Don't read DDR2's eulogy just yet, the last generation memory standard still has some life left. Citing un-named motherboard makers, DigiTimes says the DDR3 generation won't fully take hold until sometime in 2010.
AMD and Intel were both expected to push DDR3-only platforms in 2009, but neither one is ready to fully commit. For Intel's part, DigiTimes claims demand for its Core i7 processors and X58 chipsets hasn't yet met expectations, prompting the chip maker t postpone its DDR3-only 5-series chipsets until much later in the year, likely around September.
Rival chip maker AMD isn't in a position to push DDR3-only platforms either, but it has more to do with technical difficulties than less-than-expected demand, says DigiTimes. According to the report, the struggling chip maker hasn't yet achieved full stability and compatibility with the DDR3-controller that comes integrated in the company's AM3-based processors.
Meanwhile, the memory market continues to struggle, resulting in some tantalizing DDR2 and DDR3 prices all around. A 4GB DDR2-1066 kit can now be bought for under $50, or half that if willing to play the mail-in-rebate game. A 4GB DDR3-1333 kit runs a bit higher at around $70 and up, or around $150 for a 6GB triple channel kit. Kind of makes you sick to think back on that enthusiast 2GB DDR2 kit you paid over $200 for just a couple of short years ago.
The advent of triple channel memory has opened the door to a whole new world of marketing jargon, including the latest windy kit from G.Skill dubbed 'Perfect Storm.'
Like A-Data's recently announced DDR3-2133X kit, G.Skill's Perfect Storm modules come with a funktastic looking two-fan active air cooling solution with blue LEDs, only G.Skill's kit calls for a much less frightening 1.65V compared to A-Data's 2.05V - 2.15V.
The 6-layer Perfect Storm series tout 7-8-7-20, 2T memory timings at DDR3-2000 (PC3-16000), and like all tri-channel modules are designed for Intel's X58 platform. G.Skill also claims "a rigorous, 100 percent hand-tested regime" for its new memory, which, in theory, means the kit should work out of the box with minimal futzing in the BIOS for those sometimes elusive compatibility settings.
G.Skill says its Perfect Storm series will be offered in both 3GB (3x1GB) and 6GB (3x2GB) capacities. No word yet on pricing or availability.
Its official name is Core 2 CrossFire DDR3 Gaming System, but you can just call it the Quad Meister or Quaderino, if you’re into the brevity thing. What else could you possibly call a PC equipped with two ATI Radeon 4870 X2 cards (quad GPU cores), four Velociraptors (quad hard drives) and an overclocked Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 (uhh, quad cores)? Maybe we’re stretching here, but our nickname is certainly sexier than the PC’s official moniker.
OCZ joins a growing number of memory makers who have released high frequency triple channel DDR3 kits with the company's new Blade series. So far only announced in 6GB capacity, OCZ's tri-channel DDR3-2000 boasts 7-8-7-20 timings at 1.65V, cooled by a redesigned "pure aluminum heatsink" and backed by a lifetime warranty.
"Using a triple channel configuration custom tailored towards Intel’s Core i7 platform, the latest OCZ Blade Series kits epitomize the pinnacle of memory technology by delivering 2000MHz data rate for an available bandwidth of 35GB/sec to satisfy even the most data-hungry processor in the current marketplace," commented Dr. Michael Schuette, VP of Technology Development at OCZ.
OCZ says its new Blade 2000 modules will be shown at CES next month before being made available shortly afterwards. The company also claims each Blade 2000 kit is 100 percent hand tested for quality assurance and compatibility with Intel's Core i7 platform.
Enthusiasts looking to piece together a high end system probably don't even have A-Data on their radar, a company best known for offering budget priced modules designed for general purpose computing. Perhaps looking to make new friends among overclocking circles, A-Data this week launched its XPG DDR3-2133X v2.0 memory in both dual- and tri-channel form.
As a tri-channel kit, DDR3-2133 ranks as the highest frequency currently available. Even more impressive, it's available in both 3GB (3x1GB) and 6GB (3x2GB) configurations, not just 3GB. It looks as though some concessions have to be made in order to reach 2133MHz in tri-channel form, as both kits run comparatively loose at 10-10-10-30 and require between 2.05V - 2.15V.
In order to accommodate the high voltage requirement, the new kit comes with a dual-fan heatsink for active cooling. The dual-fan cooler also adds a touch of bling with a pair of blue LEDs.
Late last week Team Group launched 3GB (3x1GB) and 6GB (3x2GB) capacity kits in DDR3-1333, DDR3-1600, and DDR3-1866 form. Team Group wasn't the first to offer tri-channel memory kits for Intel's new Core i7 platform, but for the time being, the company is claiming it has the "market-fastest" modules around
DDR3-1333, 7-7-7-21-2T, 1.5V-1.6V
DDR3-1600, 8-8-8-24-2T, 1.65V
DDR3-1866, 9-9-9-24-2T, 1.65V
It's worth noting that at least one other memory company offers tri-channel memory rated at DDR3-1866. Corsair's high frequency kit lists the same latency timings and voltage requirement as Team Group's does, but this doesn't necessarily contradict the company's 'market-fastest' claim. Team Group's Xtreem DDR3-1866 memory does qualify as the highest frequency kits yet available, they're just not alone at the top.
Team Group, a company not as widely known in casual circles as some of the more commonly marketed brands, often targets the overclocking crowd. The company touts an extensive binning process on its high performance RAM, requiring that all modules pass a 24-hour burn-in test on "major overclocking motherboards from Asus and Gigabyte."
