As you can see from the performance testing these new triple-channel memory kits offer serious bandwidth, and the Intel Core i7 family of processors seems to get a performance boost when you throw more at it. When I first heard that Intel was going triple-channel I thought it wasn’t needed and it may still not be needed, but the performance numbers speak for themselves. The synthetic benchmark results that are seen in Sandra and Lavalys are amazing, but when it comes to real world benchmarks the results are not as impressive. That said, there are still performance gains to be had, just not a 50% gain like I saw in the Sandra 2009 SP1 memory bandwidth test.
I was hoping that at the end of testing one speed grade would stand out as the obvious choice, but to be honest, since the performance is close to linear that really isn’t the case. With the world wide economy in a recession many consumers have a tight budget, so in the end only buy what you can afford. Also keep in mind that with processors like the Intel Core i7-920 and Intel Core i7-940 have a maximum memory speed of 1066MHz that can’t be increased unless you overclock the base clock. That means the only consumers to need higher clock speed memory are those lucky enough to purchase an Intel Core i7-965 Extreme processor. With the Extreme processor, boards like the ASUS P6T Deluxe that I used for testing in this article have memory dividers for 800MHz, 1066MHz, 1333MHz, 1600MHz, 1866MHz, and 2133MHz memory frequencies with no changes needed to the base clock or the QuickPath Interconnect (QPI).
With that said, if you are looking at purchasing an Intel Core i7-920 or Intel Core i7-940 and don’t plan on overclocking you’ll want to stick with some DDR3-1066MHz memory with tight CL7 timings for the best performance. The good news is that you can get your hands on a 3GB Kingston ValueRAM DDR3-1066MHz triple-channel kit of memory for just $96.70 shipped. If you plan on overclocking then you might want to go with the 3GB Kingston ValueRAM DDR3-1333MHz kit for just two dollars more at $98.35 shipped. Even if you don’t plan on increasing the base clock on the Intel Core i7-920 or Intel Core i7-940 it might be wise to purchase a DDR3-1333 kit as you never know if a motherboard company will ‘unlock’ higher memory settings for these processors in the years to come. If you have an Intel Core i7-965 Extreme or plan on pushing your system to the max when overclocking you might want to take a look at the HyperX series by Kingston, which are modules designed for overclocking. The 3GB Kingston HyperX DDR3-1600MHz triple-channel kit is $178.75 shipped, so it is roughly twice the price of ValueRAM. If you are running a 64-bit version of Windows then you will want to highly consider a 6GB kit of memory, but for those running 32-bit that would be a waste and a 3GB kit is ideal.
Hope this helps you out on your search for the right memory kit to go along with your new Core i7 system! If you have any questions feel free to ask them in our forums and the community will be sure to help you the best they can.
Legit Bottom Line: The Intel Core i7 series of processors love memory speed, but you have to have an Intel Core i7-965 to take full advantage of the performance gains.