by Ilya Gavrichenkov
08/31/2012 | 02:35 PM
System memory is one type of computer components that users don’t take the trouble of choosing carefully. They are willing to spend money to buy more memory, but often neglect such parameters as timings or clock rate. Indeed, as we could see in our numerous tests with different platforms, it was true that all DDR3 SDRAM available was in fact the same when it came to key consumer properties.
The arrival of the Ivy Bridge generation of Intel CPUs has brought about certain changes, though. They feature a revised memory controller that provides more flexibility in choosing memory subsystem settings. Particularly, the clock rate of DDR3 SDRAM on LGA1155 platforms can range from 1067 to 2800 MHz. The difference between the lowest and highest limits and, consequently, in the bandwidth of the CPU-memory thoroughfare just cannot help showing up in practical applications. However, memory modules rated for high clock rates are generally much more expensive than ordinary DDR3-1333/1600 and it is not easy to say whether they are really worth the extra money.
Whether investing into memory subsystem improvements on the Ivy Bridge platform is worthwhile depends on how greatly the timings and clock rate of DDR3 SDRAM can influence the performance of typical applications. The manufacturers can also affect the end-user’s choice of system memory for LGA1155 platforms. High-speed and expensive DDR3 SDRAM kits becomes the main source of profits for them considering the low memory prices we have today, yet it is important not to raise the price too high because not all users are willing to pay much more for the extra speed.
Every memory maker has his own way of striking the balance. Someone tries to ensure an attractive price while others endow their products with extreme specs so that the price factor was but of secondary importance. So, it is against this background that we begin our tests of specific high-speed memory kits. Today, we'll be talking about products from Kingston, one of the leading suppliers of DDR3 SDRAM modules for PCs.
Kingston’s product range includes both ordinary solutions of the ValueRam series as well as products for experienced users marketed under the HyperX brand. It is about dual-channel HyperX kits of the most popular 8GB capacity that we are going to talk in this review. The HyperX series has earned a very good reputation over the last years by offering rather advanced specs at a reasonable price.
Kingston was kind to offer us five dual-channel memory kits from the HyperX series which is optimized for today’s LGA1155 platforms with Ivy Bridge CPUs. You can see their specs in the following table:
Kingston’s nomenclature may seem confusing at first, yet each part number actually contains all the key parameters. You can easily decipher them by referring to this guide:
As you can see, the dual-channel DDR3 SDRAM kits we’ve got to test have the same capacity of 8 gigabytes but come from different product categories and differ greatly in their specs. That’s going to make this test session the more interesting as we will be able to see the benefits, if any, of high-speed memory rated for clock rates of 2133 and 2400 MHz.
Kingston’s overclocker-friendly HyperX memory falls into three subseries: Blu, Genesis and T1. The cheapest memory modules with uninspiring specs for thrifty enthusiasts are marketed as Blu. The T1 series is the fastest option for hardcore overclockers. And the Genesis series these modules come from are the middle class. More specifically, the KHX1600C9D3K2/8G product is an entry-level Genesis offer as it lacks XMP or aggressive timings. In fact, it is rated for a clock rate of 1600 MHz which has already become standard for Ivy Bridge CPUs.
Well, you shouldn’t be misled into regarding the KHX1600C9D3K2/8G kit, which consists of two 4GB sticks, as an unexciting product with standard specs. It is indeed an enthusiast-targeted solution which features eye-catching heatsinks and is capable of working at nonstandard settings.
We’ve mentioned the heatsinks and they are indeed effective on the Genesis modules. Painted deep blue, they have stylish perforation and bear a shiny HyperX logo. Most importantly, the heatsinks are designed in such a clever way that they do not increase the standard dimensions of memory sticks. Therefore, the Genesis modules are going to fit into any system irrespective of what CPU cooler you use. They are also efficient because DDR3 SDRAM dissipates little heat (no more than 1.5 watts per module) and doesn’t really need large heatsinks even if the voltage is increased to 1.65 volts.
There are 16 Micron D9PFJ chips under the heatsinks of the KHX1600C9D3K2/8G memory modules. Besides Kingston, Crucial employs such chips as well, and also in memory modules rated for DDR-1333/1600. Our experience suggests that memory based on these chips can be overclocked well, but you need to increase its voltage above 1.65 volts, which is not recommended by Intel.
