|Patriot Viper 6GB 1600MHz DDR3 Memory Kit|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Memory|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Thursday, 26 February 2009|
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Triple-Channel DDR3 Final Thoughts
Unlike DDR2 memory kits, which generally have a dependency on speed as well as latency, DDR3 reserves itself to performing better with lower latency kits than those of higher speed. The architecture between the two standards is quite different, as we've detailed in our DDR3 RAM: System Memory Technology Explained article. On top of these differences, DDR2 memory kits never made it out of dual-channel configurations and are not ready for triple-channel sets.
The new tri-channel configuration for the Intel Core i7 CPU & DX58SO X58 Platform certainly has its benefits, but some of the old traditions are lost in the new standard. Because of the high penalty for round trip cycles, latency offers a bigger performance incentive than clock speed. Sure, it's nice to reach 1800MHz or faster, but if it takes one or two extra cycles to generate that speed the benefits are lost. This essentially divides triple-channel memory kits into the following preference order:
Some of the faster kits we reviewed are not going to be something system builders and casual users should purchase for vanilla systems, since triple-channel clock speed will not impact real-world performance. Where you'll see high-speed kits come in handy is for overclocking, because they offer plenty of headroom for hardware enthusiasts and overclockers to take advantage of as they increase the processors speed. Of course, low latency memory kits offer the best all-around performance and can have more direct real-world benefits than higher clock speed.
As the Far Cry 2 benchmark tests have shown, in a popular game with realistic settings and hardware, the difference in low-speed triple-channel DDR3 and high-speed kits is barely more than 1 FPS. If you're a gamer looking for faster graphics, my advice is to invest in a better video card. If you're running an audio or video editing system, go for low-latency memory with faster storage drives. Ultimately, there just isn't an argument for faster RAM unless you need the headroom for overclocking.
And as for the decision between 3GB triple-channel DDR3 kits, and those of 6- or 12GB, the answer is much simpler. If you use a 32-bit Operating System such as Windows XP or Vista, you're limited to 4GB total. You might think that there's a 1GB gap between the 3GB supplied and the 4GB limit, but if you're using a video card with a large frame buffer, this amount gets added into the limit and fills the gap. If you're using a 64-bit Operating System, such as 64-bit Windows Vista, my advice is to use as much RAM as allowed by the motherboard.