For the last few years, RAM, particularly that at the enthusiast end of the spectrum, has featured heat spreaders. The question being posed by many is whether they actually do anything.
One probably should wonder whether a heatspreader makes a RAM module any cooler, and if it does, what good does that do? How does a heatspreader affect the overclocking capabilities of a module. This is something which Corsair has recently investigated, and they have just provided us with the results of their testing.
Corsair's tests, which were internal, involved taking a RAM module purchased online, in this case an OCZ 512MiB PC3500 BH-5 based module, with a 'gold' XTC heatspreader, and testing it with the original heatspreader, two of their own, and no heatspreader whatsoever. Using a DFI Lanparty nF4 Ultra-D motherboard and Athlon 64 X2 3800+ with a lowered multiplier, they tested the module with the heatspreaders to find the highest stable overclock in each state.
OCZ's XTC heatspreader is a mesh style spreader with a honeycomb of holes, whereas Corsair have two types, a stamped aluminium spreader and a cast aluminium spreader. So what did Corsair find?
Firstly, without a heatspreader, they couldn't get past 250MHz. With the XTC heatspreader and their stamped spreader, they could get another 3MHz higher; 253MHz. Finally, with the cast aluminium spreader, 254MHz was achieved.
Now, first of all, the difference between these overclocks is hardly significant. So perhaps one thing we'd take from this is that heatspreaders make some difference, but not that much, really. Secondly, OCZ's XTC spreader performs the same as Corsair's 'solid' heatspreader, and of course Corsair seem to have a spreader that in their tests outperforms the XTC. The writeup documenting the tests has the following conclusion:
It was clear from the tests that the use of a heat spreader on the module increases overclockability in all cases. The XMS Pro provided the highest overclock; we believe this is due to the increased surface area provided by its increased size and ridged design. The Mesh heatspreader and the stock Corsair XMS Platinum heatspreader performed identically. One can conjecture that the additional surface area provided by the mesh approximately compensates for the reduction of the mass of the heat spreader.
One thing Corsair failed to provide was temperature readings. It would be interesting to see how hot the modules get with the different RAM spreaders. Also, how do heatspreaders affect lifespan? Perhaps heatspreaders are more important for letting a module run for longer at a higher voltage and clock rate.
Given that Corsair used OCZ's module and XTC spreader for comparison, we put to them the outcome of Corsair's testing, and they were good enough to provide a response.
"It is our policy to devote our resources to engineering superior products for enthusiasts, not address what competitors are doing to the press community," stated Ryan Peterson, CEO, OCZ Technology, Inc. “We will continue to focus our efforts on constantly improving our own products to fulfill the true needs of our customers.”
“OCZ is all about finding ways to introduce better solutions for consumers that demand the highest level of performance” said Alex Mei, VP of Marketing, OCZ Technology, Inc. “Rather than rely on our own internal testing we prefer to let the product speak for itself, and numerous independent media reviewers have already found the XTC results very positive when it comes to cooling.”
We expect thoughts from readers on the test results will be as mixed as those from Corsair and OCZ. Is it about time we did some heatspreader testing in the HEXUS.labs, or is there nothing there worth testing for? Do let us know what you think.