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Quad-Channel DDR3 Memory Round-Up
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Date: May 23, 2012
Section:Misc
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction, Corsair and G.SKILL
To coincide with the release of Intel's current flagship Sandy Bridge-E processor and companion X79 chipset, a number of Intel’s memory partners released new quad-channel memory kits optimized for the platform. Previous Intel platforms were designed to offer optimal performance with two or three-channel memory configurations; Sandy Bridge-E and the X79 Express, however, perform best with a quad-channel setup.

Around the same time, Intel had also defined a new Extreme Memory Profile (XMP 1.3) specification, for easy optimization and overclocking. As such, we thought it would be a good idea to round-up a varied group of quad-channel memory kit options to see how each performed with a Sandy Bridge-E CPU and the X79 Express chipset, along with learning about what kind of features they offered to end users. So, for the purposes of this article, we got our hands on a half dozen kits from enthusiast favorites like G.SKILL, Kingston, Patriot and Corsair and have them all detailed for you on the pages ahead...



 
G.SKILL RipJaws Z F3-14900CLQ9-16GBZL Quad-Channel DDR3-1866 Memory Kit

First up, we have the G.SKILL RipJaws Z F3-14900CLQ9-16GBZL quad-channel kit. The G.SKILL RipJaws Z memory kit you see pictured here consists of four, 4GB, DDR3-1866 sticks of memory (total 16GB), rated for operation at 1866MHz. The sticks require only 1.5v and offer CL9-10-9-28 timings; they're XMP 1.3 compatible too. This is the memory kit we used for all of our SBE testing in the lead up to the launch and on four different motherboards these sticks ran perfectly. They are adorned with anodized aluminum heat-spreaders that are somewhat more substantial than all of the other kits we'll show you, save for Patriot's offering on the next page.



 
Corsair CMZ16GX3M4X18666C9R Quad-Channel Memory Kit




 
Corsair CMZ16GX3M4X1600C9 Quad-Channel Memory Kit

Corsair is also offering a number of Sandy Bridge-E / X79 optimized memory kits, two of which are pictured above. Both of the kits you see here are 16GB, quad-channel offerings, consisting of four, 4GB DIMMs. The black kit is model number CMZ16GX3M4X1600C9 and the red kit is CMZ16GX3M4X18666C9R. As their model names imply, the black kit is rated for operation at 1600MHz and the red at 1866MHz. Both kits require 1.5v, but the black kit will run at tighter CL9-9-9-24 timings, while the red kit is rated for CL9-10-9-27.

As you'll see later, both of these kits performed well, but we did come across one issue. The aluminum heat-spreaders installed on these DIMMs can be pried loose fairly easily. During installation of these kits, we knocked the heat-spreaders off by applying just a bit of downward pressure while installing them into their slots. We didn't damage anything and were able to reattach them easily, but be mindful if you pick up a set of these puppies. Don't push down directly on the heat-spreaders if it can be avoided. Instead, grab them by the sides and squeeze tightly before applying and downward pressure.
 
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Patriot and Kingston Kits

Next up we have a few kits from Patriot Memory and Kingston. Pictured below are Patriot’s Viper X Division 4 DDR3-1600 kit, model PXQ316G1600LLQK and Kingston’s HyperX DDR3-2400 and DDR3-2133 kits, model numbers KHX2400C11D3K4/8GX and KHX2133C11D3K4/16GX, respectively.



 
Patriot’s Viper X Division 4 PXQ316G1600LLQK DDR3-1600 Memory Kit

Here we have Patriot’s Viper X Division 4 DDR3-1600 kit, model number PXQ316G1600LLQK. Like the others we’ve shown you thus far, the Patriot PXQ316G1600LLQK kit is comprised of four, 4GB sticks of memory, for a grand total of 16GB. These sticks are rated for operation at 1.65v with CL 8-9-8-24 timings and feature the company’s XTREME Series heat shields. Although not one of the higher-clocked kits featured here, this Patriot kits offers some of the tightest timings and we particular like the heat shield design. These are the heaviest sticks of the bunch by far, they’re the only ones to feature copper heat-plates, and the aluminum used in the heatsinks is thicker and far more substantial.



 
Kingston HyperX KHX2133C11D3K4/16GX 16GB DDR3-2133MHz Memory Kit

aAnd finally, here we have the Kingston’s HyperX KHX2400C11D3K4/8GX (DDR3-2400MHz, below) and KHX2133C11D3K4/16GX (DDR3-2133MHz, above) kits. Both of these memory kits are comprised of four DIMMs and both are equipped with the same, flat blue HyperX heat-spreader design. In fact, if it wasn’t for the decals with their model numbers and specifications, it would be nearly impossible to tell them apart.



