AS DDR3 MEMORY gets more affordable this year, and Intel Nehalems with their integrated memory support for it start to show up, it will nudge closer to the mainstream.
Right now, DDR3-1800 and 1900 are the top-end bins on sale, and still a bit expensive - here we look at the top kits from two large memory module companies: the well known A-Data from Taiwan and even better known Kingston.
Kingston HyperX 1800 and A-Data Vitesta Extreme Edition 1900 have a lot in common: similarly sized, albeit differently coloured, heat spreaders, attractive design, and high certified running voltage, at least 2.0 V compared to DDR3's default 1.5 volts.
They do not go to the extreme with large heat spreaders and cooling fins like, say, Corsair Dominator or SuperTalent ProjectX. The HyperX is certified to CL9 at DDR2-1800 at 1.9 volts, while Vitesta states CL9 at DDR2-1900 at 2.05 - 2.15 volts. Can they do better, at least in the latency?
We ran both sets on the reference system, Asus Striker Extreme X38 board using a VapoChill LS supercooled Intel QX9770 quad core CPU - all running at 4.27GHz / FSB1708 this time. Since Kingston sent us two kits with four DIMMs, we also checked, for the first time, running four identical DDR3 DIMMs at high speed, two per channel, and how much speed sacrifice compared to a two-DIMM run has to be accomodated.
The holy grail, attempt to run both DIMM kits at ultrafast CL 6-6-6-12 at DDR2-1708, was very hard to achieve here. The usual maximum, CL 7-6-6-13, was fine for both DIMMs easily - at 1.88 V for A-Data and 1.9 V for Kingston, no big differences there. However, to get to CL6, we had to run the North Bridge at a mind-boggling 1.52 volts, and A-Data DIMMs at 2.12 volts - despite the North Bridge being watercooled, and A-Data supporting up to the 2.15 volt level, we was a bit uncomfortable running them at such voltages.
Nevertheless, we managed it - as long as you are OK with a watercooled North Bridge reaching nearly 50C, and DDR3 DIMMs starting to feel as hot as those " finger burner" FB-DIMM modules.
Kingston's DIMM's also managed the CL6 in this case at 2.12 V, but only for two module sets. It was impossible to get that done on the four module configuration. However, the "standard" 7-6-6-13 latency setup worked fine on both two and four-module setups fine with Kingston. The only changes necessary are slowing down command rate from CR1 to CR2 and adjusting voltage up to 1.92 volts. At that speed, all Sandra memory tests passed - 9.54 GB/s integer and 9.53 GB/s FP - and there were no crashes. No crashes as we mounted an extra two-inch 3,000 rpm fan right on them just in case - we recommend doing that for any 4-DIMM configuration, especially if overclocked.
In summary, both modules ran fairly fast - as my current boards don't allow FSB1900 or above stable runs with quad-core CPUs, we didn't test them at DDR3-1900 or such speed, however, once X48 and NForce 790i become more stable, there will be chance for that too.
The Good Consistent high performance, both latency and
The Bad Very high voltage needed to reach CL6 at high MHz, not practical for long term use at that setting
The Ugly Well, still expensive
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