Corsair Tries Out Samsung Memory IC's
It has been a long time since I have reviewed any memory from Corsair as not many sexy and new attention-getting parts have come out in recent months. From the enthusiast perspective the last major release from Corsair was the new DOMINATOR 4GB DDR3 2000MHz memory kits, which are great products, but let's face it, not too many people can run at 2GHz. This is due to the fact Intel Quad-Core processors have Front Side Bus (FSB) limitations and the majority of DDR3 boards out there are Intel and the memory and FSB are linked together. The last reason this memory kit doesn't make a ton of news is because it still costs $839 at retailers even though the MSRP is just $675.
Today, we have a chance to look at a newly released part from Corsair that is part of the XMS brand line, which is Corsair’s mainstream line of performance memory. The part that I will be looking at is a 4GB XMS3 DHX series kit that operates at 1600MHz with average 9-9-9-24 memory timings. The part number on this kit is TW3X4G1600C9DHXNV and it just happens to be NVIDIA EPP2.0 SLI-Ready system memory certified. This kit is priced at $344 with free shipping after a mail in rebate, so it's about half the price of the flagship speed demon mentioned above. With the global economic crisis that we are having, memory kits like this seem to appeal to a wider audience. If you look around at other retailers you'll notice that other DDR3 1600MHz (PC3-12800) memory kits start at around $249 and you might wonder what makes this memory kit so special, well it's all in the ICs, my friend.
The TW3X2G1600C9DHXNV memory kit is the first and only Corsair memory kit that uses Samsung based memory ICs. The majority of the other modules are using Micron memory ICs. That gives this kit a leg up over other companies as it is offering the latest in memory ICs. This specific memory kit has been verified to operate at 1600MHz at latencies of 9-9-9-24 at 1.8V VDIMM by Corsair, but as you will see later in our article, you can pull off timings of 6-7-6-18 at 1600MHz with some extra voltage.
Each module pair is tested together at 1600MHz on an NVIDIA nForce 790i Ultra SLI motherboard before being packed and shipped to retailers. The labels on the memory modules tell you what the density of the module is, the memory timings and what voltage the memory should operate at. It also tells you other information like the model number, version number (our kit is version 4.1) and the individual module production number. I have been an advocate for labeling modules like this since 2002, so hats off to Corsair for being, what I believe, the only US company to put all the critical settings on the label for consumers.
The platinum spreaders look great and are built using Dual-path Heat Xchange technology, which you can get a closer look at on the next page.
Under The Heat Spreader
Corsair DHX technology provides maximum cooling for the memory module as it uses extruded aluminum heat sinks to remove heat from both the PCB and in this case the Samsung memory ICs. The design has been in use for well over a year now and has been proven to work time and time again.
With all the heat spreaders removed we can get a glimpse of the new Samsung IC's which are what separates these modules from the rest that Corsair and other companies have on the market today. The markings on the IC's show the part number of K4B1G0846D-HCF0, which is one of the newer tray parts from Samsung. From what I understand, Corsair orders trays of these unsorted memory chips and sorts them in-house for use on the TW3X4G1600C9DHXNV memory kits. It would make logical sense that the fallout from the sorting process will be used on other modules, but none are in production as of yet.
In case you missed something here are the key features of the memory kit:
- Memory amount: 2 x 2048MB
- 240-pin Unbuffered DDR3 SDRAM
- IC Brand: Samsung (128Mx8 Configuration)
- 1600MHz (PC-12800) Unbuffered non-ECC DDR3 Modules
- CAS latency: 9 clock cycles
- RAS precharge: 9 cycles
- RAS active to precharge: 24 cycles
- Silver DHX heat sinks for thermal diffusion
- Latency: 9-9-9-24
- Power supply：1.80V +/- 0.1V
- Lifetime Warranty
RST Pro 3 Testing and The Test System
RAM Stress Test Professional 3 PCI Express is a memory testing hardware/ firmware designed for the rigorous testing needs of memory and system manufactures, design engineers, and service professionals. R.S.T. Pro3 is a Self-Booting, Operating System Independent memory diagnostic card for exercising and validating RAM in Intel Core2 / Xeon and AMD Athlon/Opteron compatible processors. I use one here at Legit Reviews as I have found it the best way to find faulty memory modules and one of the best ways to see if an overclock is really stable or not.
