Value DDR3 For Intel's P55: Six 4GB Kits Rounded Up

Value Is In The Overclock

Most of our readers are familiar with performance memory, yet many still don’t understand that the vast majority of it is rated at overclocked settings. Standard DDR3 runs at 1.50V, and components rated at higher voltages are likely to have slower, standard memory under those heat spreaders. When you pay extra for performance RAM, what you’re really paying for is a guarantee that the modules will operate at a speed beyond the ratings of its components.

Performance guarantees are nice, but paying someone else to validate an overclock can put a big dent in the value a mid-priced system represents. After all, most builders don't pay extra for a CPU that has been validated by a third party to run at higher speeds, yet very few overclocking enthusiasts seek better value by risking the chance of a “poor yield” in exchange for a lower price. We willingly take that small risk with processors, so why not apply the same principle to RAM?

Unfortunately, finding the right overclocking RAM isn’t as easy as finding the right processor, simply because there are so many more choices. While many hardcore folks maintain a list of the best memory ICs, manufacturers don’t normally tell you which parts they use (they often change from one week to the next, depending on supply). Further complicating matters is the fact that many manufacturers routinely swap-out components without changing the model number on the package. Thus, the best way to find the best-value overclocking memory is to test everything.

We don’t expect our readers to go out and buy every available low-cost kit, while relying on manufacturers to provide samples could result in specially-prepared or hand-picked parts that inaccurately represent the retail product. But putting the words “budget” and “overclocking” in the same sentence makes it hard to arrange a truly-representative comparison, so we instead logged on to and bought the six module sets that were available for less than $80 as of October 1.

As memory prices continue to trend upward, some of the parts we bought now cost over $80. Yet surprisingly, some have gone down in price. All of these are still inexpensive, so let’s take a closer look at what our limited funds bought.

Ed.: We're giving away nine 4GB DDR3 memory kits to go along with this story; six of which you'll find on the following pages. We've tried to simplify the contest process (we've done a ton of them lately, in case you've missed them) with a Google form, the link to which you'll find right here. For the contest details, check out the last page of Thomas' round-up.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • Onyx2291
    Very nice how Crucial edges out so slightly and is cheap.
  • El_Capitan
    I've been advocating that Crucial memory kit since time began.
  • presidenteody
    should i wait for the price to be cut in half in 6 months? I want it now for L4d2!
  • dirtmountain
    Would running these same kits work any differently in an AM3 system with it's ability to handle higher voltages?
  • NeatOman
    Why would you guys use memtest86+ v1.7? if "v4" or is out?
    Could you please provide information what memory chips are used in all RAMs. Thank you!
  • micky_lund
    looks good, especially for CAS9. spose it makes it better for OCing.
    pity it ain't available in Australia :S
  • jrharbort
    I've always insisted that Crucial DDR3 kits are an excellent value, and recommended them to friends for their amazing stability, overclockability, and price.

    These kits totally deserved the Tom's award for best hardware of '09.
  • mlcloud
    I've been buying OCZ for all my DDR2 needs (they were very cheap after rebates), but I think I know who to go to for DDR3 (and awesome power supplies)
  • coolkev99
    This is good info, but I wish they would develop some 3gb x 2 kits out there.