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

Making A Case For High-Speed RAM

The primary goal of today’s test was to find out if the reports of an AMD FX-based performance boost with high-speed RAM were true. The secondary goal was to find the best module set to get us that performance advantage. And while most of today’s benchmarks demonstrated negligible performance gains going from DDR3-1600 to DDR3-2400, one application really did jump by 6%. That’s a small gain in performance for such a big push in data rate, but it’s still noticeable. Dropping some of our RAM to CAS 6 at DDR3-1600 didn’t give us the same speed-up.

So, we know that the reports of improved Bulldozer performance with high-speed RAM are at least partly true, at least in certain types of applications. The next question is, which module set best gets us there?

This wasn’t supposed to be a value shootout, but one thing that a quick look at DRAM prices show is that only one of the top two module sets is currently available for purchase. The $25 price increase for G.Skill’s Ripjaws X DDR3-2133 would account for only 1% of a $2500 machine’s total price, and the RAM is capable of proving far more than 1% performance advantage in some applications.

Still, the best reason we can think of to buy high-end memory is to show off a big overclock. And so, a value chart that shows a maximum data rate divided by the baseline (DDR3-1600), compared to an actual price divided by the average price for all modules ($69), might not be all that important. Still, it’s nice to see that G.Skill holds its value when compared to top-brand DDR3-1600 CAS 9 modules.

A performance per price chart would be far more brutal to G.Skill, unless we add total system cost to the equation. The problem is, everyone's total system cost is likely to differ from ours. Parts like high-end cases and optical drives have no impact on today’s benchmarks, but would help make the case for G.Skill’s RAM by diminishing its relative price to the overall system.

Since high-speed memory only provides a marginal performance benefit to a small number of all the applications on your PC, we can only recommend the step up to a subset of enthusiasts willing to pay that extra money. At the end of the day, you will need to be the judge of whether or not the added expense is worth the marginal performance increase. Regardless, this was still a review of four high-performance memory kits, and G.Skill produced the best purchasable kit in this test. Therefore its Ripjaws X DDR3-2133 CAS 9 gets our stamp of approval.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.