iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






DDR2 vs DDR. Test Results in the Single-channel Mode

This is a small addition to our previous test results which revealed a rather dubious advantage of DDR2 over DDR. It is aimed at showing DDR2 in action, namely — at reaching the values of real bandwidth that would be as close as possible to those mentioned in the specs. To achieve that, we have to compare DDR2-533 and DDR-400 in the single-channel access mode where theoretical bandwidth of both memory types (4.3 and 3.2 GB/s, respectively) is lower than the peak one of the CPU bus (6.4 GB/s). And that is exactly what we are going to do now.

Testbed configurations and software

Testbed 1

  • CPU: Intel Pentium 4 3.4 GHz (Prescott core, Socket 478, FSB 800/HT, 1 MB L2)
  • Mainboard: ASUS P4C800 Deluxe on Intel 875P
  • Memory: 1x512 MMB PC3200 DDR SDRAM DIMM TwinMOS (timings: 2.5-3-3-6)

Testbed 2

  • CPU: Intel Pentium 4 3.4 GHz (Prescott core, Socket 775, FSB 800/HT, 1 MB L2)
  • Mainboard: ECS PF4 on Intel 915
  • Memory: 1x512 MB PC2-4300 DDR2 SDRAM DIMM Samsung (timings: 4-4-4-8)


Maximal real memory bandwidth

We measured maximal real memory bandwidth with the help of the Memory Bandwidth subtest, presets Maximal RAM Bandwidth, Software Prefetch, MMX/SSE/SSE2, that use data prefetch from RAM to L2 CPU cache as the optimisation method. To optimise memory write in these tests, the Non-Temporal Store method is used, which enables to eliminate the influence of the CPU cache subsystem. To illustrate this, we're giving you the graph we have received on Prescott/DDR2 using SSE2 registers.

Prescott/DDR2, maximal real BW

But qualitative comparative characteristics are certainly much more interesting to look at.

Memory type Maximal real BW, MB/s
Read (Software Prefetch) Write (Non-Temporal)
DDR-400 3290.1 3167.3
DDR2-533 4287.2 4093.7

Well, we finally managed to get as close as possible to the announced BW value of DDR2-533, the new memory type. Its real maximal BW was 4287.2 MB/s in read operations (note that memory bus frequency was overstated by 2-3 percent in both cases, which is clearly seen from DDR-400 test results). We can say that it reached its peak value (which is, in fact, 4266.7 MB/s = 533.3 MHz x 64 bits), even though the memory mode was asynchronous. The efficiency of DDR2 write operations is somewhat lower, but it's probably due to some microarchitectural peculiarities of Prescott CPUs as we got almost the same value in our previous tests carried out in the dual-channel mode.

Memory latency

The methodology we use to measure latency in the case of Pentium 4 CPUs was thoroughly developed, explained, and described before. That is why we'll only mention it briefly: we use the pseudo-random mode to read a quite large memory block (4 MB). The steps are 64 bytes (a real size of Pentium 4 CPU L2 cache lines) and 128 bytes (the so-called effective size related to hardware prefetch of the adjacent line in all read modes).

To illustrate this, here's graphs of L2-RAM bus offload received on Prescott/DDR2 with a 128-byte step.

Prescott/DDR2, memory latency, 128-byte line size

Speaking about qualitative estimates, we should mention that latency values were invariably lower in the single-channel mode than in the dual-channel one. However, it's no surprise as dual-channelness implies increased memory access latency (on the chipset level). And by the way, that is why memory latency values received in the single-channel mode should be considered the most correct ones (i.e. the closest ones to the original characteristics).

Line size Memory type Pseudo-random read latency, ns
Minimal Medium* Maximal
64 bytes DDR-400 28.0 31.4 31.6
DDR2-533 29.3 30.5 34.8
128 bytes DDR-400 46.6 54.6 54.6
DDR2-533 51.9 52.7 58.9
* no L2-RAM bus offload

It hardly makes any sense to compare "incorrect" and besides, very close values received at a 64-byte step. It is much more interesting to compare more objective ones received at 128 bytes. The results come as no surprise: DDR2 is clearly worse than DDR in what concerns latency. This time around, the difference is within 8-11 percent in favour of DDR (if we don't take into account the middle values, where there was no bus offload). It is a bit less than was in the dual-channel mode (15-16 percent), which means dual-channelness has more impact on DDR2 than DDR latency.


The results can hardly be called sensational. Maximal real bandwidth of DDR2-533 memory really matches the announced 4.3 GB/s in the single-channel mode and exceeds DDR-400 memory bandwidth in it. However, it can't be referred to its indisputable advantages at least because current Intel i915/i925 chipsets supporting DDR2 can also work perfectly in the dual-channel mode. And that makes the single-channel DDR2 absolutely unattractive compared to the same dual-channel DDR. Thus, the main previously-made conclusion holds good: the use of DDR2 will not be appropriate at least until the appearance of the first CPUs with bus frequency of 1067 MHz and higher. This will enable to overcome the restriction imposed by CPU bus speed on real bandwidth of the memory subsystem in the dual-channel mode.

Dmitri Besedin (dmitri_b@ixbt.com)


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