Is generic vs. brand name a big deal when dealing with RAM?
May 12, 2004 10:10 AM   Subscribe

This is an extremely subjective question...In an earlier thread I mentioned that I couldn't find memory below $150, but several members here found it for much less. However, much of the cheaper RAM is generic. Does it matter? Is generic vs. brand name a big deal when dealing with RAM?
posted by BlueTrain to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
Are you going to be overclocking? Running a server? If yes, then probably. If no, then probably not. This is my understanding, anyway.
posted by Hildago at 10:15 AM on May 12, 2004

Response by poster: Just basic use. I'm mostly an "academic" when it comes to the computer. Word processing, e-mail, occassional Excel usage, extremely limited gaming (Civ 3 is my only vice).

The kicker is I need Virtual PC. I would like to run Windows XP on it (currently I run 2000 due to memory problems).

iMac 15 inch 800 Mhz G4, Jaguar, 256 MB current.
posted by BlueTrain at 10:23 AM on May 12, 2004

For modern high-speed DDR RAM (PC2700, 3200), it's best to at the very least make sure that whatever you get, it was manufactured with a six-layer process instead of a four-layer one.

Much like anything else, there's a good chance you'll do just fine getting the generic brand - unlike everything else, however, the variety of technical problems bad RAM can cause are strange and subtle in nature - and not always obvious as the fault of RAM. Thus many people building their own custom machine who traditionally wouldn't dream of buying an Intel chip (what with AMD long the king of bang-for-buck, if not total bang) can be found buying their RAM from the likes of Corsair or Crucial.

Personally, I always use Crucial. I have yet to have a bad stick of RAM from them. The minor extra cost is worth it to have one of the thornier bits of hardware failure diagnosis more or less removed from consideration.
posted by Ryvar at 10:25 AM on May 12, 2004

Yes. Always buy name brand memory. For years, I always bought the cheapest ram possible, and my computer's stability suffered: crashes, freezes, and general weird behavior. I second the suggestion for Crucial -- they're reasonably priced, have a lifetime warranty, and you're buying directly from the manufacturer.
posted by zsazsa at 10:36 AM on May 12, 2004

Crucial is pretty much the only seller of memory who makes their own RAM (they're a subsidiary of Micron). Other sellers buy from the manufacturers. You'll pay a little more for Crucial RAM than for generic RAM, but not that much more, and you know it'll work without any hassles.

I became a believer in Crucial after I bought two sticks of RAM from separate vendors for a PC I'd built, and the PC recognized only half of the stick's capacity. Went on Crucial's site, selected exactly what model of motherboard I had (they have an extensive list), and they sent me a stick that worked perfectly the first time.

That said, I've never had any problems at all with generic memory, once I got the right one. The two sticks I bought from the generic vendors ended up in my Mac, where they continue to work fine. And there are a lot fewer models of Mac than there are PC motherboards. You should be fairly safe ordering from any reputable vendor that supports Macs and knows what memory your Mac takes.
posted by kindall at 11:01 AM on May 12, 2004

I just bought memory from Kahlon. They were nearly half the price of anyone else, and I have no idea why. I didn't know exactly what I needed, but they're website walked me through identifying what I needed (as most memory sellers' sites do). The sticks came yesterday, and they worked with absolutely no trouble.

I guess I'll see how reliable they remain, but again... they were half the price.

Mine was pc memory, but I see they do sell for Macs as well.
posted by ewagoner at 11:29 AM on May 12, 2004

Stay away from any memory labeled "Value RAM" -- they, and all the other major manufacturers use this as a code -word for rebranded crap made by someone else.

I personally prefer Corsair, but I don't have any great reason for that. I think I just like pirates. Yar.

In any case, stay the hell away from the generic stuff -- RAM problems can be very hard to diagnose, and you might very well not even notice that you have them until months after your purchase.

Speaking which, assuming you are using a PC, run memtest first thing to make sure your RAM has no issues.
posted by malphigian at 11:35 AM on May 12, 2004

(I see you already said you are not on a PC, which makes me wonder what the Mac equivalent of memtest is?)
posted by malphigian at 11:42 AM on May 12, 2004

Crucial, as a subsidiary of a manufacturer, gets it's RAM from a single source; there exist several other companies that use RAM from reputable manufacturers, they just don't say up front which they use because it varies. As long as the company is reputable and stands behind what it sells, I'm not sure that you are getting much for the extra Crucial is charging.

It does help if the company sells you exactly the right stuff for your particular computer -- listing the specific model is a good sign if you don't really know what you need.

As the person who recommended DMS, all I can say is that I have bought from both Crucial and DMS and I've never noticed a difference in results. The difference in cost varies a little -- currently it's about $10 for the memory you were looking for; not a huge difference for a one off, but it adds up if you are buying a bunch.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 11:48 AM on May 12, 2004

As far as Macs go, OWC always gets very high marks in reviews and such. And they have a very easy to use selection system to make sure you're getting the right chips for your machine. Their prices for 512mb chips that are guaranteed to work with OS X and its sometimes-stringent memory testing requirements start at around $110.
posted by bcwinters at 11:53 AM on May 12, 2004

I see you already said you are not on a PC, which makes me wonder what the Mac equivalent of memtest is?

The Mac equivalent of memtest is memtest.
posted by kindall at 11:58 AM on May 12, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for all the input folks. I will probably end up with Crucial, though at this point I'm completely torn.
posted by BlueTrain at 1:22 PM on May 12, 2004

That said, I've never had any problems at all with generic memory, once I got the right one.

I agree. There are two things to remember about RAM, BlueTrain. First, it doesn't go bad. If it works upon installation, it will continue to work almost certainly longer than the rest of the computer. Second, it's not the kind of thing that has variable performance. You will never, ever know the difference between similarly rated sticks. It's not like high-octane gas where you get a little "boost" if you go with the top brand. You just need to do your homework and make sure you know the ratings of the stick you're buying.

Not to doubt anyone else's anecdotes, but the only problems I foresee you having with generic is perhaps in getting the correct stick, because vendors like Crucial do a much better job of making the right stick findable than

If the money is actually important to you, then don't be afraid to buy generic.
posted by scarabic at 2:29 PM on May 12, 2004

As a computer store owner, I may be biased, but am qualified to answer your question:

If you buy generic RAM and test it thouroughly, and RUN IT WITHIN THE RECCOMENDED SPECS, it will work EXACTLY as well as branded memory.

If you don't run it within reccomended specs, it will blow up, fast. Otherwise, enjoy it for years.

Run memtest86 on the cheap stuff and be satisfied. It's never failed me. There's better places to spend your money, like on a power supply that doesn't suck (TM).

NOTE: Not reccommended practice for servers. :-)
posted by shepd at 7:50 PM on May 12, 2004

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