Articles: Memory

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We don’t often check out top-end computing platforms with different memory types. That’s not a topic that interests the average user. We’ve all come to think that the clock rate and timings of DDR3 SDRAM do not affect performance much, so we don’t pay much attention to choosing system memory. It is usually the last component you think about when building a new computer, even if you’re an enthusiast. In fact, the only memory parameter that is still important is its amount. Everyone knows that a lack of system memory may result in the OS and applications using the swap file and thus making your computer less responsive. We seem to have forgotten that memory modules have parameters other than capacity.

Of course, there are reasons for our attitude. It is indeed a fact that the clock rate and latencies of DDR3 SDRAM didn’t have much effect on performance. Why? First, some time ago processors got lots of cache memory with data pre-fetch algorithms which turned out to be most efficient at concealing the actual memory access speed from the application. Second, DDR3 SDRAM modules available on the market didn’t actually vary much in terms of their speed and latency. And third, average users didn’t run applications that needed to process really huge amounts of data. It is due to these reasons that the notion of fast DDR3 SDRAM as of a high-status product for perfectionists came about.

But while this notion was well-grounded just a couple of years ago, it seems to have got obsolete by now. Today’s applications are different and work with much larger amounts of data than before. Ordinary people find themselves editing digital photos tens of megapixels large or being creative with Full-HD or even Ultra-HD video. Today’s 3D games have colossal amounts of texture data, too. So much data just cannot fit into the processor’s cache, especially as the amount of cache memory hasn’t been growing much in recent CPUs.

As for memory products, they have become much more variegated, so there’s a twofold difference between them when it comes to clock rate. Choosing one or another memory kit, you can vary your system memory bandwidth from 21 to 47 GB/s and even more! The latest Haswell-based CPUs have also got faster than their predecessors and need faster access to data to show their full potential. That’s why we can expect that low-speed memory like DDR3-1333 and DDR3-1600 may be indeed too slow for today’s top-end platforms and we need to carry out some tests to find out the optimal memory type.

There’s one more reason for us to take up this topic right now. In fact, it may be the last opportunity for us to do so because, starting from the second half of this year, the faster, more economical and more advanced DDR4 SDRAM is going to arrive to desktop computers. It will be first supported by the Haswell-E series. Later on, in 2015 or 2016 this new memory type will become available with the LGA1151 platform and Skylake processors. So it is now just the right time to check out different DDR3 SDRAM products with Haswell-based CPUs. Let get started!

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