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.

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8 GB Dual-Channel DDR3 Rated Settings
Row 0 - Cell 0 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?

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • Rockdpm
    Interesting!. Still would wait for Pile driver. But since i do have a Kingston 8GB kit and a Sabertooth 990FX... may just have to try it one day
  • jdwii
    Great article this proves a lot of rumors!

    People can finally stop saying how unfair it is to test Amd with slower ram when it supports higher speed ram even though higher speed ram cost more money. It would actually be unfair to Intel its not their fault Amd needs higher speeds to compete(which it doesn't) with Intel's 1333 ram controller.

    Ram speeds do how ever make a big difference on APU's.
  • mayankleoboy1
    would love to see the same review for Ivy Bridge processors with and without iGPU HD4000.

    and do include more tests in the review.
  • sarinaide
    More of the cheap stuff is my mantra.
  • Crashman
    sarinaideMore of the cheap stuff is my mantra.Yeh yeh, but I really can't complain about paying $70 for 8GB of DDR3-2133, especially when it overclocks like that.
  • Reynod
    AMD has enjoyed the performance benefits of an integrated memory controller for more than twice as long as Intel. And yet, it seems that Intel sets today's standard for acceptability.

    Replace the last word with "performance" crash.

    Good article which gets answers a couple of questions people have been asking - well done !!

  • jaquith
    Thomas thanks for the review.

    First note:
    *KHX2400C11D3K4/8GX - is a Quad Channel kit specifically designed for the X79 ; link
    *WQ213UB4G vs WQ213UX16G (kit) - is ONE stick of RAM (not a matched kit) and its 'kit version' is Quad Channel kit specifically designed for the X79 ; link

    After that it makes sense that those (2) "kits" (in one case 4 individual sticks) failed @ Rated, and I wasn't interested in researching the others. I've seen other more in-depth testing on the AMD FX-8150 indicating that overall there's a slight advantage for the DDR3-1866 kits on a most of the AMD FX processors. Though @ 4AM 'to me' I'll edit this post after a few cups of coffee.

    The 'ideal' AMD kits have JEDEC 'SPD' @ Rated 'cloned' (XMP) encoding which is optimized for AMD and sometimes slightly different so you're not 'stuck' as you put it @ DDR3-1333. Those are the better KITS to test on the AMD FX lines.
  • SteelCity1981
    Ram sppeds on a Bulldozer CPU means little and this just proves that so it doesn't matter if you are using DDR3 1600 ram or buying high performance RAM that can overclock to DDR3 2800 your not really seeing hardly any improvement with Bulldozer by doing so.
  • bartholomew
    Good article, very informative!
    Thanks :)
  • RAM speed also has a HUGE impact in controlled cache environments:

    Even the best SSDs can barely muster 100,000 IOPs, yet even slow RAM can easily exceed 700,000 IOPs.
    Bandwidth, throughput, and latency are equally insane. RAM puts SSDs to shame exponentially more than SSDs put hard drives to shame. Contrary to what many "enthusiasts" believe, RAM timings are virtually irrelevant. Frequency is by far, much more important.