Analysis: Samsung “green” memory

I was at Micro Center today, picking up CD jewel cases and USB flash memory and a cheap USB game pad. And to buy a little extra time–I had one son with me and the other was home napping–I wandered around. In the memory aisle, I spotted some Samsung “green” memory. Manufactured with a 40nm process instead of the usual 60nm process, the modules are 2/3 the size of conventional modules, run cooler, and use up to 47% less power.

Is it worth paying extra for? As always, it depends.

I normally buy Crucial memory. In 13 years, I’ve never had a Crucial module go bad on me. Kingston is my usual second choice, but I don’t have any qualms about buying from Samsung. It’s the board quality and the quality of the chips that determine whether a module is any good or not, and Samsung is as good as anybody at making both.

In a laptop, as long as you’re only paying a premium of a few dollars, I think the Samsung green memory, which comes in DDR2 or DDR3,  is a no-brainer. Less wattage means longer battery life and more comfort because the machine doesn’t get as hot sitting on your lap. The difference, assuming the laptop has two modules in it, is going to be about .75 watts.

If you normally get about two and a half hours of run-time out of your laptop, you’ll get another 7-8 minutes out of a charge by using this stuff. That’s not a lot, but most of us will take it. When the estimated battery life drops into the low single digits, every second we can get is precious.

In a data center, I think it’s a no-brainer too. In this era of 1U and blade servers, most data centers run out of wattage and/or cooling capacity before they run out of floor space. Saving 4 watts per server (assuming 6-8 populated memory banks; some have more than that) piles up fairly quickly.

On your home PC, there’s less benefit. You’ll save anywhere from .5-3 watts outfitting a typical desktop with this type of DDR2 or DDR3 memory. So let’s look at the best-case scenario, where you keep a PC on 24/7, save 3 watts, and live in Hawaii where electricity costs 31 cents per kwh. Under those conditions, this memory would save you $8 per year.

But under the same circumstances in Missouri, the memory would save you $2 per year. If you keep the PC for five years, the memory would save you 10 bucks. If you don’t keep your PC powered on all the time, the savings will be less.

So if you can get the Samsung green memory for a couple of dollars more per module, it’s probably worth doing. But it’s not worth paying a premium of $5-$10 per module for it, unless you live someplace where electricity is crazy expensive, like Hawaii.

The good news is that since Samsung is making memory on a 40nm process now, it’s only a matter of time before other companies follow. So this stuff will become standard, and it will also drive prices downward, for the same reason CPU prices drop when Intel and AMD adopt newer processes.

And if you’re trying to reduce your electric bill and you’re eying your computer, you can get a similar effect for free, by removing any unused PCI cards that may be in there, like the dialup modem you haven’t used since 1999. Or pull the plug on the read-only CD or DVD drive you installed to save wear and tear on your once-expensive writable drive.

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