 
Kingston HyperX KHX2400C11D3K4/8GX 8GB DDR3-2400MHz Memory Kit

With that said, these two kits are actually quite different. The HyperX KHX2400C11D3K4/8GX kit features four, 2GB sticks of memory, for a total of 8GB. The maximum rated frequency is a healthy 2400MHz, with relatively loose CL 11-14-11-30 timings at 1.65v. At lower frequencies, however, the sticks require only 1.5v.

The KHX2133C11D3K4/16GX kit consists of four, 4GB sticks of memory (16GB total), rated for operation at 2133MHz with CL 11-12-11-30 timings. The voltages for each kit are similar, however.
 

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Test System and Stock Performance

How we configured our test systems: When configuring our test system for this review, the first thing we did was enter the system's UEFI and set the motherboard to its optimal default configuration. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows 7 Ultimate was installed. When the Windows installation was complete, we fully updated the OS and installed the drivers necessary for our components. Auto-Updating and Windows Defender were then disabled, we installed all of our benchmarking software, performed a disk clean-up and defrag, cleared any prefetch and temp data, and ran the tests.

HotHardware's Test System
Sandy Bridge-E Beast

Intel Core i7-3960X
(3.3GHz Hex-Core)


Asus P9X79 Deluxe
(X79 Express Chipset)

Kingston KHX2400C11D3K4/8GX - 8GB
Kingston KHX2133C11D3K4/16GX - 16GB
G.SKILL F3-14900CL9Q-16GBZL - 16GB
Patriot PXQ316G1600LLQK - 16GB
Corsair CMZ16GX3M4X1600C9 - 16GB
Corsair CMZ16GX3M4X1866C9R - 16GB

GeForce GTX 280
On-Board 10/100/1000 Ethernet
On-Board Audio

WD "Raptor" 150GB Hard Drive
(10,000 RPM SATA)

Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Forceware v296.10
DirectX 9.0c (April 2011)

Compatibility Testing: Before we sat down in front of our test machine to evaluate the performance of the memory kits features in this article, we first installed them into some of the systems we had available at the time to see if there were any compatibility problems to speak of. We tried the sticks in two different systems, one built around Intel's X79 Express chipset and the other around the Z77 Express chipset. We tested these modules on the following platforms...

Brand Model Chipset
Asus P9X79 Deluxe Z79 Express
MSI  Z77A-GD65 Z77 Express 

With the exception of the Asus P9X79 Deluxe, which we used for the benchmarks in this article, to quickly test these modules on the other board, we installed them, powered up the systems, made sure Windows booted and then we ran SiSoft SANDRA's memory bandwidth benchmark. We didn't experience any issues whatsoever. All of the memory kits worked perfectly in both of the platforms we tested.

Performance Comparison with SiSoft SANDRA 2012
Bandwidth and Latency

We began our benchmark testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. SANDRA consists of a set of information and diagnostic utilities that can provide a host of useful information about your hardware and operating system. We ran SANDRA's Memory Bandwidth and Cache and Memory Latency tests on a Core i7-3960X powered test bed with all six of the different brands / types of memory installed. The UEFI was set to AUTO for this first batch of tests, which sets the memory speed to the Core i7's maximum officially supported frequency of 1600MHz--later on we'll enable X.M.P. and test each memory kit at their rated frequencies and timings.

All of the memory kits performed within a couple of percentage points of one another in the SiSoft SANDRA memory bandwidth benchmark. The more relaxed timings of the G.SKILL kit resulted in somewhat less bandwidth and higher latency, but overall the kits were tightly grouped, as you would expect with them all running at a similar frequency.

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Stock Performance (Cont.)

For our next round of benchmarks, we ran the cache and memory benchmark built-into AIDA64 Extreme Edition. For those interested in more than just the graphs, we've got a quote from FinalWire (makers of AIDA64) that explains exactly what this test does and how it works...

Performance Comparison with AIDA64 Extreme
Memory Bandwidth and Latecy

"Memory bandwidth benchmarks (Memory Read, Memory Write, Memory Copy) measure the maximum achiveable memory data transfer bandwidth. The code behind these benchmark methods are written in Assembly and they are extremely optimized for every popular AMD and Intel processor core variants by utilizing the appropriate x86, MMX, 3DNow!, SSE, SSE2 or SSE4.1 instruction set extension.

