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Memory Manufacturers Could be Cheating

ScuttleMonkey posted about 8 years ago | from the please-don't-look-at-the-man-behind-the-curtain dept.

223

Mark Brown writes "Tom's Hardware is live-testing DDR2 memory products in order to determine whether memory manufacturers submit cherry-picked products for reviews. 'GeIL DDR2-667 that was claimed to be purchased performed worse than the review samples they got: 471 MHz for the review samples vs. 421 MHz for the retail memory.'"

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fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15116748)

geil sucks fp!

Is this a surprise??? (0)

JPribe (946570) | about 8 years ago | (#15116759)

It can't be too surprising...besides, is 50 MHz really that large a discrepancy?

Re:Is this a surprise??? (1)

Hinhule (811436) | about 8 years ago | (#15116791)

"is 50 MHz really that large a discrepancy?"

Well it is more than 10%, that's pretty big.

Re:Is this a surprise??? (1)

JPribe (946570) | about 8 years ago | (#15116878)

Most things seem crazy when analyzed as a percentage...must be a learned behavior....it just seems that in the "real world" this wouldn't matter a whole lot. I don't think even a gamer would notice unless s/he was running the benchmarks, in which case all that will happen is the numbers get used as a bragging figure in a forum somewhere....(yes I game, but I am relatively unconcerned with DDR2 as this point as I have RAMBUS in my system...maybe in my next purchase?)

Re:Is this a surprise??? (2, Insightful)

Andrzej Sawicki (921100) | about 8 years ago | (#15117074)

I don't think even a gamer would notice unless s/he was running the benchmarks
Consider that modern games can easily eat 400 MB, and in some cases (Civ4 on a huge map) -- up to 1 GB of RAM. Add to that the fact that one session can take anywhere from half an hour to a whole day (or weekend...). I believe it is fair to say that many gamers are running benchmarks on their overclocked systems, pretty consistently.

Re:Is this a surprise??? (4, Interesting)

general_re (8883) | about 8 years ago | (#15117200)

Most things seem crazy when analyzed as a percentage...must be a learned behavior....

Actually, it's innate human nature to think of things that way. Put a one pound weight in one hand, and a two pound weight in the other - virtually everybody will be able to tell the difference between the two. Now put a forty pound weight in one hand, and a forty-one pound weight in the other - very few people will be able to tell the difference, despite the fact that it's a difference of one pound in both cases.

The reason we perceive the two cases differently is that, in the first case, "B" is twice as heavy as "A", whereas in the second case, "B" is only 2.5% heavier than "A". Or if you don't have heavy objects handy, get a three-way lightbulb and a lamp to match. Notice how the jump from 50 to 100 watts seems like a bigger jump in brightness than the jump from 100 watts to 150 watts. That's because, in percentage terms, it is a bigger jump. It's how we're wired to see the world, in terms of percentage differences.

Re:Is this a surprise??? (4, Informative)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about 8 years ago | (#15116961)

Taking a sample size of 1, not really. Their test leaves something to be desired. They really ought to be testing both memories in both systems, several times before jumping to conclusions. Slight variations in PCBs and silicon can build up to cause appreciable differences. Ultimately overclocking is taking entire designs well outside their specified operating limits. To do this reliably you need to test thoroughly on many samples.

The part of it that convinced me that they're right anyhow is the memory supply voltages. "Normal" on the cherry picked Gigabyte board was ~2.2V, normal on the storebought was ~1.83V (FVI 1.8V is the DDR2 spec supply voltage). You'll have to take my word for it, but THAT variation is huge. People who build computers do not tolerate voltage discrepancies like that, it's out of spec for the devices which usually allow 5% variation (1.71V-1.89V). You can verify this by going to Hynix/Micron/Infineon and pulling down a DDR2 component datasheet.

The headline is beyond wrong though, it's probably actually criminal. GeIL does not control the memory supply voltage (they make the DIMM), Gigabyte does (they make the mobo). GIGABYTE is cheating.

It's very easy to figure out if memory makers are cheating: take the heatsink off, look at the device part numbers and look them up. There's not a whole lot to tweak that doesn't involve a complete redesign of the DIMM. If they cheat it's almost always because they used a DDR2-400 device but branded their DIMM as DDR2-something_higher.

Re:Is this a surprise??? (1)

JPribe (946570) | about 8 years ago | (#15117013)

That's news...so I went back and actually read the WHOLE article...that board voltage is a huge difference, no wonder there was a performance hit...with that in mind, what is Tom's actually testing anyway....so much for identical systems

Re:Is this a surprise??? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 8 years ago | (#15117348)

I don't know why you got modded up.

  1. They were testing to see if RAM mfgs were cheating on the specs
  2. Gigabyte made TH a custom BIOS, with higher/lower than normal CPU & RAM settings I assume
  3. They set both mobos to 1.8 volts before the stress test


As for taking the heat spreader off and looking at the PN's on the memory chips, there's no reason GeIL can't brand a 'DDR2-400' chip as DDR2-533 if it runs stable at that speed. Ditto for branding a 'DDR2-667' capable chip as DDR2-533.

