DDR3 Accelerates: DDR3-1800 SDRAM Roundup

Overclocker DDR3 SDRAM continues to become faster. For our today’s roundup we managed to collect memory kits from Corsair, OCZ and Super Talent that can work at 1800MHz and higher frequencies. Let’s take a closer look at them and find out if they will be able to win this duel against DDR2 solutions.

by Ilya Gavrichenkov
11/06/2007 | 05:48 PM

Many of you have already noticed that Intel has turned its face to overclocking fans a while back already. Core micro-architecture has definitely become the main breakthrough in this direction as it implies enforced limitation of processor clock speeds for the sake of their low heat dissipation. So, overclockers take advantage of this particular peculiarity: by neglecting the power consumption optimizations and adding extra cooling they manage to get Core 2 processors to run at frequencies more than 1.5 times higher than their nominal speeds. Moreover, the actual Intel CPUs overclocking procedure became primitively simple. The only obstacle on the way to unprecedented performance as a result of successful overclocking is probably the locked CPU clock frequency multiplier. As a result, overclockers often have to get their systems to run at relatively high system bus frequencies of up to 450-500MHz in order to successfully overclock not the most expensive representative of the Intel processor family.

 

However, this problem is also hardly a serious one. Although the chipsets used in contemporary mainboards officially support only 333MHz FSB, a lot of them can still overclock the bus to necessary speeds without losing stability.

The memory manufacturers also did their best to eliminate the last remaining obstacles for overclocking fans. There are a lot of solutions for enthusiasts in the market today, which can run at pretty high speeds to ensure that the memory will not become a bottleneck for the overclocker system. By the way, Intel has also made some progress here by launching P35 and X38 chipsets supporting DDR3 SDRAM (for details see our article called DDR3 SDRAM: Revolution or Evolution?). This type of memory uses 8n-prefetch unlike DDR2 SDRAM that uses 4n-prefetch and can (theoretically) work at twice the frequency thus solving all potential issues with synchronous overclocking of all major busses in the system.

The manufacturers of high-frequency memory modules for computer enthusiasts welcomed the new DDR3 SDRAM standard with great excitement. The thing is that the overclocking potential of DDR2 SDRAM has been long exhausted, so Corsair, OCZ and some other leading memory makers could no longer design new products. In fact, the DDR2 SDRAM frequency race has stalled at 1200-1250MHz. Therefore, the growing demand for DDR3 SDRAM modules has immediately revived the overclocker memory market.

Some time ago we have already discussed DDR3 SDRAM memory kits designed to run at 1600MHz (for details see our article called DDR3-1600 SDRAM: Technological Breakthrough or Marketing Trick?). we have also pointed out that the transition of overclocker platforms from the good old DDR2 SDRAM to the new higher-frequency memory type hasn’t yet proven effective, despite the enthusiasm of the leading memory makers. But luckily, progress kept going forward and the memory manufacturers managed to conquer even higher memory speeds. That is why we would like to offer you a new article that will talk about DDR3-1800 SDRAM that will hopefully push the overclocked systems performance to a new level.

From the technical prospective, DDR3 SDRAM modules intended to work at 1800MHz do not represent anything innovative. They managed to hit a new frequency barrier solely thanks to evolutionary improvement of the technological process used for DDR3 SDRAM chips production. As a result, the new high-speed modules use the same chips as the previously discussed DDR3-1600 SDRAM. In other words, all DDR3-1800 memory we are going to talk about today is built using legendary Micron D9 chips manufactured with 78nm technological process.

So, the memory makers had only to slightly adjust the micro-chips selection procedures to be able to build DDR3-1800 solutions. Printed circuit boards and cooling heat-spreaders remained the same as those of DDR3-1600 solutions. Nevertheless, let’s take a real close look at our today’s testing participants, before we move on to the actual performance analysis.

Testbed Configuration for Memory Parameters Check

To check out the technical parameters and overclocking potential of the tested kits we assembled a special test platform that included the following hardware components:

Memory overclocked with the minimal FSB:Mem divider of 1:2. System stability was checked with S&M 1.9.0 and Prime95 25.3 utilities.

I would like to stress that you need to comply with a few important conditions in order to clock the memory to 1800MHz and higher on Asus P5K3 (and most likely other mainboards, too). By ignoring these conditions you may hinder the overall stability of your system dramatically. The main thing you should remember is that the DDR3 SDRAM modules need to be installed into second and fourth DIMM slots (they are of black color on the mainboard in question). For some reason, the other pair of DIMMs doesn’t guarantee memory subsystem stability when it is overclocked to high speeds. Moreover, you can’t overclock memory without raising the North Bridge voltage at least to 1.55V.

