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Mainstream-Ready? DDR3-1600 Shootout

Mainstream-Ready? DDR3-1600 Shootout
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How do you define mainstream in an enthusiast market dominated by value-seeking overclockers ? Everyone loves performance. Yet, even in enthusiast circles the average buyer is looking for the best value. A memory budget limit of $200 should be reasonable for a mid-priced performance PC, and kits over $300 should be reserved for big-spenders, but that leaves a huge grey area in the middle.

Vendors and readers alike have been asking for a DDR3-1600 (PC3-12800) shootout ever since our DDR3-1333 Comparison, but we waited for these parts to reach mainstream prices before obliging. By the time 2 GB kits finally reached out price point, the reality of living with Windows Vista and its huge memory demands had finally set in.

That left us in another tight spot. Should we compare the sub-$200 2 GB kits an average enthusiast can afford, or should we instead choose the 4 GB capacity that performance buyers really want ? Capacity was the dominating factor for us.

The average buyer might instead choose a DDR2 configuration, but that would only be a short-term solution. Intel’s new socket is on the way, with mainstream parts following the high-end release by only a few short months. Today’s article comes in anticipation of tomorrow’s needs.

9/26/08—Update : Our tests in this story were conducted on an ASUS X48-based motherboard chosen for its overclocking capabilities in our X48 Motherboard Comparison, Part 2. However, the benchmarks in that piece were run using a pair of 1 GB (single-sided) memory modules, resulting in the observed performance.

We didn’t see the same yields in this comparison of 4 GB kits made up of double-sided modules—clear from our overclocking results across the board. We weren’t the only ones to notice the shortfall, though. We’ve been talking to representatives at Corsair, who say the company’s own 4 GB kit should be able to do more than 1,800 MHz, whereas we clocked them under 1,700.

As it turns out, Corsair’s testing reveals that you may need a northbridge voltage manually set to 1.61 V in order to achieve optimal overclocking of these 4 GB kits with the X48’s memory controller. Given the 1.25 V stock voltage of X48, we wouldn’t recommend running voltages that high for prolonged periods of time. However, it is worth noting that faster frequencies should be possible for many, if not all of these kits.

Display 23 Comments.
  • 1 Hide
    emp , September 10, 2008 5:59 AM
    Unless you guys know something that I don't (which is perfectly possible), as far as I understand the X58 will have a DDR3-1066 standard, which in my eyes makes DDR3-1333 the more coveted overclocking without breaking the bank. Unless DDR3-1600 makes a REAL improvement in overclocking capabilities (and I don't think it does, isn't that one of the features the IMC is supposed to bring?), I'd like to see more DDR3-1333 round ups, which in my opinion will be the more sought after memory with the masses.
  • 2 Hide
    Crashman , September 10, 2008 6:11 AM
    Rumors are all over the place on the new CPU, with support for up to DDR3-2000 rumored as an option for tuners (read, overclockers). This memory overclocking mode is also rumored to be available at stock CPU speeds.
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , September 10, 2008 6:16 AM
    empUnless you guys know something that I don't (which is perfectly possible), as far as I understand the X58 will have a DDR3-1066 standard, which in my eyes makes DDR3-1333 the more coveted overclocking without breaking the bank. Unless DDR3-1600 makes a REAL improvement in overclocking capabilities (and I don't think it does, isn't that one of the features the IMC is supposed to bring?), I'd like to see more DDR3-1333 round ups, which in my opinion will be the more sought after memory with the masses.


    Heya emp! It'll officially be doing DDR3-1066 out of the gate. However, you're probably going to see motherboard vendors enabling 1333, 1600, and 2000 as well, which is why we were hoping some of these modules would hit that number with overclocking.
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , September 10, 2008 8:04 AM
    lacritsI recent the online survey I am promted when trying to continue in the article! There was no way for me to "x"-out the message, I had to answer in the "applet http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Applet " itself. I don't trust such content and would like the option to not answer in the applet at all!If I see this crap repeatadly here at Toms when viewing articles or reading other content I'll stop visiting this site altogether.. I've been a frequent visitor for years.. But this is not acceptable from a security stand point!


