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PMI 3200-512DGL Memory Kit

Power Memory International recently entered the enthusiast DDR memory module market with its TurboMemory line. The TurboMemory line offers modules operating at today’s common speeds and featuring gold or platinum heat spreaders and low latencies. Does this memory industry veteran have what it takes to hang in this market? Judging by the PMI3200-512DGL, I would say PMI is here to stay! Read to this review to find out what is so great about PMI’s new offerings.

[review_ad]Introduction


Who knew there was room for another player in the memory market targeting PC enthusiasts? Apparently Power Memory International (PMI) knew it, and that lead them to develop and recently release the new TurboMemory line of memory modules. To compete with the other companies in this market, PMI offers the TurboMemory series with either gold or platinum heat spreaders and low latencies. PMI is by no means a newcomer to the general memory market. The company has been a player in the memory market since 1990. PMI has been manufacturing DRAM modules and providing IC components to major companies for years, and it also sells memory, like the TurboMemory line, under its own PMI brand.

Today, we get to take a look at the PMI3200-512DGL memory kit. It is a 512 MB kit featuring two 256 MB DDR-SDRAM modules with gold copper heat spreaders and the abilities to reach latency settings of 2-3-2-6 (CL-tRCD-tRP-tRAS) and to run at 400 MHz (PC3200). As should be expected of any “matched pair” kit, PMI tests two modules together in a dual channel environment before labeling them a “kit.” PMI also backs all of its memory products with a lifetime warranty. It’s nice to know they have confidence in their products!


Specifications & Features

Specifications:

  • Part Number: PMI3200-512DGL
  • Quality Control: Comprehensive rigorously tested in pair at dual channel environment
  • Package: 512 kit (2 x 256MB) dual channel pack
  • Organization: Two 32M x 64-bit
  • Latency: 2-3-2-6 (SPD Timings: 2.5-3-3-8)
  • Test Voltage: 2.6 V
  • PCB Board: 6 Layers PCB
  • Heat Spreader: Gold Copper
  • Speed: DDR 400 MHz (PC3200)
  • Type: 184-pin DDR SDRAM
  • Error Checking: Non-ECC
  • Registered/Unbuffered: Unbuffered
  • Warranty: Lifetime


Although PMI’s website and packaging both list the timings of these modules at 2-3-2-6, as I’ve indicated above the PMI3200-512DGL’s SPD timings are actually 2.5-3-3-8 (verified using CPU-Z and Sandra). I could not find this information anywhere in PMI’s documentation. On the product website, PMI simply states that these modules are “capable of achieving aggressive ultra-low latency 2-3-2-6 with superior stability.” To be clear, there is nothing that states that the SPD settings are 2-3-2-6, so it’s not like PMI is outright lying about it. I just think they could serve the customer better by listing the SPD settings, since not all consumers would know that they would need to manually configure the timings, assuming their motherboard would even allow it. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if listing the best settings that modules are “capable of achieving” and making the SPD settings less aggressive is an industry standard practice.

Performance


My original plan for benchmarking this memory kit was to use only an Athlon 64 test system. Although all current Athlon 64 chipsets only offer a single channel configuration, my numerous reviews with these systems has shown that they usually offer better memory performance when compared to nForce2 systems operating in dual channel mode. However, my Athlon 64 system does not allow me to adjust the memory timings; therefore, with only the Athlon 64 system I would not be able to test these memory modules at the aggressive timings PMI claims that they can reach. That is why I decided to run the benchmarks on my Leadtek nForce2 Ultra 400 system, too. It allows me to tweak the memory timings or use the SPD settings.

My nForce2 system has been running an Athlon XP 2500+ overclocked to 2.2 GHz (11 x 200 MHz FSB) for many months now, so the first step was to make sure this setup would still work with the PMI3200-512DGL kit. Of course, it did since this is simply running the memory at its stock speed of 400 MHz DDR. I decided it would be interesting to see how the SPD memory timings of 2.5-3-3-8 would compare to PMI’s rated timings of 2-3-2-6, and you can see this comparison below. I only did a little bit of overclocking with this setup, since the Athlon XP processor was already being pushed quite a bit.

Also, it may be helpful to compare these results to the Corsair memory I recently reviewed. I did not want to compare them directly in the charts in this review because that was a kit with two 512 MB modules as opposed to the two 256 MB modules in this PMI kit.

Test System #1

  • AMD Athlon XP 2500+
  • Leadtek nForce2 Ultra 400 Deluxe Limited (BIOS dated 8/15/2003) (reviewed October 2003)
  • PMI3200-512DGL
  • Reference GeForce FX 5950 Ultra
  • Western Digital 80GB SE 8MB Buffer HDD
  • Plextor CD-R/W Drive
  • Operation System: Windows XP with Service Pack 1
  • Chipset Driver: 3.13
  • Graphics Card Driver: Forceware 53.03
  • DirectX Version: 9.0b

PCMark04 (version 1.0.0)

Configuration
Score
PCMark
PMI3200-512DGL @ 400 MHz, 2.5-3-3-8 3900
PMI3200-512DGL @ 400 MHz, 2-3-2-6 3888
CPU
PMI3200-512DGL @ 400 MHz, 2.5-3-3-8 3677
PMI3200-512DGL @ 400 MHz, 2-3-2-6 3671
Memory
PMI3200-512DGL @ 400 MHz, 2.5-3-3-8 2601
PMI3200-512DGL @ 400 MHz, 2-3-2-6 2596

Interestingly, the more aggressive memory timings actually resulted in slightly lower performance in PCMark04. That seems counterintuitive, but, as anyone who has studied signal timing knows, timing is not a trivial subject. It’s nice to know that if someone runs this memory with SPD timings, it is unlikely that he or she will be missing out on much, if any, extra performance gain that running at more aggressive timings could gain.