So much for boasting the 'market-fastest' tri-channel kit. That distinction belongs to Kingston, who's tri-channel DDR3-2000 kit was released on October 29, 2008.
One of the concerns in the transition to Core i7-based platforms was how Intel's new chips would fare with DDR3 memory exceeding 1.65V. Early reports warned that the higher voltage kits might potentially pose a risk to the processor, prompting memory makers to focus on triple-channel kits with lower voltage than their dual-channel counterparts. But voltage restrictions could become even less of a concern now that Elpida has completed its development of a 50nm process DDR3 SDRAM.
Elpida claims its new DRAM features the lowest power consumption in the industry, requiring as little as 1.2V, making them good candidates for eco-conscious server environments and data centers. The 2.5Gbps-capable chips can also operate at 1.5V and Elpida says initial applications will include high-end desktops.
Mass production of the 50nm chips is scheduled to being in Q1 2009.
Dual-channel memory might not be dead, but Intel's Core i7 platform has kicked off the era of triple-channel memory kits and most manufacturers have already jumped on board. Enter Mushkin, who not only is making tri-channel DDR3 kits available, but has launched 16 different models ranging in speed from 1066MHz to 1600MHz.
998674 – 3GB (3x1GB) XP3-10666 6-6-6-18 1.65V
998675 – 6GB (3x2GB) XP3-10666 6-6-6-18 1.65V
998676 – 3GB (3x1GB) HP3-10666 7-7-7-20 1.5-1.6V
998677 – 6GB (3x2GB) HP3-10666 7-7-7-20 1.5-1.6V
998583 – 3GB (3x1GB) EM3-10666 9-9-9-24 1.5V
998585 – 6GB (3x2GB) EM3-10666 9-9-9-24 1.5V
998678 – 3GB (3x1GB) XP3-12800 7-8-7-20 1.65V
998679 – 6GB (3x2GB) XP3-12800 7-8-7-20 1.65V
998680 – 3GB (3x1GB) XP3-12800 8-8-8-24 1.6-1.65V
998681 – 6GB (3x2GB) XP3-12800 8-8-8-24 1.6-1.65V
998658 – 3GB (3x1GB) HP3-12800 9-9-9-27 1.5-1.6V
998659 – 6GB (3x2GB) HP3-12800 9-9-9-27 1.5-1.6V
998682 – 3GB (3x1GB) HP3-8500 6-6-6-18 1.5-1.6V
998683 – 6GB (3x2GB) HP3-8500 6-6-6-18 1.5-1.6V
998570 – 3GB (3x1GB) EM3-8500 7-7-7-20 1.5V
998571 – 6GB (3x2GB) EM3-8500 7-7-7-20 1.5V
"We’ve worked diligently to create parts for the Core i7 platform that push specifications to unprecedented levels while maintaining the high quality and reliability standards of our existing products," said Brian Flood, director of product development for Mushkin. "Our triple-pack customers will be rewarded with the utmost reliability from our standard rated products, and greatly increased performance from our high performance line."
Mushkin claims that each kit is hand-tested beyond its rated specification, suggesting at least a modicum of overclocking headroom. Each of the 16 kits also come bearing Mushkin's FrostByte heatspreader.
Intel's Core i7 release hasn't just changed the processor game, it's also ushered in a new era of memory choices. Up until Core i7, power users found themselves pondering whether to slap a 2GB or 4GB kit of RAM into their system, but that was before triple-channel memory. Now the choice (for upgraders and new builders) comes down to 3GB or 6GB, and Corsair looks to shed some light on the decision by performing some in-house benchmarking.
The tests, which were performed using an Asus P6T Deluxe motherboard, Core i7-965 Extreme Edition CPU, two Nvidia 280 GTX videocards in SLI, and two Seagate 320GB 7200.10 hard drives in a RAID 0 array, heavily favored the 6GB kit. Corsair's results were sometimes significant, with the minimum frame rate in World of Conflict jumping by 50 percent when upgrading from 3GB to 6GB, and netting over a 3-fold increase in Crysis Warhead. Even game loading times saw a boost.
"The analysis shows that 3GB of system memory is insufficient to run modern games, such as Warhammer Online and Crysis Warhead, resulting in poor performance," Corsair wrote (PDF). "The lack of memory when using 3GB of RAM results in increased hard disk drive access, sometimes called thrashing. This causes in-game stuttering, which reduces the minimum frame rate."
This isn't the first time Corsair has released internal benchmarks. Previously, the memory maker found that upgrading from 2GB to 4GB provided "significant performance benefits." This time around, Corsair says "the message to enthusiasts who are looking to build a Core i7 system for gaming is clear - installing 6GB of memory will provide significantly higher frame rates and a considerably smoother gaming experience."
Thoughts on Corsair's testing methodology or results? Hit the jump and let us know.
With Intel's Core i7 launch now less than a month away, several memory vendors are readying three-packs of RAM in anticipation of the new platform's triple-channel memory support. Companies like Corsair, OCZ, and G.Skill have all jumped on board, but Kingston looks to leapfrog to the front of the pack as the first, and so far only company to release triple-channel memory clocked at 2GHz.
"Kingston is excited to bring the fastest DDR3 triple-channel memory products to market as we are the first to deliver 2000MHz gaming kits of three with Intel's reduced voltage," said Mark Tekunoff, senior technology manager at Kingston. "All of our triple-channel kits can be overclocked manually or by using XMP-ready profiles."
Kingston's triple channel memory kits will run the gamut from the aforementioned 2GHz enthusiast HyperX range all the way down to the company's budget ValueRAM lineup: