Are OCZ 1600MHz Modules Right For You?

OCZ DDR3 PC3-12800 Part Number OCZ3P1600EB2GK

OCZ Technology has been one of the front runners in the DDR3 memory market and today I will be taking a look at their 2GB 1600MHz Platinum Series performance memory kit. This kit will be very popular in upcoming months once the Intel X48 Express chipset hit the market as this chipset will support 1600MHz Front Side Bus (FSB) processors and 1600MHz memory clock frequencies from the get go.  The kit that OCZ Technology sent out for review is the 2GB DDR3 PC3-12800 (1600MHz) Platinum Series Kit that is part Enhanced Bandwidth Edition. Since that is hard to remember, the part number is OCZ3P1600EB2GK.

Before we get into the details of this new OCZ memory kit, be sure to read our previous DDR3 memory articles to make sure you know what the changes in DDR3 are and how it performs compared to DDR2. 

If you feel you have a firm background on DDR3 modules and what the performance level was on various kits, then let's take a look at what OCZ has been up to since we looked at their 1333MHz DDR3 kit a couple months ago.

OCZ DDR3 PC3-12800 Part Number OCZ3P1600EB2GK

OCZ let us know that each memory kit in this series is 100% hand-tested for quality assurance and compatibility, which means they should work when you plug them in! If they by chance don't, they are covered from the time you purchase them thanks to the lifetime warranty that comes on all OCZ DDR3 memory modules. From the outside, the modules look familiar since they clad OCZ's proprietary platinum-mirrored XTC (Xtreme Thermal Convection) heatspreaders for the enhanced heat dissipation.

OCZ DDR3 PC3-12800 Part Number OCZ3P1600EB2GK Memory Kit Review

 

The 1600MHz dual channel memory kit comes rated with 7-6-6-24 at 1.9V and it was able to run either a command rate of 1T or 2T with no issues at this clock frequency. This is due to the fact that OCZ's 1600MHz memory kits use highly screened Micron ICs that have been found to offer great timings and high clock frequencies. This memory kit was specially designed and optimized using the ASUS P5K3 series of motherboards with the Intel P35 Express chipset, so if you own this board you are in luck.

Under The Heat Spreader

OCZ DDR3 PC3-12800 Part Number OCZ3P1600EB2GK Memory Kit

The OCZ DDR3 PC3-12800 Platinum Dual Channel Enhanced Bandwidth Edition memory series is 1GB and 2GB single modules and 2GB and 4GB dual-channel memory kits. This means that 64-bit Windows users can enjoy 4GB high performance memory kits.  The 4GB (OCZ3P1600EB4GK) kit will set you back $1259, while the 2GB kit (OCZ3P1600EB2GK)is more affordable at $592. It should be noted that the SPDs on these modules are programmed to JEDEC standard latency DDR3-1333Mhz timings of 9-9-9-24 2T at 1.5V, so one has to manually set the timings to 7-6-6-24 1T at 1.9V in the BIOS to properly install and operate this kit. To reach 1600MHz on the memory the Front Side Bus (FSB) must be set to 400MHz and the proper memory divider selected, so if you are thinking of purchasing this kit of memory be sure to understand your system must be overclocked to utilize the full potential of this kit.

Key Features:

OCZ DDR3 PC3-12800 Part Number OCZ3P1600EB2GK

With the XTC (Xtreme Thermal Convection) heatspreaders removed the Micron D9GTR memory ICs can be easily seen.  This is where the magic happens and while it may not look that impressive these little ICs will bring joy to overclockers around the world. By looking up the FBGA code, I figured out that OCZ is using ICs with the part number MT41J128M8BY-187E:B in these modules.  According to the Micron website these parts are still sampling and not in full production.

Now that we know what memory kit we are looking at today and the main features, lets take a look at stability testing.

R.S.T. Pro PCI Express Stress Testing

How Do We Define Stable Memory?

