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Conclusion

DDR3 Memory Scaling: Intel's Core 2 Quad Examined
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While the performance difference in gross memory throughput using Sandra 2009 illustrate significant advantages for high-speed and low-latency memory, the advantages are rather small in real application scenarios. Audio encoding from digital .wav audio to .mp3 or .aac cannot be accelerated much by getting fast memory, which is also the case for many application benchmarks. However, results are different for video transcoding, gaming and some of the applications, where low-latency / high-speed memory introduces a small benefit: Far Cry 2, GTA IV, Left 4 Dead, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere, and WinRAR clearly benefit from faster memory.

Interesting Performance Differences

It is interesting to see that low latencies typically are more important than clock speed bumps. This is not always the case on the AMD Phenom II X4 or Intel’s Core i7 platform. Both come with memory controllers integrated into the CPU core, while the CPU controller is part of the (X48) chipset in the case of the Core 2 Quad on Socket 775. Apparently, latency seems to be much more of an issue on non-integrated memory controllers.

Recommendation

Despite the imminent launch of Intel’s next-generation mainstream platform Ibex Peak on Socket LGA 1156, Socket 775 and the Core 2 processor family will remain attractive for quite a while thanks to the mature platform and increasingly attractive pricing of motherboards and some of the processors. Enthusiasts should go for DDR3-1600 and low latencies, while others will get the best bang for the buck at DDR3-1333 speeds and low latencies. CL7 timings can be considered ideal, but refrain from paying a significant premium over CL8 or CL9 memory.

What if…?

And finally, we provide some more benchmark results that show what would happen if you were to spend extra money on a faster processor instead of premium DDR3 memory. We overclocked the Core 2 Extreme QX9770 to 3.4 GHz instead of 3.2 GHz.

Check out the results here.