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Memory DQ Drive Strength from The Tech ARP BIOS Guide!

Memory DQ Drive Strength from The Tech ARP BIOS Guide!

Memory DQ Drive Strength

Common Options : Not Reduced, Reduced 15%, Reduced 30%, Reduced 50%

 

Memory DQ Drive Strength : A Quick Review

The Memory DQ Drive Strength BIOS feature allows you to reduce the drive strength for the memory DQ (data) pins.

But it does not allow you to increase the drive strength because it has already been set to use the maximum drive strength by default.

When set to Not Reduced, the DQ drive strength will remain at full strength.

When set to Reduced 15%, the DQ drive strength will be reduced by approximately 15%.

When set to Reduced 30%, the DQ drive strength will be reduced by approximately 30%.

When set to Reduced 50%, the DQ drive strength will be reduced by approximately 50%.

Generally, you should keep the memory data pins at full strength if you have multiple memory modules. The greater the DRAM load, the more memory drive strength you need.

But no matter how many modules you use, AMD recommends that you set this BIOS feature to Not Reduced if you are using a CG or D revision Athlon 64 or Opteron processor.

However, if you are only using a single memory module, you can reduce the DQ drive strength to improve signal quality and possibly achieve higher memory clock speeds.

If you hit a snag in overclocking your memory modules, you can also try reducing the DQ drive strength to achieve higher clock speeds, even if you are using multiple memory modules.

AMD recommends that you reduce the DQ drive strength for Revision E Athlon 64 and Opteron processors. For example, the DQ drive strength should be reduced by 50% if you are using a Revision E Athlon 64 or Opteron processor with memory modules based on the Samsung 512 Mbits TCCD SDRAM chip.

 

Memory DQ Drive Strength : The Full Details

Every Dual Inline Memory Module (DIMM) has 64 data (DQ) lines. These lines transfer data from the DRAM chips to the memory controller and vice versa.

No matter what kind of DRAM chips are used (whether it’s regular SDRAM, DDR SDRAM or DDR2 SDRAM), the 64 data lines allow it to transfer 64-bits of data every clock cycle.

Each DIMM also has a number of data strobe (DQS) lines. These serve to time the data transfers on the DQ lines. The number of DQS lines depends on the type of memory chip used.

DIMMs based on x4 DRAM chips have 16 DQS lines, while DIMMs using x8 DRAM chips have 8 DQS lines and DIMMs with x16 DRAM chips have only 4 DQS lines.

Memory data transfers begin with the memory controller sending its commands to the DIMM. If data is to be read from the DIMM, then DRAM chips on the DIMM will drive their DQ and DQS (data strobe) lines.

On the other hand, if data is to be written to the DIMM, the memory controller will drive its DQ and DQS lines instead.

If many output buffers (on either the DIMMs or the memory controller) drive their DQ lines simultaneously, they can cause a drop in the signal level with a momentary raise in the relative ground voltage.

This reduces the quality of the signal which can be problematic at high clock speeds. Increasing the drive strength of the DQ pins can help give it a higher voltage swing, improving the signal quality.

However, it is important to increase the DQ drive strength according to the DRAM load. Unnecessarily increasing the DQ drive strength can cause the signal to overshoot its rising and falling edges, as well as create more signal reflection.

All this increase signal noise, which ironically negates the increased signal strength provided by a higher drive strength. Therefore, it is sometimes useful to reduce the DQ drive strength.

With light DRAM loads, you can reduce the DQ drive strength to lower signal noise and improve the signal-noise ratio. Doing so will also reduce power consumption, although that is probably low on most people’s list of importance. In certain cases, it actually allows you to achieve a higher memory clock speed.

This is where the Memory DQ Drive Strength BIOS feature comes in. It allows you to reduce the drive strength for the memory data pins.

But it does not allow you to increase the drive strength because it has already been set to use the maximum drive strength by default.

When set to Not Reduced, the DQ drive strength will remain at full strength.

When set to Reduced 15%, the DQ drive strength will be reduced by approximately 15%.

When set to Reduced 30%, the DQ drive strength will be reduced by approximately 30%.

When set to Reduced 50%, the DQ drive strength will be reduced by approximately 50%.

Generally, you should keep the memory data pins at full strength if you have multiple memory modules. The greater the DRAM load, the more memory drive strength you need.

But no matter how many modules you use, AMD recommends that you set this BIOS feature to Not Reduced if you are using a CG or D revision Athlon 64 or Opteron processor.

