Conclusion

The purpose of this comparison of DDR3 and DDR2 was to determine whether DDR3 really brought any better performance to the Core 2 platform. However, the test was designed so that any performance improvements that were brought by the new P35 (Bearlake) chipset would be captured and could be isolated. P35 supports either DDR2 or DDR3, and we found no real difference in current performance of DDR2 and DDR3 on the P35 platform. Both were equally faster than the same DDR2 on the P965 chipset.

That means the real performance surprise in these tests is that the revised memory controller in the Bearlake chipset improves buffered memory bandwidth by 16% to 18%, with a real-world improvement in gaming and application performance of 2 to 5%. This is a pretty impressive improvement for a memory controller update. To repeat an old saying please remember that memory is just one small part of the system, so a 2% to 5% increase in gaming from the memory controller alone means the P35 memory controller is significantly improved over the P965 chipset.

DDR3 at introduction is saddled with pretty dismal memory timings. As you can see in our test bed chart, SPD timings are 6-6-6-15 at DDR3-800, 7-7-7-20 at DDR3-1066 and 9-9-9-25 at DDR3-1333. Despite the slower timings DDR3 runs at higher speeds than any DDR2 we have tested, and we will have official JEDEC timings for DDR3 to 1600 with the current JEDEC standard, and possibly ever faster with any future JEDEC update.

Even at slow timings, DDR3 shows a great deal of promise. It is as fast as very fast DDR2 on the P965, but it can't match the same DDR2 memory performance on the P35. DDR3 can run at higher speeds than DDR2 and as faster memory timings inevitably appear DDR3 will be the right choice for computer enthusiasts looking for the best performance. While we can't prove better latency or significantly better performance with the slow timings of launch DDR3, the evidence is all there in these tests. DDR3 will get faster in speed and will provide the best performance in the long term.

That brings up the more difficult question: what to buy today? That is a much more complicated question. If you are looking for a new system, definitely choose the new P35 chipset over the P965, as it is a better memory performer. At launch we are told DDR3 will be much more expensive than DDR2. Prices are expected to be about $480 for a 2GB DDR3 kit. At that lofty price it is difficult to recommend DDR3 over DDR2, when DDR2 performs just the same on the P35 chipset and decent 2GB kits can be had for under $150 now.

Two conditions would shift the recommendation to DDR3 instead. When DDR3 prices come close to DDR2 then buy DDR3 instead. More significantly, when DDR3 becomes available at higher speeds and/or faster timings then definitely choose DDR3 if you are looking for performance - even if the price is higher.

We asked many memory vendors when they thought price parity and fast DDR3 timings might be available. The more skeptical said not until late 2008, while the more optimistic felt it would happen by the end of 2007. Until either or both events happens there is no compelling reason to buy DDR3. However, there is no doubt at all that DDR3 is in your future as the top-performing memory you can buy. Some will also buy it because it is the future and they can likely carry their DDR3 supporting board a little further into the future.

AMD's launch of their Phenom processors will also be something to consider for it's potential impact on DDR3 adoption. Phenom will initially launch with DDR2 only. If AMD can regain the performance crown, the shift to DDR3 may be further delayed, just like what happened with the DDR to DDR2 shift.

The winner for now is the P35 chipset, whether you feed it DDR2 with fast timings or higher speed DDR3. The 1333 bus speed introduced by P35 is also a winner - at least in terms of overclocking. As stated in the review, almost every Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad we tried in the P35 ASUS P5K and P5K3 ran at 1333 FSB at the default multiplier and default voltage. The only processors that required any voltage increase were the top line Core 2 Extreme processors. This free 25% overclock, which still allows everything else in the system to run at default values, is exciting. It is so exciting we have to wonder how long Intel will allow this in the marketplace.

DDR3 may not be in your buying plan today, but it will certainly be there in the future. As DDR3 prices drop and/or timings improve, it will be the performance choice. For today, the best performance choice is either today's DDR2 or tomorrow's DDR3 on the P35 chipset instead.

Number Crunching and Gaming
POST A COMMENT

47 Comments

View All Comments

  • RichyDitch - Tuesday, February 17, 2009 - link

    Hey there, I'm still not sure what would be better. I have an AsRock P35 motherboard, and am totally confused as to what would be better when it comes to DDR2 or DDR3.

