Numerous articles and forum posts have been popping up recently about the potential of high VDimm settings damaging or destroying the upcoming i7 processor series. Will high VDimm cause damage? The answer to that question is not so simple actually. Unfortunately, due to the current NDA status, we cannot go into detail about this subject matter but can provide a general brief on it.

Our answer at this time is Yes and No. It sounds like we are straddling the fence but in actuality the correct answer depends on the available BIOS options, BIOS settings, memory selection, and final voltage settings. Intel’s stance is clear on this subject, run VDimm higher than their 1.50V~1.65V guidelines and you will affect the life span of the processor.

Exactly what the impact to the processor will be is dependent upon several factors. Put simply, if you go crazy with VDimm, let’s say around 2.0V~2.2V without additional tuning, then expect to greatly reduce the processor lifespan to a few weeks or maybe days. We have already witnessed several CPUs being damaged or destroyed at the motherboard partners with high VDimm settings, especially those that ran at 2.0V or higher with base settings. By base settings, we mean configuring an i7/X58 platform in the same manner a typical user now sets up a Penryn/X48 DDR3 platform. The rules have changed completely for Intel, just we cannot discuss the playbook at this time (hey, it is frustrating for us also).

Likewise, we have seen high VCore/VDimm test beds operate without a problem for benchmarking purposes (yet still fail with long-term bench testing) provided a multitude of BIOS settings for the core, DIMM, IMC, Uncore, and QPI selections were properly set. The base secret (there are more) is maintaining correct amplitude levels, something we will discuss at product launch. For now, high VDimm is not necessarily the true problem here, but it is the quickest way to damage/destroy an i7 if the rest of the system is not properly tuned.

However, we highly recommend keeping VDimm at or below Intel’s recommendations along with proper BIOS settings for the long-term health of the i7. Upcoming DDR3 products from the major memory suppliers will all support low voltage DDR3-1066~DDR3-1600 operation with fairly aggressive timings. This is key as the retail 920/940 processors will not be memory multiplier locked. In addition, the vast majority of JDEC spec DDR3 memory currently on the market will operate fine on the X58, albeit at slightly higher memory timings in some cases.

The extreme performance modules will also operate correctly, as we have found in testing to date, just at higher timings in order to meet the voltage guideline requirements. Certain performance modules that require 1.8V or higher upon POST will probably not work correctly (POST) unless the board manufacturer steps outside of Intel’s guidelines. In that case, you can replace the memory, reflash the SPD if the supplier allows, or toss in a pair of JDEC spec modules (current 1066 is fine), correctly set the voltages and timings that you require in the BIOS, shutdown, and reboot with the performance modules. Realize, this does place you outside of the guidelines but most users that fall in this category are already outside the lines anyway.

Personally, with the right board, cooling, and BIOS settings, 1.7V~1.8V should be fine (no promises yet) and will allow the upcoming low-voltage, high clock speed DDR3 DIMMS to reach the 1866~2200MHz level. This should satisfy most performance enthusiasts, but probably not the extreme clockers who will try for more. For the rest of us, this platform offers simply amazing bandwidth and latency numbers with tri-channel DDR3 1066 or DDR3 1333. In fact, we think tri-channel DDR3-1333 at 5-5-5-12 timings or DDR3-1500~DDR3-1600 6-6-5-15 settings (1.65V) will provide optimal memory bandwidth, write speeds, and latencies for 95% of the 920/940 users at this point.  So, unlike the P45/X38/X48 platforms, having low-speed rated DDR3 is not going to be a hindrance to extracting fantastic performance from a i7/X58 setup.

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  • Lonyo - Wednesday, October 08, 2008 - link

    Usually high clock speeds mean more bandwidth, but with trichannel, is it really going to be necessary to overclock the RAM that much anyway?

    Might it not just be enough to go with standard 1333MHz speeds and tightest timings possible, and then set a ratio (assuming Nehalem has good ones) to allow increasing the CPU bus speed anyway for an overclock while leaving the RAM effectively alone, or does Nehalem need even more than trichannel bandwidth?
    Reply
  • Jorgisven - Wednesday, October 08, 2008 - link

    Overclockers who after plunking down a pretty penny on an i7/X58 set fry their chipsets within days thinking running 2.0-2.2 volts is okay, because they can do it with their current Penryn. It's a good warning, but also a little early. It's like telling a 12 year old it's okay to turn right on red, SOMETIMES. While good information, it's not very practical information YET.

    I agree it's a little early to announce this issue, as these things are hardly available to the general public. Those with access to the chip have most likely been briefed by Intel.
    Reply
  • QChronoD - Wednesday, October 08, 2008 - link

    I very much enjoy the rapidly changing system designs that are gifted to us by the computer industry. It was mean for us users to be able to upgrade one piece of a system once or twice a year for several years, and not have to replace everything else besides the HD and CD-ROM. My wallet thanks all the specification committees that allow it to shed weight when it have to replace my cpu, memory, and motherboard if I want to get anything faster.
    I remember having a board that would scale from 300MHz to 1GHz. Unless you bought the slowest speed of a processor when it first launched, you won't be able to upgrade more than 25%, and only if you upgrade within 2 years or so. It used to be the same with memory, everything used the same format, but higher rating gave you better speed. Now it seems like you can't even carry your old memory over to a new system.
    Reply
  • Nfarce - Wednesday, October 08, 2008 - link

    Articles like this are not very helpful when we can't even get our own hands on an i7, let alone any review sites yet. Rumors abound (yes, only rumors) about how it will be at *least* one more quarter before we see the i7/x58 chipset in mass, let alone any bugs to iron out. I'm about ready to plunk down on a trusty P45/E8500/DDR2 rig to replace my aging E6600 box. I can't wait that long to upgrade, but I will wait for AT's first reviews before making a final decision. Reply
  • iDelta - Thursday, October 09, 2008 - link

    Indeed, i'm also about to *downgrade* back to DDR2 and the P45 chipset as it is simply faster....

    So the DDR31800 modules i have will not work on i7. Shame, i won't upgrade if that is the case, i'll look at what AMD is doing a little more closely.
    Reply
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    uhm, who cares? Reply
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