I placed the RAM Strees Test Pro 3 PCI Express into the test system and let it test the memory at 1600MHz with 9-9-9-24 timings and 1.8V to see if it would detect any errors.
Just over two hours later the test results came back showing that this 4GB memory kit was rock solid with no errors!
The Test System:
All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit with Service Pack 1 installed. 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 PNY GeForce GTX 280 used NVIDIA ForceWare 177.39 video card drivers and the ASUS P5E3 motherboard using BIOS version 1203, which was the most recent available when testing was done. The FSB of the processor was increased to 400MHz in order to run the memory at 1600MHz, which means the overall clock frequency was 3.0GHz.
Here is the Intel X38 Express Test platform:
|Intel Test Platform|
|Intel Q9300 Quad-Core
ASUS P5E3 Deluxe
4GB Corsair DDR3 1600C9
PNY GeForce GTX 280
Western Digital RaptorX 150GB
Corsair Nautilus 500
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-Bit
CPU-Z Test System Screen Shots:
Sisoftware Sandra XII SP2c
Sisoft; Sandra XII SP2C:
Sisoft Sandra XII SP2C just came out about 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.
Results: Sandra XII SP2c showed that the 1600MHz kit had 9% improvement in memory bandwidth over the 1333MHz memory kit with the same timings, whichis a 678 MB/Sec increase. By making the timings tighter the performance scores improved a tad more.
Everest Ultimate 4.50
Everest Ultimate Edition 4.50 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.
The Copy Test:
Memory Latency Testing:
Results: Everest Ultimate 4.50 build 1431 showed slight differences between the 1600MHz and 1333MHz memory kits. The Corsair PC3-12800 memory kit with Samsung IC's turned in some impressive scores with the timings at 6-7-6-18.
Sony Vegas 8.0b
The Vegas Pro collection combines Vegas Pro 8, DVD Architect Pro 4.5, and Dolby Digital AC-3 encoding software to offer an integrated environment for all phases of professional video, audio, DVD, and broadcast production. These tools let you edit and process DV, AVCHD, HDV, SD/HD-SDI, and all XDCAM formats in real time, fine-tune audio with precision, and author surround sound, dual-layer DVDs. Vegas Pro software also supports 24p, HD and HDV editing, which is what we are going to look at in this benchmark.
The Sony Vegas 8.0b workload that we are using takes a series of short movie and audio files and creates a single video that incorporated special effects and transitions. It uses a MainConcept HDV encoding profile to render the 24p widescreen video clip at a resolution of 1440x1080x32.
Benchmark Results: Running our custom Sony Vegas 8.0b benchmark showed that memory speed and timings does play a slight role when creating a single video clip from multiple clips.
Futuremark's 3DMark06 has a built-in CPU test is a multi-threaded DirectX gaming metric that's useful for comparing relative performance between similarly equipped systems. This test consists of two different 3D scenes that are processed with a software renderer that is dependent on the host CPU's performance. Calculations that are normally reserved for your 3D accelerator are instead sent to the CPU for processing and rendering. The frame-rate generated in each test is used to determine the final score.
Benchmark Results: The Corsair PC3-12800 CL9 memory kit shows a decent performance boost over the PC3-10800 kit in Futuremark. The super tight CL6 timings on the 1600MHz memory kit help improve performance even more and I was able to break 15,500 in the overall benchmark thanks to the kit.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and Crysis
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.
The game was benchmarked with full dynamic lighting and maximum quality settings at 1920x1200 and 1280x1024 resolutions.
