Does DDR4 really offer better program performance than DDR3? We compare ASRock's Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4/D3 to its previously-reviewed DDR4 sibling.
Most of us try to be fair, yet that fairness often breaks down among enthusiasts at the outset of new technologies. The technology being replaced is usually very mature, the replacement technology is typically more costly, and in many cases the price difference settles the debate in favor of the old technology. Eventually the new technology matures, the tech it replaced begins to look really outdated, and everyone moves on to the next new-tech debate. The best battles happen in the brief period where the new technology is still more expensive.
There have been occasions where the new technology took a long time to catch up, and occasions where it turns out to be a dead end. The Pentium 4 was already on its second core (and socket) before it could decisively beat the Pentium 3, and even then was so inefficient that the Pentium 3 became the basis for Intel's later Core technology. DDR3 proponents can make similar arguments concerning recent low-voltage modules, which are rated at far lower latencies than similar-voltage DDR4.
But is the so-called lower latency of DDR3 really all that beneficial? Doesn't the higher data rate of DDR4 mean anything at all? ASRock is helping us find out with the DDR3 version of its previously-reviewed Z170 Gaming K4 motherboard.
Finding a "fair match" between DDR4 and DDR3 products was a little harder, if only because our replacement DDR3 tester decided that reviews weren't his thing. Rather than contact a bunch of companies to request replacement samples, I decided to run with parts I had on hand. Klevv's Urbane KM3U4GX2Y-2800-14-14-14-36-0 (DDR3-2800) arrived unrequested with its Cras KM4C4GX4N-3000-16-18-18-36-0 (DDR4-3000) review samples. The ratings typify the difference in latency between ultra-fast DDR3 and moderately-fast DDR4, and the rated data rates aren't very far apart.
The difference between the Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4/D3 and the previously-tested DDR4 version is nothing more than the /D3 in the name and the slot type that goes with it. Standard DDR3 does violate Intel's supposed DDR3U (low voltage) restriction, but ASRock throws Intel's caution to the wind by starting our DDR3 samples at 1.60V!
Layout and features remain consistent with the fully-reviewed DDR4 board, from the onboard Killer 2400 network controller and the use of a chipset-based USB 3.0 port for the Type-C connector, to a second PCIe x16 slot that's fed by only four pathways from the chipset. In other words, the Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4/D3 is a low-cost overclocking board with a moderately upsized voltage regulator and a single upgraded interface controller. Those aren't bad specs for a $130 model.
I probably didn't need to show you that this DDR3 version of the Gaming K4 includes the same installation kit as the standard part, but it appears I forgot to show the XSplit three-month Premium service upgrade certificate in the other board's photo.
ASRock's F-Stream application was able to find 4.50 GHz at 1.360V CPU core on this board, compared to 4.30 GHz on the DDR4 board. ASRock may have added further optimizations to this newer F-Stream revision.
DRAM voltage range is the only noteworthy firmware difference between this DDR3 motherboard and the DDR4 version recently reviewed, narrowed to 1.30 to 1.80 volts.
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