Articles: Memory

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The recently announced Intel P35 chipset has already become very popular in the market. The official support of CPUs with 1333MHz system bus and the upcoming Penryn processor family did their part; this chipset has become of great interest to advanced users as well as leading mainboard makers. Over the past few weeks different Intel P35 based mainboards practically flooded the market, offering all sorts of features for every budget.

Although we have already tested a few mainboards based on Intel P35 chipset, one of its very interesting features has so far been left out of our discussion. We are talking about DDR3 SDRAM support that this chipset offers in addition to the traditional DDR2 SDRAM. As it always happens with any new product launch, the DDR3 SDRAM modules haven’t been widely available in stores yet, which prevented us from performing a fully fledged testing of the platforms using new memory type. However, today the situation has already changed for the better: you can easily buy corresponding memory modules almost anywhere.

That is why we felt it was the right time to get into details on the new platforms with DDR3 SDRAM support. Especially, since Intel P35 is the first and only transitional Intel chipset (besides its integrated G33 counterpart) that offers both: DDR3 and DDR3 SDRAM support at the same time.

The transition of platforms for Core 2 processor family to DDR3 SDRAM should be regarded as yet another step towards higher integral performance of these systems due to increased data transfer rate between the CPU and the memory subsystem. Although the bandwidth of contemporary dual-channel DDR2 SDRAM is higher than that of the processor bus, even if it works at 1333MHz frequency, Intel engineers believe that there already exists the need for higher memory working frequencies. According to the official specifications, the fastest DDR2 SDRAM compatible with Intel P35 chipset is DDR2-800 SDRAM with 12.8GB/s bandwidth in dual-channel mode. DDR3 SDRAM support adds the opportunity to use 1067MHz memory in contemporary systems thus increasing the peak bandwidth of the memory subsystem in dual-channel mode to 17.1GB/s. The transition to new SDRAM standard causes the memory subsystem latency to increase, however, there is nothing Intel can do about it: DDR2-800 SDRAM is the fastest DDR2 SDRAM meeting JEDEC standards and manufactured in really mass quantities.

However, Intel is not planning to stop there. The next chipset for computer enthusiasts Intel is going to roll out will be X38 that will support even faster DDR3 memory working at 1333MHz – the frequency absolutely unattainable for DDR2 SDRAM.

So, we can say that although there is no real need, Intel still decided to increase the memory subsystem bandwidth on their platforms built around Core 2 processors. Although we have already demonstrated in our previous articles that you can get comparable performance improvement by simply reducing the latencies of the memory subsystem, Intel decided to go towards higher frequencies rather than lower timings. And there is a logical reason for that decision: increasing the working frequencies and shifting to the new DDR3 technology at the same time is much easier for the memory makers. The main purpose of our today’s article is to answer the following question: will the new DDR3 SDRAM with higher working frequency and higher latency provide a performance improvement for Intel P35 based systems compared with the contemporary DDR2 SDRAM.

Let’s find out now!

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