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Corsair PC3500 XMS Review

GF City Computers
Price: $180 USD


Anyone who has been even a fringe member or reader of the hardware enthusiast community in the past 2 years has heard the name Corsair. They have a solid reputation for delivering high quality high performance memory modules. Today I'm going to give you a quick look at their PC3500 XMS Platinum CAS2 product, from the perspective of upgrading and what, if any, gains you might see - with particular focus on overclocking results.

I recently purchased 2 - 256MB modules of the memory from a Canadian online retailer, who was unaware that the product was going to be reviewed - my point being that these are not pretested "golden samples", they are retail product the same as you might expect if you placed an order. I will be testing them on 2 motherboards - MSI's K7N2-L, with both a 1700+ TBred A and a 2100+ TBred B, and on an Asus P4PE with a 2.66 MHz chip.

I want to make very clear up front that the numbers you will see are not direct "apples to apples" comparisons - I used BOTH sticks of Corsair in all benchmarks, the comparisons are made against ONE 256MB stick of Kingston Value RAM with Winbond chips. Do take this into consideration when analyzing the scores. If this bothers you then it might not be in your best interests to continue reading.

Glad you're still with me. When, with trembling hands and racing heart, I opened the package, I was immediately impressed by the looks. There are 2 current versions, one with black heatspreaders and one with platinum (silver) heatspreaders. They are rated identically - I had read more than one forum thread in various places that stated the platinum would do higher numbers than the black, but this was late last year and that talk seems to have died away. I got the platinum anyways, a) just in case the talk had some merit and b) to fit the colour theme of an upcoming project. They aren't a shiny or glossy finish, just a very classy and understated ...... platinum. The heatspreaders are held on by a spring steel clip, and seem to be making full contact with the memory modules.

The camera flash exaggerates the holograph

The backside

According to Corsair's XMS web page, XMS stands for Extreme Memory Speed. These modules (rev 1.1) are rated at 2-3-3-7-T1 timings @ 434 MHz and a maximum of 2.8 volts. They test each module on an Abit KT-400 chipset board prior to shipping - this doesn't guarantee you'll reach the rated speed on your motherboard but should be a good general indicator. A quote from their website:

Testing parameters for XMS3500 CAS 2:
  • Motherboard make and model: Abit KD7
  • CPU Speed: Manual
  • CPU External Frequency: 145
  • CPU to Memory FSB ratio: 4:6
  • SDRAM Configuration: Manual
  • SDRAM CAS Latency: 2T
  • SDRAM RAS to CAS Delay (tRCD): 3T
  • SDRAM RAS Precharge (tRP): 3T
  • SDRAM Active to Precharg Delay (tRAS): 7T
  • SDRAM Command Control: 1T
  • SDRAM Bank Interleave: 4 Bank
  • Memory Voltage: motherboard default*
  • *NOTE: Taking your vdimm voltage over 2.8 can damage your module and will void its warranty.

    They give lifetime warranty on all their products, and have additional support by way of their forums - most posts seem to be answered the same day.

    On to the testing and benchmarks. As I stated in the introduction, this review is being approached from the perspective of "what might I gain if I upgrade", rather than being a full traditional review with a bazillion charts and tons of specs and jargon. Basically, what I'm doing is using Si-Soft Sandra 2003 memory benchmark and 3D Mark2001 SE build 330 to give a general sense of where things are at, as the speeds increase. The 2100+ was added into inventory very late in the testing phase and so I don't have numbers with the Kingston RAM for that cpu.

    Cooling is all on air - default stock cooler on the P4, and the GlobalWin CAK4-88T on the AMD cpu's. The GlobalWin cooler is turning out to be NOT everything I had hoped it would, but that is a subject we will save for an upcoming review.

    1. Introduction
    2. Testing & Conclusion
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