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RAM Freq vs. CAS OC Question, and Ramdisk Question

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October 1, 2012 9:28:06 PM

I'm about to build a new machine with an ASUS P8Z77-V mobo and an Intel Core i7-3770K.

It will be used for moderate-heavy gaming, moderate-heavy Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator/Flash design work, and mild-moderate video trans-coding and video editing in Premiere Pro. I also intend to experiment with a size-able RAMdisk with available RAM.

My first question involves finding an optimal RAM configuration.

I'm aware that in order to reach greater frequencies than 1600 on DDR3 RAM for this setup, I have to 'overclock' the RAM either using XMP or whatever.

My first question is this:
If I have found DDR3 RAM running stock 1600 frequency and 7 CAS latency (Like this Mushkin Kit), will 4x4GB (=16GB) of these RAM sticks running at stock be *better for me than:

Overclocking 2x8GB (=16GB) DDR3 sticks (Like this G.Skill kit) up to 2400 frequency and 10 CAS latency, (as it is rated by G.Skill to run at least that high)?

*By "better", I mean in terms of the risk of CPU degradation and shortened life expectancy (if there is any from overclocking RAM) versus the actual noticeable benefits (in either gaming, design, or trans-coding/encoding).

Does that make sense?

Because if avoiding overclocking completely means I have a better chance of NOT having to replace my CPU, then I'm curious if I'll miss any real performance benefits from running everything at stock. I would say I understand the relationship of CAS latency and frequencies, but I lack understanding of the noticeable benefits in real-world implementation. Although eager to start playing around with XMP and getting better performance, especially in gaming, I'm a little nervous since my AMD Athlon x64 core just died after five years of being completely unaltered.

My second question is about RAMDisks:
(a) Is there any benefit to running a game, let's say an MMO like Guild Wars 2 or APB (which uses the Unreal engine if I'm not mistaken), completely off of a RAMdisk as compared to a 256GB SSD?

(b) What is the best way to benefit from a RAMDisk using Adobe Creative Suite Programs? For example, do I merely install and run Photoshop from the RAMDisk, but save my actual finished .psd files to my SSD?

(c) Other than creating a much larger-capacity RAMDisk, would I likely benefit from 32GB instead of 16GB (which means I'll have to settle for higher Stock CAS Latencies and might thus be more tempted to overclock) in any of my gaming/applications?

PS- I am aware that Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium only supports 16GB of RAM, so I'd have to go with Pro/Ult.


Thanks a billion in advance for your advice!
a b } Memory
October 3, 2012 6:41:21 PM

1) the difference between 1600MT/s and 2400MT/s in most real-world applications is negligible so you are not really losing anything other than synthetic RAM benchmark bragging rights.

2) you leave games and applications on the SSD but put temporary file storage on the RAM-disk. Windows' cache will take care of keeping most other frequently used data ready for use and worst case, cache misses going to the SSD should not be particularly noticeable.
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a c 347 } Memory
October 3, 2012 8:08:24 PM

Kylehume said:
It will be used for moderate-heavy gaming, moderate-heavy Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator/Flash design work, and mild-moderate video trans-coding and video editing in Premiere Pro. I also intend to experiment with a size-able RAMdisk with available RAM.
...

*By "better", I mean in terms of the risk of CPU degradation and shortened life expectancy (if there is any from overclocking RAM) versus the actual noticeable benefits (in either gaming, design, or trans-coding/encoding).

...

Because if avoiding overclocking completely means I have a better chance of NOT having to replace my CPU, then I'm curious if I'll miss any real performance benefits from running everything at stock.

My second question is about RAMDisks:
(a) Is there any benefit to running a game, let's say an MMO like Guild Wars 2 or APB (which uses the Unreal engine if I'm not mistaken), completely off of a RAMdisk as compared to a 256GB SSD?

(b) What is the best way to benefit from a RAMDisk using Adobe Creative Suite Programs? For example, do I merely install and run Photoshop from the RAMDisk, but save my actual finished .psd files to my SSD?

