by Ilya Gavrichenkov
12/04/2007 | 04:56 PM
The new DDR3 SDRAM that appeared in the market since the launch of Intel P35 chipset hasn’t yet become very popular. Even when buying new systems, most users still prefer DDR2 SDRAM as this memory that has already stood the test of time costs less and offers pretty much the same level of performance. Even the new Intel X38 chipset for computer enthusiasts didn’t help increase the popularity of DDR3 SDRAM. Mainboard makers managed to quickly learn to manufacture Intel X38 based solutions that support old DDR2 memory, so the users immediately turned to them. However, the changes in the market are inevitably taking place and we can’t disregard them.
The most functional, expensive and high-performance platforms for gaming and overclocking fans start little by little shifting to DDR3 SDRAM these days. The thing is that platforms with DDR3 SDRAM with much higher frequency potential than that of DDR2 memory show better results when overclocked than the platforms using memory of the previous generation. Moreover, this memory from the leading overclocker solution makers guarantees problem-free operation: the supported frequency range of the new memory type is big enough to ensure that it will remain operational at any FSB speed.
The upcoming launch of the new Intel X48 chipset should become another factor increasing the popularity of DDR3 SDRAM. This chipset will be designed to work with CPUs supporting 1600MHz system bus and will officially support only DDR3 memory up to DDR3-1600 that used to fit only into overclocker platforms until recently.
So, the situation for further development and evolution of DDR3 SDRAM becomes more and more favorable. Of course, the manufacturers of overclocker memory modules cannot pass the opportunity like that and keep introducing new DDR3 solutions. A month ago we have already discussed DDR3-1800 and DDR3-1866 memory kits from Corsair, OCZ and Super Talent (see article called DDR3 Accelerates: DDR3-1800 SDRAM Roundup). However, since then a few more memory makers have joined the group. We managed to get our hands on similar kits from Cell Shock and Patriot. Although these memory modules are built with the same Micron D9GTR chips as the other DDR3 SDRAM solutions we have already reviewed, we decided to take a closer look at them, too. Especially, since their specifications are slightly different from the specs of the previously tested memory kits for computer enthusiasts.
I would like to stress that different memory makers who offer modules built using the same micro-chips, still have the opportunity to design different products with unique features. This is possible thanks not only to different chips sorting techniques and different cooling system designs, but also thanks to proprietary PCB layout used for the modules. These differences are very often sufficient to distinguish between the kits in terms of DDR3 SDRAM characteristics.
To check out the technical parameters and overclocking potential of the tested kits we assembled a special test platform. Unlike the platform we used in our previous DDR3-1800 SDRAM Roundup, we decided to use a newer platform this time built on an Intel X38 chipset. The testbed was assembled on an Asus P5E3 Deluxe mainboard that later on proved to behave exactly like Asus P5K3 Deluxe on Intel P35, which we used in our previous test session. In other words, DDR3 SDRAM overclocks identically on Asus P5E3 Deluxe and Asus P5K3 Deluxe mainboards, which allows us to compare the today’s results against those obtained earlier.
So, our testbed included the following hardware components:
Memory overclocked with the FSB:Mem divider of 1:2. System stability was checked with S&M 1.9.0 and Prime95 25.5 utilities.
I would like to point out that you need to overclock the FSB beyond 450MHz in order to be able to clock the memory at 1800MHz or higher, because the memory controllers of the current DDR3 chipsets – Intel P35 and Intel X38 – do not support any lower FSB:Mem dividers than 1:2. This is why we had to reduce the processor clock frequency multiplier to 7x and increase its Vcore to 1.4V to ensure successful outcome of our overclocking experiments. The North Bridge voltage in this case was also increased to 1.55V.
Most our readers may be not yet familiar with the Cell Shock brand name. It is the first time we are working with this memory in our lab. However, Cell Shock is a brand name that belongs to a pretty well-known German distributor MSC Vertriebs GmbH. The company uses this trade mark for their memory modules designed and manufactured in Germany on their own production lines with the use of proprietary production technologies. So, Cell Shock is new overclocker memory from Europe.
We received a DDR3 kit marked as CS3222580. This abbreviation stands for a pair of DDR3-1800 modules 1GB each that are designed to work with 8-7-6-21 timings at 1.7V-1.9V voltage.
The kit is shipped in a not very traditional package for overclocker memory solutions. The modules sit in a black carton box with a transparent window. Besides, the modules there is also a brief user’s guide and a sticker for the case front panel with Cell Shock logo.
