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Triple-Channel DDR3: 6GB Kit Roundup

Have Memory Manufacturers Dropped The Ball?

DDR3 desktop memory has been around for nearly two years, but it wasn’t until a few months ago that we finally got to see the first platform specifically designed to take advantage of its increased data rate. With an on-die memory controller that supports triple-channel mode, Core i7 processors have produced the biggest memory bandwidth improvement we’ve seen since RDRAM met Netburst. But once again, a transition that should have been smooth has been met by memory manufacturers who had other ideas.

The current problem is one of voltage. While DDR3 is specified to use 1.50 V, manufacturers found that the memory controllers of Core 2-generation chipsets could easily handle far more. Rather than try to produce the fastest possible memory within a relatively small voltage range, most vendors instead chose to use slower parts with extra voltage tolerance to produce highly-overclocked products for the enthusiast market. When Intel announced shortly before its Core i7 launch that the memory controller should not encounter more than 1.65 V, a quick look at the market revealed that only a single manufacturer was producing DDR3-1600 modules for standard-voltage configurations at that time.

What followed was a mad rush by memory brands to re-label "fast" memory at whatever slower speed was required to get it stable at the new voltage limit. In the process, this "lower-voltage" memory was packed in triple-channel kits to differentiate it from the heavily-overclocked dual-channel kits sold for previous-generation systems. Super-fast DDR3-2000 disappeared for a time, and DDR3-1866 took nearly a month to emerge in 6 GB triple-channel kits, as nearly every existing product was reduced by one or two speed grades to stabilize it under a lower-voltage ceiling.

December finally brought us high-capacity modules at DDR3-1600 and higher speeds in triple-channel kits, and we quickly rounded up as many of those high-end kits as we could for today’s mega-comparison.

  • arkadi
    Grate article!
    What was always bothering me about ram reviews is how much memory speed/timing will really impact on system performance. I it is a lot of work I know, but it was never covered.
    Reply
  • neiroatopelcc
    From ArticleOf course, we needed a Core i7 processor, but not just any processor would do. While most reviewers are stuck with engineering samples that only support DDR2-800 and DDR2-1066 ratios (3x and 4x base clock, times two), our retail sample supports data rates all the way up to 2,133 MHz (8x base clock, times two).
    I could be wrong, but shouldn't it be ddr3 ? I'm not aware of i7 supporting ddr2?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    neiroatopelccI could be wrong, but shouldn't it be ddr3 ? I'm not aware of i7 supporting ddr2?
    Heheh, looks like it's been edited.
    Reply
  • azone
    I wounder if amd will do quad channel with its am3 motherboards or even dual 128 bit channels. that would be cool. Just something to beats intels triple 64bit channels.
    Reply
  • Proximon
    Good info. Would have been nice to see at least one real world benchmark.
    Reply
  • goryachev
    Great article. Thanks.
    Reply
  • Gian124
    Anyone know the difference between the following
    Kingston HyperX T1 Series Kits:
    KHX16000D3T1K3/6GX
    KHX16000D3ULT1K3/6GX

    What does the UL signify?... would it benchmark the same as the former (which was tested in this article)?
    Reply
  • 'The current problem is one of voltage.'
    I loled at that.. maybe it's too early in the morning for me :D
    Reply
  • hexploit
    Interesting just how few people give a damn about DDR3 at this point.
    I guess many are a: Not wowed by i7 like they were core2 and b: Laugh and the prices of DDR3 at a time when DDR2 is not only still very fast relative to the software/games on the market but is dirt cheap.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    Gian124Anyone know the difference between the following Kingston HyperX T1 Series Kits:KHX16000D3T1K3/6GXKHX16000D3ULT1K3/6GXWhat does the UL signify?... would it benchmark the same as the former (which was tested in this article)?
    They may have changed the name.
    Reply