(c) Other than creating a much larger-capacity RAMDisk, would I likely benefit from 32GB instead of 16GB (which means I'll have to settle for higher Stock CAS Latencies and might thus be more tempted to overclock) in any of my gaming/applications?

Gaming and Rendering are worlds apart, in that Rendering's primary acceleration comes from 'abundance' i.e. more is better, and gaming in HD (1920x1080) benefits very little above 8GB. I looked at the Xbit's charts, and don't agree with the gaming benchmarks. The reason is simple, some games are all about the GPU and others a combination of both the CPU and GPU. The DDR3-1600 vs DDR3-2400 or higher doesn't add 7FPS at least not in HD, and on average it's closer to +0~+4FPS, but the major trade-off is stability.

Gaming take the CPU's Rated memory frequency and add one level up i.e. in your case CPU's DDR3-1600 plus one DDR3-1866 and 8GB minimum.

Rendering your CPU is limited to 4xDIMM and currnetly 8GB/stick is the maximum non-ECC desity or 4x8GB (32GB) is recommend for maximum performance. Hey, some folks want 128GB Workstations...

CPU Degrading, yep that's a problem so there's a few things to know what can accelerate it; IB CPU: excessive vCore > 1.40v, excessive VCCIO > 1.20v, excessive DRAM > 1.60v. Also, other dumb OC's setting anything from excessive LLC to excessive Phase control.

RAM Disk:
ANS:
(a) Only benefit with games is the load times will be very short and mini-save stuttering very small. Otherwise it's a complete waste to use a RAM Disk for a game.
(b) Run both the working files and scratch disk off the RAM Disk, and the gains from the application itself once loaded from e.g. and SSD are negligible.
(c) See my comments above.

Okay this is a fine and dandy, but here in reality there's major considerations with RAM: Density vs Frequency and Data loss vs Benchmarks. RAM Disks are very (very) volatile so if you experience any form of unexpected shutdown i.e. BSOD, OC Failure, 41/63 then poof all data on the RAM Drive is bye-bye for good. So anything prior to the last save point is toast. High density kits e.g. 8GB/stick are a bear to keep stable so in that case I only recommend matching your CPU's Rated frequency or in this case DDR3-1600.

Overclocking the CPU plays a more integral role than DRAM Frequency alone, and everything benefits overall: Higher Frame Rates, Shorter Rendering Times, and yes even Memory R/W and Reduced Latency. So if any of that is important then look at reasonable OC'ing including OC'ing of your GPU(s). Other than increased cooling costs i.e. HSF OC'ing it is free and if managed properly your CPU will and can last just about as long, it is however important to know what you're doing including getting a 'feel' for you CPU and making good choices up front including other components. A cheap MOBO with poor power management can indeed shorten a CPU's as well as other component's lifespan. On LGA 1155 I recommend an ASUS with 12 Phases to the CPU for either the SB or IB processors. It's also important to have a good an properly sized PSU, a bad PSU can damage anything it's powering; avoid ripple - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCuKM6Ux4B4&feature=play... Good PSU's like Corsair and SeaSonic will only add to the stability and longevity.

Example of CPU Stock vs OC and 8GB RAM Drive using DDR3-1600 CAS 9; see - http://i1013.photobucket.com/albums/af254/Jaquith/RamDi...

Summarizing:
Gaming: number one benefit is the best GPU and for free OC using MSI Afterburner. Use at least 8GB of RAM.
Rendering: number one benefit is more = better and at minimum 16GB and if you want faster than 32GB.
RAM Disk: there's very little point of having a RAM Disk smaller than 4GB, so some simple calculations:
8GB (Gaming) + 4GB (RAM Disk) = 12GB -> 16GB
16GB (Rendering) + 4GB (RAM Disk) = 20GB -> 32GB

Therefore, the one size fits all is a good 4x8GB DDR3-1600 CAS 9~10 kit @ 1.50v.

