DDR3 Round-Up: Core i7 Performance Analysis

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Since the great DRAM price plummet of 2007, memory prices continue to be extremely low. It's currently possible to pick up high capacity memory modules for very respectable prices. As the DRAM market is highly volatile, however, it's possible that we could see prices jump within the next month, week, or even by the day. However, it has been about a year since prices dropped, and things have yet to "recover", allowing prices to remain low. Regardless, continues to be a fairly good time to buy system memory.

The majority of the really good deals are for DDR2 memory, which has completely flooded the market and is available for ultra low prices (under $30 for 4 GB in some cases). With virtually no money to be made in DDR2 anymore, beyond high-end enthusiast modules, memory manufacturers are pinning their hopes on DDR3 to revive the market. Not that the situation is much better there, as 4 GB of solid DDR3-1333 memory can be had for about $70 on the low-end.

However, there is demand, and they have Intel to thank for it. As Intel has now integrated a triple-channel DDR3 memory controller onto their superb new Core i7 processors, potential buyers are now advised to buy three-or-six DDR3 memory modules per system, compared to two-or-four of previous generation Core 2 based systems. Instead of dual-module kits, triple-module kits are currently the flavor of the moment, which has allowed memory manufacturers to be a little more creative in terms of naming and packaging.

There's quite a lot of variance in DDR3 modules today, which can certainly be overwhelming for potential new buyers. While the Core i7 processor is officially rated to run at only DDR3-1066 speeds, modules that can run at DDR3-2000 or even higher are available for the Core i7, and many new motherboards support speeds even greater than these. There is also the introduction of huge 12 GB (6 x 2 GB modules) capacity kits to consider, and we have latencies in the CAS 7 to CAS 9 range, all of which affect pricing of these various modules kits dramatically.


Triple-Channel DDR3 Memory Kit from Kingston


Triple-Channel DDR3 Memory Kit from OCZ



Triple-Channel DDR3 Memory Kit from Corsair

Today, we're going to look at some of these new kits and see if we can break down what memory-related aspects you should look for when buying an X58 platform. We've got kits from big names like Corsair, Kingston, and OCZ here in the labs. Let's try to clear up some questions, shall we?


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Super Dave 5 years ago

What a great story...thanks for the comparo! DDR3 is so much more expensive than DDR2 right now (I have read that the price difference between the two will be much closer at the end of this year), but Core i7 builders don't have a choice. If a Core i7 builder tries to save some money and only installs two sticks of memory, will it run in dual-channel or single-channel mode?

nelsoncp21 5 years ago

awesome article guys. Could have used that a couple weeks ago thoughStick out tongue. I would have went with the OCZ modules more then likely. Although I have not yet messed around with the dominator 1600 set that I got. I have a feeling that if I tweak it I can probaly get some better timings out of it. Default settings on my board have it running at 1333. What did you guys use when you tested the rampage 2 board?

chrisconnolly 5 years ago

Dual channel mode.  Raw bandwidth takes a hit, but real world performance impact is nil.

amdcrankitup 5 years ago

Im thinking the right ddr3 and the rampage 2 boards are going to sport some very high marks and cant wait to see the numbers the the lucky guys here that alredy have access to these setups!Make you lealous and slobber!

Dave_HH 5 years ago

Glad you liked this one, gents. Chris did a good job with it for sure. It shows some interesting results actually.

For the RE 2 board, I believe Rob used some Qmonda RAM.

tanka12345 5 years ago

Great review. I too hope that DDR3 prices go down, so I'll be able to use my Eclipse.

Well, maybe I could 'borrow' a review sample. Wink

nelsoncp21 5 years ago

[quote user="Dave_HH"]

Glad you liked this one, gents. Chris did a good job with it for sure. It shows some interesting results actually.

For the RE 2 board, I believe Rob used some Qmonda RAM.

[/quote]

Qmonda RAM? Is that like an abreviation for something? I was more curious about the speeds and how he might have adjusted timings if he did any of that when it was overclocked. Seems to have locked in settings for the timings when adjusting the speed of the memory. I have't messed around with the gazillion settings yet but thought since we were on the topic of memory I would ask.

rapid1 5 years ago

No Nelson thats not an abbreviation actually. Qmonda is the company who actually made the actual DDR5 on ATI video cards. They also made the DDR4 on the 3870's as well I believe. So they are about the fastest ram maker in the world at least on a developmental aspect. I know other people are making DDR5 now but they had it developed and rolled out for the 4870's release which was what mid July last year.

tanka12345 5 years ago

Don't you mean Qimonda Dave?

kato_cmd 5 years ago

Nice article,  I do have a question about your comparison of memory bandwidth testing between 1,2 and 3 channel modes.  I've noticed that the amount of ram changes with each test.  While this isn't a problem on synthetic tests that actually check the memory bandwidth it will skew real world testing as things like photoshop tend to gain performance when the ram capacity increases.