Have you ever run across a review web site that reviews a product and shows a couple amazing scores and gives it an award? Sure you do as most review sites do just that, but how stable was it? I would be willing to bet that most sites don't know what stable memory is and therefore give fairly inaccurate results. Yes, I hate to break the news, but there is more than just running a memory bandwidth test and calling memory stable! Ever wonder what some of the memory companies use to test their modules? So did we, and we found out that they use the RAM Stress Test Professional 3 (R.S.T. Pro3). It is a Self-Booting, Operating System Independent memory diagnostic card for exercising and validating RAM. The R.S.T. Pro PCI Express’s powerful memory package is small in program size allowing the firmware to load itself into the least amount of memory possible. This allows for true low-level testing of RAM starting at memory address 2k exercising the complete range of a computer’s RAM. There are many good approaches for testing memory. However, many tests simply throw various patterns at memory without much thought or knowledge of memory architecture. Ultra-X is able to continuously develop new sophisticated proprietary memory test algorithms to locate the most evasive memory failures. R.S.T. Pro PCI Express has the broadest range of algorithms, for current and future memory chip technologies and this is why Legit Reviews has used R.S.T. Pro testers for nearly five years now to test our review samples.

OCZ DDR3 1600MHz Memory Review

By using the R.S.T. Pro PCI Express memory tester we are able to find memory errors that other testing methods could not find or reproduce. Since we want and encourage our readers to follow up our testing on their own, we suggest using free testing programs at home.  We highly suggest a program called Memtest86 which is a stand alone memory test for x86 architecture computers that boots off a floppy disk. This software was getting old was unable to run on all platforms, so we will stick to the RST Pro2 for the time being. In recent years Chris Brady and some of the guys over at x86-secret have come up with Memtest86+, which is an updated version of the original program and it still happens to be free.

We considered the memory stable when it was able to run 1 extended pass of Memtest86+ and a full loop of testing on the R.S.T. Pro PCI Express. If any errors are found using the R.S.T. Pro PCI Express then the memory modules have failed memory stress testing.

By this combination of tests we feel that this review is one of the most accurate completed in terms of memory stability. Sure, not everyone will agree with our stability testing methods, but not everyone can afford the cost of a memory tester like this nor the time that went into this testing.

Bottom Line:

There is no industry standard for professional reviewers, but hopefully reviews like this will cause other professional reviewers to change their methods and ways of looking at memory.

OCZ DDR3 1600MHz Stability Testing Results

Results:

The R.S.T. Pro PCI Express memory tester was run on the OCZ DDR3 PC3-12800 2GB Memory Kit and tested the Base/Extended memory. After 5 loops no errors were found! Memtest86 was used and confirmed these results.

The Test System

The Test System

The DDR3 Test System

Testing Procedure:

All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows XP Professional build 2600 with Service Pack 2 and DirectX 9.0c. All benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. All of the modules were run in dual channel mode with a 120mm fan placed on top of them to keep them cool! The XFX GeForce 8800 GTX used ForceWare 158.22 video card drivers and the ASUS P5K3 motherboard was updated from BIOS version 0405 that was used in a previous DDR3 article to BIOS version 0604 by using ASUS flash.  This BIOS update did impact the performance numbers, so if you own this motherboard you will want to update to the latest BIOS.

Memory Settings: (The Processor was set to 400MHz FSB x 8 Multiplier = 3.20GHz on all kits)

Here is the Intel P35 Express DDR3 Test platform:

DDR3 Test Platform

Component

Brand/Model

Live Pricing

Processor

Intel Core 2 Duo E6750

Motherboard

ASUS P5K3 Deluxe

Memory

2GB Kingston HyperX PC3-11000

Video Card

XFX GeForce 8800 GTX

Hard Drive

Western Digital RaptorX

Cooling

Intel Retail Box

Power Supply

Thermaltake 850W

Operating System

Windows XP Professional

Everest Ultimate 4.00

Everest Ultimate Edition 4.00 Build 1142:

Everst Ultimate Edition is a professional system information, diagnostics and benchmarking program for Win32 platforms. It extracts details of all components of the PC. It also tests the actual read and write speeds of your memory giving a fairly accurate look of true memory performance.