    The motherboard it's self can hold up to 8gb of PC2 8500 1066mhz duel channel DDR2 memory, and up to 4gb of PC3 10600 1333mhz duel channel DDR3 memory.

    What would end up being better, if I get the max amount of memory for the motherboard. The DRR2 specifications I mentioned or the DDR3 specifications mentioned?
    Reply
  • mikegonzalezrubio - Saturday, January 24, 2009 - link

    I WANNA BUY A NEW LAPTOP BUT I DONT KNOW WHAT IS THE BEST CHOISE IS BUY A DDR2 LAPTOP OR DDR3 LAPTOP MY OPTIONS ARE:

    HP - Pavilion Laptop with Intel® Centrino® 2 Processor Technology - Bronze/Chrome
    Model: dv7-1285dx
    WITH
    Intel® Centrino® 2 processor technology with interrelated Intel® Core™2 Duo processor P8600
    Intel® Wi-Fi Link 5100AGN (802.11a/b/g/n) network connection and extended battery life capability.
    6GB DDR2 memory
    For multitasking power, expandable to 8GB. 1066MHz frontside bus, 3MB L2 cache and 2.4GHz processor speed.
    Multiformat DVD±RW/CD-RW drive with double-layer support
    Records up to 8.5GB 17" WXGA high-definition widescreen display
    With BrightView technology and 1440 x 900 resolution
    500GB Serial ATA hard drive (5400 rpm)
    NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT graphics

    *LINK OF THE PRODUCT http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?skuId=9166...">http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp...&typ...


    OR TO BUY A DELL Studio XPS 16
    WITH
    Intel® Core™ 2 Duo P8400 (3MB cache/2.26GHz/1066Mhz FSB)
    LCD PanelEdge-to-Edge HD Widescreen 16.0 inch WLED LCD (1366x768) W/2.0 MP
    8X DVD+/- RW(DVD/CD read/write) Slot Load Drive
    Specifications - DVD+/-RW or Bluray Drive
    4GB2 Dual Channel DDR3 SDRAM at 1067MHz (2 Dimms)
    320GB3 7200 RPM SATA Hard Drive
    ATI Mobility RADEON® HD 3670 - 512MB4
    Intel® 5100 WLAN Wireless-N (1x2) Half Mini Card
    LINK OF THE PRODUCT IS http://configure.us.dell.com/dellstore/config.aspx...">http://configure.us.dell.com/dellstore/...kc=produ...
    WHO CAN TELL ME WHAT IS THE BEST CHOICE HERE BETWEEN THOSE LAPTOP...?
    thanks for your help i wait an aswer
    sincerely
    MIGUEL ANGEL
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, May 17, 2007 - link

    quote:

    Two conditions would shift the recommendation to DDR3 instead. When DDR3 prices come close to DDR2 then buy DDR3 instead. More significantly, when DDR3 becomes available at higher speeds and/or faster timings then definitely choose DDR3 if you are looking for performance - even if the price is higher.


    No there are not just two conditions. There is a third condition that I wish you'd start considering: How it screws over everyone who wants to upgrade. This article has proven that Intel can squeeze more performance out of their memory controller. What this ultimately shows is that improvements in memory controller design actually outweigh the change to a new memory standard! Is DDR2 18% faster than DDR? (Maybe now, just barely. After 3 years!) Yet intel just pulls a new memory controller out of their wazoo that does 18% better? I smell a big rat and anadtech aint talking about it.
    Reply
  • TA152H - Thursday, May 17, 2007 - link

    You're not the first person to be frustrated by how poorly memory speed increases, but there are a few things to consider.

    For one, the new controller is NOT 18% faster than the old, that is only in bandwidth, not latency. Latency is VERY important, and discounting is a huge fallacy. And yes, bandwidth has increased a lot more than 18% from DDR.

    Secondly, this isn't by any means the end of DDR2, it's a forward looking move that paves the way for DDR3. DDR2 will continue to dominate the market, and by the time it's obsolete you'll have DDR3 ready. What would happen if Intel waited for DDR2 to already be obsolete before they introduced DDR3? You'd have that long wait while memory companies worked on the new technology, and prices were very high and performance wasn't what it should be. After a couple of years, DDR3 would finally be mature in performance and cost, but nearly obsolesence itself. So, Intel is just getting things started so when DDR3 does become necessary, it is ready. It's like a pipelined processor, Intel is starting DDR3 in stage one while DDR2 is in stage 2.