Here is a summary of the Kingston HyperX Genesis KHX1600C9D3K2/8G specs:
Being an entry-level offer in the Genesis series, the KHX1600C9D3K2/8G modules have no XMP profile, so they must be manually configured according to their specs. Their settings are only selected automatically according to the SPD profile which only contains data for a slow operation mode of DDR3-1333.
However, the KHX1600C9D3K2/8G kit is factory-tested in DDR3-1600 mode, so it should have no problems working at that clock rate.
It has become normal for makers of overclocker-friendly DDR3 SDRAM to offer a lifetime warranty for their products. Since the HyperX Genesis KHX1600C9D3K2/8G is targeted at overclockers, its warranty is lifetime, too.
The KHX1866C9D3K2/8GX kit is one of the fastest in the Genesis series. It is rated for 1866 MHz. Faster DDR3 SDRAM from Kingston is only available under the HyperX T1 brand.
The KHX1866C9D3K2/8GX modules resemble the above-discussed DDR3-1600 KHX1600C9D3K2/8G kit. It too included two 4GB modules shipped in the same plastic packaging and featured the same Genesis heatsinks. The difference can only be found by comparing their labels, which might be expected considering their specs.
Here are the specs of the Kingston HyperX Genesis KHX1866C9D3K2/8GX kit:
Compared to its junior cousin in the Genesis series, the KHX1866C9D3K2/8GX kit is rated for a 266MHz higher clock rate at the expense of slightly increased timings. This acceleration is going to cost the buyer about $10, which is the price difference between these two Genesis series products.
Although with the same PCBs, the different Genesis products differ in memory chips. The KHX1866C9D3K2/8GX kit employs chips from Hynix instead of Micron. Labeled H5TQ2G83BFR-H9C, these have been getting more and more popular among suppliers of overclocker-friendly DDR3 SDRAM and can now be found in completely diverse products. For example, G.Skill and GeIL manage to build DDR3-2400 modules out of such chips, so this offer from Kingston may turn out highly appealing for overclockers.
The 1866MHz Genesis kit supports XMP and even has not one but two profiles. The first one describes the specified configuration whereas the second one allows using the modules in an in-between mode: DDR3-1600 with timings of 9-9-9-27 and voltage of 1.65 volts. The dual XMP profile is a typical feature of many Kingston products. This manufacturer gives you flexibility of choice even when it comes to automatic memory subsystem configuring.
The KHX1866C9D3K2/8GX kit is factory-tested in a faster mode, DDR3-1866. The high quality and full compliance with the specs can also be testified by us as we've been using such modules for half a year in our CPU tests and have had no problems with them. Most importantly, the low heatsinks allow easily installing these modules into any system case, both full-size cases with a massive CPU cooler and compact mini-ITX enclosures.
Like the rest of the HyperX series, the KHX1866C9D3K2/8GX kit comes with a lifetime warranty.
Now let’s take a look at the flagship T1 subseries of the HyperX series of Kingston memory modules. Rated for extremely high operating frequencies, T1 modules feature high-efficiency heatsinks that have a large heat dissipation area.
Well, talking about the specific product, the Kingston HyperX T1 KHX1866C9D3T1K2/8GX kit cannot boast extraordinary specs. Being one of the junior models in the HyperX T1 series, it is rated for DDR3-1866 mode, just like the above-discussed HyperX Genesis KHX1866C9D3K2/8GX.
The label on the memory sticks you can see in the photo reads “KHX18C9T1K4/16X”, meaning that these modules used to be part of a quad-channel kit with a total capacity of 16 gigabytes. However, the kit was later transformed into two dual-channel kits, therefore we refer to it as “KHX1866C9D3T1K2/8GX”. There is absolutely no difference between DDR3-1866 modules of the T1 series that are part of dual- and quad-channel kits, so this substitution is justifiable.
Here are the official specifications of the Kingston HyperX T1 KHX1866C9D3T1K2/8GX memory kit:
It is easy to see that the HyperX T1 KHX1866C9D3T1K2/8GX has the same specs as the HyperX Genesis KHX1866C9D3K2/8GX, so their prices are comparable as well. The T1 series kit is just a couple of dollars more expensive.
So, it is not the specs but other factors that differentiate the mentioned products. First of all, the T1 kit features more advanced cooling than the simple, even though cute-looking, Genesis heatsinks. The comb-shaped aluminum heatsinks of the T1 kit have a number of grooves in their surface, so the total heat dissipation area is much larger compared to that of the Genesis kit. Obviously, they are going to be much more efficient at cooling DDR3 SDRAM chips. Like the Genesis heatsinks, the T1 ones are painted blue and bear Kingston and HyperX logos.