Read Test:

Everest 4.00 DDR3 Read Bandwidth

Write Test:

Everest 4.00 DDR3 Write Bandwidth

The Copy Test:

Everest 4.00 DDR3 Copy Testing

Memory Latency Testing:

Everest 4.00 DDR3 Latency

Results: Everest Ultimate 4.00 build 1142 showed slight differences between the Corsair 1600MHz and OCZ 1600MHz memory kits, but it wasn't significant. It just goes to show the difference between 7-6-6 and 7-7-7 timings doesn't impact synthetic memory bandwidth benchmarks.

Now let's move on to some Sandra XII benchmarking!

Sandra XII and Sciencemark 2.0

Sisoft; Sandra XII:

Sisoftware Sandra 2008

Sisoft Sandra XII just came just over a month ago and we have started to include it in out benchmarking, so our readers would be able to compare their modules to this kit if they are using the just released version of Sandra!  With Sandra XII you can now easily compare the performance of the tested device with its speed and its (published) power (TDP)! Sandra XII also has SSE4 (Intel) and SSE4A (AMD) benchmark code-paths, which is great for those of you testing next-generation AMD & Intel chips.

Corsair XMS3 DOMINATOR PC3 Sandra Scores

Results: Sandra XII showed higher memory bandwidth in the OCZ kit, but the 117MB/Sec difference is only a 1.4% performance improvement.

ScienceMark 2.0 Final:

Science Mark 2.0 is an attempt to put the truth behind benchmarking. In an attempt to model real world demands and performance, ScienceMark 2.0 is a suite of high-performance benchmarks that realistically stress system performance without architectural bias. All of our testing was completed on the 32 Bit Final benchmark version that is dated March 21st 2005.

Corsair XMS2 DOMINATOR PC2-8888 Sciencemark Results

Results: In Sciencemark 2 the memory bandwidth test showed a 0.3% performance difference, but this time it was in favor of Corsair.  So far after Everest, Sandra and Sciencemark memory bandwidth tests it seems like a tie when it comes to stock performance. This makes sense, because both of the memory kits use the same exact Micron D9 memory IC's.

WinRAR 3.70 and Super Pi

RARLAB - WinRar v3.70

WinRAR has a multithreaded version of the RAR compression algorithm, which improves the compression speed on computers with several CPU, dual core CPU and processors with hyperthreading technology. Multithreading is enabled by default, but you can disable it in "General" part of "Settings" dialog.

Corsair XMS2 DOMINATOR PC2-8888 Super Pi Results

Results: The WinRAR 3.70 benchmarking results graphed out nicely and showed that the 1600MHz CL7 memory kit from Corsair had higher performance. A 64KB/Sec difference was noted, but once again that is only a 3.8% difference and not significant.

Super PI Mod v1.5:

Super PI is a program a lot of enthusiasts use to benchmark overall system performance, as the program is capable of calculating pi up to 33.55 million digits on a timer. Many overclockers and enthusiasts are in a battle to get the lowest 1M Super Pi time possible. The benchmark results below include Super Pi results to 1 million places and 2 million places.

Corsair XMS3 Super Pi Results

Results: Super Pi Mod v1.5 shows nearly identical performance between the two memory kits after three runs were averaged for each test.