Example:
Mushkin Enhanced Blackline 32GB (4 x 8GB) DDR3 1600 Model 994069 - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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October 4, 2012 5:55:25 PM

jaquith said:
Gaming and Rendering are worlds apart, in that Rendering's primary acceleration comes from 'abundance' i.e. more is better, and gaming in HD (1920x1080) benefits very little above 8GB. I looked at the Xbit's charts, and don't agree with the gaming benchmarks. The reason is simple, some games are all about the GPU and others a combination of both the CPU and GPU. The DDR3-1600 vs DDR3-2400 or higher doesn't add 7FPS at least not in HD, and on average it's closer to +0~+4FPS, but the major trade-off is stability.

Gaming take the CPU's Rated memory frequency and add one level up i.e. in your case CPU's DDR3-1600 plus one DDR3-1866 and 8GB minimum.

Rendering your CPU is limited to 4xDIMM and currnetly 8GB/stick is the maximum non-ECC desity or 4x8GB (32GB) is recommend for maximum performance. Hey, some folks want 128GB Workstations...

CPU Degrading, yep that's a problem so there's a few things to know what can accelerate it; IB CPU: excessive vCore > 1.40v, excessive VCCIO > 1.20v, excessive DRAM > 1.60v. Also, other dumb OC's setting anything from excessive LLC to excessive Phase control.

RAM Disk:
ANS:
(a) Only benefit with games is the load times will be very short and mini-save stuttering very small. Otherwise it's a complete waste to use a RAM Disk for a game.
(b) Run both the working files and scratch disk off the RAM Disk, and the gains from the application itself once loaded from e.g. and SSD are negligible.
(c) See my comments above.

Okay this is a fine and dandy, but here in reality there's major considerations with RAM: Density vs Frequency and Data loss vs Benchmarks. RAM Disks are very (very) volatile so if you experience any form of unexpected shutdown i.e. BSOD, OC Failure, 41/63 then poof all data on the RAM Drive is bye-bye for good. So anything prior to the last save point is toast. High density kits e.g. 8GB/stick are a bear to keep stable so in that case I only recommend matching your CPU's Rated frequency or in this case DDR3-1600.

Overclocking the CPU plays a more integral role than DRAM Frequency alone, and everything benefits overall: Higher Frame Rates, Shorter Rendering Times, and yes even Memory R/W and Reduced Latency. So if any of that is important then look at reasonable OC'ing including OC'ing of your GPU(s). Other than increased cooling costs i.e. HSF OC'ing it is free and if managed properly your CPU will and can last just about as long, it is however important to know what you're doing including getting a 'feel' for you CPU and making good choices up front including other components. A cheap MOBO with poor power management can indeed shorten a CPU's as well as other component's lifespan. On LGA 1155 I recommend an ASUS with 12 Phases to the CPU for either the SB or IB processors. It's also important to have a good an properly sized PSU, a bad PSU can damage anything it's powering; avoid ripple - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCuKM6Ux4B4&feature=play... Good PSU's like Corsair and SeaSonic will only add to the stability and longevity.

Example of CPU Stock vs OC and 8GB RAM Drive using DDR3-1600 CAS 9; see - http://i1013.photobucket.com/albums/af254/Jaquith/RamDi...

Summarizing:
Gaming: number one benefit is the best GPU and for free OC using MSI Afterburner. Use at least 8GB of RAM.
Rendering: number one benefit is more = better and at minimum 16GB and if you want faster than 32GB.
RAM Disk: there's very little point of having a RAM Disk smaller than 4GB, so some simple calculations:
8GB (Gaming) + 4GB (RAM Disk) = 12GB -> 16GB
16GB (Rendering) + 4GB (RAM Disk) = 20GB -> 32GB

Therefore, the one size fits all is a good 4x8GB DDR3-1600 CAS 9~10 kit @ 1.50v.

Example:
Mushkin Enhanced Blackline 32GB (4 x 8GB) DDR3 1600 Model 994069 - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


Thank you for this detailed response on both questions. Much appreciated.

