Memory Guide

Evolution of Memory Performance: A DDR3 Story

Evolution of Memory Performance: A DDR3 Story



Testing Methodologies and Setup

DDR3 vs. DDR2

DDR2 has gone a long way beyond JEDEC specifications not only with bandwidth and latency improvements, but also on the chipset level where new technologies have surfaced specifically to take advantage of these high-speed memory modules. For this article, DDR3 memory performance will be compared to DDR2 running on the three most prominent Intel LGA775 memory controllers today. These are the new Intel P35, its predecessor, the Intel P965 Express and the competitor, NVIDIA's nForce 680i SLI. The Intel P35 and P965 comparisons are to highlight chipset generation improvements, but the main feature to look out for is the nForce 680i SLI, which is widely known to have the better memory controller.

For DDR3, we will be running DDR3-1066 to match current processor technologies with the standard 1066MHz (266MHz base) FSB. DDR3-1333 will also be tested, but since 1333MHz FSB processors have yet to be released, the only way to set the ASUS P5K3 Deluxe to a DDR3-1333 divider is to overclock the board to run at 1333MHz (333MHz base). To compensate for the higher FSB, CPU multipliers have to be reduced. However, do note that processor speeds will not match 1:1 for all test systems. The Core 2 Extreme X6800 operates by default at 2.93MHz (266x11). When overclocked for DDR3-1333 testing, the processor would be operating at 3GHz (333x9). It is important to note that for all DDR3 tests above DDR3-1066, performance improvements are contributed by the overall system bus increase and not only the memory.

A little confusing to explain we know, but to shorten it, we will test both DDR2-1066 timings at FSB 1066 for current processors as well DDR3-1333 at DDR3-1333 (which can be used as a gauge for the future scenario when Intel officially launches their 1333MHz FSB processors).


Test Setup

The motherboard used in this article to benchmark DDR3 memory is the ASUS P5K3 Deluxe. The P5K3 Deluxe is the DDR3 variant of the DDR2-only P5K Deluxe. Since we've already done a preview as well as a full review of the P5K Deluxe before (which you can check out here ), there is no need to go further into the board details. For comparisons, we will use the P5K Deluxe as the basis for the Intel P35 DDR2 performance. Because of this, there is a two-fold purpose to this article, the evaluation of DDR3 technology improvements over DDR2 as well as the performance review of the ASUS P5K3 Deluxe compared to the P5K Deluxe.

Performance of DDR2 on the Intel P965 and NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI chipsets will be derived from reference boards. All test bed configuration options are listed below and used for all tests unless otherwise noted:-

  • Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 processor (2.93GHz)
  • 2 x 1GB Kingston HyperX DDR2-800 @ 4-4-12 CAS 4.0
  • 2 x 1GB Kingston HyperX DDR3-1066 @ 1066MHz FSB, 7-7-20 CAS 7.0
  • 2 x 1GB Kingston HyperX DDR3-1333 @ 1333MHz FSB, 9-9-25 CAS 9.0
  • Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 200GB SATA hard disk drive (one single NTFS partition)
  • MSI GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB - with ForceWare 158.22 drivers
  • Intel INF 8.3.1.1013 and AHCI 7.5.0.1017 driver set (Intel P965 and P35 only)
  • NVIDIA nForce 9.53 driver set (NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI only)
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2 (and DirectX 9.0c)


Benchmarks

The following benchmarks are used in this article for memory and platform performance comparisons:-

  • BAPco SYSmark 2004
  • Futuremark PCMark05
  • SPECviewperf 9.0
  • Futuremark 3DMark06
  • AquaMark3