STALKER and Company of Heroes

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Benchmark

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl uses the 'X-ray Engine' to power the graphics. It is a DirectX 8/9 Shader Model 3.0 graphics engine. Up to a million polygons can be on-screen at any one time, which makes it one of the more impressive engines on the market today. The engine features HDR rendering, parallax and normal mapping, soft shadows, widescreen support, weather effects and day/night cycles. As with other engines that utilize deferred shading (such as Unreal Engine 3 and CryENGINE2), the X-ray Engine does not support anti-aliasing with dynamic lighting enabled. However, a "fake" form of anti-aliasing can be enabled with the static lighting option; this format utilizes a technique to blur the image to give the false impression of anti-aliasing. The game takes place in a thirty square kilometer area, and both the outside and inside of this area is rendered to the same amount of detail.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Benchmark Performance

Results: At the default 1024x768 game resolution and default game settings we found that S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl was more than playable on with DDR3 memory modules on the P35 chipset.  Less than a 0.2 frame per second difference was observed between the the two memory kits. The slight performance lead was in favor of the OCZ memory kit, which might have been related to the tigher memory timings. We ran the benchmark six times per kit and took the average of the score, so the results are spot on!

Company Of Heroes

Company of Heroes

Company of Heroes is set during World War II where the player follows a military unit, known as Able Company, as they fight their way through some of the greatest and bloodiest battles, including the D-Day landings at Normandy.

Company Of Heroes Benchmark Performance

Results: It's only fitting that the final benchmark run came out in a tie.  All throughout testing it was impossible to 'feel' a difference in performance between these two kits, so this is a perfect way to conclude the benchmarking!

Overclocking

Overclocking on the ASUS P5K3 motherboard proved to be interesting.  To start overclocking I kept the FSB the same and tried to see just how tight I could get the timings to see what I could get. At the stock voltage of 1.9V, the system was able to post with a command rate of 1T, but with a voltage increase on the memory 1T was easily reached.  

Corsair Memory DOMINATOR DDR3 Overclocking

To start things off I left the voltages and timings alone to see just how far I could get with 1.90 Volts on the memory.  With the default timings of 7-6-6-24 and an agressive 1T Command Rate I was able to reach  1764MHz, which is an extra 164MHz over the stock clock frequency of 1600MHz.  When I tried to lower the RAS to CAS Delay to 5 or the CAS Latency to 6 the system would post, but would blue screen on the Windows XP splash screen. Happy with this stable overclock that was proven by running Memtest, double Super Pi runs and RST Pro testing I then increased the voltage.

Corsair Memory DOMINATOR DDR3 Overclocking

Now that we know how tight we can get the timings and how far they can go on stock voltages the next step it to increase the voltage and find the new max of the memory kit. OCZ EVP (Extended Voltage Protection) is a feature that allows performance enthusiasts to use a VDIMM of 1.95V without invalidating their OCZ Lifetime Warranty, so I increased the voltage from 1.90V to 1.95V.  With just a 0.05V boost on the memory I was able to get the kit up to 1840MHz with 7-6-6 timings.  The BIOS was still set for a Command Rate of 1T, but in CPU-Z it was showing up at 2T for some reason.  Keeping the voltages within warranty range this kit was able to go from 1600MHz to 1840MHz with 7-6-6-24 timings, which is impressive.

Corsair Memory DOMINATOR DDR3 Overclocking

Instead of using 7-6-6-24 timings I wanted to see what happened with 8-8-8-24 timings and the results were impressive.  With the Intel Core 2 Duo E6750 processor running at 509MHz Front Side Bus, I was able to reach 2036MHz at 2.25V with 8-8-8-24 2T timings.  It was of couse not stable at these settings, but it was stable at 2,000MHz at 500MHz FSB with 2.20V.

Corsair Memory DOMINATOR DDR3 Overclocking

The best Sisoftware Sandra XII benchmark score that I was able to pull off was just over 9,800MB/Sec, which was done at 8-8-8-24 2T timings at 2000MHz. It should also be pointed out that these modules have EPP and XMP support as seen in the CPU-Z screen shot pictured above.