Re:Is this a surprise??? (1)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about 8 years ago | (#15117443)

So you got me on the labelling, GeIL does relabel their memory components. That right there is an indicator they're probably dishonest, but not proof. I think there are 5 DRAM mfg's (in order of my experienced trustworthiness): Micron, Infineon, Samsung, Hynix and one other I can't remember. Anyhow there's nothing secret about DRAM, so the only purpose in relabelling is to misinform. Not a problem on the systems I work on lately, but I can see why there is a deserved distrust.

But the rest you're wrong, or at least not proveably right. Page 10 shows that there was a measured discrepancy between the "normal" setting on the Gigabyte provided mobo vs. the storebought one. They set both to "Normal" (which implies 1.8V, but is different from MEASURING 1.8V). It turns out the "normal" setting on one was not 1.8V. The article did not explain when this was discovered, if anything was done to compensate, and if this could have affected the results. What I did notice is GeIL was the only memory actually tested, they hit the panic button before they ran the other results. Experiments with a sample size of 1 are bunk.

Even their clock margining scheme for determining overclockworthiness leaves something to be desired. Silicon speed grade sorting is not precise to any number of decimal points. All it says is a given device fits into a certain speed category. The only GUARANTEE is that a device will run within spec, once you're out of spec, all bets are off. To get an accurate reporting you need to get several devices from several die lots and re-run. The best way to try this is to buy several DIMMs from stores across the US at different times (assuming DIMM vendors who relabel their devices, otherwise you can read the lot code from the chip).

The results about GeIL are inconclusive, but I'd say they have Gigabyte red-handed.

Re:Is this a surprise??? (4, Insightful)

Trejkaz (615352) | about 8 years ago | (#15117099)

Hardly.

A DDR-667 chip (or more specifically, a PC2-5300 stick) is supposed to run at at 333 MHz. So one runs at 421 MHz and the other runs at 471 MHz. To me, it looks like both of those sticks are performing way faster than the specification requires.

Isn't this just the price the user pays for being too stingy to pay for a memory stick which is actually rated to run at 400 MHz in the first place?

Re:Is this a surprise??? (1)

imboboage0 (876812) | about 8 years ago | (#15116823)

50 MHz really that large a discrepancy?
at first look, no. but then you have to consider (1) that this memory could be aimed toward gamers who want what they paid for, or (2) that this could be proportional to FSB. when you are taking the FSB and jacking it up with a muliplier (a very large one in Intel's case), you want every little Hz you can get out of it.

Disclaimer: I didn't RTFA, and this is what I personally know for experience. correct me if i'm wrong.

Re:Is this a surprise??? (2, Interesting)

dickko (610386) | about 8 years ago | (#15117004)

this memory could be aimed toward gamers who want what they paid for


Well, the article says the RAM is DDR2-667 which (I'm pretty sure) implies a clock rate of 333MHz (somebody correct me if I wrong). So gamers are still getting more than they paid for...

What I want to know is where do Tom's Hardware get off thinking this is statiscally significant? Basically their saying "We took one part from the suppliers, and one part from retail sources. The retail parts performed worse. OH MY GOD, that must mean they're cheating!!!" Compare numerous examples from each source and then I'll be more easily swayed to their argument...

To me, the increased voltage on Gigabyte's motherboard is far more interesting...

Re:Is this a surprise??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15116826)

It's about 12% which seems hardly trivial

Re:Is this a surprise??? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15116840)

Remember, the choke point in a running program is usually the memory. Once it's been read off the hard disk (which is a startup cost, but doesn't matter much after the first quarter second or two), and as long it isn't doing a lot of I/O, performance is highly tied to memory.

For the top of the line CPUs, if your memory isn't fast enough, you've wasted your money.

So with that in mind, I'd say an ~10% drop in performance is significant.

Re:Is this a surprise??? (1)

Killall -9 Bash (622952) | about 8 years ago | (#15117426)

start naming programs that don't do alot of I/O tasks. see any games in that list? i'll take 1GB pc100 over 512 DDR2 any day of the week.

Re:Is this a surprise??? (2, Insightful)

JoshRosenbaum (841551) | about 8 years ago | (#15116868)

It can't be too surprising...besides, is 50 MHz really that large a discrepancy?
I think it is a big problem, since many people check out reviews and tend to pick the items with the highest benchmarks. A 10% advantage may be just the advantage to put you ahead of the pack and get more sales when your product may actually be inferior.

Re:Is this a surprise??? (2, Interesting)

ThE_DoOmSmItH (202602) | about 8 years ago | (#15117125)

how is this different than the automotive market, where manufacturers routinely send wringer cars to magizenes to test. I think Car & Driver actually did a teardown on one, that had a Formula 1 quality engine :) I guess computer manufacturers are tryin the same thin

Re:Is this a surprise??? (1)

Cecil (37810) | about 8 years ago | (#15117237)

So because other people in other industries do it, that makes it okay? (In either industry, for that matter?)

Re:Is this a surprise??? (1)

dnoyeb (547705) | about 8 years ago | (#15117130)

it is if its below the advertised speed. If they are just giving samples that overclock more, then I don't see how anyone can complain about that. Thats why people use random samples for statistics. <sarcasm> But then you would have to pay for them wouldn't you. </sarcasm>

CHEATING!?! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15116765)

Oh, my, what ever will we do? Maybe the memory manufacturers should divorce and marry other companies.
 
