The only piece of hardware that seems to be moving at the same pace as graphics card is memory and I've got the lucky job of testing both categories. It seems that every month we're seeing ATI or NVIDIA release a new graphics card that is faster than the last or offers better value.
On the other side of the fence, you've got performance memory companies like Corsair, G.Skill and others trying to constantly outperform each other with more speed and more aggressive timings. Like a graphics card, you need the right CPU to make use of these extremely fast modules, because as you can become CPU limited with a fast graphics card, a less overclockable CPU will also affect the maximum memory speed you can achieve.
I recently said that PC3-17600 is the new PC3-16000 when it comes to performance memory. Corsair is looking to change that today with PC3-18000 memory. Does the company have what it takes to shine? Well, yes, they've done so in the past many times, but today we'll find out if the light will also shine on these new Dominator GTX modules that have arrived.
The Packaging and Modules
While speed might be the name of Corsairs game here, fancy packaging isn't. Coming in some little white boxes, there's not a whole lot to the package; so little that we didn't even bother taking photos of it.
What it seems is that you order the PC3-18000 2GB module as a single piece. Want Tri-Chan? Order three. Dual Chan? Order two. Think you might want to get some extra cooling as well? - Just add that to the package.
All in all, it's not a bad idea; there's really nothing special between ordering a Tri-Chan kit or a Dual-Chan one. All it means is companies have to create separate packaging for the two and if one kit sells out, they have to start to repackage or simply not sell that size.
Having a look at the modules, there's nothing that we haven't seen before. Being part of the Dominator series, the kit carries with it the standard Dominator heatsink which is not only a really mean looking one, but also built extremely well.
As for the labeling, the kit is marked as a Dominator GT kit, but this new set of modules comes in under the new Dominator GTX name. At the moment there seems to be no evidence that Corsair will change the heatsink stickers to coincide with the GTX name, but this could change at any moment.
The standout point of these modules isn't the heatsink, though, or its name for that matter. Instead, it's the massive amount of MHz on offer at some very tidy looking timings. While you can see the important information in the picture above, we'll go into more detail on the speed and timings on the next page.
Finally, before we move on it's worth noting that Corsair sent across the Airflow fan that goes over the top of your modules. They recommend this for the PC3-18000 kit and we would do the same. Again, though, from the looks department this isn't anything we haven't seen before with the same fan being seen in other Dominator GT kits we've looked at.
PC3-18000 translates to a massive 2250MHz DDR which is to date the fastest memory kit we've looked at, outperforming the two recent PC3-17600 kits from G.Skill and A-DATA we saw recently which carry with them an already impressive 2200MHz DDR.
While we would tend to be wary of our system being able to achieve this massively high clock rate, we did have some luck overclocking a 2200MHz DDR kit to around 2250MHz DDR in the past. Since we knew our testbed was capable of those speeds, the only reason we wouldn't be able to achieve the rated speed today would be because of the Corsair modules.
The good news is that the Dominator GTX modules played extremely nice and getting to 2250MHz DDR (or 2258MHz to be exact) wasn't an issue at the default 8-8-8-24-2T timings.
You can see the validation here.
With that achieved with no real problems, as always we also took the time to see how overclocking went. Now, I have to be honest here. To say I expected anything over 2250MHz DDR would be a flat out lie; but it's my job and it was time to see what was going on with these modules.
You can see the validation here.
Slowly working our way up to 2300MHz DDR, we continued to boot into Windows and were able to run wPrime. Taking a bit more time and moving even more northward, we eventually found the sweet spot at a massive 104MHz DDR above its stock clock, giving us a total of 2354MHz DDR. This is just an insane number and we hope that when it comes to testing we see some performance improvements with the kit.
Important Editor Note: Our maximum overclocking result is the best result we managed in our limited time of testing the memory. Due to time constraints we weren't able to tweak the motherboard to the absolute maximum and find the highest possible FSB, as this could take days to find properly. We do however spend at least a few hours overclocking every motherboard to try and find the highest possible overclock in that time frame. You may or may not be able to overclock higher if you spend more time tweaking, or as new BIOS updates are released. "Burn-in" time might also come into play if you believe in that.
Test System Setup and wPrime
Test System Setup
Processor(s): Intel Core i7 860 @ Varies (See Graphs)
Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P (Supplied by Noctua)
Motherboard(s): ASROCK P55 Deluxe (Supplied by ASROCK)
Video Card: Gigabyte GTX 285 896MB (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Hard Disk(s): Western Digital 300GB Velicorapter (Supplied by Western Digital)
Operating System: Windows 7
Drivers: ForceWare 191.07
With some serious MHz on offer today, we'll be having a look at the PC3-18000 kit from Corsair in both its stock clock form of 2250MHz DDR and also its overclocked speed of 2354MHz DDR.
We'll be comparing these two setups against the PC3-17600 kits we looked at recently from G.Skill and A-DATA to see what an extra 50MHz DDR offers us, while also seeing what an extra 154MHz DDR does for us.
