The Hunt For Faster RAM Continues
I’m always on the lookout for extremely overclockable components, in part because they’re needed for testing the capabilities of other hardware that comes through our lab. No wonder, then, that I began my search for the best DDR4 before Intel's X99 platform even launched. When a company promised us the absolute fastest (in data rate) RAM available way back in October, I instantly agreed to use it. When competitors claimed they might be able to match or beat that product, I told them they should send theirs too. And when they circled back, saying they could probably match our best-in-class kit with a lower price, I was thrilled to put forth the value message. By early November, memory makers were all-in, and I was still writing about motherboards.
We saw the “similar but cheaper” argument produce strong value in our recent Kingston DDR4-3000 review. But that kit wasn’t able to exceed our previous data rate limit. Now it’s time to see if Corsair can do one better with a kit the company believed would out-overclock our original DDR3-3000 sample.
My biggest question was why Corsair would label one of its top quad-channel kits at a slower DDR4-2800 data rate? Could this be a way around customer complaints about motherboards that aren’t stable at 125MHz BCLK? That’s the base clock we need to reach DDR4-3000 on any platform that adheres to Intel’s DDR4-2666 limit, and most of our boards have failed to support a 125MHz BCLK in conjunction with a high 24x data rate multiplier.
Platforms aren’t Corsair’s business, so a workaround for motherboard-related memory complaints seems like an adequate rationale for the lower specified data rate. The company even equips the modules with a DDR4-3000 XMP. But underselling isn’t usually good for selling prices, and that means Corsair needs to rely on reviewers to spread its message.
But Why 2800?
Calling this stuff DDR4-2800 presents a completely different problem, primarily because motherboards that adhere to Intel’s DDR4-2666 limit must overclock the CPU to use it. Getting there from DDR4-2666 requires a 5% CPU overclock. Bonus for Corsair if its RAM gets an artificial 5% benchmark lead from the overclocked CPU, right?
But that’s not how our sample motherboard sees things. It thinks a 127.3MHz x 22 data rate is the way to go, and that might also be a great performance option. But we test things apples-to-apples, and the fixed 4GHz CPU clock of our previous DDR4 reviews would put an end to that mischief. Fortunately, this same motherboard has a workaround: Asus supports Intel’s forbidden 28x data-rate multiplier.