In other words, set their affairs in proper order...

Re:CHEATING!?! (1)

R.Mo_Robert (737913) | about 8 years ago | (#15117063)

No, it's illegal for memory companies to marry other memory companies in the United States (except in Massachusetts).

Re:CHEATING!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15117145)

No, it's illegal for memory companies to marry other memory companies in the United States (except in Massachusetts).
 
Are you calling GeIL gay?

You can't trust reviewers (or even specs) (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15116766)

I never trust specs on any product I buy. For example, if I buy a hard drive the first thing I do is open it up, shake all the bits out it and count them. If they don't add up to exactly what is listed in the spec, I return it.

O'RLY (5, Insightful)

Hinhule (811436) | about 8 years ago | (#15116767)

Oh dear lord, a company wants to make sure their product gets the best review possible and tests it before they send it.

I'm shocked!

Re:O'RLY (2, Insightful)

markild (862998) | about 8 years ago | (#15116815)

Seeing as they send out a finished product that differs about 10% from the product being reviewed, I'd say it actually is a big deal.

And I doubt that the products they send out differ as much as this.

Re:O'RLY (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 8 years ago | (#15117189)

Hrm, so, could that not be considered false advertising? Bait and switch? Just curious, as a 10% difference in the review model and the actual model sounds like misleading someone bigtime.

Re:O'RLY (2, Insightful)

Babbster (107076) | about 8 years ago | (#15116909)

You'd have a better point if the suspicion was simply that a company takes the product out of its packaging and makes sure that it works. For example, if I'm a company sending a video card to a known reviewer I might put it in a PC and make sure a game or two could run. I don't see anything too bad about that, assuming the company has confidence that the end-user failure rate will be miniscule. That would actually skew the results closer to average since the average purchaser would get a working product.

But, in this case, they're trying to test the idea that a manufacturer would take a bunch of product, benchmark the samples, then send out the one that performs best. In that situation, the manufacturer is deliberately making the review experience better than that which would be enjoyed by the average customer.

Re:O'RLY (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15117166)

Who said anything about being shocked? That's not the value of the story.

In the mean time, I'll start looking for a story that will really shock you.

Blow me down (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15116774)

Corporations are ripping off its customers with rigged tests... I'm truly shocked.

Re:Blow me down (2, Insightful)

Everleet (785889) | about 8 years ago | (#15117114)

Corporations are ripping off its customers with rigged tests... I'm truly shocked.

They aren't necessarily rigging anything -- chip production runs always produce a range of qualities, and they're submitting the best they have. To not do so, especially when everyone else does, would be to sabotage your own reviews. There are no "unbiased" samples.

The only practical way to fix this is to establish a standard for what companies should send in -- preferably something like five to ten random chips that have passed basic testing.

In Other News... (4, Insightful)

MudButt (853616) | about 8 years ago | (#15116778)

... Job seekers have been putting ONLY their best accomplishments on their resumes
... Advertisers are STAGING their product photo shoots
... etc

Quantitative is the key. (1)

vhold (175219) | about 8 years ago | (#15117241)

The major difference is that these hardware sites are running the product through quantitative benchmarks to compare products. This throws doubt onto that whole entire notion of comparison.

If you could say.. foster that doubt sufficiently, you might be able to make a business out of buying and benchmarking hardware, hand picking the good stuff and selling it at a boosted price as "guaranteed best."

Then throw a "credited rating system" around it, and you could potentially have a nice little middleman racket like what card shops sort of have.

Re:In Other News... (1)

AgNO3 (878843) | about 8 years ago | (#15117436)

Uh but in photography we have very stick laws about how things can be represented. Called the Truth in Advertising Laws. Look them up.

If I tell you the pre cook weight is 1.4lbs it better damn will be 1/4lbs. You tell me my memory clocks at 470Mhz it better damn will clock 470 or better.

No way (5, Funny)

dg41 (743918) | about 8 years ago | (#15116780)

No way, there can't be anyone making dishonest or cheap mem... PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA

Re:No way (5, Funny)

The Real Nem (793299) | about 8 years ago | (#15116907)

ARTHUR: There! Look!
BEDEVERE: What does it say?
GALAHAD: What language is this?
BEDEVERE: Brother Maynard, you are a scholar.
BROTHER MAYNARD: It is Aramaic!
GALAHAD: Of course. dg41 of Aramathea!
ALL: Of course.
ARTHUR: What does it say?
BROTHER MAYNARD: It reads ... "No way by dg41 (743918) on Wednesday April 12, @02:35PM (#15116780)"
*EXCITEMENT*
"No way, there can't be anyone making dishonest or cheap mem... PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA"
ARTHUR: What?
BROTHER MAYNARD: "The PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA..."
BEDEVERE: What's that?
BROTHER MAYNARD: His computer must have crashed while typing it.
BEDEVERE: Oh, come on.
BROTHER MAYNARD: That's what it says.
ARTHUR: But if his computer was crashing, he wouldn't bother to type "PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA". It would just crash.
BROTHER MAYNARD: It's down there typed on slashdot.
GALAHAD: Perhaps he was dictating.
ARTHUR: Shut up. Is that all it says?
BROTHER MAYNARD: That's all. "PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA".
ARTHUR: "PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA".