New Overclocker Memory Kits

Corsair Dominator TWIN3X2048-1800C7DF G

Corsair Company did provide us with their DDR3-1600 modules for our earlier test, they appeared in Corsair’s product lineup relatively late. However, Corsair faster DDR3-1800 SDRAM was announced about the same time as the competitors’ solutions and we were lucky to get hold of a kit for our article.

Corsair Dominator TWIN3X2048-1800C7DF G kit includes a pair of 1GB modules, each with its own part number: CM3X1024-1800C7D. The memory is designed to work at 1800MHz frequency with pretty aggressive timings of 7-7-7-20 and 2.0V voltage.

The top Corsair memory modules traditionally stand out among their competitors due to their unique looks. Each memory module from this series is equipped with 51mm tall aluminum heat-spreaders with not very deep ribbing on the front side and a comb-like top. Moreover, Dominator modules use a special PCB with an additional pair of comb-like heatsinks fastened to it at the top. Corsair engineers introduced this solution to ensure proper heat dissipation from the BGA memory chips to the PCB through their pins. This way each Dominator module features four heats-spreaders at the same time: Corsair calls this feature DHX (Dual Heat Exchange) technology.

The kit includes not only two DDR3 SDRAM modules, but also a traditional Dominator Airflow Fan cooler. This cooling device gets fastened onto the DIMM slot clips and directs the airflow to the modules installed in them preventing them from overheating. As for the design of the Dominator Airflow Fan, it combines in a single frame three 40-mm fans rotating at 5,000rpm speed. All three fans blow a stream of air directly to the memory which creates a pretty significant airflow in the corresponding area. However, it is actually a little bit excessive for DDR3 SDRAM, because this memory boasts relatively low heat dissipation.

The stickers with the manufacturer’s and product logos and technical specs are placed on both sides of the modules. Among the parameters listed are the following: individual part number of each module, its nominal frequency, capacity and supported default timings.

The official specs of Corsair Dominator TWIN3X2048-1800C7DF G look as follows:

 

Corsair Dominator TWIN3X2048-1800C7DF G

Memory kit capacity

2 modules 1GB each

Frequency

1800MHz

Timings

7-7-7-20

Voltage

2.0V

Chips

Micron D9GTR (BY-187E)

Cooling system

DHX heat-spreaders and Dominator Airflow Fan cooler

Note that Corsair increased the voltage to hit 1800MHz frequencies (above the nominal voltage for DDR3 SDRAM chips that equals 1.5V) by the impressive 33%. However, low heat dissipation of DDR3 micro-chips let’s them handle boosts like that pretty successfully, which allows the overclocker memory makers to provide lifetime warranty for their products.

Corsair Dominator TWIN3X2048-1800C7DF G modules go through pre-production testing on Asus P5K3 Deluxe mainboard and this is exactly the board that is guaranteed to ensure flawless operation of Corsair memory.

The SPD of Corsair modules is not very exciting. They contain the info for proper start of the system equipped with this memory without increasing its voltage.

I have to point out that Corsair also has another kit in its product range: Corsair Dominator TWIN3X2048-1800C7DFIN G that supports new SPD expansions introduced in the Intel X38 chipset called XMP (Extreme Memory Profiles). However, the technical specifications of these memory modules are exactly the same as those of the kit we are discussing today.

During our practical tests we got Corsair Dominator TWIN3X2048-1800C7DF G memory to work at up to 1860MHz frequency with 2.0V voltage and 7-7-7-20 timings. In other words, the modules have a certain frequency reserve that can be increased additionally by pushing the voltage even higher. Thus, at 2.1V voltage we got the memory kit to run stably at 1872MHz.

Unfortunately, more liberal timing settings do not have any significant effect. At 8-8-8-24 timings Corsair Dominator TWIN3X2048-1800C7DF G remains stable only at 1800MHz with 2.1V voltage.

It doesn’t make much sense to set the timings to even more aggressive values. If we set 6-6-6-18 and 2.0V voltage, Corsair Dominator TWIN3X2048-1800C7DF G can only hit 1584MHz without losing stability.

The table below sums up the maximum frequencies we obtained during our test session when Corsair modules remained stable:

Corsair Dominator TWIN3X2048-1800C7DF G

Timings

Voltage

Maximum frequency

6-6-6-18

2.0 V

1584 MHz

7-7-7-20

2.0 V

1860 MHz

7-7-7-20

2.1 V

1872 MHz

8-8-8-24

2.1 V

1880 MHz

All in all, the obtained overclocking results for Corsair Dominator TWIN3X2048-1800C7DF G kit prove totally up to our expectations. Although, some overclockers report successful attempts to hit 2000MHz with these modules. Unfortunately, we were probably not that lucky and couldn’t get even beyond 1900MHz. However, we managed to significantly improve the timings at 1800MHz. In case the voltage was set to 2.0V, our modules remained absolutely stable not only with the default 7-7-7-18 timings but also with the more aggressive 7-6-5-18 timings.

