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Pentium 4 RDRAM systems

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First post, by vetz

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Two years ago I got a ASUS Socket 478 RDRAM board, which didn't work, but I kept the memory sticks. RAMBUS and Intel pairing up together to corner the memory marked ended up in a legendary fail and it's part of computer history. I more think of Pentium 3 and Rambus, but they were also present on later Pentium 4 Socket 478. I've been thinking of getting a new RDRAM board, as I think it will become a niche setup at some point in the future! It's probably about time to get the parts before prices and availability goes south. Anything that's weird and unusual, that's me 😉

So to my question, do anyone have any experience with RDRAM?

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Reply 1 of 23, by nforce4max

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Recently did an RDRAM dual P3 setup (Dell Precision 420 MT tower) and it works pretty good, RDRAM prices recently crash and you can get 2GB kits for around $15 if you shop around. This ram runs HOT so keep that in mind 🤣, not so bad that you can cook meat but enough to surprise if you go feeling around while the machine is on.

Typical server grade rdram is going to be pc800 ecc at 45ns, consumer kits run at 40 ns without ecc but that is the only difference.

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Reply 2 of 23, by havli

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vetz wrote:

So to my question, do anyone have any experience with RDRAM?

One of my retro PCs is based on Abit TH7II, P4 2.66 @ 3 GHz, 2x 256 MB RDRAM, GF4 Ti 4600 and windows 98SE. Running fine, performance is very similar to DDR-based P4.

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Reply 3 of 23, by Tetrium

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I still do have my VC820 build with a Slot 1 Coppermine in the upper pre-1GHz range with I think 256MB RDRAM (both slots filled).
From the outside I never noticed any significant performance difference with any of my other 1GHz Coppermine rigs though.
And the problem to me was not about finding RDRAM (I got smaller RDRAm modules for next to nothing years ago), but finding boards to put it all in 😵

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Reply 4 of 23, by matze79

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@vetz did you populate unused ram slots with dummys ?

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Reply 5 of 23, by vetz

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matze79 wrote:

@vetz did you populate unused ram slots with dummys ?

All slots were filled. It was a completely dead board. Tried everything to get it running, different RDRAM sticks, CPU, PSU, PCI & AGP video card. Board didnt even want to power on, so it was most likely a short or catastrophic fault.

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Reply 6 of 23, by matze79

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I too had a Asus once with similar issue, a cap was causing a short circuit 😒 but it was S423.

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Reply 7 of 23, by nforce4max

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vetz wrote:
matze79 wrote:

@vetz did you populate unused ram slots with dummys ?

All slots were filled. It was a completely dead board. Tried everything to get it running, different RDRAM sticks, CPU, PSU, PCI & AGP video card. Board didnt even want to power on, so it was most likely a short or catastrophic fault.

Yea that board is toast, the only easier to find rdram boards are going to be crappy socket 423 oem boards and the occasional socket 603 xeon boards. RDRAM pentium 3 is pretty rare.

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Reply 8 of 23, by Tetrium

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nforce4max wrote:
vetz wrote:

All slots were filled. It was a completely dead board. Tried everything to get it running, different RDRAM sticks, CPU, PSU, PCI & AGP video card. Board didnt even want to power on, so it was most likely a short or catastrophic fault.

Yea that board is toast, the only easier to find rdram boards are going to be crappy socket 423 oem boards and the occasional socket 603 xeon boards. RDRAM pentium 3 is pretty rare.

True. Most RDRAM boards I ever saw for sale were s423 ones. I did once see a big lot of s478 RDRAM boards for sale once but I never got any as I barely had any RDRAM at the time nor any good suitable s478 CPUs which could be installed on those boards.

Pentium 3 RDRAM is pretty rare indeed and the only RDRAM boards I did see floating around here in The Netherlands were the VC820 ones and I got 2 of those boards but 1 isn't stable enough even for installing Windows (it's an ES board which kinda proved having 3 RDRAM slots won't work, my other VC820 board has the usual 2 RDRAM slots)

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Reply 9 of 23, by Darkman

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I have a Dell Precision 220 SMP PIII machine with RDRAM , runs fine, I would say the performance is a bit better than an identical system running SDRAM, I suppose it would be the same as one of the VIA DDR based PIII S370 boards, but then , VIA chipsets are not always the most stable, or fast.

Reply 10 of 23, by rein_ein

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Still have Intel Desktop Board D850MV or something similar socket 478 i850 based laying somewhere around,runs pretty stable,cons is this board has fsb limit 533,crappy bios and hard to find ram sticks larger than 128mb.