Well, duh! (5, Insightful)

bwcarty (660606) | about 8 years ago | (#15116796)

There's a reason why Consumer Reports buys all of their products for testing through normal retail outlets.

Re:Well, duh! (2, Insightful)

plover (150551) | about 8 years ago | (#15116860)

And there's a reason why all the review sites beg like dogs for sample hardware, and why companies are willing to send it.

I don't see nerds lining up to donate money for hardware testing that they will never get to own, however.

Re:Well, duh! (2, Interesting)

Baricom (763970) | about 8 years ago | (#15117349)

Actually, that's a great idea. You could have a rolling sweepstakes where every $CURRENCY you donate gets you one entry automatically. (Of course, you also take 3x5" index card entries through snail mail for those who choose not to donate.) At the end of each review period, ship the review hardware out.

Re:Well, duh! (5, Informative)

Nananine (967931) | about 8 years ago | (#15116920)

Retired Washington Post food critic Phyllis Richman used to work around trumped-up meals like this by dressing down and not telling restaurants what days she'd be coming in to try the food. She even went so far as to hiding most of her face in photos so no one could publicly identify her. Really, one of the best critics to ever be published, I really miss her reviews.

Product reviews in general are a bit more difficult. Although the aforementioned Consumer Reports has a great thing going for them in purchasing products from stores, the thing is that they can AFFORD to do that. Most publications and websites can't, forcing them to rely on review samples. Car companies in particular are notorious for fine-tuning their review vehicles, which why Consumer Reports is highly respected for their year-end car accolades.

Re:Well, duh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15117188)

They can afford to do it, even without ads! Maybe because people will pay for quality content, that perhaps results from doing testing right, i.e., not using cherry-picked samples from the manufacturers? What a business model...

Re:Well, duh! (1)

multimediavt (965608) | about 8 years ago | (#15117383)

Just a clarification, Consumer Reports is a non-profit organization and relies on donations for funding as well as private individuals to supply them with products ( http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/aboutus/test.ht m [consumerreports.org] ). Please check your facts before making public statements. To say, "they can AFFORD to do that" is a bit of a stretch. It would be better to say that they do not rely on vendor supplied samples and purchase or receive products from private citizens, but to use a blanket statement saying they can afford it is untrue. They are dirt poor just like the Tom's Hardware and Anandtech folks, the only difference is they have a higher ethical standard (relating to consumer expectations of retail supplied products) and do not rely on vendor donated products to test.

I will say your other comments are spot on. Vendors of any product are notorious for supplying product samples for review that are certainly a pinnacle of quality control that the average consumer will not find off the shelf (or lot, or whatever).

HARDOCP started doing something similar (4, Informative)

Shivetya (243324) | about 8 years ago | (#15116993)

http://www.hardocp.com/reviews.html?cat=MjUsRGVza3 RvcCBDb21wdXRlcnMsaGNvbnN1bWVyLCws [hardocp.com]

What they are doing is having other people buying systems and then reviewing those systems. They will only review systems where they have an agreement with the manufacturer that the computer can be returned at the end of the review. The key is that the manufacturer never knows who is getting a system which may be subject to review.

It actually works well for both parties. Some manufacturers are proactive in the forums and even acted on complaints received, strengthing their processes.

Re:Well, duh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15117324)

There's a reason why reviewers like to get free stuff, but readers don't trust people who accept it...

How many did they buy? (3, Insightful)

eln (21727) | about 8 years ago | (#15116800)

Obviously companies will test any unit they send out to be reviewed to make sure it works as well as it can. The question is, how many other units did they test? If they only went out and bought one other unit, and the discrepancy was that large, it could be that the unit they bought was defective. They would need to buy several units from several retailers, preferrably in geographically dispersed areas, to get a real feel for how well these things will perform on average.

Re:How many did they buy? (1)

LunaticTippy (872397) | about 8 years ago | (#15116899)

I agree. Additionally, there are actually legitimate reasons why retail may underperform sent samples.

A retailer may have stock that was manufactured several months prior. The direct-sent stock would be the latest most improved stuff. What if they optimized their process in the meantime? Perhaps all current stock matches specs roughly and they've compared old apples to new apples.

Not really cheating (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15116801)

If you read the EULA carefully, you will see the only guarantee storage of zeros above 421 MHz.

What's the variance? (3, Insightful)

venicebeach (702856) | about 8 years ago | (#15116813)

In order to evaluate this claim we need to know about the reliability of the test. What is the variance if the test is repeated many times on the same RAM? Without this piece of information we don't know if 50 MHz is a small or large difference, or if even if it is a real one.

Re:What's the variance? (1)

OverlordQ (264228) | about 8 years ago | (#15117020)

Oh come on . . it's TOMS HARDWARE for crying out loud, not like they'd put up a nice review for money or resort to fanboyism or anything . . . . err . . .yea.

Re:What's the variance? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 8 years ago | (#15117250)

Yea, this test is riddled with obvious issues.
  1. On page two they say they're testing GeIL DDR2-533, yet on page 9, they're talking about DDR2-667 memory. Without a part number, we don't know which (of several) RAM module they were using.
  2. They didn't swap the RAM modules into the other "apparently identical" motherboard.
  3. They were testing overclockablity. If the mfg had made all of them able to run at DDR2-942 (471 MHz), don't you think they would have... I dunno, labeled them in that ballpark?