Have you guys thought of keeping the ram capacity the same in single, dual and tri channel modes?

This would give you an exact indication of whether the extra channels are giving a benefit or if the previous result was due to extra capacity.

chrisconnolly 5 years ago

This was a consideration, but keeping memory capacity at an identical level while swapping out modules for this specific test proved to be near impossible given the modules we had on hand.     Once you get above 2GB, capacity doesn't make a huge difference in overall system performance, so we went ahead with it.   Capacity is certainly a factor to keep in mind with these tests though.

ZForgetAboutIt 5 years ago

I don't understand how (in Article Index: Clock Speed") the Crysis benchmark graph shows

  1866 MHz = 73.76 FPS

   800 MHz = 66.36 FPS

difference =  7.40 FPS

but the article text in that section claims

"Moving from DDR3-800 to DDR3-1866 bumped up Crysis by nearly 10 FPS..."

Please explain.

rapid1 5 years ago

No Nelson thats (Qmonda) not an abbreviation actually. Qmonda is the company who actually made the actual DDR5 on ATI video cards. They also made the DDR4 on the 3870's as well I believe. So they are about the fastest ram maker in the world at least on a developmental aspect. I know other people are making DDR5 now but they had it developed and rolled out for the 4870's release which was what mid July last year.

Oh and referring to 7.40 FPS being credited as 10 FPS I think they were using an average if it is over 5 FPS it is relatively 10 FPS inrease. Whereas, if it was 4.40 fps it would have been credited with no increase in FPS in Crysis at all.

ZForgetAboutIt 5 years ago

[quote user="rapid1"]Oh and referring to 7.40 FPS being credited ...[/quote]

Hmm...

 

Modred189 5 years ago

OK, so let me get this straight, you tested 6gb ram kits on a 32-bit system that, if you just include the video card, can only address 3.5gb of it? How does that make any sense?

Dave_HH 5 years ago

All test systems were configured with Vista 64-bit. That was a typo in the spec list and has been corrected.

chrisconnolly 5 years ago

These tests were indeed done with Vista x64 Edition.   All of the tests, when possible, were done in 64-bit mode.    The OS being listed as x32 was a typo which has since been corrected.  Thank you for pointing it out to us.

Modred189 5 years ago

Thank YOU for the response and correction!

ON a side note, I would also read these two articles by Extremetech, they claim that the amount of memory in a system is far more important than the speed:

http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,2845,2328804,00.asp

http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,2845,2333466,00.asp

Dave_HH 5 years ago

[quote user="Modred189"]

Thank YOU for the response and correction!

ON a side note, I would also read these two articles by Extremetech, they claim that the amount of memory in a system is far more important than the speed:

http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,2845,2328804,00.asp

http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,2845,2333466,00.asp

 

[/quote]
Heya Modred,

First, thanks for your inputs here.  Good stuff and good to have you with us. 

I wouldn't directly relate the findings in those ET articles as all that relevant to the tests we ran on a Core i7 test bed.  In fact, if you look at the performance numbers we came up with, the 3GB kits performed about on par with the 6GB kits and were significantly more affected by latency and clock speed.  The fact of the matter is, with Core i7, the game has changed a bit.  Now, instead of a 2GB versus 4GB density spread with a Core 2 dual-channel system, you have a 3GB versus 6GB spread with Core i7.

See here:
http://hothardware.com/Articles/Triple-Channel-DDR3-with-the-Core-i7/?page=11
http://hothardware.com/Articles/Triple-Channel-DDR3-with-the-Core-i7/?page=12

Remember, both Kingston kits are 3GB and the OCZ and Corsair kits are 6GB.

It was an interesting look that Chris put together for us and offered quite a few surprises along the way!

Thanks,
Dave Altavilla
Editor In Chief
HotHardware.com
 

Modred189 5 years ago

AH, I see. FOr some reason I was thinking that they were all 6's. I wonder where the difference comes in? Maybe the increased bandwidth or fewer steps between ram and cpu allow the speed to be more of a factor...

 

BTW, I'm glad I followed the endgadget link here, I really have enjopyed some of teh articles, particularly the Sus nettop vid. +1 reader!

Dave_HH 5 years ago

Welcome aboard Modred189! Big Smile

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