    I'll look into the issue you're talking about lacrits--thanks for the heads-up.
  • 2 Hide
    geok1ng , September 10, 2008 3:22 PM
    Sub optimal results for DDR3 2x2GB kits. To compensated for the increased tRD and timings over DDR2 counterparts DDR3 kits should achieve DDR3 1333 CAS5, DDR3 1600 CAS6 and DDR 1800 CAS7, numbers that not a single kit in the article was capable, showing that 2x2GB DDR3 kits are much more slower than 2x1GB parts. DDR3 ony makes sense on the 2:1 divider, so we are talking about DDR3 1600-1800 speeds for optimal performance but at this range only a few Motherboards accept tRDs of 6, and most cant even handle tRDs of 7. Until further results i still advocate the use if DDR2 2x2GB kits capable of CAS5 tRD5 operation mostly on the 1150-1250Mhz range, all of them south of the $200 mark...
  • 1 Hide
    itadakimasu , September 10, 2008 5:00 PM
    However, you're probably going to see motherboard vendors enabling 1333, 1600, and 2000 as well, which is why we were hoping some of these modules would hit that number with overclocking.

    this is said like its not happened.... my most recent build on a gigabyte p45 board is running 2gb of ocz platinum ddr3-1333 @ 750mhz like a champ...

    this was built well over a month ago and there were several boards then supporting 1600 fsb and ddr3-2000.

    my ram defaulted out at its stated 7-7-7 timings @ 667mhz stated speeds.
  • 2 Hide
    emp , September 10, 2008 5:07 PM
    Yep, I figured as much on my own, cangelini. However DDR3 1333 in my opinion is getting there to the "acceptable" price range, but DDR3-1600 still has a long way to go. I'd like to see soon after Core i7 and the X58 chipset is released an article about the effect of DDR3-1066, DDR3-1333, and DDR3-1600 on overclocking, I believe that's when we'll be able to make an informed decision on which are "mainstream ready & accepted"
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , September 10, 2008 5:29 PM
    itadakimasuthis is said like its not happened.... my most recent build on a gigabyte p45 board is running 2gb of ocz platinum ddr3-1333 @ 750mhz like a champ...this was built well over a month ago and there were several boards then supporting 1600 fsb and ddr3-2000. my ram defaulted out at its stated 7-7-7 timings @ 667mhz stated speeds.


    It hasn't--X58 isn't out yet. The response was to emp's question on Nehalem =)
  • 3 Hide
    eodeo , September 10, 2008 9:49 PM
    Quote:
    X58 isn't out yet.

    whats the point of this review than?

    ddr3 hardly offers a solid 1% over ddr2 while the price would suggest otherwise. Same goes for the i7. How fast will it have to be to compare to 3.6ghz core2 quad? at what price?

    face it, ddr3 is useless to us, and only reason any sane person would even be considering it is due to intel making it mandatory for the i7.

    sure it will be nice one day in the future. So, 'till the future comes, in a year or two, stick with ddr2 pc800, you dont need any faster anyways.
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , September 10, 2008 10:33 PM
    eodeowhats the point of this review than? ddr3 hardly offers a solid 1% over ddr2 while the price would suggest otherwise. Same goes for the i7. How fast will it have to be to compare to 3.6ghz core2 quad? at what price?face it, ddr3 is useless to us, and only reason any sane person would even be considering it is due to intel making it mandatory for the i7.sure it will be nice one day in the future. So, 'till the future comes, in a year or two, stick with ddr2 pc800, you dont need any faster anyways.


    LOL, I know you meant PC2-6400. Because PC800 is DDR...RDRAM.
  • 0 Hide
    eodeo , September 11, 2008 12:55 AM
    i figured its called pc800 as in 800mhz for dual fsb of 400mhz. I didnt get all that theoretical-but-never-achieved-performance-in-mb/s they use.

    my bad
  • -1 Hide
    martel80 , September 11, 2008 8:16 AM
    So you squeezed 8.4 GB/s out of parts capable of like 24 GB/s? Now, that's impressive. :) 
    My DDR2-800 on P35 would do close to 7 GB/s if FSB was squeezed high enough (I really can't go over FSB 400 since there's no higher divider to keep the memory at default clock - it does 6.4 GB/s at that FSB).
    Unless you use a quad core and some special application, you're not very likely to be limited by sequential memory throughput anyway.

    The tested platform is obviously not capable of utilizing the memory properly.
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , September 11, 2008 9:18 AM
    martel80The tested platform is obviously not capable of utilizing the memory properly.


    You're probably right. The P5E3 Premium was picked from previous tests that had shown it with the highest stable memory speed among Intel chipset motherboards. But those tests had used 2GB, rather than 4GB, kits. So, it's about time Tom's Hardware started testing with 4GB kits to begin with.

    The processor was chosen from a "standardized test system" that is very close to being replaced. This is mostly a secondary issue, as the point of the comparison was to find the highest speeds and lowest timings, not the highest bandwidth.

