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Review: Corsair DDR3-1,600MHz: worth the premium over DDR2?

by Tarinder Sandhu on 6 October 2008, 08:37

Tags: XMS3 DDR3-1,600, Corsair

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A bit of background

A bit of background.

DDR3 is all about speed - getting information as quickly out of system RAM and fed to the CPU - thereby increasing overall performance.

Right now, DDR3 memory scales from 1,066MHz through to just a touch over 2,000MHz, with the faster modules using relaxed latencies to hit the quoted speeds.

Used exclusively on Intel desktop processor-based chipsets, high-speed DDR3 doesn't make a whole bunch of sense, knowing how limited the current memory-to-CPU route, front-side bus (FSB), is.

For example, using a dual- or quad-core processor running off a 1,333MHz FSB means that it can handle around 10.6GB/s of memory bandwidth per second. Now consider that a dual-channel pack of DDR3-1,333MHz can, potentially, deliver exactly double that, and you begin to see how much goes to waste. This is precisely the reason why low-latency, cheap-as-chips (ho, ho, ho) DDR2 still does well in performance terms.

Intel's Core i7 processor, released in a couple of months, gets rid of the archaic FSB and replaces with a tri-channel integrated memory controller - which is DDR3-only - along with a dedicated link to the system RAM. It's able to harness around 25.6GB/s of bandwidth, finally putting the virtues of DDR3 to good use.

Still, today, there's nothing stopping the adventurous enthusiast from buying a mid-range CPU, ratcheting up the FSB to increase overall clockspeed, and pushing more memory bandwidth through the pipe to the processor. As a simple-to-understand rule, more bandwidth is always better.

Corsair's DDR3-1,600

Corsair splits its line of DDR3 modules between performance XMS3 (DHX) and crazy-ass DOMINATOR sets. The former covers speeds up to 1,600MHz and the latter scales all the way up to 2,133MHz, and all kits are available in dual-module configuration.

Confusing things a little, there are a total of eight DDR3-1,600MHz kits on offer, split equally over 2GB (2x 1GB) and 4GB (2x 2GB) packs.

Each capacity has a regular pack with modules set to 9-9-9-24 latencies. Then there's a set with identical timings but with NVIDIA's EPP2.0 (SLI-ready) pre-programmed in. On compliant motherboards this essentially sets the clockspeed, timings and voltage parameters without the user having to do so.

Further, two reduced-latency sets are available, sporting 7-7-7-20 timings for better performance. Each set is available with EPP2.0 or Intel's XMP - analogous to EPP2.0, in the main - although, in practice, there is room on the modules to have both profiles co-exist: it's just a matter of branding.