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ASRock 970 Extreme3 fails to notice DDR3 1600 despite BIOS settings

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September 3, 2012 8:50:14 AM

I recently purchased an ASRock 970 Extreme3 as part of a great series of deals on Newegg, and I set up a quick machine in my spare case. Before I installed an operating system or did anything with the new machine, I wanted to run some preliminary tests on its hardware, including a memory error test and a SMART report for the hard drives.

Naturally, the first thing I did was to enter the BIOS and tell it to run the 16GB of memory at DDR3 1600, then use Memtest86+ to verify its integrity.

I thoroughly tested all of the memory on this motherboard or my other one using no earlier than Memtest86+ 4.10, and everything came back clean. However, there is a glaring issue in the way the memory gets recognized by the motherboard - the speed gets reported incorrectly, both as the raw figure in the "Memory" section and by the long memory spec listing (the last line before the test results). Here, it gets reported as being DDR2 (yes, 2, you read that right) memory running at only 400 MHz - or, if the overclock failed, as 334 MHz.

This is truly underwhelming performance and I will not put up with it. The reviews for the six-core Zambezi I purchased seem to indicate that there is a limitation in its memory controller which only permits it to run >8GB of memory at 1333 speeds, but I remain convinced there is a way to manually set the timings and get the right spec on the memory. However, I have never done this before in my lifetime and would consider any assistance on the matter invaluable. Thank you very much!

Here's the full spec sheet (the memory will be in a separate section):
ASRock 970 EXTREME3 AM3+ AMD 970 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX AMD Motherboard
AMD FX-6100 Zambezi 3.3GHz Socket AM3+ 95W Six-Core Desktop Processor
Hitachi GST Deskstar 7K1000.D HDS721010DLE630 (0F13180) 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive

Memory I attempted to run as DDR3 1600:
Team Xtreem Dark Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) [this came bundled free with the mobo]
G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800)
Kingston HyperX 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) [technically a PC3 10800 which uses XMP to reach 1600 levels)

I should note that I've only tested the first two memory kits in tandem with each other. Right now, I am running the last memory kit by itself, although ideally I believe this should go in the other machine because it is technically native 1333 and I am hard-pressed for memory bays on the ASRock (the Asus P6T SE has six memory bays, but two are being hogged by diminutive 2GB modules @ 1333).
a b } Memory
a b V Motherboard
September 3, 2012 7:08:55 PM

Just FYI, the deals that get put on Newegg often are composed of parts that Newegg can't manage to sell any other way and for good reason.

Having said that, the Memtest programs are 32 bit programs which means they can't test lots of RAM at once.

Try testing each stick individually, for starters. If there is an error in an untested stick, this will reveal that problem.
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September 4, 2012 5:28:00 AM

As long as I can make a decent working computer running at full specifications, I'm not worried about running what Newegg deems second-rate components. It's the experience of building another computer which matters the most to me!

Luckily enough, the SMART tests on my hard drives came back clean and they were the only component which had a rating of less than 4 eggs. I hope they remain that way.

I took your advice and am running Memtest86+ v4.20 on my machine against one of the G.SKILL sticks as I type this up. The RAM is now correctly detected as being 400Mz, but I am still only getting a DDR-800 after that when I was expecting a DDR3-1600. However, it does list it as being DDR3 memory right after the strangely low CAS values of 4-5-5-15 (expected 9-9-9-24). The Memory column below the L1/2/3 caches reads as me having 4076M running at 5565 MB/s.

So far I have not had any errors, but I'll report back either way once I've tested all of the modules individually.
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a b } Memory
a b V Motherboard
September 4, 2012 1:12:11 PM

It is definitely a problem if its recognizing as 400 mhz.

A 1600 MHZ DDR3 with 9-9-9-24 should be recognized as 800 MHZ 9-9-9-24.

I have a set of RAM from Crucial that is exactly that way in my PC.

If your RAM is being recognized as you say then there is something definitely wrong with your core. I can't tell from here if it is the RAM, the Motherboard, or the Processor that is jacked up, but I am pretty sure one of them is.

If all the RAM sticks recognize the same way, I would think it would be a processor problem, but that is just a guess. If you could find some other computer around that would take the same sticks and shove them in it, that would be a good way to rule out the RAM as being a problem (assuming they recognize fine on the other PC, obviously).
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September 4, 2012 8:39:22 PM

So instead of continuing my futile effort to run the memory at 1600, I decided to make use of my impressive six memory bays on the P6T SE and am running 24 gigs of DDR3 1600 using XMP:

No hitches here. All 24 GB of RAM gets detected and runs without error at DDR3 1600. You can see the modules I'm using in the SPD informations.