However, if you are only using a single memory module, you can reduce the DQ drive strength to improve signal quality and possibly achieve higher memory clock speeds.

If you hit a snag in overclocking your memory modules, you can also try reducing the DQ drive strength to achieve higher clock speeds, even if you are using multiple memory modules.

AMD recommends that you reduce the DQ drive strength for Revision E Athlon 64 and Opteron processors. For example, the DQ drive strength should be reduced by 50% if you are using a Revision E Athlon 64 or Opteron processor with memory modules based on the Samsung 512 Mbits TCCD SDRAM chip.

 

Recommended Reading

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DRAM Termination – The BIOS Optimization Guide

DRAM Termination

Common Options : 50 Ohms, 75 Ohms, 150 Ohms (DDR2) / 40 Ohms, 60 Ohms, 120 Ohms (DDR3)

 

Quick Review of DRAM Termination

The DRAM Termination BIOS option controls the impedance value of the DRAM on-die termination resistors. DDR2 modules support impedance values of 50 ohms75 ohms and 150 ohms, while DDR3 modules support lower impedance values of 40 ohms60 ohms and 120 ohms.

A lower impedance value improves the resistor’s ability to absorb signal reflections and thus improve signal quality. However, this comes at the expense of a smaller voltage swing for the signal and higher power consumption.

The proper amount of impedence depends on the memory type and the number of DIMMs used. Therefore, it is best to contact the memory manufacturer to find out the optimal amount of impedance for the particular set of memory modules. If you are unable to obtain that information, you can also follow these guidelines from a Samsung case study on the On-Die Termination of DDR2 memory :

  • Single memory module / channel : 150 ohms
  • Two memory modules / channels
    • DDR2-400 / 533 memory : 75 ohms
    • DDR2-667 / 800 memory : 50 ohms

Unfortunately, they did not perform any case study on the On-Die Termination of DDR3 memory. As such, the best thing to do if you are using DDR3 memory is to try using a low impedance of 40 ohms and adjust upwards if you face any stability issues.

 

Details of DRAM Termination

Like a ball thrown against a wall, electrical signals reflect (bounce) back when they reach the end of a transmission path. They also reflect at points where points where there is a change in impedance, e.g. at connections to DRAM devices or a bus. These reflected signals are undesirable because they distort the actual signal, impairing the signal quality and the data being transmitted.

Prior to the introduction of DDR2 memory, motherboard designers use line termination resistors at the end of the DRAM signal lines to reduce signal reflections. However, these resistors are only partially effective because they cannot reduce reflections generated by the stub lines that lead to the individual DRAM chips on the memory module (see illustration below). Even so, this method worked well enough with the lower operating frequency and higher signal voltages of SDRAM and DDR SDRAM modules.

Line termination resistors on the motherboard (Courtesy of Rambus)

The higher speed (and lower signal voltages) of DDR2 and DDR3 memory though require much better signal quality and these high-speed modules have much lower tolerances for noise. The problem is also compounded by the higher number of memory modules used. Line termination resistors are no longer good enough to tackle the problem of signal reflections. This is where On-Die Termination (ODT) comes in.

On-Die Termination shifts the termination resistors from the motherboard to the DRAM die itself. These resistors can better suppress signal reflections, providing much better a signal-to-noise ratio in DDR2 and DDR3 memory. This allows for much higher clock speeds at much lower voltages.

It also reduces the cost of motherboard designs. In addition, the impedance value of the termination resistors can be adjusted, or even turned off via the memory module’s Extended Mode Register Set (EMRS).

On-die termination (Courtesy of Rambus)

Unlike the termination resistors on the motherboard, the on-die termination resistors can be turned on and off as required. For example, when a DIMM is inactive, its on-die termination resistors turn on to prevent signals from the memory controller reflecting to the active DIMMs. The impedance value of the resistors are usually programmed by the BIOS at boot-time, so the memory controller only turns it on or off (unless the system includes a self-calibration circuit).

The DRAM Termination BIOS option controls the impedance value of the DRAM on-die termination resistors. DDR2 modules support impedance values of 50 ohms75 ohms and 150 ohms, while DDR3 modules support lower impedance values of 40 ohms60 ohms and 120 ohms.

A lower impedance value improves the resistor’s ability to absorb signal reflections and thus improve signal quality. However, this comes at the expense of a smaller voltage swing for the signal, and higher power consumption.