The Memory Latency benchmark measures the typical delay when the CPU reads data from system memory. Memory latency time means the penalty measured from the issuing of the read command until the data arrives to the integer registers of the CPU."

 

The memory performance module included with AIDA64 tells essentially the same story as SiSoft SANDRA from the previous page. All of the memory kits are tightly grouped in the read, write, and copy tests, but there is a bit of a delta separating the kits in the latency benchmark, in which the Kingston 2400MHz kits trails the pack due to its more relaxed timings.

In-Game Performance Comparisons
System Memory Affects Framerates? Yup.

We continued our testing with some low-resolution FarCry 2 tests. Despite the fact that this is a game benchmark that can be used to test the relative performance of video cards, frame rates are also influenced by processor speed and available memory bandwidth, especially at low resolutions, which is how we ran the tests to get the frame rates listed below.

Despite the fact that the Corsair kits featured here are running at the same frequency as the other kits in this test and don't offer significantly tighter timings, they put up the best overall framerates.

OK. Enough with stock system performance. Time to enable X.M.P. and separate the wheat from the chaff...
 

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XMP / Overclocked Performance

For our next set of numbers, we focused on the maximum X.M.P. frequency of each memory kit. For these tests, we entered our test system's UEFI and enabled the fastest X.M.P. profile available for each memory kit. Please note, that a couple of the DDR3-1600 kits obviously did not offer higher clocks via X.M.P., but their timings may have changed... 

X.M.P Performance with SiSoft SANDRA 2012 SP4
More Bandwidth and Latency Tests 


With all of the memoery kits overclocked via X.M.P., the Kingston HyperX DDR3-2133 and Corsair DDR3-1866MHz kits offered the most bandwidth and lowest latency. Although other kits offered higher frequencies, the more relaxed timings necessary to achieve those speeds adversely affects performance.
 
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XMP / Overclocked Performance (cont.)

We also re-ran the AIDA64 Extreme memory performance and FarCry 2 benchmarks again with all of the memory kits overclocked via X.M.P. on our Intel Core i7-3960 powered test bed...

Overclocked Performance with AIDA64 Extreme
Overall Memory Score

 

As you probably expected, AIDA64 Extreme's memory benchmark also reported substantial gains for all of the memory kits we tested using their fastest X.M.P profiles. The two Kingston kits offered the best overall performance here, but the G.SKILL 1866MHz kit also put up some nice numbers.

In-Game Performance while Overclocked
System Memory Affects Frame rates? You Betcha

Overclocking the memory kits via X.M.P. (or altering their timings) results in a tightly packed grouping. The Corsair DDR3-1866MHz kit took the pole position here, but the spread separating the fastest and slowest kits is only 5.7%.
 

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Our Summary and Conclusion
Performance Summary: All of the quad-channel memory kits featured here performed well throughout our entire battery of tests. The best overall performance was offered by the kits that strike a good balance between frequency and latency. Looking back through the numbers, the DDR3-1866MHz kits from G.SKILL and Corsair and the DDR3-2133MHz kit from Kingston appear to be the most well-rounded performers. The delta separating the DDR3-1600MHz kits from their higher-clocked counterparts, however, is relatively small.

With only a few percentage points separating the performance of each of the memory kits we tested, pricing has to be a major consideration. Enthusiasts are always willing to pay a few more bucks for better performance, but the extra investment must be justifiable. With that in mind, here’s a quick breakdown of the pricing of the six memory kits we tested:


The highest clocks kits can be 40% to 125% pricier than lower-clocked kits, while offering only slightly better performance...

The least expensive kit in the round-up, by far, both in terms of total price and cost per gigabyte is the Patriot Viper X Division 4 DDR3-1600MHz kit. This particular Patriot kit is also outfitted with the best cooling of the bunch in our opinion—the copper heat-plates and dense aluminum used on Patriot’s kit is much heavier and more substantial than the others. Ultimately though, we think it’s worth springing for one of the 1866MHz kits if you’ve got the funds. The timings on the 1866MHz kits are only slightly more relaxed and you’ll have some frequency headroom left for overclocking. While pricier than the 1600MHz kits, the 1866MHz offerings are substantially more affordable than the 2133MHz or faster products. If you’re an extreme overclocker, obviously frequency is king and the highest clocked kits would best fit your needs—price be damned—but for the vast majority of you the performance offered by one of the lower-clocked, more affordable kits should be perfectly acceptable.


Patriot Viper X Division 4
G.SKILL RipJaws Z DDR3-1866
Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1866


Kingston HyperX DDR3-2400
Kingston HyperX DDR3-2133
Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1600




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