It goes without saying that the T1 series cooling is highly efficient, yet we generally dislike such heatsinks because they are tall (the T1 heatsinks increase the height of the memory modules from the standard 30 to 61 millimeters, for example) and may provoke some problems as you're assembling your system. They may conflict with CPU coolers, preventing you from installing a high-efficiency large cooler on your CPU. Such modules can only be inserted into the DIMM slot which is the closest to the CPU if the latter’s cooler is compact, like the boxed one. And the irony of the situation is that there is no real need for such cooling because DDR3 SDRAM is manufactured on progressive technologies and has a low level of heat dissipation.
There is one more difference between the HyperX T1 KHX1866C9D3T1K2/8GX and the HyperX Genesis KHX1866C9D3K2/8GX. It is about the memory chips they use. The heatsinks of the T1 kit rather unexpectedly conceal Hynix H5TC2G83CFR-H9A chips which are actually classified as DDR3L. It means that these chips are supposed to work at a voltage of 1.35 rather than at 1.65 volts as set by Kingston. The increased voltage is the only way to make such chips work at 1866 MHz.
Thus, the HyperX T1 KHX1866C9D3T1K2/8GX and the HyperX Genesis KHX1866C9D3K2/8GX are two quite different products inside, but it only shows up in overclocking experiments. The specs and XMP profiles of these kits coincide. In both cases we have two XMP profiles: DDR3-1866 mode with 9-11-9-27 timings and DDR3-1600 with 9-9-9-27 timings.
Like the rest of the HyperX series, this kit is factory-tested (at 1866 MHz with the default timings) and comes with a lifetime warranty.
Of course, there are HyperX T1 products faster than DDR3-1866. One example is the 8GB dual-channel kit HyperX T1 KHX21C11T1K2/8X which consists of two sticks rated for DDR3-2133.
Its specs follow below:
As you can see, it wasn't easy for Kingston to make the next 266MHz step up. The clock rate is higher but the timings are higher, too. On the other hand, timings are known to have a minimum effect on the performance of modern platforms, so the HyperX T1 KHX21C11T1K2/8X is anyway going to be faster than the above-discussed DDR3-1866 kits, let alone DDR3-1600 ones.
Fortunately, Kingston didn’t consider the overcoming of the 2GHz barrier a good reason to raise the price much higher. The HyperX T1 series products rated for DDR3-2133 and DDR3-1866 differ in price by a mere $3.
Well, this might be expected just because there are a lot of indications of a close relation between these two memory kits. There is no ground for a serious difference in price. Particularly, it is just not easy to tell the DDR3 KHX21C11T1K2/8X kit from the KHX1866C9D3T1K2/8GX. Both are covered with identical heatsinks which are the same color and shape. This isn’t good news, though, because the HyperX T1 heatsinks are excessively large and may cause some assembly-related problems.
The components used for building the KHX21C11T1K2/8X modules are interesting as they look exactly like those of the DDR3-1866 kit from the HyperX T1 series. The PCB design and the marking on the memory chips are identical. Kingston seems to have found the Hynix H5TC2G83CFR-H9A chips a very versatile solution. By simply increasing the voltage of these DDR3L chips and sorting them out according to their frequency potential, Kingston has managed to build a rather extensive product line.
The KHX21C11T1K2/8X kit has two XMP profiles. One of them contains the specified parameters and another describes a failsafe DDR3-1600 mode with 9-9-9-27 timings.
Take note that the profile’s voltage for the 2133MHz clock rate is 1.6 rather than 1.65 volts. It is unclear whether the specs or the XMP profile is incorrect, especially as we had no problems running these modules at either voltage.
The last dual-channel 8GB memory kit we are going to cover in this review is Kingston’s HyperX T1 KHX24C11T1K2/8X, the company’s fastest memory right now. It is rated for DDR3-2400. Kingston has already announced DDR3-2666 SDRAM, but it hasn’t yet made it to the shops. So, if you need something faster than DDR3-2400, you have to look at other brands’ offers.
Well, the KHX24C11T1K2/8X kit is itself a rather narrowly-targeted product that may only be interesting for enthusiasts willing to pay anything for even a minor increase in performance. So, we don’t think Kingston’s DDR3-2400 memory will become a bestseller.
