Articles: Memory

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What factors affect the general performance of contemporary desktop systems? Of course, it is first of all the CPU and graphics sub-system. The CPU determines how fact the computer can process data in computational and system tasks, while the graphics card determines the result visualization speed. Obviously, if we are talking about applications processing and creating content, the role of the graphics accelerator becomes secondary. If we turn to entertainment applications, such as 3D games, for instance, then the primary role will be exactly on the graphics card, as it will be responsible for the spectacular experience the user will get from interacting with the computational algorithms. Most of the articles on our web-site are dedicated to optimization and choosing the best combination of contemporary CPUs and graphics cards.

However, processor and graphics card are not the only two components in a contemporary computer system. There are a lot of other parts, which importance shouldn’t be underestimated. However, while we understand perfectly well the practical value of mainboard, hard drive or power supply unit specifications without any additional explanations, then the system memory choice may sometimes become a tricky quest even for experienced users. No, memory capacity is not our concern at this point, things are pretty clear with this parameter. We have long known that the majority of contemporary computer systems can do perfectly fine with as much as 4 GB of RAM: this capacity is quite sufficient for proper work of operating systems, general-purpose applications and last-generation games. Only in certain specific cases you may need more RAM and those users who deal with cases like that are definitely aware of it.

It is much more interesting to decide on the operational memory frequency and timings. And it is mostly interesting since a lot of lances are being broken over this matter: numerous memory makers go out of their way trying to convince us that memory performance is one of the key parameters of a contemporary computer system that has just as much effect on the general performance as a CPU or a graphics card. As a result, memory makers vary the prices of their kits in a very broad interval. For example, 4 GB of inexpensive DDR3-1067 memory can be purchased for as low as $80. At the same time the same amount of “elite” DDR3-1600 SDRAM can easily cost you over $200. But is this tremendous price differentiation justified?

Our previous experience shows that it isn’t. The earlier memory tests for LGA775, Socket AM3 and LGA1366 platforms proved: computer performance in real applications depends on the memory speed very insignificantly. And systems with high-speed memory can only please you with high scores in synthetic benchmarks measuring peak performance and latency of the memory sub-system, such as Lavalys Everest or SiSoft Sandra.

However, so far we haven’t discussed the influence of memory speed on the performance of LGA1156 platforms built around Core i7, Core i5 and Core i3 processors. In the meanwhile, these CPUs have a number of peculiarities connected closely with the memory: they feature a built-in high-performance DDR3 SDRAM controller, but unlike the LGA1366 modification of Core i7, work with only two memory channels instead of three. Therefore, it is possible that memory specifications may have a somewhat different effect on the performance of LGA1156 systems. We decided to dedicate this article to checking this assumption out, namely, to studying the connection between the bandwidth and latency of DDR3 SDRAM and performance of systems with LGA1156 processors.

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