc...

First of all, let's see how the memory performs under VISTA. The 2x2GB configuration produces the highest score with an index of 4.8 Index. Both the Crucial and SuperTalent modules have the same index score:

In this test, SuperTalent is faster:

While with Sisoft Sandra, Crucial 2GB had the higher score:

5. Conclusion

After many hours of testing, I can put down my thoughts and experiences with the 2GB SO-DIMM modules. The first and most important is to understand that 32bit operating systems, like Windows XP and VISTA 32Bit cannot utilize the full 4GB of memory. So you have to use a 64bit operating system, like XP 64bit, VISTA 64bit or Linux/Unix/Solaris/etc... Apart from the operating system, your CPU must also be 64bit. The motherboard's BIOS must also be capable of recognizing all the installed memory.

In our case, we used a laptop for our tests, the Asus A6JA, which didn't recognize the full 2x2GB modules. Instead, it reported 2946MB installed. We updated to the latest BIOS but this didn't fix the issue. Moreover, the installed (default) processor, am Intel CoreDuo T2300, isn't 64bit, so we couldn't test the memory under a 64bit operating system. Our tests were done with Windows XP SP2 and Windows VISTA 32bit operating systems.

First, let's compare the Crucial 2GB PC2-5300 and SuperTalent 2GB PC2-5300 SO-DIMMs. Both memory modules are based on Micron chips, so we would expect similar performance. However, the SuperTalent modules were slightly "faster", since their default timings are 5-5-5-13 vs 5-5-5-15 for Crucial. That makes a difference, as most of our tests showed. In short, the SuperTalent 2GB SO-DIMMs proved to be "faster" than the Crucial 2GB SO-DIMMs under several tests. There were tests however which went the other way. While benchmarks did show improvements when upgrading to 2GB, we are not so sure about 3D gaming, since the 3D Mark 06 index score only improved by one point.

Passing to the all possible scenarios, a laptop user could have pre-installed at this laptop:

The easiest case, since upgrading to 2GB with a single module will show significant improvement.

Most currently sold laptops come pre-installed with 1GB SO-DIMM running at 533MHz. What can you expect after upgrading to 2GB SO-DIMM at 667MHz speed? Of course there's going to be an improvement in overall performance, but it also depends upon application and operating system. We didn't see such great improvements when upgrading from 1GB at 533MHz to 2GB at 667MHz operating speeds. We saw the biggest difference when running SuperPI, where we had a drop of 3secs (in favor of 2GB). Again the % improvement is very low.

Passing to performance under VISTA, the differences are more or less the same. We assume that VISTA 64bit would benefit the most from 2GB or more, memory configurations, but we cannot be sure since we weren't able to test this. A user might think of pairing 1GB with 533MHz and 2GB with 667MHz speeds. Thats not a good idea, since all results showed significant drop in performance in all benchmarks.

Concluding this roundup, both SuperTalent and Crucial 2GB SO-DIMMs will improve to some degree, your everyday tasks, especially with "next" generation operating systems, like VISTA. Of course, the price for upgrading is great, since not many vendors are shipping such modules. If you are thinking of buying 2x2GB SO-DIMMs, be careful, since there are several factors to keep in mind.

The SuperTalent 2GB PC2-5300 SO-DIMM costs around $70 less than Crucial's 2GB PC2-5300 SO-DIMM and earns our best buy award:

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