EVERY SO OFTEN, WE COME ACROSS a product that is truly... unique. Something that is totally unlike anything we've ever seen before. The subject of this article is just such an item. OCZ's DDR Booster is a supplemental power supply for your DDR memory that plugs into an empty DIMM socket to improve memory stability.
See, I told you it was unique.
The important thing to remember is that "unique" does not necessarily mean "good." Does the DDR Booster live up to its promise? We'll soon find out.
When you open up the DDR Booster box, you'll see an instruction sheet, a power cable and the DDR Booster itself. The Booster looks like a cross between a DIMM, a motherboard and... a stereo. No, seriously. Take a look:
On the far left is a two-digit voltage readout that tells you the current voltage (i.e., 26 when the voltage is 2.6V) when the Booster is installed and the system is powered on. Next to this are two Molex jacks with stickers, which just so happen to match the Molex plugs on the included power cord. Speaking of the power cord, it plugs in between the motherboard and the power supply using ATX connectors. The pinouts on the two Molex connectors are completely custom, so while you could in theory plug a couple of Molex plugs off your power supply into the Booster, doing so would almost certainly fry any number of components.
To the right of the power connectors are a number of voltage regulators that are covered with a big, passive heatsink. Finally in the upper right corner is a potentiometer that will adjust the amount of voltage the DDR Booster supplies to memory.
Installation is as simple as can be, with the understanding that only a fairly hardcore geek would be interested in a device such as this. Plug the power cable in between your power supply and motherboard, and then plug each of the color-coded Molex plugs into the appropriate socket on the Booster. Finally, install the DDR Booster into an empty memory socket.
That's the short version. However, there are some things of which one should be aware in regards to the DDR Booster. First, it's tall:
The circuit board itself isn't that
much taller than a DIMM, but by the time you factor in the Molex connectors and the cables coming out of them, the DDR Booster is pretty dang tall. I mention this only because one might be tempted to use a clip-on RAM cooler like Abit recently started making. Unfortunately I don't have one here to test, but given the DDR Booster's height I'm doubtful it would fit.
Here's a side view of the DDR Booster installed next to some OCZ DIMMs. You can see that the potentiometer is touching the top of the closest DIMM, but this isn't really a problem. However, I should point out that of the five brands of memory that I tested, the OCZ was shorter than all the others. Let's switch to a different brand of RAM. . . .
With the Corsair DIMMs, the potentiometer really starts to be a problem. You have to basically force the DDR Booster into the DIMM socket with these DIMMs, and it sort-of-but-not-completely fits, as you can see by the tilt of the Booster in the DIMM socket. Finally, notice that in this configuration, the Booster effectively takes up two DIMM sockets, meaning that if you're installing on a motherboard with only three sockets and you want the Booster "behind" the DIMMs, the placement of that third DIMM socket will become very important.
Of course, the smart ones out there are saying "Well why not just swap the memory and the DDR Booster?" Good point. Let's try that out.
No Leaning Tower of Booster this time, so that's good. Notice, however, that the component leads on the back of the DDR Booster circuit board are awfully close to the heatspreader. The metal, presumably electrically conductive, heatspreader. I could have just crammed a sheet of paper or cardboard between the Booster and the DIMMs, but stability on the motherboard I used for testing suffered significantly when the memory was farther from the processor like this, so I wound up going with the first configuration, leaning Booster and all.
And for the smart ones out there who are now saying "Well why not just move the DDR Booster to the first DIMM socket instead of the second?" I'll say "good point" again. Unfortunately, a couple of capacitors interfere with the DDR Booster's heatsink, making installation in the first DIMM socket impossible.
If you haven't figured it out by now, it may be difficult to determine whether or not the DDR Booster will work or even fit on a given motherboard. If you're interested in the product, I suggest checking out this page at OCZ's web site, which has compatibility listings for a variety of motherboards. Also, it's important to note that the maximum voltage reachable by the DDR Booster varies between motherboards, so the same page lists the maximum voltage for each motherboard that is compatible.