After thoughts:

Combining what you've written with some further research of mine from the last couple days, I plan to use a small (4GB), non-persistent RAMDisk for two primary functions:
1) To reduce the number of unnecessary I/O writes on my SSD
a) Setting my browser cache & downloads onto the RAMDisk
b) Setting my Windows 7 TEMP and User TEMP folders onto the disk
c) Setting my printer spool folder to the RAMDisk
2) To reduce the time needed for rendering/converting/compressing (and also protect against SSD writes again)
a) As you say above, setting scratch disk for Photoshop onto the RAMDisk
b) Setting temporary file directories for most programs like Photoshop, updater utilities, game launchers (if possible)
c) Compressing and Decompressing large files on the RAMDisk, copying the result over
d) Batch file conversions such as images, copying the result over

I've really accessed my situation and I'm certain I'm not going to need more than 16GB for any of my work files. I'm not editing full 1080p digital films/shorts or anything that. My Photoshop files can tend to be at least 1GB each. So the only other thing I may consider for a RAMDisk is to make one that is persistent and use it for not only scratch disk/swap file, but also for my raw footage and photo libraries (aka work files as you mention above) on a per project basis. In this case I would use an 8GB persistent RAMDisk which means no more freeware RAMDisk software.

In terms of the motherboard and power supply, I appreciate your advice and will keep it into consideration.

My power supply is about 3.5 years old so when the time comes to replace it, I will definitely look into the ripple ratings from multiple sources.

My current power supply:
PC Power & Cooling Turbo Cool 860 (3.5 years old)
I read many reviews like this and I think it has the rippling under control.

I know that the ASUS P8Z77-V has 8 power phases for the CPU, and the ASUS P8Z77-V PRO has 12. And other than another SATA 6 port, the Pro has no other benefits over the standard model, so unless there's a huge sale/rebate, I'll probably stick with the standard.

With regard to OC the CPU/RAM:
I'm going to stick with the 'Turbo Mode' that still keeps the core within Intel's specifications (and therefore, warranty) at least until I've replaced the power supply and until I decide whether or not to buy their tuning performance extended warranty ($25 I think?). I just don't have good luck with cores I guess.

If I mess with OC the RAM, I will probably avoid any settings that increase the voltage more than 0.05v with respect to Intel's specifications, unless, as I mentioned, I buy their extended warranty.

GPU:
I'm still using the old gtx 295, which is a beast of a graphics card, but is just now starting to get left behind, so this will probably be my next investment in the coming years. I've been very pleased with its performance thus far, and it suits my needs since I only have a 20" 1680x1050 (not quite 1080p) monitor right now. I'll invest in new graphics card(s) and a new monitor at the same time in a year or two. I have not messed with OC the GPU yet, but I will probably start around the time I've got a lot saved away to replace it if it dies. I just hate to blast a lifetime warranty away when it's not necessary right now.


I definitely consider my questions answered and thanks to everyone to contributed, especially jaquith. I'm still open to more thoughts on what I just wrote, especially the RAMDisk configuration.
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October 4, 2012 5:55:36 PM

Best answer selected by Kylehume.
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a c 347 } Memory
October 4, 2012 6:54:50 PM

RAM Drive:
Right off, anytime you 'move' the Application or OS default locations to a different location then that 'new' location must be in a persistent location. Otherwise the Application and/or OS more than likely will fail or hopefully restore the missing 'temp' or 'scratch disk' or 'cache' and IF you avoid failure then you'd need to restore those locations to the RAM Dive <or> a real PITA.

My take on the following:

1) To reduce the number of unnecessary I/O writes on my SSD
/okay but see above => a) Setting my browser cache & downloads onto the RAMDisk
/risky but see above => b) Setting my Windows 7 TEMP and User TEMP folders onto the disk
/risky but see above => c) Setting my printer spool folder to the RAMDisk
/fine => 2) To reduce the time needed for rendering/converting/compressing (and also protect against SSD writes again)
/okay but see above => a) As you say above, setting scratch disk for Photoshop onto the RAMDisk
/I don't see this helping => b) Setting temporary file directories for most programs like Photoshop, updater utilities, game launchers (if possible)
/I don't see this helping; you still have to transfer the files => c) Compressing and Decompressing large files on the RAMDisk, copying the result over
/fine => d) Batch file conversions such as images, copying the result over

RAM based Products:
I highly recommend buying ($80) RamDisk 11 - http://www.superspeed.com/desktop/ramdisk.php

You might also want to look into ($80) SuperCache 5 - http://www.superspeed.com/desktop/supercache.php ; alternative still in beta is FancyCache - http://www.romexsoftware.com/en-us/fancy-cache/index.ht...

