Memory Buyer’s Guide

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It is important to recognize that, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for. If someone is offering a product that is significantly less than everyone else is selling it for, there is a good chance that it is of poor quality. Buying from local computer shows can be very risky, even for those that know what to look for. Although the memory may be cheaper than you can get it for elsewhere, you may find that the SIMM or DIMM fails in a few days, months or even years later – and a lifetime warranty is useless if you can’t track down the seller. Even if you can return it, your savings may be offset by the cost of shipping or driving it back – not even considering the loss of use. With PC100 SDRAM modules, you may find that your system is unstable at 100MHZ bus speeds, although it works fine at 66MHz. Many users have spent considerable time and money shipping motherboards and CPUs back to vendors when the actual problem was their generic PC100 memory.

Of course, it may be possible to find new, quality memory for a ‘killer’ price at a show, and you may also find that some mail-order companies or your local retailer is selling low-grade memory so they can offer a lower price. The key is to get references from others who have bought memory, and learning as much as possible about memory in general before handing over your money. Dealers who do not understand memory technology and manufacturing practices may actually have unknowingly purchased sub-standard modules themselves, thereby ‘honestly’ ripping you off. Always demanding the lowest price may be asking for trouble. It is up to you, the consumer, to protect yourself, and it is ultimately you who pay the price for poor quality.

You should always ask where the memory came from. Does the vendor buy direct from the manufacturer (and if so, which manufacturer), from a broker or distributor (and where do they get their memory), or is the seller a manufacturer/remanufacturer? The best way to prevent getting substandard product is to know where the product came from, and how it has been tested (if at all). This is as true for the retailer as for the consumer. If the reseller does not know who the manufacturer is, there is a chance that they are buying poor quality memory. In addition, many dealers claim to have ‘tested’ their memory, but the question is what type of memory tester did they use. The standard ‘SIMM Checker’ will test speed and configuration, but is not very good at testing reliability. Another tester know as the ‘Dark Horse’ will test *only* for reliability, but does it extremely well. A truly good broker/dealer will test with *both* devices (if the manufacturer has not already done so).

Another item to consider is who will honor the warranty. If, for any reason, your module becomes damaged or unusable during the warranty period, you will want to have that module replaced. As long as the vendor is still in business, and is willing, you will likely get your warranty honored. However, if that dealer has moved, filed for bankruptcy, gone out of business, or is just unwilling to honor the warranty, you will be stuck. By knowing who the manufacturer is, and having a manufacturer’s warranty, you can be sure that somebody will replace your module. In fact, the vendor is more likely to honor the warranty because he knows the manufacturer will replace it.

One of the things we are all guilty of at some time, is assuming that the guy with the lowest price is being honest, while the guys who are a bit higher are all trying to rip us off. Pay attention to what retail and mail order prices are (excluding the ‘superstores’, which are notoriously expensive). If you are offered a similar product for 20% or 30% less than what the ‘going rate’ is, be very suspicious – there’s usually not that much of a markup in this industry anymore.

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