RAM heatspreaders -- effective, or a waste of money?


Are RAM heatspreaders/heatsinks useful?

  1. Useful

  2. Waste of money

By Marnomancer · 12 replies
Apr 19, 2012
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  1. I was working on an air-cooling mod, and ended up designing something far grander in scale. I'm doing it in parts, and have now come to a much debated part - RAM heatspreaders.
    The aim of this discussion is, whether they are worth it, for OC'ers and gamers, or even just in terms of cooling, and if yes, please post all details you can about your heatspreaders. Cost, material, design, problems faced if any, observations, etc. Feel free to post images of your heatspreaders in action if you can.
  2. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,264

    RAM heatspreaders are-in the main- a holdover from DDR2 technology, where 1.8v was default JEDEC spec and 2.0 -2.35+v was the norm for overclocker RAM (either DDR2-800 @ CL3 or 4, or DDR2-1000+ @ CL4) and heat dissipation from the IC's was an important consideration especially once you exceeded ~2.2v

    Modern DDR3 modules tend to sit at an upper limit of 1.7v -with many binned IC's happy to OC at 1.3-1.65v- with the requisite lower temp output. Also bear in mind that modern RAM is very tightly binned -that is to say that even with aggressive voltage and relaxed latency, modules generally wont reach the next speed bin (i.e. 1600 wont be pushed to 1866, 1866 wont go to 2000, 2000 wont go 2133 etc.) regardless of voltage -and of course with voltage limits now becoming widespread as a function of the CPU there is less voltage overhead to be used, whereas many DDR2 modules would accept out-of-spec voltage in exchange for tighter timings and/or increased bandwidth (Example being the Crucial Ballistix in my secondary rig are nominally DDR2-800 @ 4-4-4-12 - throwing 2.3v at them on a good board (strong northbridge) will get them to DDR2-900 @ 4-4-4-12 or -1150 @ CL5).

    So as far as your poll is concerned, either option is valid to a degree. DDR2 @2.0+v is a definite yes unless you have server grade airflow. For DDR3, any heatspreader is going to help draw heat off the IC's- but in the main it's only going to amount to a few (low single digit) degrees-unless you're caning it, so any cooling is good. From a personal viewpoint, I tend to steer clear of tall/tall finned/watercooled heatspreaders -they are more affectation than performance. They also tend to limit air cooler choice and make an effective air dam that disrupts airflow over the motherboard power regulation/mosfet heatsinks- neither of which is particularly desirable.
    cliffordcooley and fimbles like this.
  3. Marnomancer

    Marnomancer TS Booster Topic Starter Posts: 723   +51

    So just a flat clamp-like thing with short fins, maybe like this one but with a lower profile?

    Attached Files:

  4. fimbles

    fimbles TS Evangelist Posts: 1,185   +208

  5. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,264

    I tend to use the Vengeance kits fairly often in builds ( low cost, easy RMA). I originally used the finned heatsink version -since that version was all that was originally available. Since the launch of the standard (low) profile kits, I've been using them almost exclusively. There is no difference in cooling ability between the two (easily seen if you can position a temp probe from a fan controller between the heatspreader and the pcb -the ends of the modules are "open" enough to allow a flat sensor to be placed there)
  6. slh28

    slh28 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,706   +172

    Waste of money, although not that much money... for example the Corsair Vengeance which you pictured doesn't cost much more than standard low profile kits. But more importantly as DBZ mentioned it limits your choice of CPU cooler.

    RAM is becoming less and less relevant when it comes to maintaining a good OC, these days SB and IB CPUs just OC using the multiplier.
  7. Marnomancer

    Marnomancer TS Booster Topic Starter Posts: 723   +51

    Good point. Still, for those with non-IB/SB, you think it'll do any good?
    Because if you're OCing, your RAM is OCed too. That increase temps. Plus, for stock top-down blowing fans, coupled with DIMM slots quite close to the cooler, the warm air expelled from the sides goes directly onto the RAM sticks, and that increases temps further, increasing the likeliness of BSODs and instability.
    Makes sense?
  8. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,264

    Not necessarily. You can OC the CPU for instance on a LGA775 Intel (for instance) and just move down to a 1:1 memory divider*, or OC independently (Nvidia chipset). Even if OC'ing the RAM, unless you're going way out of voltage spec, tempreture increases aren't going to be anything in comparison to the temp coming off MCH -in which case, active cooling makes more sense (see below)
    (* Example: QX9650 @ 400 FSB = 3.6GHz. RAM at 1:1 runs at DDR2-800)

    You would probably need a very hot CPU + low static pressure heatsink fan + bad chassis cooling to negatively affect RAM temps to any great degree. Air (even warm from passing over a heatsink) is still going to be below that of the RAM IC's. For the record, 40-55ºC is pretty much standard for most DDR3 RAM, DDR2 tends to get a bit toasty ( 65-75ºC ) but that was the reason why Corsair and others brought out those clip on RAM fans that were all the rage a few years back- note that they all use the "top down" cooling method. RAM fans can knock 10ºC off hot running DDR2 (they were designed to used in conjunction with DDR2-1150-1200 @ 2.3+V i.e. well outside of JEDEC spec) which is more effective than any heatspreader excepting a waterjacket.
  9. Marnomancer

    Marnomancer TS Booster Topic Starter Posts: 723   +51

    Interesting. Maybe then, I should drop it from the mod. Because if I were to include the fans, DIY or otherwise, it defeats the sole purpose of the mod: cheapskate-ism.
  10. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,264

    I'd say that if the tall/finned heatspreader solution doesn't impact greatly on price, by all means grab them. Even if they cost a premium over a standard DIMM set, there are other factors to take into account- overall look/bling is an important factor for many modders. Form doesn't necessarily have to follow function- it just does so in my taste. My personal view is that if it doesn't add to performance or component longevity then I'm generally unwilling to pay for it or use it..but the case for people who value system aesthetics is no less valid.
    I'm just putting the facts regarding performance out there. Taller and/or more complicated RAM heatspreaders certainly aren't going to adversely impact performance- there are just knock-on effects to take into consideration (air cooler choice, board airflow etc.).
  11. Marnomancer

    Marnomancer TS Booster Topic Starter Posts: 723   +51

    Yes, it's the performance that I'm concerned about. Because as of now, my scheme depends on board airflow too.
  12. Marnomancer

    Marnomancer TS Booster Topic Starter Posts: 723   +51

    Thanks for your input guys. It's been very helpful. That gives me one less thing to worry about. :)
  13. ag123

    ag123 TS Rookie

    Depends on what you do normally, if you run heavyweight programs such as
    bitcoin / crypto mining or more relevant and heavier still boinc:
    and/or run heavyweight memory intensive games
    chances are that the dram will run *hot* (and possibly very hot) due to prolonged heavyweight number crunching for hours/days and utilization
    if you don't overclock, in that case a heat spreader would at least contribute to lower prolonged running temperatures
    and this would lead to prolonged useful life of the ram in the system
    drams runing *hot* and failures from heat damage is not all that uncommon

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