SSD:
BTW - the very first thing you want to do upon installing a lot of RAM is to change the Page File settings, and I recommend min/max of 2GB (2048MB) and leave it on the SSD; don't disable it. By default your page file's max is set to 1.5X the amount of RAM or e.g. 32GB*1.5 = 48GB and minimum to 1X the amount of RAM or e.g. 32GB.

Also, while I appreciate some of those 'SSD' tweaks I don't recommend using them. Treat your SSD just like any drive, and I only recommend 128GB and larger SSD's. If you use Outlook then keep in mind by default it's (.OST) or (.PST) etc file is located on the SSD (C: drive). Also, I think folks are totally CrAzY to disable System Restore.

Keep in mind even using the hell out of your SSD it's still going to last longer than your HDD, and in my office we use SSD's on our SQL Servers. The newer SSD's are pretty robust, and if you have any concerns of NAND failures then look at Intel's SSD's.

Besides the Page File I also run at least once WEI and that's so Windows knows you have an SSD installed and Disables any scheduled Defragging or Indexing of the SSD. Really that's all you need to do in Windows, and make sure the BIOS is set to AHCI mode. I also place all of my Documents, Photos, Music, etc on to in my case a RAID 1 HDD array; see - http://headstrongfarm.hubpages.com/hub/Windows-7_-_Movi... ; note always create a Folder on the target drive first before moving.
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October 4, 2012 7:34:51 PM

jaquith said:
RAM Drive:
Right off, anytime you 'move' the Application or OS default locations to a different location then that 'new' location must be in a persistent location. Otherwise the Application and/or OS more than likely will fail or hopefully restore the missing 'temp' or 'scratch disk' or 'cache' and IF you avoid failure then you'd need to restore those locations to the RAM Dive <or> a real PITA.
You make a good point here, especially in terms of the OS. Most RAMDisk software ensures that the disk will be up and running way before any applications are initialized enough to start looking for it. I guess I never thought of an application being upset at not finding the directory, but the OS might, I suppose.

So I will probably keep it persistent, then.
jaquith said:
My take on the following:
/I don't see this helping => b) Setting temporary file directories for most programs like Photoshop, updater utilities, game launchers (if possible)
I work a lot with smart objects that are imported directly from Illustrator or other sources. When you want to make a change to a smart object on one specific .psd file (as opposed to changing the source .ai or .svg file and re-importing it), Photoshop makes a temporary copy of that new smart object, allowing you to change things in a new tab, whereupon once changes are saved, it is re-imported back into the .psd. With the number of smart objects I use and their intricate changes per each new .psd, this can be a lot of temporary smart object files. If the temp folder is on the RAMDisk, I can keep them off the SSD.
jaquith said:
/I don't see this helping; you still have to transfer the files => c) Compressing and Decompressing large files on the RAMDisk, copying the result over
This would just be a measure for speed, but you're right, it would still result in copying files over to SSD.
jaquith said:
SSD:
BTW - the very first thing you want to do upon installing a lot of RAM is to change the Page File settings, and I recommend min/max of 2GB (2048MB) and leave it on the SSD; don't disable it.
I absoultely agree, though I considered putting it on my HDD, but you obviously have a lot of confidence in SSD, so perhaps I will take the speed of the SSD.
jaquith said:
Also, I think folks are totally CrAzY to disable System Restore.
Yes, very stupid! I will disable hibernate, however.
jaquith said:
Using the crap out of your SSD it's still going to last longer than your HDD, and in my office we use SSD's on our SQL Servers. The newer SSD's are pretty robust, and if you have any concerns of NAND failures then look at Intel's SSD's.
I've actually been looking at the Samsung 830 because of its decent price and performance in one of this site's tests. The one downside I see is that the Samsung warranty is only 3 years vs Intel's 5 year. Do you know anything about this product?
jaquith said:
Besides the Page File I also run at least once WEI and that's so Windows knows you have an SSD installed and Disables any scheduled Defragging or Indexing of the SSD.
Thanks, I never would have thought of this.
jaquith said:
Really that's all you need to do in Windows, and make sure the BIOS is set to AHCI mode.
Thankfully, all ASUS P8Z77 boards come with this as the default mode. But I will make sure.
jaquith said:
I also place all of my Documents, Photos, Music, etc on to in my case a RAID 1 HDD array; see - http://headstrongfarm.hubpages.com/hub/Windows-7_-_Movi... (note always create a Folder on the target drive first before moving.
I'll just have 1 HDD. I'll probably get a WD Black because the WD Blue I have had for 5 years still runs perfectly, despite all the abuse it took from the piece of crap Dell machine I bought that inspired me to never buy an all-in-one PC ever again. But my HDD will store all of that media for me, as well.
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a b } Memory
October 4, 2012 7:41:38 PM

