More difficult than buying a Wii.
June 22, 2009 12:59 AM   Subscribe

I'm in the middle of grabbing all the parts to build a new PC for myself. I have pretty much all the components, but I can't figure out which kind of memory I need to go with an Core 2 Duo E8500 (3.16GHz) and ASUS P5Q-E. I've looked at both Intel's and Asus's websites, and of course the Google to no avail. Details on what I'm looking for inside.

I'm going to be using this computer for gaming, but I'm building on a budget and I'd rather not spend more than $80 on the memory.

I'd think like to get a 2x2gb kit, because it looks like those give the most bang for my buck. However, I'm clueless when it comes to what speed, cas latency, timing, or voltage I should be looking for. General tips or specific product recommendations would both be great. Links to compatibility lists would also be awesome.

I'm also curious about whether or not it is necessary to flash the bios of the motherboard. I've read that it often improve memory compatibility and fixes bugs and such. Is it really worth the trouble and risk?
posted by arcolz to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
Response by poster: Oh, and that's $80 USD.
posted by arcolz at 1:01 AM on June 22, 2009

Best answer: Newegg indicates that the board accepts DDR2-1200/1066/800/667. Depending on how fast you want to go. Here's a very well reviewed 1066 2x2GB kit for $55 with free shipping

As for the BIOS issue, most manufacturer's don't recommend to flash the bios unless you have a problem already. That being said, it's getting easier and easier to do it now and it's less of a risk than it used to be. Look and see what they've changed in the latest BIOS and see if those improvements are worthwhile. If you're going to be overclocking, I believe they fixed some FSB issues with the newer revisions.
posted by JauntyFedora at 1:46 AM on June 22, 2009

Motherboards sell so quickly that any board you pull off the shelf will likely already have the latest BIOS at time of purchase.
posted by rhizome at 3:13 AM on June 22, 2009

Best answer: Unless you're planning on doing lots and lots of overclocking, CAS latency, voltage and timings aren't important - you'll want to run the memory at its default settings, which the board will read from the RAM's SPD chip.

There's only two important values - quantity (which you've already decided, sensibly, as 2 x 2GB) and speed. The Core 2 you're getting has an FSB of 1,333MHz, but this is "quad-pumped" , so you divide that value by 4 to get it's true speed:


Now DDR2 memory runs at double speed, so when you're looking at 166MHz memory (aka DDR2-667 aka PC2-5300), you've got memory that can run 1:1 with a 333MHz FSB.

However, I'd recommend buying either PC2-6400 or PC2-8500 (i.e. the next two speed grades up) for several reasons.

1. The board you're getting can cope with running memory asyncronously to the FSB, i.e. not at a 1:1 ratio, and this can give you a small performance boost2

2. Faster RAM gives some room for overclocking and your 8500 CPU will overclock like a demon, even with an air cooler.

3. Price drops mean you don't pay much of a premium for 6400/8500 over 5300.

Wikipedia's page on DDR2 memory speeds is a handy reference for memory speeds.

In terms of what brand/specific product to buy, it's very much a case of look for the best deal. Your Asus board should be compatible with memory from the big firms (Corsair, Crucial, Kingston) as well as smaller companies such as G.Skill, GeIL etc.
posted by Sifter at 4:46 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Something else to keep in mind:
If you're planning on getting 4GB of RAM, and you're using a 32-bit version of Windows, you won't have access to all the memory. Windows will report it at around 3GB.
If you're not interested in a 64-bit OS, you may wish to save yourself some money by sticking with 2GB of RAM, which is enough for gaming.
posted by jozxyqk at 4:58 AM on June 22, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the help so far, everyone!

JauntyFedora - That kit you linked to seems like the perfect one, thanks.

Sifter - Ah, that explains a lot. I could never figure out the relation between CPU and memory speeds, until now.

jozxyqk - I'm planning on running the Windows 7 RC 64bit version, as long as no terrible problems pop up.
posted by arcolz at 7:00 AM on June 22, 2009

If you plan on overclocking at all -- go with the E8400 @ 3ghz. I have mine running at 3.6ghz w/ the stock cooler. The multiplier of the E8500 makes it harder to overclock.
posted by SirStan at 11:22 AM on June 22, 2009

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