Crysis is a science fiction first-person shooter computer game that was developed by Crytek, and published by Electronic Arts. It was released on November 15, 2007 in the United States. The game is based off the CryENGINE2 game engine, which is an extended version of CryENGINE, the game engine behind the hit game Far Cry a number of years ago. The full retail version of the game Crysis was used with patch 1.21 for benchmarking. FRAPS was used over the internal benchmark utility to help avoid driver enhancements. Legit Reviews has just NVIDIA data for this game as we just recently updated the game to version 1.21 and picked a new scene to run FRAPS on and didn't have time to re-test all the cards in time for this article, but managed to get a number of the high end cards tested.
Benchmark Results:Both Crysis and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. showed improvement with increased memory frequency and tighter timings.
For overclocking I used the same ASUS P5E3 Deluxe (X38 chipset) motherboard that was used for benchmarking and pushed to see how far we could take the memory kit on this platform.
To start off 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. This 9-9-9-24 based memory kit could do 8-8-8-24 timings with no problems at all. If you want to increase up to 2.2-2.3V the kit can run 6-7-6-18 timings with full stability. With 2.3V we were able to get the kit to run 6-6-6-18, but it crashed on several benchmarks and we didn't want to add more voltage to the memory kit.
The performance at CL6 timings was quite impressive though and these Samsung IC's are looking very impressive!
Now that we know how tight the timings can get with no changes to the clock frequency let's see how far we can get with the stock 1.80 Volts on the memory and CL9 timings. With the default timings of 9-9-9-24 we were able to reach 1860MHz, which is an extra 260MHz over the stock clock frequency of 1600MHz. This is also within 5MHz of our all time high with this specific Intel Q9300 Quad Core processor. Looks like this memory kit is looking even better!
Just for fun I tried to see how tight I could get the timings and I figured out the Samsung IC's really love tight timings with 2.2-2.3 Volts once again. The system was up and benchmarking with stability at 1860MHz with 7-7-7-20 timings. Very impressive results considering the kit started out life with the results shown below.
Final Thoughts and Conclusions
The Corsair TW3X4G1600C9DFNV memory kit was found to be a solid performing memory kit that was a joy to work with and overclock as it did nearly everything I wanted it to do. This was my first time trying out the Samsung ICs and I'm very impressed by what they can do when it comes to both frequency and timings. They do seem to like a ton of voltage, which might scare some off, but for others it won't be a big deal. If you are running more voltage to the memory be sure to use some kind of an active fan cooler to prevent things from burning up under the extra heat. Corsair has a cooler called the AIRFLOW for under $20.00 that works great for this and is designed to be used with the DHX heat sinks.
When it comes to pricing this kit runs $384 with free shipping, but there is a $40 mail-in-rebate that is valid through July 31,2008. that helps bring the final price down to $344. If you look at the rebate you'll notice it also applies to another kit with the same frequency and timings, but is only $224 with free shipping. The big difference between these kits are the IC's and that the other kit is not NVIDIA EPP2.0 SLI-Ready. Are those two differences worth $120 to you? That is something you will have to figure out depending on your budget, but the Samsung IC's are fun to overclock! Something else interesting when it comes to pricing is that the equivalent micron based memory kit runs $489, which runs at 1600MHz with Micron ICs at 7-7-7-20 timings. That places the Samsung kit $145 less than the Micron kit and with some extra voltage the Samsung based kit we reviewed here can do the same thing and save you a good chunk of change! Pricing on these memory kits are all over the place, so be sure to do some research (pat yourself on the back if you are reading this) before picking a DDR3 memory kit up.
You might have noticed that we didn't test this kit on an NVIDIA chipset as we wanted to try it out on a more common platform and Corsair didn't have any concerns with this testing method. I think our test results speak for themselves as this is the first time I have seen this kit pushed down into CL6 range. Since this memory kit can do tight CL6 timings at 1600MHz and can match the CL7 timings at 1800MHz just like other more expensive kits, it gives me great pleasure to give Corsair the Editor's Choice award for another product well done.
Legit Bottom Line: The Corsair TW3X4G1600C9DFNV memory kit does a great job showing off what Samsung DDR3 ICs can do and our testing shows that Micron based modules finally have some competition when it comes to overclocking and performance.