As for the ASRock motherboard, I decided to use my remaining 8GB of DDR3 1333 memory instead, which is fine because I wanted this machine to be a server anyway. Yet even in this case, the results of the memory test are suspicious:

It gets detected as running DDR3-1333, but only at the very end does it make mention of the DDR3. The first mention simply says DDR[1].
The CAS latencies are still way off. The memory gets read at a pretty pokey speed, making me quite an unhappy customer.

Since the SPD informations aren't working either, I'll list which modules I'm using here:
G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666)
OCZ Signature 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666)

All modules saw testing on both motherboards, but only the P6T SE recognized all of them correctly at whatever speed I told the BIOS to use. The reviews for the Bulldozer processor I was using noted some problems in its memory controller, so perhaps it is not returning those values to the motherboard as expected.
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a b } Memory
a b V Motherboard
September 4, 2012 9:02:56 PM

The processor is what the values are returned to. It would be the motherboard not shipping them off right to the processor or the processor not understanding right what it is receiving.

If possible, try to do a BIOS update on the motherboard and see if that changes anything.

If you have a different compatible processor, feel free to try that instead of the Bulldozer as well.
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September 4, 2012 10:10:20 PM

That sounds like the logical next step. I am running version 1.50 and they are up to version 1.60, so an upgrade won't hurt even though the changelog only mentions fixed USB support. I'm going to wait for these thunderstorms to pass over before performing such an sensitive operation, especially since I've never flashed a motherboard BIOS before (but I did flash my router's firmware once).

Unfortunately, this is my only AM3+ processor. I would certainly swap it out if I could.
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a b } Memory
a b V Motherboard
September 4, 2012 10:33:04 PM

There are AM3+ slot processors available on ebay for like $20. Really old semprons or so.

You may have to acquire one of those for testing purposes or try to RMA blind (which I am not a big fan of) if you can't borrow one from somewhere.

You don't have an IT department at your work that you might be able to take your computer to, do you?
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September 5, 2012 10:01:13 AM

BIOS updated. It did diddly squat.

Here's a CPU-Z reading which I took before the BIOS update:


Here's one I took after the BIOS update:


What's telling about these image is that while the timings are certainly correct, the channel is listed only as "Dual" instead of "Triple".

I took a comparison image from the CPU-Z on my P6T SE computer, which reports the memory as being "Triple" just as it should be:


Unfortunately I don't have somewhere to take my computer; so I have to do this all on my own. I'll have to see if anyone I know has an AM3 processor... does it have to be an AM3+ processor or can it be anything that will fit this particular socket?
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a b } Memory
a b V Motherboard
September 5, 2012 12:25:01 PM

It shouldn't be a problem to put an AM3 processor into an AM3+ socket.

However, AFAIK there is no such thing is triple channel in AMD computers. Triple channel means that RAM sockets come in multiples of 3 vs dual channel that has multiples of 2.

Pretty much all boards these days are dual channel. Intel gave up on the 3 linked sticks concept a while back.
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September 5, 2012 1:10:55 PM

So if the OS is recognizing the correct timings and the fact that my memory is indeed DDR3... is there even really an issue here?

If not, I'm tempted to just set up my machine regardless of the slightly askew Memtest86+ screens. The machine seems to be working just fine for what I'd like it to do - it's got 8 gigs of DDR3 1333 and I'm not an intensive gamer.

If you still think it'd be a good idea to replace the processor and I can find a spare, I'm game. The only recent AMD processor I have available is an x64 Turion Dual-Core, but it's a Socket S1 and it's running my laptop-based print server (don't laugh).

At any rate, I thank you immensely for all the time and keystrokes you've spent giving me a hand!
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Best solution

a b } Memory
a b V Motherboard
September 5, 2012 8:00:36 PM

If it works fine for you then just don't worry about it.

The 4-5-5-15 @ 400 mhz stuff is the biggest thing I would be worried about and if you aren't still having that problem then its probably good enough.

BTW, more than 8 GBs isn't useful for gaming anyway. It only really matters if you for whatever reason want to have more and its not working.
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September 10, 2012 3:15:53 PM

I ran the latest beta of Memtest86+ (5.00b1) and it fixed 100% of my problems.
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September 10, 2012 9:20:05 PM

Best answer selected by EszettT.
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