3DMark 11

We're going to start the graphics benchmarks with the synthetic 3DMark test. The latest version, 3DMark 11, is still very GPU dependent. However, it does include a CPU Physics test and a combined graphics/physics test for simulating those types of loads. We’ll use the overall score with the three subtests to see if we can find any areas where memory performance makes a noticeable difference.

3DMark 11 v1.02 - Performance Preset (Overall)

3DMark 11 v1.02 - Performance Preset (Graphics)

3DMark 11 v1.02 - Performance Preset (Physics)

3DMark 11 v1.02 - Performance Preset (Combined)

The overall score, which is heavily based on the graphics tests, shows a mere ~1% change across the board. When you get to the graphics test, you can see that the faster memory makes absolutely no difference at all. It's not until we get to the physics test where we see some improvement from increasing the memory speed. We get performance boost of up to 11% when going from DDR3-133 to DDR3-2133. The combined test entails the rendering of a 3D scene with the GPU while performing physics tasks on the CPU. Here again, were see a very small 2% increase in performance from the slowest to the fastest.

Crysis and Metro 2033

Based on 3DMark 11, then, we’d expect most games to show very little improvement from upgrading your memory, but we ran several gaming benchmarks just to be sure. I decided to combine the analysis for Crysis: Warhead and Metro 2033 due to the virtually non-existent differences observed during these tests. Crysis: Warhead was the previous king of the hill when it came to bringing video cards to their knees. The newer kid on the block, Metro 2033, has somewhat taken over that throne. Just how do they react to the various memory configurations we're testing today?

It's worth noting that the settings used here are the settings that I would actually play these games at: 1920x1080 with most of the high quality features enabled. Frame rates are well above 30, so definitely playable, though they’re below 60 so some would say they’re not perfectly smooth. Regardless, unless you play at settings where your GPU isn’t the primary bottleneck, you should see similar scaling from memory performance.

Crysis: Warhead - 1920x1080 0xAA DX10 Enthusiast 64-bit - Frost

Metro 2033 - 1920x1080 AAA 16xAF DX11 Very High - Frontline

The results weren't very stimulating, were they? Just as expected, gaming with faster memory just doesn't make any notable difference. I could have potentially lowered the resolution and settings in an attempt to produce some sort of difference, but I felt that testing these games at the settings they're most likely to be played at was far more enlightening. If you want better gaming performance, the GPU is the best component to upgrade—no news there.

7-Zip, x264 Encoding, and Cinebench Memory Scaling with Overclocking
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  • Kevin G - Monday, July 25, 2011 - link

    One thing worth noting is that the memory controller has to run at least twice the clock speed of the memory (ie, the memory controller runs at 3.2 Ghz for 1600 Mhz DDR3 rated memory). This is one of the reasons why Intel doesn't officially support memory speed higher than 1600 Mhz. Running the CPU cores and memory controller at the same clock speed should produce a benefit even if memory speed isn't improved (ie running the CPU and memory controller at 4.8 Ghz with 1600 Mhz memory). It would be interesting to see how just scaling the memory controller's speed affected performance.

    I wish that their were a few game tests utilizing the integrated GPU. For a desktop, using a discrete graphics card for gaming is a new brainer over Intel's integrated graphics. However many laptops will only use Intel's solution and thus improving memory performance could be a means of improving gaming performance here. Further more, laptops are often lower resolution than 1920 x 1080 and thus the performance delta between memory speeds would be wider.
    Reply
  • RussianSensation - Monday, July 25, 2011 - link

    But even if laptops run at lower resolutions, they have much weaker CPUs and GPUs and generally have slow 5400 rpm hard drives. So if anything, memory speed will be even less important in a laptop since a laptop will be faced with all kinds if I/O, GPU and CPU bottlenecks.

    Improving performance of Intel's gaming solution with faster memory is a waste of time. HD3000 is just a dog. If you want a budget gaming laptop, you get Llano. No amount of memory bandwidth is going to translate into a more playable gaming experience on the HD3000.
    Reply
  • Kevin G - Monday, July 25, 2011 - link

    Except that Llano is in the same situation as it too needs fast memory for better graphics performance. If DIMM manufacturers start rolling out high performance memory for Llano, Sandy bridge laptops can also benefit. So why not actually test to see what those benefits could be? Reply
  • orenlevy - Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - link

    there is defenetly gpu improvment on hd3000 i dont know why you are not benching on Z68 platform. personally i have z68 htpc and sure i noticed different lateness on normal use. we always like sppedy windows poping and that simply whats happans.
    personally i say to myself "oh its about time to squeez little bit more from the sandybridge" even the G840 behave so different on 1600M cl8 Z68...
    Reply
  • jabber - Monday, July 25, 2011 - link

    As its such a waste of life. RAM hasnt been fun or that important since the good old DDR days.

    They may as well just hardwire 4GB of bog standard ram onto the motherboard for most folks.
    Reply
  • silverblue - Monday, July 25, 2011 - link

    Maybe they have, but RAM speed is important for iGPUs and especially so for APUs.

    For those wondering where the Llano equivalent is...

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/4476/amd-a83850-revi...
    Reply
  • silverblue - Monday, July 25, 2011 - link

    Duh. The link is on the final page of this article. Reply
  • Kevin G - Monday, July 25, 2011 - link

    The main reason why RAM still comes on DIMMs is due to reliability and the need for expansion. Cost is also a factor, especially for motherboards with lot of RAM soldered on to it.

    However, soldering down RAM in some situations does make sense. Expandability in laptops for example. Another area where soldiered RAM on a desktop motherboard would make sense is with the overclocking crowd. The RAM could be placed closer to the CPU socket which could easily increase clock speeds. The elimination of the edge connector on the DIMM would also significantly enhance signal strength too. Physical placement on the motherboard would allow for better cooling (larger heat sinks or water cooling with direct contract with the RAM chips). There would also be room for robust power delivery to the RAM chips on the motherboard.
    Reply
  • dac7nco - Monday, July 25, 2011 - link

    I' glad there are still RAM reviews; 1.5v DDR3 1600 / CAS 7/7/7 gets me an additional 1 to 2 FPS in long Handbrake transcodes, which is a big part of my bread and butter.

    Keep in mind, 1.5v, no higher, is the DDR3 spec, which is why you'll never see ECC DDR3 registered memory rated above that. Keep this in mind, Anand: Control your people! X58-rated memory has no place today.

    Daimon
    Reply
  • jabber - Monday, July 25, 2011 - link

    I still think the main selling pint for RAM is - How well does it match my motherboard?

    Maybe a round up of modules with fancy spreaders and how they look in Asus/Gigabyte/Asrock/MSI boards.
    Reply

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