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Reply 11 of 23, by Marquzz

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I have a Asus P4T with a 2.0 P4 and 4x256MB PC1066. Decent performance, allthough it have no real retro value for me as I was running Socket A during this time (as everyone else). Cool to have in the collection though.

Reply 12 of 23, by Tetrium

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Marquzz wrote:

I have a Asus P4T with a 2.0 P4 and 4x256MB PC1066. Decent performance, allthough it have no real retro value for me as I was running Socket A during this time (as everyone else). Cool to have in the collection though.

I've actually planned to build such a rig for a very long time now, except I had trouble sourcing a board (the P4 2.0 was easier, now hoping it works as it's my only one), I even got some Zalman copper cooler for s423 waiting for it 😀

I've recently also got a more recent board, but chances are it's dead (its PSU has a leaking cap on the 5vsb 😒 ) and it's only marginally better as it still won't run any 533MHz FSB chips.

Plan was to install 9x on it instead of XP. Maybe even 2k if I want to put as much memory in there as I can (don't think I have >256MB RDRAM sticks though and not planning on getting any either)

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Reply 13 of 23, by Matth79

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Upgrade a friend's RDRAM system - not sure if it was critical, but followed the configuration guidelines of putting the larger RAMs first.
It was running XP with a pair of 128MB (and about as well as you'd expect), added a pair of 256's on top - could have gone for 4, but diminishing returns for the price

Reply 14 of 23, by Errius

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havli wrote:
vetz wrote:

So to my question, do anyone have any experience with RDRAM?

One of my retro PCs is based on Abit TH7II, P4 2.66 @ 3 GHz, 2x 256 MB RDRAM, GF4 Ti 4600 and windows 98SE. Running fine, performance is very similar to DDR-based P4.

That board was my main rig though most of the last decade. It was eventually upgraded to 3.06 GHz and 2 GB. I got rid of it after it blew a cap.

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Reply 15 of 23, by Dreamer_of_the_past

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I am glad that someone else has noticed all the potential for an RDRAM build. I've been looking for RDRAM motherboards and memory modules for some time now since I want to build retro rigs on i820 and i850 in contrast to all those i815 and i875 builds. The VC820 Slot 1 motherboard is not very rare, but socket 370 motherboards are. I've been also trying to find the fastest PC800/PC1006 RDRAM memory modules available on the market. It seems that RDRAM memory from Samsung was a very popular choice back then. I would also like to find information relatively to all companies that were manufacturing RDRAM memory besides Samsung at the time. So far it seems that Elpida, Hitachi, Hyundai, Micron, NEC, Samsung and Toshiba were among them while other companies were just buying and rebranding memory from them.

Reply 16 of 23, by brostenen

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If you want to use the Intel VC820 board, then go for the one with 2 mem-slots.
I have one, and it is stable on PC-800 mem. Not the fastest though.
If you can get SB-Link to work, it has one such too.

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Reply 17 of 23, by florianix

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Had some dual-CPU P2-400 systems with RDRAM (ASUS P3C-D), and another one with SDRAM (ASUS P2B-D). Used both with the maximum number of RAM modules (2x128 MB 800-40 RDRAM vs. 4x64MB 100MHz SDRAM).

I'm currently trying to get the P3C-D ones working again in another thread. I can post some benchmarks if that's successfull.
Unfortunately I don't have that P2B-D board any more for comparison.

Not a huge difference in performance, I'd say RAMBUS RAM is somewhere in between SDRAM and DDR RAM. Maybe things would have been different with 133 MHZ SDRAM already (which the P2B-D might not support).

As far as I remember when Intel started to support DDR, that was basically the end of RDRAM. I remember some (short-lived) high-end systems with 32bit RAMBUS memory (longer modules with more pins) instead of the 16-bit modules.

Reply 18 of 23, by gdjacobs

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The problem with all Intel systems prior to P4 was that the FSB paced performance. I'd be amazed if RDRAM was faster, as additional bandwidth could not be directly utilized by the CPU and RDRAM had additional latency cost over more traditional technologies.

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Reply 19 of 23, by sgt76

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I've owned a couple of RDRAM systems in the past, 820 and 850 based. Currently, I have a D850EMV2 outfitted with a 2.8B, 512mb of Samsung 40ns RDRAM and a Quadro 700XGL. It's running Win98SE and I'm pretty happy with this setup.