We're still working on providing detailed results, but one of the interesting aspects of the new Intel X38 chipset is that memory performance improves with X38 - but only with DDR3 memory. Improvements over P35 range from 3 to 5% with DDR3, but there are no real improvements in DDR2 performance compared to P35. It should be clear to enthusiasts at this point that DDR3 appears to offer more potential for high performance than DDR2. This is certainly borne out by the dramatic memory speed increases that have been achieved with DDR3 so quickly after introduction.

There are still early issues with X38 and it will take a while for the market to sort these out, but we do expect BIOS updates and potentially hardware revisions to fix the major issues in the near future. When that happens X38 will fill the position of top performer in the Intel chipset lineup, and DDR3 memory will be the memory of choice for best performance. Looking toward that end, what DDR3 memory is best for X38 and P35 based DDR3 motherboards?

Memory based on the exciting new Micron Z9 memory chips for DDR3 first appeared a few days after the Intel P35 launch in late July. We took a look at these early high-speed DDR3 in Super Talent and TEAM: DDR3-1600 is Here! The Super Talent memory was very memorable in that review as it was the first memory product to ever reach a stable DDR3-2000 speed. OCZ followed with a refinement of the early Micron products and introduced their own higher speed DDR3-1800 a couple of weeks later, which we reviewed in OCZ Introduces DDR3-1800. OCZ extended the performance even further with stable DDR3-2040 performance and the even more remarkable DDR3-1900 at 7-7-7 timings.

It was very clear from these early products that DDR3 was well on its way to becoming the performance memory of choice, and Micron had once again succeeded in producing some of the best high-performance DDR3 chips available to the market. It has taken a couple of months for early issues to sort out and for production of the Micron Z9 chips to reach supply levels. Micron DDR3 chips are finally here in quantity, as should be evident in the new high speed memory kits from Cell Shock, Corsair, and Kingston.

As explained in the past, all memory makers buy raw memory chips available in the open market. They then rate or "bin" the chips to create one or more speed grades from a single chip type. Memory chips are then surface-mounted on generic or proprietary circuit boards with SPD (Serial Presence Detect) chips programmed with generic code or custom SPD programming done by the DIMM maker. This is why the introduction of fast new chips like the Micron Z9 often circulates rapidly through the enthusiast memory market as each manufacturer tries to introduce products based on the new chips with tweaks that outdo the competition.

Some memory makers do not like to talk about the chips used in their DIMMs, as they consider that information proprietary, but this secrecy does not normally last very long. The enthusiast memory market quickly migrates to the best performing chips and you will see the same memory chips used in many top memory kits. However, this does not mean the memory you buy from Super Talent, for example, is exactly the same as memory based on the same chips that you buy from Corsair. Companies pride themselves on the sophistication of their speed-grading technology, their design and/or sourcing of PCBs, and their skill at programming the SPD. Those skills do lead to performance differences among brands - some large and some small.

Despite the real differences in memory performance from different memory makers, memory using the same memory chips tends to cluster in test results. You can usually see a clear pattern of performance from a particular memory chip that tips you off to which memory chip is used in different memory kits.

One of the more interesting results in our tests of the Super Talent DDR3-1600 and OCZ DDR3-1800 was that both memories managed to overclock to DDR3-2000, which is the highest performance we have ever measured for system memory. This memory speed is almost double the top speed for DDR2 and establishes DDR3 as the memory of choice where maximum performance is the main concern. The OCZ RAM, which had a couple of more weeks to refine the binning and SPD, reached slightly further to DDR3-2040 with complete stability.

Will these new DDR3-1800 parts also reach DDR3-2000? With a couple of months more time for refinement is it possible they can do even better than the great results we have already seen with DDR3? Are the performance results for DDR3 on the X38 and P35 so compelling they move the check box to DDR3 despite the price premium that still exists for DDR3? Our review today will help to answer these questions.

The Contenders
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  • Wesley Fink - Friday, October 12, 2007 - link

    At the top of the pricing info is the name of the item being priced. In this case the engine is likely picking up Compact Flash prices at camera companies in the same memory size. The larger concern is that the pricing engine does not recognize Cell Shock right now in the pointer. Work is being done to expand the database.

    The Price Engine often does not pick up new items just introduced, but it is dynamic. If you look back in a few weeks the pricing info will be revised even though the pointer is the same and it will likely find the original described product.
  • yyrkoon - Friday, October 12, 2007 - link

    And what prices are youtalking about exactly ? That is definately not DDR3 memory pricing . . .

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