OCZ PC3-14400 Platinum Edition

Corsair’s major competitor, OCZ Technologies couldn’t stay aside when it came to launching their DDR3-1800 (PC3-14400) SDRAM. However, the OCZ solution is in no way a full analogue of the Corsair kit we have just discussed. The difference immediately catches your eye once you check out the specs.

OCZ PC3-14400 Platinum Edition kit includes a pair of 1GB modules and is designed to work at 1800MHz with less aggressive timings than Corsair Dominator TWIN3X2048-1800C7DF G: 8-8-8-24. However, the nominal voltage of the OCZ modules is lower as well: it is set at 1.95V.

OCZ PC3-14400 Platinum Edition is shipped in a standard plastic package:

The cooling solution topping OCZ PC3-14400 Platinum Edition is not as innovative as the Corsair one, but it also looks highly efficient. The heat-spreaders stuck to the module from both sides are meshed copper plates designed according to OCZ’s XTC (Extreme Thermal Convection) technology that is well-known for its cooling efficiency. The heat-spreaders are of platinum color and are decorated with a stylized Z3 logo.

There is a sticker on one side of each module that reads the product part number, frequency, capacity and default timings. It was very interesting to notice that the sticker info on the kit we received was slightly different from what the official web-site claims to be the OCZ PC3-14400 Platinum Edition specifications.

According to the info on the company web-site here are the complete technical parameters of the OCZ PC3-14400 Platinum Edition kit:

 

OCZ PC3-14400 Platinum Edition

Memory kit capacity

2 modules 1GB each

Frequency

1800 MHz

Timings

8-8-8-24

Voltage

1.95 V

Chips

Micron D9GTR (BY-187E)

Cooling system

Meshed copper XTC heat-spreaders on both sides of the module

Note that OCZ also promises that its memory modules will work just fine with higher 2.0V voltage setting. Also, OCZ web-site reports that PC3-14400 Platinum Edition memory is specifically optimized for Asus mainboards.

The SPD of this memory kit is pretty standard, everything here is aimed at the modules’ compatibility with any mainboard without any voltage increase. At this time OCZ PC3-14400 Platinum Edition have no XMP support.

Our practical experiments with OCZ modules revealed that even though they use the same chips as the memory kits from other manufacturers, their behavior is completely unique. For example, with the timings set at 7-7-7-20 and voltage of 2.0V OCZ PC3-14400 Platinum Edition cannot run at 1800MHz frequency. With these settings the maximum stable frequency was only 1760MHz. The best timings combination for these modules to remain stable at 1800MHz and 2.0V voltage is 8-8-7-24.

Therefore, the results obtained with even more aggressive timings of 6-6-6-18 are not surprising at all. In this case the maximum frequency we managed to reach on OCZ PC3-14400 Platinum Edition was pretty modest: 1396MHz.

However, when we set the default timings, namely 8-8-8-24, and raised the voltage to 2.0V the memory worked perfectly at 1876MHz, which is very close to what we saw by Corsair modules with identical settings.

The complete list of our experimental results for OCZ PC3-14400 Platinum Edition is given in a table below:

OCZ PC3-14400 Platinum Edition

Timings

Voltage

Maximum frequency

6-6-6-18

2.0 V

1396 MHz

7-7-7-20

2.0 V

1760 MHz

8-8-8-24

2.0 V

1876 MHz

Unfortunately, out attempts to get this memory to work with even higher voltage settings failed. As we found out, the memory kit we had in our lab dropped its frequency potential once the voltage exceeded 2.0V. I believe that insufficient heat dissipation from the memory chips could be the reason for that.

Super Talent W1866UX2G8

Super Talent Company is among pioneers in the overclocker memory modules market. They were the first to launch their DDR3-1600 and now they appeared the first again. And they outpaced OCZ and Corsair not only in terms of the product launch date, but also in terms of the official frequency. Unlike the competitors’ solutions, Super Talent offer not DDR3-1800, but even faster DDR3-1866 SDRAM.

Super Talent W1866UX2G8 kit includes two DDR3-1800 (PC3-15000) modules each 1GB big. The kit is shipped in standard plastic packaging that also includes a paper leaflet with some general info on the advantages of the DDR3 memory from Super Talent.