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The proper amount of impedence depends on the memory type and the number of DIMMs used. Therefore, it is best to contact the memory manufacturer to find out the optimal amount of impedance for the particular set of memory modules. If you are unable to obtain that information, you can also follow these guidelines from a Samsung case study on the On-Die Termination of DDR2 memory :

  • Single memory module / channel : 150 ohms
  • Two memory modules / channels
    • DDR2-400 / 533 memory : 75 ohms
    • DDR2-667 / 800 memory : 50 ohms

Unfortunately, they did not perform any case study on the On-Die Termination of DDR3 memory. As such, the best thing to do if you are using DDR3 memory is to try using a low impedance of 40 ohms and adjust upwards if you face any stability issues.

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Digital Locked Loop (DLL) – The BIOS Optimization Guide

Digital Locked Loop (DLL)

Common Options : Enabled, Disabled

 

Quick Review

The Digital Locked Loop (DLL) BIOS option is a misnomer of the Delay-Locked Loop (DLL). It is a digital circuit that aligns the data strobe signal (DQS) with the data signal (DQ) to ensure proper data transfer of DDR, DDR2, DDR3 and DDR4 memory. However, it can be disabled to allow the memory chips to run beyond a fixed frequency range.

When enabled, the delay-locked loop (DLL) circuit will operate normally, aligning the DQS signal with the DQ signal to ensure proper data transfer. However, the memory chips should operate within the fixed frequency range supported by the DLL.

When disabled, the delay-locked loop (DLL) circuit will not align the DQS signal with the DQ signal. However, this allows you to run the memory chips beyond the fixed frequency range supported by the DLL.

It is recommended that you keep this BIOS feature enabled at all times. The digital locked loop circuit plays a key role in keeping the signals in sync to meet the tight timings required for double data-rate operations.

It should only be disabled if you absolutely must run the memory modules at clock speeds way below what they are rated for, and then only if you are unable to run the modules stably with this BIOS feature enabled. Although it is not a recommended step to take, running without an operational DLL is possible at low clock speeds due to the looser timing requirements.

It should never be disabled if you are having trouble running the memory modules at higher clock speeds. Timing requirements become stricter as the clock speed goes up. Disabling the DLL will almost certainly result in the improper operation of the memory chips.

 

Details

DDR, DDR2, DDR3 and DDR4 SDRAM deliver data on both rising and falling edges of the signal. This requires much tighter timings, necessitating the use of a data strobe signal (DQS) generated by differential clocks. This data strobe is then aligned to the data signal (DQ) using a delay-locked loop (DLL) circuit.

The DQS and DQ signals must be aligned with minimal skew to ensure proper data transfer. Otherwise, data transferred on the DQ signal will be read incorrectly, causing the memory contents to be corrupted and the system to malfunction.

However, the delay-locked loop circuit of every DDR, DDR2, DDR3 or DDR4 chip is tuned for a certain fixed frequency range. If you run the chip beyond that frequency rate, the DLL circuit may not work correctly. That’s why DDR, DDR2, DDR3 and DDR4 SDRAM chips can have problems running at clock speeds slower than what they are rated for.

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If you encounter such a problem, it is possible to disable the DLL. Disabling the DLL will allow the chip to run beyond the frequency range for which the DLL is tuned for. This is where the Digital Locked Loop (DLL) BIOS feature comes in.

When enabled, the delay-locked loop (DLL) circuit will operate normally, aligning the DQS signal with the DQ signal to ensure proper data transfer. However, the memory chips should operate within the fixed frequency range supported by the DLL.

When disabled, the delay-locked loop (DLL) circuit will not align the DQS signal with the DQ signal. However, this allows you to run the memory chips beyond the fixed frequency range supported by the DLL.

Note : The Digital Locked Loop (DLL) BIOS option is a misnomer of the Delay-Locked Loop (DLL).

It is recommended that you keep this BIOS feature enabled at all times. The delay-locked loop circuit plays a key role in keeping the signals in sync to meet the tight timings required for double data-rate operations.

It should only be disabled if you absolutely must run the memory modules at clock speeds way below what they are rated for, and then only if you are unable to run the modules stably with this BIOS feature enabled. Although it is not a recommended step to take, running without an operational DLL is possible at low clock speeds due to the looser timing requirements.

It should never be disabled if you are having trouble running the memory modules at higher clock speeds. Timing requirements become stricter as the clock speed goes up. Disabling the DLL will almost certainly result in the improper operation of the memory chips.

 

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