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Does High-Speed DDR3 Help AMD's FX? Four 8 GB Kits, Reviewed

Does Faster RAM Improve The Performance Of AMD FX CPUs?

The introduction of AMD's Bulldozer architecture was marked by a handful of notable improvements and a collection of setbacks. The flagship model with eight integer cores didn't perform as well as enthusiasts were hoping it would. And yet, we took some comfort in the suggestion that operating system scheduling fixes might eventually rectify some of the challenges that the FX family encountered with Windows 7. Better still, the new architecture featured overclocking advancements that could yield improved performance in the hands of an experienced tinkerer, including its higher DRAM multiplier.

We’ve moderated enough of these “speed versus latency” debates that we’re skeptical of any claim that an enthusiast-oriented desktop processor needs faster RAM. Of course, we know that ramping up bandwidth has a positive effect on integrated graphics engines. But we've also received a number of requests suggesting that AMD's FX-series chips stand to benefit significantly from memory running at higher data rates.

In order to put these claims to the test, we pulled out one of our best 990FX-based motherboards, an AMD FX-8150 processor, and invited every memory vendor to send in its best AMD-focused kit in for today's round-up. At the end of the day, four manufacturers chose to participate.

We were all a little surprised to find that AMD's FX processors were overclocking memory at rates well above what we managed to achieve with Intel's Sandy Bridge-based CPUs.

8 GB Dual-Channel DDR3 Rated Settings
Rated CapacityChannel OrganizationData Rate (MHz)TimingsVoltage
G.Skill Ripjaws X F3-17000CL9D-8GBXM8 GB2 x 4 GB21339-11-10-281.65 V
Kingston HyperX KHX2400C11D3K4/8GX8 GB4 x 2 GB240011-13-11-301.65 V
Super Talent Quadra WQ213UX16G16 GB4 x 4 GB213311-11-11-301.65 V
Team Group Xtreem LV TXD38192M2800HC11RDC-L8 GB2 x 4 GB280011-14-14-311.65 V
Reference DDR3-1600 CAS 9 8 GB Dual Channel8 GB2 x 4 GB16009-9-9-281.50 V

You might have noticed that Super Talent’s kit consists of four 4 GB modules, yet only two are shown in the photo. The firm offers these specific modules two ways: as its WQ213UB4G single-module package and WQ213UX16G quad-channel kits. Super Talent chose to send its quad-channel kit rather than two single-channel packages. AMD’s Socket AM3+ supports dual-channel mode, and using only two modules allowed us to retain a constant 8 GB for all tests.

Alternatively, Kingston thought its 2 GB modules would be the best match for AMD’s memory controller, compelling us to use all four modules to retain a constant 8 GB for all tests.

Finally, we added a set of our old high-end test modules to represent the DDR3-1600 CAS 9 baseline, since the specific modules we hand in mind actually ran at the desired default settings. It’s nice, after all, to be able to set up our memory with just a few keystrokes.

The first question that comes to mind is: if all of these modules appear to be Intel-specific, why does AMD-optimized memory still exist?