DDR2 comes in 400, 533, 667, 800, 900 & 1000/1066 MHz flavors,
sometimes known as 3200, 4200, 5400, 6400, 7200 or 8000 respectively.

That gives manufacturers a good opportunity to differentiate their product lines. Tom's Hardware should be glad their got a 533 (or 667?) module up to 800 & 900 MHz speeds.

And to address one of your questions, there really shouldn't be much variance, unless the ambient temperature changes between (or during) tests. Maybe you'd have a slight difference if you think the setup needed a burn in [anandtech.com] period.

Not Surprising (1, Redundant)

Fool_Errant (829472) | about 8 years ago | (#15116817)

Not surprising at all. Manufacturers do want to get the most positive reviews after all. Look at the hardware sites. Only rarely do you ever see reviews of value equipment rather than the latest top-end equipment. I do find it a bit of a shame though. 50 Mhz may not look like much, but for the enthusiasts that go after the best equipment regardless of price, or the person who needs the best possible specs for a system and is willing to pay, that 50 Mhz can mean the difference between a purchase and a pass-by. While I don't think Geil's doing anything different than any other manufacturer is likely to try, it does make me think twice about the claimed specs of their products.

Big surprise? (1)

Tamerz (702147) | about 8 years ago | (#15116818)

I don't think the memory one is really cheating, but it is a little shady. The motherboard with the higher voltage on the other hand seems pretty deliberate.

The majority of reviews should use store bought components. And not only one, but a few of the same ones, and probably from different vendors. It is the only way to get a good idea of what consumers get. Obviously in the case of unreleased products, this doesn't work. But in those cases, you know there is a good chance the final product will have some changes anyway.

Why the scoundrels... (1)

adminsr (919472) | about 8 years ago | (#15116825)

The "memory manufacturers" try to make it look like they run at more "MHz" than they actually do. Wait...

Pretty Sorry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15116827)

This might not come as a big surprise to anyone, but it's still pretty shitty.

Steve,
http://tail-f.net/ [tail-f.net]

I wonder... (1, Insightful)

slughead (592713) | about 8 years ago | (#15116829)

I wonder if chips selected for reviews are overclocked first (just a bit), knowing full-well that it'll last long enough to go through the review process and the warantees wont be expensive to honor on just a small percentage of product.

Re:I wonder... (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | about 8 years ago | (#15117204)

Overclocking is done through the motherboard, not the actual RAM chip. It might, however, be possible (though probably prohibitively expensive) for them to create a second chip map for the review chips that would value speed above long-lasting reliability.

Now this just hurts (-1, Offtopic)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 8 years ago | (#15116830)

hearing that they would mess with the actual frequency in megahertz just makes a big hurts in my head.

I'm going to go forget I ever heard anything about my memory now.

Tom's has nothing to complain about (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15116831)

Memory is rated to perform within certain specifications. If it doesn't perform well within this range, that's a legitimate complaint.

Tom's is complaining about something totally different. They are seeing how well the memory will overclock. But the manufacturer makes no claims about how well it will overclock. They explicitly tell you that they cannot guarantee what will happen. This is a reasonable position on their part.

But what Tom's is asking is for all memory from a given manufacturer to overclock the same. This is crazy. The manufacturer has every right to switch production methods and to make other changes which could affect overclocking performance. The only question should be: does the memory perfom as specified.

If you overclock your memory and it works well, good for you. But you have no right to complain if overclocking doesn't work as well as you want!

Re:Tom's has nothing to complain about (1)

mph (7675) | about 8 years ago | (#15117033)

But what Tom's is asking is for all memory from a given manufacturer to overclock the same.
No, they're not. They're asking manufacturers to send them representative (i.e. random) samples, rather than cherry-picking a sample that's at the favorable tail of the distribution.

Re:Tom's has nothing to complain about (5, Insightful)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | about 8 years ago | (#15117034)

the manufacturer makes no claims about how well it will overclock.

THANK you.

Since the retail product and review sample were both rated as DDR2-667 (or is it 553? Depends on whether you're reading page 2 or page 2 of the "article"), neither one needed to perform reliably at memory clock rates any higher than 333.5MHz. That the retail product didn't fail until it was overclocked to 25% more than its rating suggests to me that it's solid kit.

I would also hesitate to conclude from the findings that any hardware vendor routinely sends out review samples that outperform retail units. We only have TWO data points here, not enough to extrapolate any type of meaningful findings. For all we know, a different review sample from the same manufacturer would fail at only 340MHz.

Re:Tom's has nothing to complain about (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15117036)

No, what Tom is trying to get at is this:

Consumers buy based on what review sites say. If a couple of review sites say that company X has RAM that overclocks well then the consumers who want to overclock their memory will go out and buy brand X RAM.

However, if those couple review sites were sent cherry-picked RAM by company X then the review sites are publishing recommendations that do not line up with retail reality.