Here are the official specs of the Kingston HyperX T1 KHX24C11T1K2/8X kit:
So, Kingston engineers reach the high frequency by relaxing the tRCD and tRP timings to their maximums. Otherwise, the flagship offer doesn’t differ from the rest of the HyperX T1 series.
This time around we don’t want to express our concerns about the height of the heatsink. The heatsink is still very tall, but at least it is justifiable here. The heat dissipation of the KHX24C11T1K2/8X modules is 2.4 watts which is about 1 watt higher than that of the other HyperX series modules.
Below the heatsinks of Kingston's overclocker-friendly DDR3-2400 SDRAM we find the familiar H5TC2G83CFR-H9A chips which are actually positioned by their maker, SK Hynix, as DDR3L-1333 SDRAM with a voltage of 1.35 volts and CAS Latency 9. So, it turns out that all the new modules from the HyperX T1 series we are talking about in this review are in fact identical. The difference boils down to how they have passed factory testing. We can expect every HyperX T1 series product to have the same overclocking potential, yet for example DDR3-1866 memory is not guaranteed to work as DDR3-2400. We’ll check this out shortly, though.
Of course, the XMP profile of the DDR3-2400 kit contains appropriate settings for that operating mode. Besides it, there is another profile that describes DDR3-2133 mode with timings of 11-12-11-30.
Otherwise, the DDR3-2400 modules are a typical Kingston product compliant with the company’s quality assurance standards. They are factory-tested at 2400 MHz on ASUS P8Z77-V Deluxe and Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H mainboards with Core 3000 series CPUs. They come with a lifetime warranty.
We are going to test Kingston memory kits in an LGA 2011 system built on Asus P8Z77-V Deluxe mainboard based on the newest Intel Z77 Express chipset. Since overclocking memory modules are primarily purchased by enthusiasts, we also used Intel Core i5-3570K processor overclocked to 4.5 GHz.
As a result, the complete list of hardware and software components in our testbed looked as follows:
As we showed in our special review of the memory controller in modern LGA1155 CPUs, it is the operating frequency of dual-channel memory kits that has the biggest effect on the platform's performance. Therefore, increasing it above standard levels is the key feature of overclocker-friendly memory kits that helps ensure an additional performance boost.
Kingston’s memory looks promising in this respect. The different HyperX T1 series products use the same chips up to a clock rate of 2400 MHz, and the HyperX Genesis employs chips which are highly regarded by overclockers, too. Kingston’s leading position on the market of enthusiast-targeted memory should also be taken into account. The company is known to ensure a large safety margin for its products, so we can expect that the memory kits we've got today are actually capable of working at much higher clock rates than written in their specs.
Here’s our algorithm of testing the overclocking potential of DDR3 SDRAM:
The stability of the memory subsystem is verified by 10 runs of LinX 0.6.4 AVX Edition using the whole memory amount and by an additional 1-hour-long check with Memtest86+ v4.20.
The slowest product in this review (rated for DDR3-1600) overclocks rather well. Although based on Micron D9PFJ chips, which are not valued by overclockers much, the KHX1600C9D3K2/8G kit was stable after an impressive 533MHz increase in frequency.
Thus, this memory worked as DDR3-2133, but with not-very-aggressive timings. The 11-12-10-33-1N timings are quite typical of memory modules working at clock rates above 2 GHz, though.
The fastest product in the HyperX Genesis series was found to have lower overclocking potential. This is quite a surprise since the KHX1866C9D3K2/8GX modules employ overclocker-friendly Hynix H5TQ2G83BFR-H9C chips, but the fact is this kit was unstable if we increased its clock rate by more than 266 MHz.
So, the best result is DDR3-2133 mode with timings of 11-12-11-33-1N.
Similar to the KHX1866C9D3K2/8GX in terms of specs, the HyperX T1 KHX1866C9D3T1K2/8GX modules behave absolutely differently in our tests. As opposed to their Genesis counterparts, they can work blamelessly in the fast DDR3-2400 mode.
Well, that’s not surprising, really. All HyperX T1 series modules, including the DDR3-1866, DDR3-2133 and DDR3-2400 ones, are based on identical memory chips. Thus, the ability of the KHX1866C9D3T1K2/8GX kit to work at 2400 MHz with timings of 11-13-12-33-1N is something that can be expected by those users who want to save some money.
