What's the deal with "value" RAM from namebrand companies?
April 8, 2005 8:47 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking at some Corsair value RAM (2x512M for $93). But Corsair also has RAM of the same specs for more than twice the price (1x512 for $106): As far as I can tell, the specs are identical, except for CAS latency (and they're both some variation on CL3), and the voltage is slightly different. What's the real difference between different "grades" of RAM from the same manufacturer with the same specs? Under what circumstances will any differences manifest?
posted by Caviar to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Sometimes value RAM has dud chips on it. Let's say a 128 mbits chip has a bad top address line. Well, you can use it as a 64 mbit chip just fine. There's many other ways you can mix and match problem chips to make up a working stick like this.

Of course, the RAM still works just as well and as fast as any other... *BUT* as you can imagine, if it's already got some problems it won't be very tolerant of overclocking or anything else, and (chances are slight) the problem might get more serious and end up being something that isn't corrected by the design of the module.

All that being said, I've always bought cheap ass RAM, and as long as I test it right away to check for errors (and returned bad sticks), it's always lasted for me.

As a computer store, I've never noticed an actual difference in the amount of junk RAM we get from "premium" and value sources.
posted by shepd at 9:02 PM on April 8, 2005


More expensive RAM is made from better quality chips, that are tested to ensure they run at the speeds they are supposed to. It is all about timing, the more accurately the RAM runs, the more pricey it is.

That's my take on the whole thing.
posted by riffola at 9:02 PM on April 8, 2005


TWo differences: The more expensive one comes with heat dissipators (the metal piece covering the chips), and the latency/voltage differences allow for more extreme overclocking.

If you don't plan on overclocking, go for the value RAM.

Anecdotally, I've been using the exact same value RAM you're currently looking at right now for a year now and have been extremely satisfied with them, and that's in a cramped Shuttle box with the CPU overclocked from 2.8ghz to 3.0ghz.
posted by furtive at 9:07 PM on April 8, 2005


I agree: value RAM is fine for most purposes. I have 1 gig of Corsair Value RAM running in dual-channel and it's been great.

If you're going to go with Value RAM, go with Corsair: they have a lifetime warranty.
posted by selfnoise at 9:18 PM on April 8, 2005


Anything by Corsair or Kingston is good.

I always put new RAM in the machine and (if its an x86 box) run memtest86+ for at least one full pass to check it out. They've got a downloadable ISO image that you can burn to a CD-ROM and then boot your system from that disc.

For Mac systems, there's Memtest OSX, or Apple's own Hardware Diagnostics program (which usally ships with the machine).
posted by mrbill at 12:45 AM on April 9, 2005


Corsair valueRam is very good as far as value ram. Buy it instead of the other ram unless you ae seriously overclocking.

Benefits:
1. Faster windows load time (CAS latency is responsible for al these reasons)
2. Game load time
3. High processng load, milliseconds long. Think of a very complex game with 32 players at once scernario.

In short, expensive ram is nice but nice only in thought, really.
posted by Dean Keaton at 4:32 AM on April 9, 2005


So - more expensive RAM was supposed to be the specs it is, but cheaper RAM was supposed to be better, but isn't?

shepd, you say "Sometimes value RAM has dud chips on it. Let's say a 128 mbits chip has a bad top address line. Well, you can use it as a 64 mbit chip just fine. There's many other ways you can mix and match problem chips to make up a working stick like this."

Wouldn't that always be the case, then? If it didn't have any problems at the rated specs, wouldn't it then be "premium"?
posted by Caviar at 7:43 AM on April 9, 2005


Don't forget basic economics. Unsold stock costs vendors money. Therefore, they are going to do what they can to sell out their stock while maximizing profit. By segmenting the market they maximize their profit margins and clear their inventory.

The thing is, the volumes people will buy at a given price don't necessarily correspond to supply, especially as a given fabrication generation matures. As a result, they may be selling the exact same chips that run at the exact same timings at two dramatically different price points. They will differentiate by sticking heatspreaders on, or offering different guarantees about overclocking performance, or whatever.

In reality, the value ram may overclock just as well as the premium memory, the only real difference is your recourse if it doesn't. With the premium memory, you return the underperfoming ram for a replacement. With the value RAM, you buy another stick and give the old one to your brother or something and still come out ahead.

As for timings, the last two times I built PCs, I went and looked at benchmarks before deciding between two adjacent increments in RAM timing. What I found was maybe a few percent difference at a given core and FSB clockspeed, which didn't justify the greater % in price difference to me.
posted by Good Brain at 9:12 AM on April 9, 2005


I bought some "Value RAM"recently (from eBuyer, not Corsair) and it didn't work at all, and neither did the replacement. From the comments on the site, it seemed to be expected that value RAM may not even work, so that's one risk you're taking.

(I got a refund and went with Crucial)
posted by cillit bang at 12:29 PM on April 9, 2005


Caviar, when you buy vegetables from the discount aisle of your supermarket, they're not ALWAYS going moldy. :)

The value RAM provider isn't interested in how much extra you can push his RAM. He just wants price, price, price. So he goes to any memory manufacturer and tells them "Sell me the cheapest you got today!" The cheapest that day is going to depend on the luck of the draw. :)

That doesn't mean value RAM won't work -- it's just that overclocking value RAM is a crapshoot. Sometimes it's got the exact same chips as the expensive RAM (the manufacturer didn't have any cheap-n-nasty chips left that day) or it's got some totally different marginal parts.

Basically, if you don't want to push the RAM past it's limits, it won't matter. But I would DEFINITELY run memtest on any RAM you buy, value or premium. Errors are hard to find any other way.
posted by shepd at 1:26 PM on April 9, 2005


Cillit-

That was probably an undocumented compatibility problem with your motherboard. It's much more common than you'd think.

Fortunately, chip fabs have caught on to this, and those two modules you returned are almost certainly humming along happily in someone else's machine.
posted by SlyBevel at 11:00 PM on April 10, 2005


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