    Also, keep in mind that DDR2 is not made to go much faster than it is, and will run into a wall. That's where DDR3 comes in. Again, it's forward looking by Intel. DDR2 can still increase a bit, but by the time it runs into a wall, DDR3 will be right there to go to higher speeds.

    Also keep in mind the number of people that upgrade is very, very small. It's not their intention to screw people over, but it's something they are willing to do because of the importance of evolving technology, and the miniscule percentage of people that upgrade processors without motherboards. It's a necessary evil.
    Reply
  • sprockkets - Wednesday, May 16, 2007 - link

    quote:

    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


    Funny how we can let you benchmark hardware not coming out till this Autumn but we can't let out any info or benchmarks on a new chipset coming out in 5 days.
    Reply
  • cornfedone - Wednesday, May 16, 2007 - link

    Anyone who thinks 2-5% increase in system performance is a big deal needs to get their head examined as it don't mean nothing real world. Most people couldn't even see a 2-5% system performance increase on their best day. Bearlake is more hype with no tangible performance increase. Reply
  • TA152H - Wednesday, May 16, 2007 - link

    Wow, that's a really uninformed remark.

    You might not notice X-Rays, but they can kill you. So don't talk about this babble with tangible (it's a poor choice of words, since it literally means "touchable" and it's bad enough Anand overuses it) and what's noticeable. You're getting an amazing increase from a chipset, and this is the mainstream chipset. On top of that, it supports DDR2 and DDR3 so it pushes the technology envelope forward. Getting any increases in memory performance is simply amazing at this point, since chipsets are so mature it's not like there is a low hanging fruit, and Intel processors have such a large cache it makes memory performance less important than would otherwise be. It's a fantastic chipset, arguably the next 440BX. I knew it was good, but even I'm shocked at just how good it is. Kind of kills the argument for the on-die memory controller, which I never was completely sold on. It's scary though, it makes you wonder just how well Intel will do with that if they can get this type of performance with the memory controller on the chipset.

    It's an amazing chipset, it is shocking in terms of performance, so much so I doubt anyone thought it was possible. Give them their kudos when they deserve it, because they do with this bad boy. I wish I knew how they did it, but my guess is by finally moving their chipsets to modern lithography, they were able to include a lot more buffers and run it faster without using too much power. I am really clueless though, that's pure speculation. I don't know how they made this so much better than everything else. It's shocking.
    Reply
  • bldckstark - Wednesday, May 16, 2007 - link

    Shockingly enough, 2% is within the error of the tests performed, and therefore is not, statistically speaking, significant. Not only that, but the cost of progress is passed on to the consumer, who usually rates the speed of their computer based upon how fast their favorite website loads, not on how fast it performs computations. Shocking, I would say. Reply
  • TA152H - Wednesday, May 16, 2007 - link

    So, you're saying that on every single test by weird coincidence, the Bearlake is higher just be statistical scatter? You're saying the huge increase in bandwidth is somehow also weird coincidence?

    How do you know what the margin of error is anyway? When you get repeatable results where one is always higher, you can conclude pretty easily that they are real and not statistical scatter.

    And you know the cost of Bearlake how? You are sure it's more expensive? It probably uses less power, since it's made on finer lithography. So, you're talking about something you probably don't know anything about. I do agree that most people don't need the latest and greatest, so I fundamentally agree with that part, but who is going to make them buy this chipset? If they want cheap, they can still buy something cheap, if this isn't, which I don't know. But, some people need performance, and this is a great item for that, and it's a real accomplishment from Intel.

    By your perverse logic, all improvements that don't increase web speed are immaterial. That's clearly wrong. That only applies to some people.

    You're completely illogical.
    Reply
  • OrSin - Wednesday, May 16, 2007 - link

    Thats total system performance, from 1 part. Memory performance is 16% and that huge from a low cost part. Unless your adding a $400 video card over $200 card you will not notice the diffenecen either. One part theats 15% more in price then a similar part will rarely give you 5% improvement.

    Remember this is a systems and it mean each part gives some improvement to make a better system.

    Yeah you will not notice 5%. Bet then why get a part that works 5% slower when the cost is similar. Some people are never happy.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now