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DDR3 1600 RAM / Mobo Compatibility (and Overclocking) Question:

Last response: in Motherboards
January 20, 2013 4:25:00 PM

I'm in the process of putting together my first build for a new gaming PC. Just picked out my processor (Intel i5-3570) and am looking at mobos now.

One of the factors that played into my choosing the 3570 was its support of DDR3 1600 RAM, but looking at mobo specs, 1600 seems to be defined as an OC'd speed. I know that RAM can be bought with the DDR3 1600 spec right out of the box (and that it can sometimes be OC'd to even higher speeds), so I'm rather confused by this.

Am I not getting what I pay for if I buy DDR3 1600 RAM? Is this just a matter of mobo manufacturers being slow on the uptake of retail DDR3 1600? Or am I missing something?

To be clear, I am not interested in OCing at this juncture and know virtually nothing about it. I just want to build me a gaming pc and enjoy it. Maybe I'll delve into OCing in a few years, but for now, I just want to stick to the basics.

EDIT: Here are a couple examples of what I'm talking about. The confusion seems to arise only with the lower-end mobos, which I won't be purchasing anyway... but now I'm curious :p

The higher-end mobos (and even some of the lower-end ones) don't seem to list DDR3 1600 as an OCd speed that they can still support, but rather simply as one of the standard supported speeds.
a b V Motherboard
January 20, 2013 5:13:05 PM

Hello... look closely at the Ram voltage needed to run at 1600... 1.5 and 1.65 are typical products, but 1.5 is considered as the standard voltage for DDR3 in motherboard designs... OCing is considered a setting over standard specs, but there is no "standard" spec set for OCing, when you need to publish or advertise your product.

OCing results can vary from one product to another... and the combinations of them... and the voltages ( and the Control of ) needed for them.

The actual memory controller is on the Intel CPU... and the motherboards will support I3 I5 I7... each or those CPU's publish different DDR3 speeds... an I3 would be OC'd at 1600... but not an I5 or I7.
January 20, 2013 5:39:06 PM

I'm sorry, IronSounds, I don't fully understand what you mean at the beginning of your answer... I wasn't aware I had to be conscious of the voltage of my RAM as well in order to ensure compatibility with my mobo...

I found this thread ( and I think I'm starting to understand a little bit better; can someone maybe confirm or correct my understanding? This is how I'm understanding the issue: When a mobo's memory specs are listed as supporting "DDR3 1066/1333/1600(OC)/1800(OC)/2000(OC)/2200(OC)/2400(OC)" it means that RAM with 1600, 1800, 2000, 2200, or 2400 Hz frequencies are supported by the motherboard, but will default to the 1333 Hz frequency unless that specification is changed via the BIOS. I could, therefore, install some DDR3 1600 RAM, go into the BIOS, and change the recognized RAM frequency to 1600Hz (thereby overclocking the motherboard?).

Conversely, if a mobo's memory specs are listed as supporting "DDR3 2400(OC)/2200(OC)/2133(OC)/2000(OC)/1866(OC)/1800(OC)/1600/1333" then I can install DDR3 1600 RAM and it will run at 1600Hz by default (i.e.: 1600Hz is the highest frequency to which the mobo will default if higher frequency RAM is installed)?

Do I have that right?

And if I do have that right, then let's say I install some DDR3 1600 RAM on that first mobo (which supports DDR3 1066/1333/1600(OC)/1800(OC)/2000(OC)/2200(OC)/2400(OC)) and change the settings in the BIOS to support the 1600Hz frequency of my RAM. Is there any more to that overclocking process (i.e.: do I need to worry about increased voltages in my mobo; do I need to install supplementary cooling solutions?)? Or is that all I'd have to do to run the RAM at its full (advertised) frequency?
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January 20, 2013 5:48:35 PM

IronSounds, that makes a little more sens to me now, thank you. But I'm still not totally clear on the matter. Given that I have an i5, I know that DDR3 1600 RAM does not require overclocking, and it makes sense that it would if I had an i3, but some mobos that support i3s still list 1600 as a non-overclocked speed. This only serves to confuse me further :??: 

Best solution

a b V Motherboard
January 20, 2013 6:10:46 PM

Hello...Yes... "buyer beware"...of advertising... and come to these forums to ask what works with what... the actual success stories... and also too read the fine work that "tom's hardware" does, to help all of us, have a wonderful experience as we build our computers ourselves.

If you would post a budget "for a new build"... you will get plenty of good advice and experience, as to what parts you should buy... and how to get all the parts working together.

It's impossible for motherboard makers to guarantee everyone elses hardware will work in their product... so they employ a standard setting in their BIO"s to get your computer build to start... and then you can go in and tweek speed and voltage setting specific to your hardware.
January 20, 2013 6:22:15 PM

Best answer selected by SyntaxSocialist.
January 20, 2013 6:25:57 PM

Thanks very much for helping me get all that straight :) 

For the last couple weeks I've just been doing research on my upcoming build and am only just getting started on laying down my specs. I'll definitely be posting all the details of my proposed build (including budget) once I've got it all laid out, though. Too many variables right now, I'm afraid =P

For now, though, cheers!