For exact timings and CPU speeds, refer to the graphs for each individual kit.
Let's get started!
Important Note: When modules are overclocked we adjust the BCLK which not only lets us fine tune the MHz out of a module, but in turn increases the overall CPU clock speed. While we always make the effort to include the BCLK and CPU Speed in our graphs, please just make sure that you make note of these when looking at the results. In some tests that don't purely test the memory speed, the extra MHz on offer from the CPU can increase the result. Of course it's worth noting that having faster memory gives you the ability to run your CPU at a higher speed, too.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.62
Developer Homepage: http://www.wprime.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.wprime.net/
wPrime uses a recursive call of Newton's method for estimating functions, with f(x)=x2-k, where k is the number we're sqrting, until Sgn(f(x)/f'(x)) does not equal that of the previous iteration, starting with an estimation of k/2. It then uses an iterative calling of the estimation method a set amount of times to increase the accuracy of the results. It then confirms that n(k)2=k to ensure the calculation was correct. It repeats this for all numbers from 1 to the requested maximum.
In wPrime you can see straight away that in the 1024M test the Corsair kit is closer to 200 seconds than the other two. When we look at the same kit at 2354MHz DDR, performance is just mind boggling, smashing that 200 second barrier.
Benchmarks - Everest Ultimate Edition
Version and / or Patch Used: Ultimate Edition
Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com/products/overview.php?pid=3&ps=UE&lang=en
Buy It Here
EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems. Furthermore, complete software, operating system and security information makes EVEREST Ultimate Edition a comprehensive system diagnostics tool that offers a total of 100 pages of information about your PC.
The graphs really speak for themselves here. We see a good jump in performance at 2250MHz DDR with the Corsair kit. At 2354MHz DDR performance again is just astonishing with the read speed exceeding 20,000 MB/s in bandwidth.
Benchmarks - SiSoft Sandra
Version and / or Patch Used: Professional Home
Developer Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.co.uk
Product Homepage: http://sisoftware.jaggedonline.com/index.php?location=home&a=TTA&lang=en
Buy It Here
SiSoft Sandra (System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is a synthetic Windows benchmark that features different tests used to evaluate different PC subsystems.
Sandra paints the same picture with the Corsair modules continuing to push out these huge numbers at 2250MHz DDR. As expected, the numbers become even greater when we move to 2354MHz DDR.
Benchmarks - Sciencemark
ScienceMark 2.0 is a mathematical program designed to stress the memory subsystems of both desktop/workstation and server environments to determine the read/write latency as well as the overall memory bandwidth available between the CPU and the memory controller.
At 2250MHz DDR not much separates the kits. Again, looking at that overclocked 2354MHz DDR setup we see the kit manages to break the 7 second and 25 second barrier.
Benchmarks - Far Cry 2
Far Cry 2
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.03
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com
Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com
Buy It Here
The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.
Looking at Far Cry 2 performance, you can see as we up the memory MHz which in turn has upped our CPU MHz, our minimum and average FPS improves. It's nothing major, but we see that the more MHz we get from our modules in turn lets us achieve more MHz from the CPU which offers us a bump in performance.
If you compare this to someone running the CPU at stock with 1333MHz DDR memory, the extra performance is extremely large.
The performance of these modules really speak for themselves. The problem is that PC3-16000 memory is already fast. PC3-17600 is even faster, but the PC3-18000 kit we have here from Corsair is simply insane. If PC3-18000 wasn't big enough, though, at the 2354MHz DDR clock we achieved, that number translates to PC3-18832.
What was so amazing about the modules when it came to overclocking was the simple fact that we were able to get so many more extra MHz while keeping the same 8-8-8-24 setup, which in itself is great.
We saw companies recently set the bar for performance memory at PC3-17600, but today Corsair has come out and raised that bar even higher and it's not for the simple reason that the kit is 50MHz DDR out of the box faster, but the fact that it's 50MHz DDR out of the box faster at the same timings; something we tend not to see at the launch of a new higher speed kit of RAM. More often than not, you would expect a 9-8-8-27 setup with companies eventually moving to an 8-8-8-24 one that we see from Corsair here today.
It's extremely hard to fault a kit that does the clock speeds it's supposed to out of the box. It becomes even harder to fault them when the same kit is able to smash past it's default clocks.
We could say that the $200 U.S. (https://shop.corsair.com/store/item_view.aspx?id=123550) a module price tag is ridiculous and for the most part we wouldn't be lying. But really, you need to step back for a second and realize you're talking about a kit that carries with it a clock rate of 2250MHz DDR at 8-8-8-24. While it's hardly going to scream value to most people, when it comes to overclockers and people who want the most out of their system, what price do you put on speed?
To buy these modules you need two things, deep pockets and more importantly components that are going to handle this kind of speed. The worst thing is you can't really know if you're going to be able to run this setup till you buy it. If you have confidence in your system and your skills, you won't look back.
This is an extremely fast kit that performs well and truly above expectations. It's hard to call a product perfect for the simple reason that something can always be improved, but honestly, this is getting close to perfection.
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