Articles: Memory

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It’s not easy to write something interesting about system memory because we have all got used to the fact that a computer's performance doesn’t depend much on the clock rate and timings of DDR3 SDRAM. Moreover, considering the low memory prices we have today, it is more reasonable for most users to invest into a larger amount of system memory rather than into improving its specs. The amount of memory is a much more tangible and comprehensible thing than its clock rate and timings whose effect is far from obvious.

That's why overclocker-friendly memory has become a product for perfectionists while average users have come to be satisfied with regular DDR3-1333 and DDR3-1600 SDRAM which they can occasionally overclock a little, just for fun. That’s the way things were and are, but how will they be? We raise this question because the new Ivy Bridge processor family has come about and, even though alike to their predecessors in many ways, the new CPUs have certain features that can change this situation.

For example, the Ivy Bridge series lacks the old limitations concerning the top clock rate of DDR3 SDRAM. In practical terms it means that such CPUs can theoretically be used together with high-speed memory up to DDR3-3200 SDRAM which doesn’t even exist as yet. The makers of overclocker-friendly memory modules have responded to this enthusiastically. Fast products, such as DDR3-2400, abound in shops now, so the gap between the clock rates of regular and premium memory products has got as wide as 100%! One can hardly believe that this difference can never show up in everyday tasks.

Here’s another argument in favor of this point: the Ivy Bridge series are generally faster than their predecessors and need to be fed data at a faster rate. In other words, it is quite possible that the new CPUs won’t be satisfied with the speed of DDR3-1333 and DDR-1600 in everyday applications anymore. The new integrated graphics core which shares the same memory subsystem with the execution cores must also be taken into account. The GPU has got faster in the Ivy Bridge design whereas memory bandwidth is a highly important parameter for today’s GPUs, directly affecting their texture-mapping speed. We guess the performance of the integrated graphics core is going to depend on the clock rate and timings of DDR3 SDRAM.

So, there are quite a lot of arguments in favor of checking out Ivy Bridge platforms with different memory settings. Our benchmarking results may turn out to be not as predictable as we think after all!

Testbed Configuration

To write this review we took an LGA1155 mainboard with Intel Z77 Express chipset and installed overclocker-friendly Core i5 processors, of both Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge generations. But since we wanted to see how memory subsystem settings affected our system performance, the key component was a high-speed DDR3-2600 memory kit from G.Skill.

Overall we ended up using the following hardware and software components:

  • Processors:
    • Intel Core i5-2550K, overclocked to 4.5 GHz (Sandy Bridge, 4 cores, 6 MB L3);
    • Intel Core i5-3570K, overclocked to 4.5 GHz (Ivy Bridge, 4 cores, 6 MB L3).
  • Processor cooler: NZXT Havik 140;
  • Mainboard: ASUS P8Z77-V Deluxe (LGA1155, Intel Z77 Express);
  • Memory: 2 x 4 GB, DDR3-2600 SDRAM, 10-12-12-31 (G.Skill TridentX F3-2600C10D-8GTXD).
  • Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 (2 GB/256 bit GDDR5, 1006/6008 MHz).
  • Hard drive: Intel SSD 520 240 GB (SSDSC2CW240A3K5).
  • Power supply unit: Tagan TG880-U33II (880 W).
  • Operating system: Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 Ultimate x64.
  • Drivers:
    • Intel Chipset Driver;
    • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator Driver;
    • Intel Management Engine Driver;
    • Intel Rapid Storage Technology;
    • NVIDIA GeForce 301.42 Driver.

Take note that we overclocked our CPUs to 4.5 GHz during this test session because this helped us get a better idea of the correlation between memory settings and performance.

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