The dishonesty is that Company X is allegedly providing RAM they know will overclock better in the hopes that people will buy it for overclocking. I'm not saying I agree with Tom, I despise his site for a lot of my own reasons. What I'm saying is that it's not hard to see how this is dishonest.

P.S. 'retail reality' was odd to type.

Re:Tom's has nothing to complain about (1)

Babbster (107076) | about 8 years ago | (#15117047)

You or I may have nothing to complain about (I'm not the type who would do the overclocking thing). But if someone buys, say, four 1GB sticks of RAM from the same company, bearing the same model numbers, they should expect there to be very little difference between the four sticks in terms of their quality, from their longevity to, yes, their overclocking potential.

I don't know if I care for the methodology here (the sample size seems too small to draw good conclusions), but it certainly could prove to be valuable information for people trying to build their kick-ass PC.

Re:Tom's has nothing to complain about (3, Insightful)

Tired and Emotional (750842) | about 8 years ago | (#15117164)

Not really. Manufacturers are always free to derate chips (stamp a lower frequency than they can actually do) so as to match demand curve. Otherwise they would have to make the yield curve match the demand curve, which may be impossible. Or else fail to meet some part of demand, forcing people to buy more expensive parts - which would really upset the customer. You get what you pay for - chips that run at the advertised rate. Its like when you get upgraded to business class for free because cattle class is full. You certainly can't use this as a precedent next time you fly to argue that you deserve to be in business class again.

Re:Tom's has nothing to complain about (1)

Babbster (107076) | about 8 years ago | (#15117325)

I guess the difference I see is that business class is available for purchase at a higher price if I want it, and it is (depending on the airline/airplane, of course) a well-defined difference.

I see your point about supply/demand and, again, I personally have no problem as long as the memory works as advertised. That said, if I do pay for an upgrade to, say, the higher grades of Corsair/Crucial/etc. memory I would think there would be little variability amongst those "top-quality" products. If there is a big quality/overclock difference between two sticks of that RAM, then for what am I paying?

Of course, as usual for Slashdot, this conversation is pretty much mental masturbation since this particular article doesn't provide us with enough information to make any conclusions. :)

Re:Tom's has nothing to complain about (1)

Tlosk (761023) | about 8 years ago | (#15117343)

That's insane. How can you possibly expect a manufacturer to control variability outside the specification range? If I buy two cars of the same model why would I expect them to perform identically when driving them at 190mph? Quality control is expensive enough to maintain within the boundries of the specs given for a product. What purpose could it serve the manufacturer or 95% of the buying public for them to waste money and time working on getting consistent out of spec performance?

If Tom's wants to get a representative sample for his reviews then buy the product of the shelf. To whine about the freebies he's sent is both unrealistic and would just reward the people who would continue to cheat and send cherry picked samples. Because there's no way to authenticate a representative sample without actually buying off the shelf stuff to compare, you just have to assume bias in freebie samples and that lets you reach somewhat reasonable conclusions (by adjusting your expectations of actual product somewhat downward of what is reported).

Re:Tom's has nothing to complain about (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | about 8 years ago | (#15117321)

I agree with the point that the memory should work as specified, if 333MHz is specified (where getting one that runs 425MHz is hardly defective), that's what they got, but for reviews which nerds depend on someone else to tell them what's good, the review sample should actually be an average representation of stock, not an outlier that makes them look best.

Personally, I generally don't do overclocking, so maybe I'm a bit biased, but it does seem a bit much to complain that you can "only" get 25% faster than what the label says. That puts the overclocking crowd in not so good of a light, in my opinion.

methodology questions (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15116884)

1) The article says that they bump the clock rate until the systems crash.
I'd be a little happier with running a memory test and running at progressively faster speeds until it detects an error. Some memory errors might not cause the system to crash ... just to carry on running with bad data.
2) They have two "identical" systems ... one for the review sample, and one for the retail purchased.
How do they know that all the components in the identical systems really have exactly the same specs? It would be more fair use just one system, or after the tests complete to swap the ram and re-run.

I don't really see the problem (5, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 8 years ago | (#15116965)

The ram was rated as DDR2 667 even the retail at 421 MHZ. That comes out to DDR2-842 doesn't it?
The ram met and far exceeded it's rated clock speed. Sure the give good stuff to reviewers. If the review sites want to do valid tests of which brand of ram is the best for over clocking they would have to purchase multiple samples of each brand from the retail channel.
When overclocking the truth is your results may very. If you are pushing past specs then some will work and some will not. Heck even different production batches will give different averages.

Re:I don't really see the problem (2, Informative)

HardCase (14757) | about 8 years ago | (#15117159)

Actually, I think that it was rated at DDR2-533 - it depends on whether you read the chart or the narrative. I guess that proofreading at Tom's is about as effective as proofreading on /.!

Specs are for advertising. (4, Insightful)

dada21 (163177) | about 8 years ago | (#15116988)

Horsepower in cars rarely meets up with the numbers. Fuel efficiency, either. Carb content in food is labeled, but most people don't read the serving size, so that is advertising funk, too.

Why should this be different? When a company ships a product to be reviewed and tested, they'll ship the best. When they test their own, they'll test the best. You should NEVER accept that specs are factual, and you should spend some time confirming what you bought.

This is the great thing about specs -- if they're lies, just return the product. If a company lies enough, the customers will go elsewhere.

