Articles: Memory

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The arrival of the LGA 2011 platform put computer enthusiasts in a pretty difficult situation. On the one hand, this platform the best-performing solution Intel offers today to the desktop users. On the other hand, as we have already seen in our practical tests, this platform has a lot of drawbacks and we can, actually, argue whether LGA 2011 performance can make up for them. Another factor that may encourage you to hold off from transitioning to the new LGA 2011 is the “isolation” of this platform that requires not only its own processors and mainboards, but also special cooling systems and quad-channel memory. Of course, in the end LGA 2011 systems look very impressive, but are they worth the substantial financial investments? Objective arguments won’t really help you answer this question definitively, because the appeal of the new platform right now is more of an emotional matter. And if the desire to have the best-of-the-best computer system is stronger than the voice of reason telling you that LGA 2011 systems are far from ideal in terms of price-to-performance, inefficient in terms of power consumption and simply not practical, then all we have to do is help you find the best LGA 2011 mainboard, most efficient cooler and an optimal memory kit. We are going to post all these recommendations in the corresponding sections of our web-site very shortly, and today we are going to focus on choosing the optimal memory for the new Sandy Bridge-E processors.

Especially, since this is not a trivial task after all. LGA 2011 platform is the first desktop platform supporting quad-channel architecture. And while LGA 1155 and LGA 1366 platform didn’t seem to seriously depend on the memory frequency and timings, now things can change dramatically. It must have been for a good reason that Intel enabled its new platform to officially support higher memory frequencies and even allowed memory overclocking. On the other hand, the memory controller in Sandy Bridge-E processors is also a very interesting device. For example, at first we saw that four memory channels provided almost no performance gain compared with the dual-channel mode and therefore concluded that it would be possible to use old two- and three-module DDR3 SDRAM kits from the older systems in the new LGA 2011 platforms. However, during our continuous communication with the Intel people we uncovered a few peculiarities of the Sandy Bridge-E memory sub-system, which will allow us to explain why the quad-channel memory controller didn’t perform that well in the practical bandwidth tests after all. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and at first talk a little bit about advantages and drawbacks of the memory sub-system structure in LGA 2011 systems.

Testbed Configuration Details

This time we tested the performance of different memory sub-system configurations in LGA 2011 and LGA 1155 systems. We used the following two testbeds:

LGA 2011 platform:

  • CPU: Core i7-3960X, overclocked to 4.4 GHz (Sandy Bridge-E, 6 cores, 1.5 MB L2 + 15 MB L3);
  • Mainboard: ASUS Rampage IV Formula (LGA2011, Intel X79 Express);
  • Memory: G.Skill RipjawsZ F3-19200CL10Q-16GBZHD (4 x 4 GB, DDR3-2400, 10-11-10-31).

LGA 1155 platform:

  • CPU: Core i7-2700K, overclocked to 4.4 GHz (Sandy Bridge, 4 cores, 1 MB L2 + 8 MB L3);
  • Mainboard: ASUS P8Z68-V PRO (LGA1155, Intel Z68 Express);
  • Memory: Kingston HyperX KHX1866C9D3K2/8GX (2 x 4 GB, DDR3-1866, 9-10-9-27).

The following hardware and software components were identical on both platforms:

  • Graphics card: EVGA GeForce GTX 580 Classified 3 GB (03G-P3-1588-AR);
  • Storage drive: Crucial m4 256 GB (CT256M4SSD2);
  • Drivers:
    • Intel Chipset Driver;
    • Intel Management Engine Driver;
    • Intel Rapid Storage Technology;
    • NVIDIA GeForce 285.62 Driver.
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