The modules look a little bit uncommon because they only have heat-spreaders on one side of the PCB, where the chips are. On the other side you can see bare green PCB and a sticker with the product marking. This sticker carries the product part number, capacity, default frequency, timings and manufacturer’s name. The only heat-spreader is made of black anodized aluminum and is a cast plate with small ribs and a shiny embossed company name – Super Talent.

Super Talent guarantees that their W1866UX2G8 will work stably at 1866MHz with 8-8-8-24 timings and 2.0V voltage. The complete specification of this solution looks as follows:

 

Super Talent W1866UX2G8

Memory kit capacity

2 modules 1GB each

Frequency

1866 MHz

Timings

8-8-8-24

Voltage

2.0 V

Chips

Micron D9GTR (BY-187E)

Cooling system

Cast aluminum heat-spreader on one side of the module

The manufacturer claims that all modules pass post-production testing Asus P5K3 Deluxe mainboard with the specified parameters.

The modules SPD reports the following:

To ensure compatibility Super Talent lists in the modules SPD the chips default specifications with which they can run stably at 1.5V voltage. Although the modules we had in our lab didn’t support XMP, the new batches of the same memory that are already selling in stores come with the overclocker profiles for Intel X38 based boards.

Our practical check-up showed that the actual potential of the Super Talent W1866UX2G8 is not that much higher than the claimed official specs. At 2.0V voltage and 8-8-8-24 timings this memory remained stable only at frequencies up to 1888MHz. However, I have to be fair: this is the best result in our today’s test session.

As for the more aggressive timings on Super Talent memory, the frequency threshold dropped to 1772MHz once the timings were set at 7-7-7-20 with 2.0V voltage. Further lowering of the timings to 6-6-6-18 allowed us to get this kit to run stably only at 1528MHz.

In other words, DDR3-1800 memory from Super Talent, just like the OCZ solution, didn’t prove the best in case of aggressive timing settings:

Super Talent W1866UX2G8

Timings

Voltage

Maximum frequency

6-6-6-18

2.0 V

1528 MHz

7-7-7-20

2.0 V

1772 MHz

8-8-8-24

2.0 V

1888 MHz

However, Super Talent W1866UX2G8 kit could retain the system stability at 1800MHz and 2.0V voltage with more aggressive timings of 8-7-7-22.

Just like the OCZ memory kit, Super Talent W1866UX2G8 couldn’t improve their performance at higher voltage settings than the 2.0V. It must be again the insufficient cooling, that wouldn’t let them get past it.

Testbed and Methods

Now that we have discussed in detail the peculiarities of our testing participants – new DDR3-1800 overclocker memory kits – it is time we checked out their practical value. These solutions are pretty expensive, so we hope that they can really boost the performance of overclocked systems.

Since contemporary chipsets for Core 2 processors support 1:2 as the smallest FSB:Mem divider, DDR3-1800 SDRAM can only work in nominal mode with 450MHz FSB. So, we used this FSB frequency in our test system.

Other available dividers provide a bunch of other frequencies on the memory bus: 900, 1080, 1125, 1350, 1440 and 1500MHz. These frequencies determined our today’s choice of rivals for DDR3-1800 SDRAM:

We decided to use a quad-core processor to measure the system performance, because these CPUs are very demanding when it comes to memory bus bandwidth. The test CPU was overclocked to 3.6GHz as 8 x 450MHz. DDR3 SDRAM tests were performed in a system built on Asus P5K3 Deluxe mainboard. The performance of DDR2 SDRAM was measured in a similar system built on Asus P5K Deluxe.

So, our test platforms were built using the following equipment:

Performance

Memory Subsystem Synthetic Benchmarks

First of all let’s check out the practical bandwidth and latency of the new DDR3 SDRAM. For our tests we chose Everest Ultimate Edition 4.20 utility.

During the practical bandwidth tests DDR3 SDRAM finally starts showing a significant advantage over the previous generation memory type. The DDR3 SDRAM frequency has evidently grown high enough, so that its typical high latencies no longer play the primary role in determining the performance. At least, when we are talking about streaming reads from the memory.

Writing speed into the memory is limited by the processor bus practical bandwidth that is why the results of the second Everest test cannot give us any new food for thought.

It is not only the bandwidth but also the practical latency that affect the copy speed in the memory. Therefore, this test clearly indicates that it is still too early to claim indisputable victory of high-speed DDR3-1800 over overclocker DDR2 memory.

However, DDR3-1800 with low 7-7-7-20 timings is determined to win the first prizes in most complex benchmarks. Its latency test result exceeds the achievements of overclocker DDR2 SDRAM. And this is the first time something like that happens during our numerous new memory tests.