Kylehume said:
I absoultely agree, though I considered putting it on my HDD, but you obviously have a lot of confidence in SSD, so perhaps I will take the speed of the SSD.

If you are worried about SSD wear for temp/pagefile/hibernate uses, you could get a small SSD (32-64GB) and put those on it. This way, the "disposable" drive inherits most of the wear and you can get a feel of how good/bad it is without wearing out your larger and more expensive main SSD.
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October 4, 2012 7:54:37 PM

InvalidError said:
If you are worried about SSD wear for temp/pagefile/hibernate uses, you could get a small SSD (32-64GB) and put those on it. This way, the "disposable" drive inherits most of the wear and you can get a feel of how good/bad it is without wearing out your larger and more expensive main SSD.
I wonder if that's what I can do with the cheap SanDisk ReadyCache SSD? $60...
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a c 347 } Memory
October 4, 2012 8:12:39 PM

Applications - They are as good as the 'What If's' that are programmed into them. Just a couple of hours ago I moved a PHP/SQL project -- so when I ran the script a couple things: 1. Folder location was missing (script screeched to a stand still) and 2. Record sample was too small and no calculated records could be found -- ditto. That's why 'we' test to reduce ass-u-me out of the programming.

Directories - I was referring to "updater utilities, game launchers" and way up above I said to have the Adobe Scratch Drive on a RAM Drive.

Hibernation - Yep I use it, it's part of Hybrid Sleep (S3 + S4), and I have an UPS so if the power goes out then I can reduce the risk of data loss (Hibernation). Otherwise you're forced into either leaving the PC 'on' 365/24/7 or turning it off. Well leaving on, in my case, 150W anything adds-up ($300/year) per PC. I can by a very nice NEW SSD for $300 every year.

HDD (lifespan) - First I don't 100% 'trust' any drive, and even a RAID array can become corrupt; example I lost both drives (thankfully one was good and recoverable) - http://i1013.photobucket.com/albums/af254/Jaquith/Intel... However, I still backup daily anything that's important or critical is also backed-up to my office NAS.

I only keep 'drives' for 3~4 years and I'm thrilled when I (can) copy it over to new drives vs OMG it's dead -- Holly Crap what do I do now?! The vast majority of my 'drives in a used drive box' still work, but I have no faith in the idea keep it till it dies.

SSD + HDD - If I lost my entire SSD then none of my 'Data' is gone or at risk, so i really don't care about babying the SSD. Losing more than 1 HDD is very rare, but corruption isn't -- so worst case on my Home Sever with RAID 6 I can restore 'most' of the lost data. Meaning worst case is a 24 hour lost of my time and work, or 12 hours if backing up 2 times a day, etc.
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