EVEN WITH the somewhat slow - due to lack of capacity need - switch to 2Gbit memory chips that enable 4GB DIMMs, the memory module scene wasn't exactly exciting this past half year. There were no major performance breakthroughs in bandwidth or latency, and the Intel Sandy Bridge processor line still uses basically the same memory frequencies as its predecessors. Also, many of the real high speed choices, like the Geil Evo modules used in my initial Sandy Bridge review, were the 2GB DIMM grade, not 4GB. So, you could choose just speed or capacity, but not both.
Gskill, one of the Taiwanese memory vendors that focused on utmost performance from the early days, is also among the first to launch a module kit that combines both speed and capacity, in addition to Sandy Bridge generation matching. Here I had a quick look at its RipjawsX 8GB PC17000 DDR3-2133 memory kit.
With red coloured heat spreaders, a shiny sticker and slight fins above, the modules look just like any other gaming DIMMs, there's nothing to really differentiate them in any way. The fins are, luckily, not too high, so the modules can easily fit, even under heat sinks or in more cramped configurations. With the declared 9-11-9-28 latency settings, this RipjawsX edition has timings that would already be considered quite decent for a 4GB two DIMM kit, but are top of the class for any 8GB dual DIMM kit.
I ran the modules on a Gigabyte P67-UD5 mainboard, the variety with the 'old' chipset without the SATA fix, and using the Intel Core i7 2600K Sandy Bridge processor. This initial run focused on the memory bandwidth and latency using the Sisoft Sandra 2011 benchmark suite, and was already run before using the Geil Evo kits for the Sandy Bridge review.
Here are the results at 1600MHz and 2133MHz frequencies.
Integer GB/sec 20.8 21.7
Floating-point GB/sec 20.9 21.8
Latency random 52ns 56ns
As you can see, at both 1600 and 2133 speed settings, the numbers are impressive, matching those of top grade 4GB kits. I managed to run the modules at the 1600 setting using 6-7-6-18 latency, again marvellous and the first time it's been seen on a kit using 4GB modules, as usually these would be at CL8-8-8 or such latencies. At the 2133 frequency, I could still do 9-10-9-26, a little better than the default, while staying at 1.65 volts. Even dropping the DIMM voltage to 1.63 volts kept the same settings stable, but not any voltage below that.
You could argue that having this much memory even in a high end PC isn't really useful, however there are many usage scenarios these days that do benefit from lots of RAM. Even games are increasingly becoming 64-bit, coded for larger memory support, so it's not just for multimedia, engineering and such.
This edition of Gskill RipjawsX memory is the first DIMM we've seen to combine high capacity and top performance, both in bandwidth and good latency, enabling 16GB of very high bandwidth RAM on the current quad core Sandy Bridge, and 32GB on the quad channel octo core Sandy Bridge socket 2011 processors coming later in the year. And, if you then have two of those in a dual CPU setup, how about up to 64GB of DDR3-2133 RAM across eight channels on a single board? With these and similar modules, you can. µ
Combining the best of speed and capacity in one solution.
If you want four modules and 16GB of ultrafast RAM like this, it's going to cost you dearly.
If you get eight of these for 32GB with the coming octo-core chips, it'll cost as much as the CPU itself.