To make the final conclusions let’s turn to complex benchmarks and real applications.

SuperPi and PCMark Vantage

SuperPi and PCMark Vantage benchmarks so popular among computer enthusiasts give all the laurels to DDR3 SDRAM working at 1800MHz and 1500MHz frequencies. As we see, this memory can easily compete with any DDR2 SDRAM kit out there. However, please remember, that we had to overclock our test platform significantly and use high-performance expensive DDR3 memory kits for overclockers. If we compare the results obtained with simpler solutions, such as DDR2-900 and DDR3-1333, the leadership will remain in the hands of the older technology offering more aggressive lower latencies.

3D Games

We have already pointed out how efficient DDR3 SDRAM is in games in our previous DDR3-1600 memory review. Contemporary high-speed DDR3-1800 finds a good place in today’s gaming applications and ensures a noticeable performance boost. It means that the leading gaming fans shouldn’t pass by this new technology.

However, as we have already mentioned before, DDR3 SDRAM cannot yet compete with DDR2 SDRAM in non-overclocked systems because Intel P35 and X38 chipsets support maximum 1333MHz memory bus. Therefore, until CPUs with 400MHz FSB appear in the desktop segment and acquire official support for DDR3-1600, the users who prefer to refrain from overclocking their systems will hardly be able to benefit from the new DDR3 SDRAM.

Video Encoding

During video encoding speed tests any DDR3-1800 will again show its best leaving DDR2 SDRAM with any timings and frequencies far behind.

Other Applications

Data compression speed in WinRAR reveals significant advantage of the memory boasting high bandwidth. No wonder that high-speed DDR3 SDRAM proves the best choice for this type of tasks.

Microsoft Excel is one of those applications that depend a lot on the memory subsystem latency. However, it doesn’t prevent DDR3-1800 from winning here.

Final rendering belongs to the tasks that are hardly affected by the memory subsystem performance. Nevertheless, DDR3-1800 proves extremely efficient here, too.

Conclusion

Summing up everything we have just discussed, I would like to say that overclocker system memory such as DDR3 SDRAM managed to make a tremendous jump forward in terms of clock frequencies within a very short period of time. It is true, since early summer and until the end of this fall its speeds grew from 1333MHz to 1800MHz – the first time new memory frequencies have been conquered so rapidly. Of course, Micron is the one who deserves most of the praise for that, as they successfully mastered the production of D9 DDR3 chips that could be so easily overclocked by raising the voltage. These are exactly the chips that are used in most overclocker DDR3 memory modules. Moreover, our tests show that Micron D9 chips keep improving their potential, which will most likely result into even faster solutions than the current performance leaders – DDR3-1800 and DDR3-1866.

However, unfortunately, the dramatic lead forward DDR3 for enthusiasts made this time failed to find adequate support on the chipset side. The currently existing Intel chipsets officially support only DDR3-1333 SDRAM, which means that you can really enjoy all the benefits from the high-speed memory solutions by overclocking your system quite substantially. Of course, this is no problem for overclockers, but at the same time it limits the current application for the DDR3-1800 kits.

So, overclockers should become the main users of high-speed DDR3 modules. This memory is not only nominally the today’s fastest, it does ensure faster speed in applications sensitive to the memory subsystem performance, which we have just seen in our tests. Unfortunately, the currently available DDR3-1800 is not reasonably priced yet. However, we expect the situation to change soon enough, because of cut-throat competition between the overclocker DDR3 memory makers these days.

I would also like to warn you that the conclusions we make today about the application and prospects for overclocker DDR3 SDRAM shouldn’t be applied to regular non-overclocker memory of the same type. As you probably remember, our previous tests revealed that standard DDR3-1066 and DDR3-1333 cannot compete with fast DDR2 SDRAM because of their much higher latency.

So, despite everything we have pointed out here, it definitely makes a lot of sense to equip overclocker systems with DDR3-1800 memory kits we have reviewed today. However, it would be true only if you make sure that the following conditions are met. First, the system bus in these platforms should be overclocked at least to 450MHz. and second, the owners of such systems should be ready to invest quite substantial money into this not very dramatic performance boost.

As for the particular solutions we talked about today, I have to say that although they use the same components, their practical characteristics are still pretty different in the end. Nevertheless, your preference of this or that product from a particular manufacturer will be purely individual and will be based on the price, availability in your area and your liking of a certain brand. Xbit Labs chooses Corsair Dominator TWIN3X2048-1800C7DF G: this memory worked with more aggressive timings than the competitors’ solutions, and besides, it comes with an active cooling system that will fit great into any overclocker system.