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

Various DDR3 Memory Kits

The 2GB DDR3 PC3-12800 (1600MHz) Platinum Series Kit is one of ten 2GB DDR3 memory kits (by five different memory companies),  that I have been able to test in recent weeks.  It is also the first 2GB DDR3 memory kit that can hit 2GHz on with full stability at 2000MHz with 8-8-8-24 timings, which has been a mark that I have been trying to reach for some time now.  I first saw dual-channel 2GHz DDDR3 running behind closed doors with Corsair back at Computex in June of 2007, but it wasn't stable enough to benchmark and had 10-10-10-24 timings.  Then just two weeks ago at the Intel Developer Forum the marketing team from Crucial had a booth with a demo system at 2GHz with 9-9-9-27, which was impressive even though it was unstable.  Little did I know the OCZ 1600MHz memory kit that I had on the shelf waiting to be reviewed would be able to run 2GHz at 8-8-8-24 timings! It took 10 memory kits to be able to break the 2GHz barrier and while the Crucial Ballistix 1600MHz and OCZ Platinum 1600MHz kits both can run 2000MHz with 8-8-8-24 2T timings, only the OCZ kit does it with good stability. 

When it comes to picking DDR3 memory kits companies are selling kits at a variety of frequencies, which can be a bit overwhelming for those that are new to DDR3 and the chipsets that use it.  Right now there are six speed grades that DDR3 memory is available in: 1066MHz, 1333MHz, 1375MHz, 1600MHz, 1800MHz and 1866MHz. Which is the right kit to invest in?  Keep in mind that the Intel only officially supports 1333MHz on the Intel P35 and X38 Express chipsets.  When it comes to density all Intel P35 Express chipsets support up to 8 GB of memory addressability, so density is certainly not a limitation these days when it comes to selecting a kit.  So, why buy a 1600MHz memory kit when the chipsets are only rated to run at 1333MHz?  Because motherboard makers like ASUS and Gigabyte have included the dividers to reach these speeds and it has been shown to improve performance.  This also means that the memory kit can be used again in upcoming motherboards.  When Intel releases the Intel X48 Express chipset series it will feature some memory tweaks in the chipset and support for 1600MHz memory.  With a 1600MHz kit you will exceed the specifications of today's chipsets and meet the next generation that is due out months from now.   Since the OCZ DDR3 PC3-12800 (1600MHz) Platinum Series Kit was able to overclock all the way to 2000MHz, it means this kit won't be dated for well into 2008 when lower timings will hopefully be possible.

The price tag on this memory kit is enough to scare many folks off, but it comes in lower than a number of the 1375MHz and 1800MHz kits that we have reviewed in previous months.  The 2GB kit that we reviewed today will set you back about $569.99.  This 1600MHz DDR3 memory kit is priced higher than some other brands, but you get what you pay for.  OCZ Technology is building these kits with Micron D9's, and they are by far the best memory IC on the market for reaching high clock frequencies.

After spending hundreds of hours testing ten different memory kits it's hard to ignore the overclocking performance I have seen on the 2GB DDR3 PC3-12800 Platinum Series Kit (part number: OCZ3P1600EB2GK).  It may not have the highest stock frequencies, but when you increase the voltage, the sky is the limit.  For those that  like to overclock without losing their warranty, increasing the voltage to 1.95V (the highest to keep a valid warranty) means you should be able to reach 1840MHz at 7-6-6-24 like I did.  If you are going balls to the wall and willing to risk it all try for 2.20V and you might just be able to break 2,000MHz like I did.  Your mileage will, of course, vary due to your components, but it's possible!  For the best overclocking DDR3 kit I have seen yet, I  give the OCZ PC3-12800 Platinum Series the Legit Reviews Editor's Choice Award!

Legit Reviews Editor's Choice

Legit Bottom Line: OCZ must have screened a ton of IC's to get these top notch Micron D9's that have been used in their OCZ PC3-12800 Platinum Series.  These modules will bring fear to others as they blaze past MHz mile markers like nobody's business.