Articles: Memory

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After our investigation of the effect that memory frequency and timings have on performance of different LGA1156 processors, the next step is to see how things are with other platforms. So our next subject is the Socket AM3 platform which has become increasingly popular after AMD’s launch of good and inexpensive six-core Phenom II X6 processors.

As you probably know, the memory controller of AMD’s modern 45nm processors, including the Phenom II X6 series, supports both modern DDR3 and outdated DDR2 SDRAM. This ensures compatibility with older Socket AM2+ computers but it is obvious that such processors are only going to show their best on new platforms. When we got Phenom II X4 processors compatible with both memory types, we performed comparative tests and found out that new mainboards with DDR3 memory instead of Socket AM2+ mainboards with DDR2 provided a performance boost of 5 to 10%. However, DDR3 modules were considerably more expensive, and the choice was not so easy. By today, prices of DDR2 and DDR3 have become similar (DDR3 is even occasionally cheaper), so there is no reason to consider the slower DDR2 SDRAM now.

As for DDR3, the number of offers is simply mindboggling. Memory makers turn out a lot of products with different speeds, latencies and capacities, making it rather hard to find the most optimal one. So, we undertook a special test of different DDR3 SDRAM types to clear out the picture. Another reason for our test was the release of the latest generation of mainboards based on the AMD 890FX chipset. According to AMD and some mainboard makers, these products can finally support high-speed DDR3-2000 SDRAM (in overclocked mode, of course, but earlier products were explicitly incompatible with such memory). So, we wanted to check out such marketing claims and you’ll learn the results in this review.

Testbed Configuration

We intend to study the dependence of the latest Socket AM3 platforms performance on the memory installed using the following testbed. It is built around a six-core Phenom II X6 processor and an AMD 890FX based mainboard from one of the leading makers. As a result, our test system was configured as follows:

  • CPU: Phenom II X6 1090T (Thuban, 6 cores/6 threads, 3.2 GHz, 6 MBL3);
  • Mainboard: ASUS Crosshair IV Formula (Socket AM3, AMD 890FX);
  • Memory: 2 x 2 GB, DDR3-2000 SDRAM, Patriot Viper II Sector 5 PC3-16000 (PVV34G2000LLKB);
  • Graphics card: ATI Radeon HD 5870;
  • HDD: Western Digital VelociRaptor WD3000HLFS;
  • CPU cooler: Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme with Enermax Everest fan;
  • PSU: Tagan TG880-U33II (880 W);
  • OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64;
  • Drivers:
    • Intel Chipset Driver;
    • ATI Catalyst 10.6 Display Driver.
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