Spot the Fakes

Would you believe that besides all the other Made in China fake brand-name items, there are also fake memory modules? Of course you would! At least Kingston and Samsung modules have been seen in the wild; the Kingston ones are depressingly common.

Two out of these four Kingston Value RAM modules are fake (click on the image for higher-res photo). Let’s call them A, B, C, D starting at the top. Can you figure out which ones are the fakes?

Four Kingston-branded DIMMs

The two fakes have been purchased on Amazon within the last few weeks (the genuine ones are from the spare parts pile). It is unclear whether the sellers even realize they’re selling fake goods. Kingston provides some helpful information because they clearly have been fighting with counterfeit products for a while.This photo may provide a hint because it shows the new-style Kingston security image fairly well:

A fake and a genuine Kingston. Which is which?

One of the above modules is a genuine Kingston, one is not. The lower (green) module is module B from the first photo.

The fakes are relatively obvious if one has genuine modules to compare with. Unfortunately given Kingston’s protection technology, spotting the fakes from photos isn’t so easy—no wonder they sell so well (and that’s when the seller shows the actual product photo!).

Identifying the fakes from SPD information is, on the other hand, trivial. But not everyone knows how to do that and more importantly, you have the module in your hands (and your PC) first. It’s apparent that the fakers don’t bother faking the SPD data which makes a reliable determination of what’s genuine and what’s not reasonably easy.

For what it’s worth, I suspect modules with Kingston-labeled memory chips are not fakes. But Kingston also sells enough modules with chips from Hynix, Elpida, Nanya, and others that non-Kingston chips certainly don’t imply a non-Kingston module.

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17 Responses to Spot the Fakes

  1. Pavel Zagrebin says:

    Second from bottom is infamous “amd-only” memory
    made from high density chips salvaged from registered modules.
    While it’s fake it usually works fine with AMD cpus.

  2. rm says:

    > Second from bottom is infamous “amd-only” memory

    What’s “infamous” about it? As long as (and usually) that’s clearly advertised by seller. In any case you don’t come across a 4GB stick of DDR2 all too often aside from these.

  3. Yuhong Bao says:

    Yea, based on x4 chips instead of x8 chips that is normally used on unbuffered modules.

  4. Michal Necasek says:

    Correct, module C is a fake. What’s noteworthy is that it uses the KVR800D2N6/4G model number which is a real Kingston product, except the genuine Kingston modules of course were “high-density” and only used 8 chips per side.

    Now which is the other fake? 🙂

  5. Michal Necasek says:

    It’s infamous because no reputable manufacturer makes it and the modules presumably violate JEDEC specs. But yes, they really do work in AMD systems.

  6. Yuhong Bao says:

    Yea, the real KVR800D2N6/4G modules would be based on 2Gbit DDR2 which was never common.

  7. Michal Necasek says:

    Indeed. Which is why the real Kingston modules cost $155: http://www.memory4less.com/kingston-4gb-ddr2-pc6400-kvr800d2n6-4g

  8. Abrahan says:

    B and C

  9. Michal Necasek says:

    That is correct! We’ve discussed module C, but why is B a fake?

  10. GotNoTime says:

    KVR800D2N5/2G looks to be a low profile DIMM normally? Not sure how I’d identify your fake without searching for it though.

  11. Super says:

    Could it be because the logo on B is supposed to be a “phantom” image, yet it looks identical in both photos, taken from different angles? It also looks completely different from the image on the genuine “HyperX” stick even though they’re viewed from more-or-less the same angle?

  12. Michal Necasek says:

    Yes. It’s not a phantom image. It has a sparkle to it but doesn’t change with the viewing angle.

    Much less obvious is that the print quality on the sticker is far worse than real Kingston modules, and there’s no “watermark” (light gray text on the white background).

    The of kicker of course is that the SPD information says manufacturer is “Hyundai Electronics”, module produced in 2009 (which means it’s a used module fraudulently sold as new). But for that, you have to install the module.

  13. Michal Necasek says:

    That is unfortunately not a reliable indicator. Kingston makes them as low profile as well as normal. I suspect nowadays the genuine modules might all be low profile, but in the past they were regular sized.

  14. GotNoTime says:

    Ahh. Very hard to detect then just by sight alone.

    I wonder why the counterfeit manufacturers never actually program them correctly. The CIS on counterfeit SD cards is another example. I’ve got a few here which have garbage in the CIS fields.

  15. Michal Necasek says:

    I think the counterfeiters don’t really care if you discover you have a fake item after you already paid for it. Often the cost of returning the item is higher than the price of the item itself. In my case, I bought it because I was in one case certain and the other case almost certain it was a fake but wanted to examine it in detail 🙂

    It’s actually really not that hard to detect by sight alone if you know exactly what you’re looking for and especially if you have a genuine Kingston part to compare with. But I don’t think that’s the typical buyer’s situation.

  16. @GotNoTime: I’m fairly sure there are fakes out there that properly program the CIS fields and other identification information. The problem is that fakes are really hard to spot, and usually only get identified because of someone with a very sharp eye looking after the part runs into hiccups. Bunnie’s blog had a long article dealing with fake microSD cards and how difficult it is to find fakes.

  17. Sean McDonough says:

    @Michael Casadevall: Ah, so it’s because the properly-programmed fakes almost always pass as genuine?

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