The exterior design of these modules is also pretty unusual. The manufacturer uses massive black anodized aluminum heat-spreaders of very strict but original shape to transfer the heat away from the memory chips. Although 1GB DDR3 memory modules carry 8 1-gigabit chips on one side of the PCB, Cell Shock didn’t try to save by using heat-spreaders on only one side of the PCB. Each module is equipped with a pair of heat-spreaders pressed against the front of the chips and against the back of the PCB. The heat-spreaders retention is also quite unique: they are fastened with four screws holding two halves of the cooling system together. They used white thermal grease as thermal interface between the chips and the heat-spreader plates.
The heat-spreaders are decorated with six shallow horizontal grooves and an embossed Cell Shock logo on the front of the DIMMs. On the other side of the module there is a silver sticker with the info on the module part number and kit nominal specifications.
The default specs of these modules are pretty unusual: DDR3-1800 from Cell Shock boasts very rare combination of timings:
Cell Shock CS3222580
Memory kit capacity
2 modules 1GB each
Micron D9GTR (BY-187E)
Massive aluminum heat-spreaders on both sides of the module
Note that DDR3-1800 modules from Cell Shock are designed to work with relatively low voltage settings. While most similar solutions from other memory makers work at 1.9-2.0V, Cell Shock memory can work at 1.7V, which is only 13% higher than what JEDEC specs for DDR3 chips claims – 1.5V.
The modules SPD is quite standard. There you can find the specified timings, but the frequency is lowered to 1600MHz, which allows these modules to run at 1.5V voltage that most mainboard set by default. Cell Shock memory doesn’t support profiles or XMP.
The practical experiments with Cell Shock DDR3-1800 showed that this memory boasts pretty good overclocking potential, partially thanks to the opportunity to increase its voltage above the specified value. For example, when we raised the voltage to 2.0V, like on most DDR3-1800 memory kits from other makers, the 1800MHz frequency could be achieved even with 7-7-7-20 timings, which was a very good result. With the default voltage of 1.9V Cell Shock ran stably at 1788MHz with the same timing settings.
Cell Shock DDR3-1800 conquers pretty impressive frequencies even with less aggressive timings of 8-8-8-24. The memory overclocked and ran stably at 1900MHz with default 1.9V voltage. The result got even better if we raised the voltage above the nominal.
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The results on the screenshot above were obtained at 2.0V voltage. However, as soon as we changed the voltage to higher 2.1V, the overclocking potential worsened. It seems to indicate that we exhausted the efficiency of Cell Shock heat-spreaders.
The complete list of obtained results for cell Shock memory is given in the table below. There you can see the maximum frequency we managed to achieve for this memory kit with different timings and voltage settings.
Cell Shock CS3222580
As for the best timings that Cell Shock memory can support at the default 1800MHz frequency, they equaled 7-6-5-18 at 2.0V voltage.
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This is pretty high-performance work mode that we managed to achieve only with elite Corsair Dominator TWIN3X2048-1800C7DF G modules before. However, even Corsair memory loses to Cell Shock solution when it comes to maximum frequencies at 8-8-8-24 timings. As a result, we have every right to conclude that the Cell Shock memory from the German manufacturer debuted not just successfully but remarkably on our site.
PDP Systems decided to keep pace with the leading manufacturers of overclock memory modules. They are offering their kit for computer enthusiasts under a well-known Patriot brand name. Moreover, this manufacturer decided to hit even higher frequency having launched DDR3-1866 SDRAM solution. Of course, Patriot was guided by the fact that clocking the DDR3 memory at this frequency allows conquering “beautiful” speed barrier and hence using PC3-15000 marking in the product name.
Patriot sent us their high-speed DDR3-1866 SDRAM kit including two 1GB modules marked as PDC32G1866LLK. According to their specification, this memory based on the same Micron D9GTR chips should work at 1866MHz frequency and 1.9V voltage with 8-8-8-24 timings.
Patriot PDC32G1866LLK kit is shipped in a traditional transparent plastic package that contains not only two memory DIMMs but also an illustrated informational leaflet.
The exterior looks of the modules is also quite traditional. They are equipped with Patriot’s standard cast aluminum heat-spreaders with shallow ribbing. Their only peculiarity is authentic aluminum color that Patriot picked for all of their DDR3 SDRAM kits. Although these modules are single-sided, the heat-spreaders are on both sides of the PCB and they hold on to the modules only through sticky thermal pads. A sticker on each module reads the product part number and default specifications of the memory kit.
I have to say that Patriot has recently started offering even more sophisticated-looking kits from Viper series with identical specifications but more advanced tall ribbed heat-spreaders with some part made of pure copper.
As for the kit we are talking about today, Patriot PDC32G1866LLK boasts the following official specifications:
Memory kit capacity
2 modules 1GB each
Micron D9GTR (BY-187E)
Cast aluminum heat-spreaders on both sides of the module.
In addition to this data Patriot web-site claims that all memory modules are being pre-tested on Intel P35 and X38 based mainboards.