It is really all common sense.

No, not so much (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 8 years ago | (#15117346)

In computers, specs are very, very important. With RAM, the spec tells you the maximum frequency at which it is rated to run. So if the memory is DDR2 667, it is rated to operate at a maximum frequency of 333MHz (DDR values are doubled). You can try running it faster, it may work (that's what Tom was doing) but no gaurentees. However it is gaurenteed to operate properly, withoug stability problems at 333MHz or below.

Thus, if your system requires DDR2 667, you need to make sure you buy it, otherwise your system may crash, corrupt data, or simply fail to POST.

Computer specs are generally like engineering data: They are maximum safe ratings. The company gaurentees that the product will work up to and including this level, but not more. It may go higher, but you do so at your own risk.

General rant of all things we hold dear! (0, Flamebait)

Jakuta (643082) | about 8 years ago | (#15116989)

Ok, prolly going to be flamed like a Buddhist monk in Vietnam for this but here goes... The standards we set for equipment are supposed to be across the board. Hence the term "standard" Smart people please tell me how many bits in a byte, how many bytes in a Kb, how many Kb in a Mb... etc. etc. etc. What ever happened to "standards" and the stoic facilities that govern them? All I have to say is until we make a stand about what is and is not acceptable consider yourselves the welcome mats to world industry and marketing. This goes for all the other stuff too. Ever see that commercial where the bathroom sink is just running and all these people are all aghast about it? Well there will be no quiet hero to the rescue to turn the bloody thing off in real life. Stop being a bunch of blue haired Nancy's and form a group that does just more than types. One person is a screwball, two are a conspiracy but several thousand are a force to be reckoned with. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Re:General rant of all things we hold dear! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15117054)

Yeah, and the dishonesty is spreading. Just the other day I bought a bag of flour that supposedly was 1 kilogram.

But when I bring it home and weigh it, guess what? The damn thing really weighs only 1000 grams!!!

Those flour manufacturers will stop at nothing to save money!!!!

Re:General rant of all things we hold dear! (1)

Jakuta (643082) | about 8 years ago | (#15117224)

See what I mean, it didn't weigh 1024g like it should have had it been measured computer standards... Show me who you are you Coward! Kneel before ZOD!

Re:General rant of all things we hold dear! (1)

Hyram Graff (962405) | about 8 years ago | (#15117246)

Smart people please tell me how many bits in a byte, how many bytes in a Kb, how many Kb in a Mb

Ok, there are eight bits in a byte, one thousand twenty-four bytes in a Kb and one thousand twenty-four Kb in a Mb. Glad to be of service.

Oh, and I'm terribly bad at reading sarcasm in written communications. So in case you ever decide to use sarcasm, you might want to include some sarcasm tags.

Re:General rant of all things we hold dear! (1)

dextromulous (627459) | about 8 years ago | (#15117461)

Ok, there are eight bits in a byte, one thousand twenty-four bytes in a Kb and one thousand twenty-four Kb in a Mb.
That's actually non-standard. More info available here [wikipedia.org] . In short: according to "the IEEE standard IEEE 1541-2002 (Prefixes for Binary Multiples)" which was elevated to a full-use standard on March 19, 2005, the prefixes you listed, in order should be: kibi and mebi with symbols Ki and Mi.

AFAIK, it is fine to say any of the following: 1 KB=1000 bytes, 1 MB = 1000 KB, 1 Kb = 1000 bits, 1MB = 1000 Kb, 1 KiB = 1024 bytes, 1 MiB = 1024 kibibytes, 1 kibibit = 1024 bits, 1 mebibit = 1024 kibibits, and so on...

manufacture gimmied the motherboard (2, Insightful)

grimdel (767484) | about 8 years ago | (#15116997)

Hmmm... If I read this right, it looks like the motherboard that came w/ the memory had its voltage increased to induce higher speeds. This would skew any test - not just overclocking, unless you knew to reset it.

In summary (2, Insightful)

nagora (177841) | about 8 years ago | (#15117006)

The reviewed samples passed the specification my a mile, and the retail ones by only seven furlongs. Big deal. Now, if the RAM makers had made any claim to exceed the spec by some particular percentage then this would be news. But they didn't, so it's not.

TWW

I could be mistaken... (2, Informative)

l3prador (700532) | about 8 years ago | (#15117023)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't DDR2-667 only certified to run at 333MHz? Either way, 471 MHz and 421 MHz are both well above that... It's not as if they're claiming it runs at 471 and it actually runs at 421... they're only guaranteeing it to run at 333... right?

Still better than its ratings (2, Insightful)

xWeston (577162) | about 8 years ago | (#15117041)

From TFA:
"Its DDR2-667 memory......"

"maximum clock speed of 471 MHz, which corresponds to DDR2-942"

vs

"a memory clock of 421 MHz (DDR2-842)"

So its more than 20% faster than what it is rated at... Whats the big deal? Everyone knows there are certain processors/memory modules from the same exact part# that outperform others. This has been the case since before the Celeron 300a even. If the memory performed below its rating, then there would be a problem

Re:Still better than its ratings (1)

KyolFrilander (730272) | about 8 years ago | (#15117138)

But you see - consumers, especially the ones in the overclocking camp, are mindless sheep. So if they see that Brand X overclocks more than brand Y in a "shootout" by some site with links to 18 different retailers selling both brand X and Brand Y, obviously Brand X is _worth_ the $50 price hike.

