|High-Speed DDR3 Review Series Performance|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Memory|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Saturday, 20 October 2007|
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DDR3: Testing in Progress...
Ultimately DDR3 offers a faster design which allows all hardware enthusiasts to take advantage of it. Current high-speed DDR3 memory doesn't offer any benefit when installed into computers running at the stock JEDEC standard speeds of 400 (800), 533 (1066), 666 (1333), and 800 (1600).
Instead, the new generation of DDR3 is meant to avoid a bottleneck between the CPU and the system memory; especially in highly overclocked scenarios. With the high-speed variety of DDR3, which presently includes everything beyond the highest 1333MHz JEDEC standard, you increase the Front Side Bus (FSB) and CPU clock speed without being forced to slow the system memory to remain stable. It should be noted that as of late October 2007 the JEDEC 1600MHz speed is still in draft in standard JESD79-3A, but once finalized high-speed DDR3 will include parts beyond this new speed.
System Memory is labeled with a new generation for each interval of Front Side Bus development. In terms of DDR, or double data rate memory, the first generation was designed for 100 MHz to 200 MHz speeds (DDR-200 to DDR-400). Later, DDR2 arrived and started production at 266 MHz (DDR2-533) and officially ended (by JEDEC standards) at 400 MHz (DDR2-800). This is where DDR3 begins, starting with 533 MHz (DDR-1066), and scale up to 800 MHz (DDR3-1600).
Each generation of DDR is more than just an update to the memory speed, it is also a more technologically advanced production process and a lower operating voltage and better heat dissipation. The previous generation of DDR2 is manufactured on a 110nm node, whereas the new DDR3 has receives a fab process shrink down to a 90nm node (although some use 80nm) with either 55/45nm prepared for later into 2008. Together, this all helps the hardware enthusiast reach higher clock speeds at the expense of higher latencies. This is why the new DDR3 generation of memory needs a significantly higher clock speed deliver better performance than the preceding generation of DDR2 technology.
In additional to the logically progressive changes, there are also improvements made to the architectural design of the memory. One particularly important change introduced with DDR3 is in the prefetch buffer: up from DDR2's four bits to an astounding eight bits per cycle. This translates to a full 100% increase in the prefetch payload; not just a small incremental improvement as there have been in the other area's.
DDR2-400 Memory is equal in performance to DDR-400, which is why it must operate at DDR2-667 speed to carry incentive. The same scenario is true with DDR3 when compared to DDR2. While in theory DDR2-1066 offers the same performance as DDR3-1066, this generally means that DDR3 requires a DDR3-1333 speed to show any benefit over DDR2-800. Memories within the same generation (DDR/DDR2/DDR3) are downwards compatible, meaning that if you have DDR3-1600 RAM, you can configure it to operate at 1066 and 1333 MHz speeds.
Unfortunately, without the proper chipset to support high-speed DDR3 memory, anything beyond DDR3-1333 (the fastest selectable memory multiplier setting with most motherboards) will be relegated to overclocking. Intel has designed the entire 3 Series of motherboards to be DDR3 compatible; but even though the G33, P35, X38, and the upcoming X48 chipsets all support the newer standard they are still encouraging DDR2 support. This is going to be a power struggle between standards until Intel launches yet another new Front Side Bus.
But aren't we forgetting someone? Oh, that's right, Advanced Micro Devices. These days it's almost as if AMD has been late to dinner so often they don't even get a table setting anymore. While little brother (AMD) may have made claims back in 2006 to support DDR3 in their products this year, they appear to eating their words as the move has been stalled until the last half of 2008 when they will likely introduce the 45nm AM3. Which is what brings about the purpose of this article... is it all worth it?
One of the nice benefits of owning a computer sales and service company is that I get to have my hands on a whole lot of inventory that I would never purchase for myself. The other benefit is that I get to make contact with many of the top names in the industry, and can often persuade them to lend us product for testing. Over the next several weeks, you can expect to see top-tier names like: Aenenon, Corsair, Crucial, GeIL, Kingston, Mushkin, OCZ, Patriot, Winchip, and Super Talent in our featured DDR3 reviews for this mega-comparison round-up. The list below is just the beginning...
So after weeks of collecting test samples, I am quite pleased to provide our esteemed readers with nothing less than the best assortment of DDR3 memory kits available. I would think that this is probably more than any other site has managed to collect and test at one time, so let's hope the effort is appreciated.
EDITORS NOTE: Benchmark Reviews has also published the article DDR3 RAM: System Memory Technology Explained