Patriot PDC32G1866LLK cannot yet boast XMP specification support. SPD contains simple profiles that should ensure the system will boot with these modules installed without any preceding BIOS Setup configuring.
When we tested the first batch of overclocker DDR3 SDRAM, we saw that despite the same component base memory modules from different manufacturers may have very different practical characteristics. This time was no exception as well. When we overclocked Patriot PDC32G1866LLK it performed completely different from the Cell Shock memory kit.
Namely, DDR3-1866 from Patriot didn’t retain stability at frequencies approaching 1800MHz with aggressive 7-7-7-20 timings, no matter what voltage settings we used. With these timings we managed to squeeze maximum 1724MHz with the voltage set at 2.0V.
However, with more “lenient” timings of 8-8-8-24 that are defaults for Patriot DDR3-1866, this memory kit demonstrated much more impressive results. With the voltage remaining at default 1.9V the modules remained stable at up to 1936MHz frequency and when the increased the voltage to 2.0V, the system remained absolutely stable at record-breaking frequency of 1972MHz. It is an absolute record of our lab so far.
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Unfortunately, further voltage increase didn’t push the memory’s overclocking potential any higher, which may be caused by limited efficiency of the modules cooling system.
The complete list of obtained frequencies with different timing settings is given in the table below:
Here I would only like to add that at 1800MHz and 2,0V voltage Patriot PDC32G1866LLK kit remained stable not only with default latency settings, but also with more aggressive ones of 8-7-6-22.
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However, this is still lower result than what we have just seen by the DDR3-1800 from Cell Shock. So, looks like the conclusion can be made as follows: while Patriot DDR3-1866 copes great with high working frequencies, aggressive timings are not its trump.
All in all, we have already tested five kits of overclocker DDR3 SDRAM designed to work at 1800MHz+ frequencies. Besides the solutions from Cell Shock and Patriot we have just talked about, we have also reviewed memory kits from Corsair, OCZ and Super Talent (see our article called DDR3 Accelerates: DDR3-1800 SDRAM Roundup for details). So, we decided to compare all the memory kits so that we could make more justified conclusions.
The diagrams below show the maximum frequencies achieved in our lab with different memory kits. The first diagram sums up the results obtained with timings set as 7-7-7-20.
Low (for DDR3 SDRAM) memory timings of 7-7-7-20 are defaults for Corsair Dominator TWIN3X2048-1800C7DF G modules. That is why this particular memory performs best of all here: it can run stably at up to 1860MHz frequency. Cell Shock kit took the second prize. These modules remained stable at maximum 1808MHz. Other modules failed to overcome the 1800MHz barrier with their timings at 7-7-7-20.
The tests revealing maximum frequency with 8-8-8-24 timings showed a completely different picture.
Here the laurels of a leader belong to Patriot PDC32G1866LLK: this memory has almost hit the psychologically important 2GHz barrier. The second place is against taken by another today’s testing participant – Cell Shock that runs at up to 1908MHz speed.
In conclusion I would like to sum up the most aggressive timings with which our tested memory kits can run at the “base” 1800MHz frequency:
DDR3-1800MHz: best timings (2.0V)
Cell Shock CS3222580
Corsair Dominator TWIN3X2048-1800C7DF G
Super Talent W1866UX2G8
OCZ PC3-14400 Platinum Edition
I don’t think any commentary is needed here: the best latency combination at 1800MHz belongs to Corsair and Cell Shock kits.
We have already discussed the performance of systems with DDR3 SDRAM, which frequency and timings were configured differently, in our previous articles. Please see the following reviews for more information on the topic:
The new high-speed memory kits from Cell Shock and Patriot we have just discussed made a very good impression on us. It is evident that these companies launched their DDR3-1800 and DDR3-1866 solutions later than the competitors for a reason. Patriot and Cell Shock engineers put extra time they had to good use: they designed efficient PCB layout and ensured more thorough chips selection. And in the end the second-generation products on Micron D9GTR chips turned out at least as good as the pioneers.
Patriot PDC32G1866LLK modules proved capable of impressive frequency overclocking. Of all DDR3 kits we have tested so far, they managed to conquer the maximum frequencies getting remarkably close to 2GHz.
DDR3-1800 memory kit from Cell Shock pleased us with its universality. Being able to overclock to pretty high frequencies as well, it can run at 1800MHz with very aggressive timings. I have to say that Cell Shock modules cost a little less than the similar competitor solutions, which makes them extremely attractive for overclockers who are looking to equip their system with DDR3 memory.
However, even DDR3-1800 from Cell Shock can no longer be called “reasonably priced”. Although memory kits supporting 1800MHz+ can really speed up your system in real applications, it is still much more expensive than overclocker DDR2 SDRAM with the same capacity. So, DDR3 will have hard times becoming popular even among overclocking fans.