(Of course, I think that if you're buying for a "known" overclock, you are probably best parted with your money before you put some godawful wing on your car..)

Re:Still better than its ratings (1)

Amouth (879122) | about 8 years ago | (#15117451)

ahhh someone else that remembers the Celron 300a.. the processor that could go the mile at 800mhz back in the day..

i do miss getting chips like that.. but it was only the malaysa once the philipean ones just died

Naive (4, Insightful)

jemenake (595948) | about 8 years ago | (#15117065)

GeIL DDR2-667 that was claimed to be purchased performed worse than the review samples they got: 471 MHz for the review samples vs. 421 MHz for the retail memory.
PLEASE don't tell me that you're surprised by this. In fact, you should be surprised if it isn't happening.

Recall the hubub from as recently as a half-decade ago, when video card manufacturers were rigging their drivers (or the cards themselves) to recognize when they were being asked to draw the same patterns over and over again (like, say, 10,000 colored boxes, or circles... like benchmark programs do) and would silently decide to perform only a fraction of them to jack the benchmark numbers up?

Never, ever trust the results from an item that the company sent you when they knew you were a reviewer. You should just go out and buy one off the shelf in a store. If you can't afford to do that, buy one from a store and ask the company for a review sample, return the sample to the store and test the, now free, one that you got "in the wild", as it were.

Re:Naive (1)

fishbowl (7759) | about 8 years ago | (#15117313)

>like, say, 10,000 colored boxes, or circles... like benchmark programs do) and would
>silently decide to perform only a fraction of them to jack the benchmark numbers up

Seems like a reasonable optimization to defer computation of some polygons in a backbuffer. I wouldn't necessarily peg that as "just" jacking up the benchmark numbers. I'd be suspicious of a design that didn't defer some processing, or had some predictive algorithm for controlling the pipeline.

But then, I don't "recall this particular hubbub", so I'm not informed enough to make an opinion. The little I know about graphics processing makes me wonder if the manufacturer should be given the benefit of the doubt though.

Cheating what, exactly? (1)

Cyno (85911) | about 8 years ago | (#15117135)

Unprofessional benchmarks and overclocking?

If Tom's Hardware has a problem with this perhaps they should stick to real-world benchmarks and purchase all the equipment they test for review, instead of trusting manufacturers to "help" them. Its very unprofessional of them to work so closely with the businesses they are supposed to be reviewing..

FUD, I'd say (4, Informative)

HardCase (14757) | about 8 years ago | (#15117146)

Let's see - the GeIL memory is rated at DDR2-533. The module from the vendor ran at DDR2-942. The module from the store ran at DDR2-842. Now, Tom makes this out to be some big controversy, but it seems to me that a module running 36% faster than specified is no small thing, particularly at that high of a data rate.

I'm an engineer who designs memory modules. In most cases, our modules are overclockable, at least to some degree - some go faster than others. At the sort of speed that Tom's Hardware is running, I'm not really surprised that there's more than a 2 or 3% variation in performance, espeically if the chips on those modules came from different manufacturing lots. At the outer limits of memory speed performance, the tiniest changes in parasitic capacitance can be death to performance - and those values change from lot to lot, even from wafer to wafer.

When manufacturers specify that 2% to 3% tolerance, they're referring to the module's performance at its rated speed, and that makes sense. Plug two modules into a system and they will run in virtual lockstep - at their rated speed. There are a million analogies that I could use, but the bottom line is that there are assumptions and statements in Tom's article that just aren't right.

Maybe the module was cherry-picked and maybe it wasn't, but, if nothing else, a sample of two doesn't make for much of a study. After all, if the retail module had been DOA, a pedantic person could say that GeIL cherry-picked the evaluation samples and sends all the defective modules to retail.

-h-

Want a good review of your product? (2, Informative)

krygny (473134) | about 8 years ago | (#15117160)

Get the writer loaded and laid.

Seriously. Many years ago, I worked as a technician for a (now defunct) major audio equipment manufacturer. When a writer from "Stereo Review" or "Audio" magazine came to visit, we'd play with the equipment a little, my Engineering boss would hand him some specs, and they'd go out on the town (leaving me to work the rest of the day {grumble, grumble}). A few months later, we'd see those exact specs printed in the magazine, along with some well-placed ads. I never believe a review I read in a trade publication.

Consumer Reports lacks technical expertise in many areas, but at least their approach has some level of integrity.

So If You Want The Best Stuff (2)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | about 8 years ago | (#15117369)

So if you want the best stuff, convince them you're a review site and just wait for them to ship you the cream de la creme.

just business as usual (2, Interesting)

pxuongl (758399) | about 8 years ago | (#15117388)

i work at hp, and i'm sure this is standard practice across every industry... all review units go through a series of stringent screening process to determine the absolutely best units.

seriously think about it.... if you had a hot date, would you show up in a yellow wife-beater, messy hair and bad breathe, and ask her to pay the cab that's been waiting for them for the last 30 minutes?
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