Mushkin was one of the first vendors to cater for the needs of enthusiasts wanting to push systems to their limits. The Denver, Colorado-based enhanced memory specialist has remained a favourite with overclockers around the world, but is now facing competition from many quarters as other vendors are entering the boutique RAM market.
With the emergence of 800MHz FSB processors and motherboards, finding the memory that operates reliably at that speed is a challenge. Going beyond 800MHz (or double data rate 400MHz, DDR-400; the actual speed is 200MHz) is even more difficult, as many overclockers have discovered. People are now overclocking their Intel Canterwood and Springdale chipset motherboards to speeds well over 250MHz or a dizzying 1GHz FSB frequency. Obviously, at those speeds, normal DDR-400, DDR-433, or even DDR-466 rated memory just won’t cut it anymore. In highly overclocked systems, you end up running the memory asynchronously for it to work. It took a while, but now there’s memory available to match the high FSB speed: DDR-500.
We have already seen the performance boost and overclocking abilities DDR500 brings. Our previous review of Corsair’s DDR-500 TWINX XMS4000 memory showed an impressive boost in memory bandwidth and overall system performance.
Given how well the Corsair modules performed, we were interested to see if the experience could be repeated with Mushkin’s DDR-500 1GB PC4000 Dual Pack .
Dual Channel DDR is the norm in enthusiast boards, but it adds another compatibility hurdle on top of the fast FSB clock speed. Hence, manufacturers are now offering paired memory modules that have been tested together, to ensure stability and reliability. You really need to ensure that the DIMM modules are all the same, physically and electrically, to have a stable system, let alone overclock it.
It’s amazing to think that not so long ago, 128 to 256MB was considered plenty of RAM; nowadays, those figures are 512 and 1GB respectively, with some enthusiasts squeezing more than that into their systems. Windows XP and big apps love RAM, that’s for sure..
We received the 1GB version of Mushkin’s Black DDR500 Dual Pack, comprising two matched 512MB modules. The nitty-gritty tech details for the modules are below.
Mushkin’s PC4000 modules are built on a custom six layer black PCB using what Mushkin claims are the highest quality 4ns hand-tested discrete chips available in the memory industry. Through fine-tuning of the resistor network on the PCB, Mushkin says the modules achieve extremely high speeds — beyond 500 MHz — while maintaining stable operation. Hand-picked and manually tested components means more work for Mushkin (hence the premium price) but this is necessary to ensure the greatest possible compatibility and reliability, the company says.
Apart from looking, errm, cool, the custom-designed Black Aluminum Heat Spreader reduces the risk of localised hot spots within the memory core and further increases overclocking margins of the modules, according to Mushkin. The black colour looks perfect with our motherboard that has a black PCB.
Mushkin uses Revision B 4ns Hynix memory chips in their PC-4000 Dual Pack. Apparently these chips not only performs well at DDR-500 but is able to run at low latencies as well, provided you step down to DDR-400. Most DDR500 modules that we have seen sacrifice low latency, even at lower clock speeds. Can the Mushkin modules deliver both low latencies and high clock frequencies? Let’s put them through the wringer to find out.
We decided to test the Mushkin DDR500 1GB PC4000 Dual Pack at both DDR-400 and DDR-500 settings. For comparison we pitted it against the Corsair TWINX XMS4000 DDR500 1GB PC4000 Kit. The lowest CAS timings each pair can handle will be used at both settings. Memory will be set to run at 1:1 synchronous with the CPU. Below are the settings used for each test.
The most noteworthy thing about Mushkin’s DDR-500 modules is the ability to run at aggressive 2-5-3-3 timings at DDR-400. So far, most DDR500 modules only run at CAS 2.5 when set at DDR-400 with the exception of Corsair’s XMS DDR500 Pro version that also uses Hynix revision B chips. However, the Corsair DDR-500 we used for comparison in this review is the non-pro version and uses the old revision Hynix chips. Thus, those modules only manage CAS 2.5 at DDR-400 like most other DDR-500 memory we’ve seen to date. We liked the ability to run at aggressive timings — if you pay a premium for your RAM, it’s annoying to compromise in that area. Mushkin has managed to deliver the best of both worlds with the PC4000 Dual Pack.
Pricewise, the Mushkin modules are actually a bit cheaper than the Corsair equivalents. Using Pricewatch, the cheapest Corsair DDR500 Non-Pro 1GB kit we can find is US$348 while the Pro version (which has flashing LEDs on the heatspreader, and can also do CAS2 at DDR-400) costs US$368, both with free shipping. The Mushkin DDR500 1GB pack on the other hand is currently priced at US$332 also with free shipping (further 10% reduction below for OCTools readers). So its really just up to the buyer which way he wanna go as both brands performs exactly the same and both are highly respected in this market.
Overall, the Mushkin EMS DDR500 1GB PC4000 Dual Pack impressed on us with its stability and performed as expected. Having used Mushkin memory in the past, I definitely have no qualms recommending this kit to everyone thinking of buying a DDR-500 kit. My experience with Mushkin is that the company takes it products and customers very seriously, and aim for excellence in both areas. If you want to rev up your RAM, check out the Mushkin modules.