About three years ago DDR2 memory first appeared on the desktop PC scene. It would be impossible to say it burst on the scene since it was introduced with the unimpressive Intel NetBurst processors. In that market DDR2 was more like a trickle since it was mainly a curiosity for a processor that was running a distant second place to the leading AMD Athlon chips, which were still powered by DDR memory.

DDR2 finally became the universal standard last May/June when AMD switched to DDR2 on their new AM2 platform and Intel introduced Core 2 Duo, the new CPU performance leader. Core 2 Duo resided on socket 775, which also was fed by DDR2. While it sometimes seems like centuries ago, it is worth remembering that Intel Core 2 Duo regained the CPU performance crown less than a year ago, and the two years prior to that all the fastest systems used AMD Athlon 64/X2/FX processors.

We compared performance of DDR2 on the new platforms in July of last year. AM2 provided better bandwidth with DDR2, but the better AM2 bandwidth did not translate into better performance. Since Core 2 Duo was faster at the same timings, it appeared the Intel Core 2 Duo architecture was not particularly bandwidth hungry and that it made very good use of the DDR2 bandwidth that was available with the chipset memory controller.

Since last May/June DDR2 has finally turned the market, and it has made some remarkable transformations along the way. The early 5-5-5 timings at the official DDR2-800 speed have since been replaced by several high performance memories capable of 3-3-3 timings at DDR2-800. The best memory at DDR2-1066 can now operate at 4-4-3 timings, and the fastest DDR2 is now around DDR2-1266 and still getting faster.

Perhaps even more remarkable, in the last year DDR2 memory prices have dropped to half of what they once were (sometimes more), and today DDR2 is often cheaper than the DDR memory it replaced. Compared to the very expensive prices at launch and into the holiday buying season we see DDR2 is now the memory price standard in the desktop computer market.

Fast forward a year and Intel is now launching their first chipsets to support DDR3 memory. In one of the sloppiest NDA launches in recent memory we already have P35 boards for sale since early May. The official chipset introduction is scheduled for May 21st and boards are "officially" launching into the retail channel on June 4th.

We can tell you that Intel does not really have an NDA, but they have been very aggressive in holding first tier manufacturers to a May 21st performance embargo and retail distribution on June 4th. Despite that, people around the world have been able to buy P35 boards from several retailers. We have retail boards we bought on the open market, which makes the 21st NDA a moot point in our opinion. Still, we value our relationship with both Intel and the major board makers, so this will not be a full P35 launch review. You will see that coming on May 21st.

What this review does address is the performance of the new DDR3 memory that is launched with P35. The new Intel P35 chipset, known as Bearlake during development, supports either DDR2 or DDR3 memory. This presented a perfect opportunity to look at the performance of both DDR3 and DDR2 on the new P35 chipset. We were also able to compare performance to a Gold Editors' Choice Intel P965 motherboard. The results of these comparisons provided interesting results about the capabilities of the new P35 memory controller. It also answered the question of whether you should care about DDR3 in any upcoming system purchase.

What is DDR3?
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  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - link

    Yes. The P965 would not boot witha a CAS setting of 6 even though it could be selected. So the P965 was tested at 5-6-6 timings. The same DDR2 on the P5K was tested at 6-6-6, which would work and also matched the DDR3 timings. We will clarify this in the article.
    Reply
  • TA152H - Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - link

    OK, thanks.

    One thing I would suggest when you do the final tests for the Bearlake and DDR3 is to use the 2M processors as well. You'd expect the 4M cache to hide the differences better, obviously, so the 2M cache processors would be pretty interesting to see as well, if for no other reason to see how much the larger cache does mask the difference in the chipset and memory. Since Intel is planning on increasing cache sizes, it would be a pretty useful data point.
    Reply
  • TA152H - Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - link

    You measured the performance of the memory, but why not take a power measurement of it as well. That is one of the draws of the technology, it uses lower voltage, and therefore should use a little less power and generate less heat. Both are significant.

    Good article though, I just wish that had been included.
    Reply
  • kalrith - Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - link

    Page 2, second line of second-to-last paragraph says, "which is a 16% reduction form DDR2". "form" should be "from".

    Last page, fourth line of third-to-last paragraph says, "the shift to DDR2 may be further delayed". "DDR2" should be "DDR3".

    BTW, I found the article interesting, informative, enlightening, and unbiased (as usual).
    Reply
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  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - link

    Mild dyslexia and less-than smart built-in spell checkers always win :) Both errors are corrected. Thanks. Reply
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