I was unable to get PCMark04 to run during overclocking, but I think this was more due to the system already being close to its limits than it was due to the memory being unable to handle the 20 MHz boost in clock speed. As you will see in my Athlon 64 system testing below, this memory can holds its own when it comes to overclocking.

SiSoftware Sandra (version 2004.10.9.89)

Configuration
MB/s
RAM Bandwidth – Int Buffered
PMI3200-512DGL @ 400 MHz, 2.5-3-3-8 2753
PMI3200-512DGL @ 400 MHz, 2-3-2-6 2796
PMI3200-512DGL @ 420 MHz, 2.5-4-4-9 3060
RAM Bandwidth – Float Buffered
PMI3200-512DGL @ 400 MHz, 2.5-3-3-8 2581
PMI3200-512DGL @ 400 MHz, 2-3-2-6 2626
PMI3200-512DGL @ 420 MHz, 2.5-4-4-9 2851

Adjusting the memory timings to the more aggressive 2-3-2-6 did help squeeze out a little bit more performance in this synthetic memory benchmark. The 20 MHz overclock (a 5% clock increase) resulted in over 8% increase in bandwidth!

The second test system features a Gigabyte motherboard that does not allow me to change the memory timings, so we are stuck with the SPD settings of 2.5-3-3-8. Nonetheless, I figured it was worth showing these results because of the good overclocking results I obtained.

Test System #2

  • AMD Athlon 64 3200+
  • Gigabyte GA-K8VNXP (BIOS version F4) (reviewed January 2004)
  • PMI3200-512DGL
  • Reference GeForce FX 5950 Ultra
  • Hitachi Deskstar 7K250 80GB Serial ATA 7200RPM Hard Drive w/8MB Buffer
  • Pioneer DVD-ROM
  • Operation System: Windows XP (32-bit) with Service Pack 1
  • Chipset Driver: 4.48
  • Graphics Card Driver: Forceware 53.03
  • DirectX Version: 9.0b

PCMark04 (version 1.0.0)

Configuration
Score
PCMark
PMI3200-512DGL @ 400 MHz, 2.5-3-3-8 3984
PMI3200-512DGL @ 420 MHz, 2.5-3-3-8 4203
PMI3200-512DGL @ 440 MHz, 2.5-3-3-8 4404
CPU
PMI3200-512DGL @ 400 MHz, 2.5-3-3-8 3756
PMI3200-512DGL @ 420 MHz, 2.5-3-3-8 3966
PMI3200-512DGL @ 440 MHz, 2.5-3-3-8 4132
Memory
PMI3200-512DGL @ 400 MHz, 2.5-3-3-8 3472
PMI3200-512DGL @ 420 MHz, 2.5-3-3-8 3651
PMI3200-512DGL @ 440 MHz, 2.5-3-3-8 3843

SiSoftware Sandra (version 2004.10.9.89)

Configuration
MB/s
RAM Bandwidth – Int Buffered
PMI3200-512DGL @ 400 MHz, 2.5-3-3-8 2965
PMI3200-512DGL @ 420 MHz, 2.5-3-3-8 3086
PMI3200-512DGL @ 440 MHz, 2.5-3-3-8 3239
RAM Bandwidth – Float Buffered
PMI3200-512DGL @ 400 MHz, 2.5-3-3-8 2968
PMI3200-512DGL @ 420 MHz, 2.5-3-3-8 3088
PMI3200-512DGL @ 440 MHz, 2.5-3-3-8 3242

If we compare these results to the nForce2 system’s results, we see once again how the Athlon 64′s integrated memory controller really does provide a significant boost in memory performance. With the Athlon 64, we can reach and even exceed (with overclocking) the rated 3,200 MB/s bandwidth rating of this memory.

Overclocking with this system results in more of a linear gain in performance than what we saw with the nForce2 system; each 5% increase of the memory clock boosts the peformance by nearly the same percentage. Overall, I am pleased with the 10% overclock that was stable and allowed this memory to exceed its rated bandwidth.

Conclusion


With good looking heat spreaders and performance on par with its competitors in the enthusiast DDR memory module market, Power Memory International has convinced me that it is a serious competitor in the ever-growing PC enthusiast market segment. PMI is definitely now a company that enthusiasts should pay attention to.

Since these modules from PMI are fairly new, you may have problems finding them at your favorite online or brick and mortar store; however, I was able to find them at quite a few online shops, like newegg.com and iocombo.com. Of course, PMI makes it easy to find places to buy its memory by providing a nice webpage listing of places that sell its products. I was able to find the PMI3200-512DGL for under $130 at iocombo.com, where I found comparable Corsair memory for over $160! I found a similar comparison (with the PMI being about $30 cheaper) at newegg.com. PMI must be trying to make a name for itself as a major competitor by providing great “bang for your buck.” I have to give props to PMI for that!

Pros:

  • Great looking heat spreaders (available in platinum or gold)
  • Performance on par with its peers
  • Overclocked well
  • Provides great price-to-performance ratio for enthusiasts
  • Lifetime warranty

    Cons:

  • SPD timings are not as aggressive as “advertised” settings

    For providing great performance and looks for a great price, I am awarding the PMI3200-512DGL a score of 9 out of 10 and the Bjorn3D Seal of Approval.


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