    Count on the LGA 775 reference components to be upgraded soon, as some are likely to be carried over from an all-new LGA 1366 high-end "standardized" system.
  • 1 Hide
    eodeo , September 11, 2008 1:08 PM
    Quote:
    as the point of the comparison was to find the highest speeds and lowest timings


    I'm not that well versed in RAM, but out of curiosity: how much slower are the ddr3 chips than? I'd imagine them being slower in that particular test as timings on DDR3 has to be much higher than on ddr2, no?

    So... You end up paying twice for something that performs worse. Good deal.

    Quote:
    Mainstream-Ready? DDR3-1600 Shootout : Mainstream ready?


    How about Intel/Idiot ready?
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 11, 2008 3:36 PM
    For DDR3 memory, should the memory speed be half the FSB frequency, as is the case for DDR2? I have seen many comments built around that premise, drawing the necessary conclusion that DDR3-1600 would require the impossible FSB of 3200 to be fully utilized. Therefore, buying such memory is useless. If that is the case, I would have thought that an article on "mainstream-ready" DDR3-1600 would have mentioned that fact. For the sake of clarity, could the author of this article please comment on this issue? Is there ANY rational reason for using DDR3 memory on an X48 motherboard?
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , September 11, 2008 6:56 PM
    knowledge seekerFor DDR3 memory, should the memory speed be half the FSB frequency, as is the case for DDR2? I have seen many comments built around that premise, drawing the necessary conclusion that DDR3-1600 would require the impossible FSB of 3200 to be fully utilized. Therefore, buying such memory is useless. If that is the case, I would have thought that an article on "mainstream-ready" DDR3-1600 would have mentioned that fact. For the sake of clarity, could the author of this article please comment on this issue? Is there ANY rational reason for using DDR3 memory on an X48 motherboard?


    It used to make sense to run the memory and FSB at the same clock rate, back in the PC-133 days. Memory controller overhead back then would often make the system perform worse with the memory set to a faster speed. But memory controllers got better, and eventually speeds of up to 1.5x FSB clock showed small performance gains.

    DDR3-1600 runs at 800 MHz, which is 1.5x 533. So, if your CPU was overclocked to 533 MHz FSB clock (FSB-2133), having DDR3-1600 would make sense already. And 533 MHz is pretty easy to do with many of today's chipsets.

    When the next generation of Intel desktop processors are available in the near future, they will have the memory controller onboard with no FSB limitations on bandwidth. As with AMD's solution, gains from faster RAM will only be limitted by the processor's ability to use it.

    And that's where motherboard manufacturers come in. Even though memory speed will be controlled at the processor, processor parameters will be controlled by BIOS. Everyone is talking about speeds as high as DDR3-2000 being available on some of the high-end boards.
  • 0 Hide
    roholidays1 , September 12, 2008 12:38 PM
    I would like to see some tests beeing made on anohter very popular manufacturer of memory, namelly KINGMAX. It is a very cheap one and personally I have on my P5k3-Deluxe 2 modules of DDR 1333 of 2Gb. model: FLFE8-DDR3-2G1333 that cost 98$ for each 2Gb DDR3 module.
    It runs very well, with decent CAS settings. Why don't you take this very affordable manufacturer into consideration?
    Thank you
  • 0 Hide
    taltamir , September 12, 2008 7:01 PM
    DDR3 couldn't be further then the mainstream.
    A quality DDR2 2x2GB DDR2-1000 module costs 70$. A similar speed DDR3 costs twice as much, and some of the slightly faster modules tested here are even 3 and 4 times as expensive. And provide no discernible benefit.
    DDR3 will be mainstream when a DDR3-1600 2x2 module will cost under 150$.
  • 0 Hide
    randomizer , September 14, 2008 9:53 AM
    roholidays1Why don't you take this very affordable manufacturer into consideration?

    They probably email most major memory manufacturers asking for samples, but they can only include what is sent to them. If Kingmax isn't willing to provide samples it's a bit hard to review them. ;) 
  • 0 Hide
    sammo505 , September 21, 2008 8:49 AM
    All this proves is that the MHZ is improved and the CAS has degraded. I mean WTF, Has ram really improved at all? Im sorry but Ive been folowing ram performance for awhile(and I'm sure the rest of you have). Really though don't you think DDR400 at cas 1 or even .1 would beat the current DDR3?. All they're doing is trading a pro for a con. Overall I think its just a marketing scam DDR2 is only 800? but the new DDR 3 is 1600?, you want "double the performance right?" and half the the latency. It just seems the whole Ram development is at a stand still, but as long as it seems to change with rest of the aspects of technology they will never have a finger pointed at them.
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