The DDR3-2133 kit from the HyperX T1 series is identical in its components to the other T1 products. That’s why the HyperX T1 KHX21C11T1K2/8X kit did exactly like the HyperX T1 KHX1866C9D3T1K2/8GX in our tests.
The DDR3-2400 mode with timings of 11-13-12-35-1N looks impressive but we shouldn’t forget that this is a mere 266 MHz above the modules’ rated speed.
This is the flagship HyperX series product and the highest-frequency offer from Kingston currently. Hopefully, this DDR3-2400 kit can amaze us in one way or another…
Unfortunately, like the rest of the HyperX T1 series, the KHX24C11T1K2/8X can only work at 2400 MHz. This frequency was good with the previous kits but only equals the rated clock rate of this one. These modules cannot work at clock rates above 2400 MHz, even as DDR3-2600. Thus, the outcome of our overclocking experiments with the KHX24C11T1K2/8X kit is just laughable as we only managed to reduce one timing (tRP) by one cycle.
Let's sum up our overclocking results in the following table:
In our performance tests we checked out the speed of our LGA1155 platform with different dual-channel memory kits. Each kit was tested in two modes: 1) automatic configuring (every timing is set by the mainboard's BIOS according to the XMP data, the only exception being the HyperX Genesis KHX1600C9D3K2/8G kit which doesn’t support XMP, so we had to manually set it up according to its specs) and 2) highest clock rates and best timings (as achieved in our overclocking tests above) set up manually in the mainboard’s BIOS.
First of all we want to run synthetic benchmarks of memory bandwidth and latency. We will use the MaxxMEM2 suite which can run both in single- and multithreaded mode.
The clock rate of DDR3 SDRAM does affect memory subsystem parameters on Ivy Bridge platforms. For example, increasing the clock rate of the Kingston kits by 533 MHz helps improve the practical bandwidth and latency by 8-10% with single-threaded access. The speed of multi-threaded access grows up even more, by 20-25%.
It seems that overclocking your memory subsystem and purchasing high-speed DDR3 SDRAM makes some sense, but don’t forget that the diagram is based on synthetic benchmarks. We don't usually see such a sharp difference in real-life applications. Anyway, we guess we need to take a look at some real tasks that make a heavy use of system memory.
In some usage scenarios high-speed overclocker-friendly memory can indeed be useful, especially if it isn't much more expensive than ordinary products. Memory subsystem parameters can affect the speed of gaming applications, too.
Of course, a game's frame rate depends on the graphics subsystem performance in the first place. However, memory frequency is an important factor here. When high, it can help you increase your gaming PC's performance by a few percent. So, choosing the right memory is important. And the most important factor about DDR3 SDRAM is its clock rate.
We’ve already given our general recommendations on choosing system memory for the LGA1155 platform. The rational approach is in looking for the most optimal product in terms of the frequency/price ratio. This is especially important for Ivy Bridge CPUs that allow setting high DDR3 SDRAM clock rates which were not possible even with overclocker-targeted systems of the previous generation. As a result, the range of DDR3 SDRAM offered for LGA1155 systems has been extended, increasing the gap between configurations with slow and fast memory.
Particularly, Kingston, whose overclocker-friendly dual-channel 8GB memory kits we’ve discussed today, offers DDR3 SDRAM kits ranging in rated clock rate from 1600 to 2400 MHz. Taking the pricing into account, we guess that the most interesting offers from Kingston are those rated for up to 2133 MHz. The higher-speed memory kits are considerably more expensive. The HyperX T1 KHX21C11T1K2/8X and the HyperX Genesis KHX1866C9D3K2/8GX seem to be the most interesting to us. The former is rated for DDR3-2133 mode but has poor timings and rather unhandy tall heatsinks whereas the latter lacks both these downsides but has a rated clock rate of only 1866 MHz.
Well, if you buy an overclocker-friendly memory kit, you may want to use it at nonstandard settings. Kingston’s products support that. Most of the DDR3 SDRAM modules covered in this review can be easily overclocked by 266 or even 533 MHz. That’s why we’d recommend the DDR3-1866 SDRAM HyperX T1 KHX1866C9D3T1K2/8GX kit for its substantial overclocking potential. Based on the same memory chips as the fastest product from Kingston, it can be accelerated up to DDR3-2400 mode. If it were not for the clumsy T1 heatsinks, the HyperX T1 KHX1866C9D3T1K2/8GX would be one of the best dual-channel DDR3 SDRAM kits available on the market.