Articles: Memory

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Gaming Performance

Now, gaming performance is the most exciting part of our review because today’s 3D games need fast memory, so we expect that high-speed DDR3 SDRAM can show its best here.

On the other hand, it is the graphics subsystem that determines the performance of the entire platform in the majority of contemporary games. Therefore, we select the most CPU-dependent games and measure the frame rate in two test modes. For the first mode we use lower resolutions and disable full-screen antialiasing, so we could see if fast memory is actually required by gaming computers. This provides some insight into how platforms with different DDR3 SDRAM are going to behave in the nearest future when equipped with faster graphics cards. The second test mode refers to real-life settings: Full HD and maximum FSAA. In our opinion, these results are no less interesting as they demonstrate clearly the level of performance we can expect from contemporary platforms today.

When we use a low resolution, 3D shooters turn out to be highly sensitive to memory subsystem performance. The results suggest that adjusting the memory frequency alone can improve the frame rate by a third, as in the new Thief. The other games are less memory-sensitive, yet the average gap between the slow DDR3-1333 and the overclocker-friendly DDR3-2933 is as large as 20%. In other words, each 266MHz step up in frequency translates into a 2-3% increase in performance.

Well, this impressive scalability is largely due to our deliberately unloading the graphics subsystem. If we use the highest visual quality settings, we have a different picture:

Memory speed doesn’t affect the frame rate much now. The difference between the slow and fast memory configurations amounts to just a few percent. Thief is an exception, though. It shows that the clock rate of your DDR3 SDRAM is a performance-affecting factor even when you run your game at maximum visual quality settings. So if you're into gaming and want maximum performance, you shouldn't disregard your memory subsystem parameters altogether.

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