What about the Impact of DDR3 Speeds?

Intel only officially supports up to DDR3-1066 on Nehalem, but hitting 1333MHz and 1600MHz isn't a problem thanks to DDR3 being a mature technology that's been in use for a couple of years now.

  Triple Channel DDR3-1066 (9-9-9-20) Triple Channel DDR3-1333 (9-9-9-20) Triple Channel DDR3-1600 (9-9-9-24)
Memory Tests - Everest v1547      
Read Bandwidth 13423 MB/s 14127 MB/s 17374 MB/s
Write Bandwidth 12401 MB/s 12404 MB/s 14169 MB/s
Copy Bandwidth 18074 MB/s 16953 MB/s 19447 MB/s
Latency 44.2 ns 38.8 ns 33.5 ns
x264 HD Encoding Test (First Pass / Second Pass) 85.3 fps / 30.3 fps 86.4 fps / 30.6 fps 88.1 fps / 30.7 fps
WinRAR 3.80 - 602MB Folder 117 seconds 111 seconds 106 seconds
PCMark Vantage 7490 7569 8102
Vantage - Memories 6712 6809 6886
Vantage - TV and Movies 5637 5716 5716
Vantage - Gaming 9849 10570 11013
Vantage - Music 4593 4798 4896
Vantage - Communications 6422 6486 6630
Vantage - Productivity 7676 7803 7819
WinRAR (Built in Benchmark) 3306 3520 3707
Nero Recode - Office Space - 7.55GB 130 seconds 127 seconds 126 seconds
SuperPI - 32M (mins:seconds) 11:52 11:36 11:25
Far Cry 2 - Ranch Medium (1680 x 1050) 62.4 fps 62.5 fps 62.7 fps
Age of Conan - 1680 x 1050 51.1 fps 51.1 fps 51.1 fps
Company of Heroes - 1680 x 1050 133.6 fps 135.8 fps 136.8 fps


The real world performance benefit from going to DDR3-1066 to 1600, despite having to lower memory timings slightly, is around 3%. The raw increase in memory bandwidth amounts to about 30% and in a completely memory bandwidth bound test like the WinRAR benchmark you're looking at a 12% boost in performance, but that's going to be very rare in most real world scenarios. The reduction in latency is particularly impressive when you jump up to DDR3-1600, it only takes 33.5ns to access main memory.

If you do want the absolute best performance out of your Nehalem system you're going to want a three-channel DDR3-1600+ kit, but you'll only be giving up a couple of percent if you opt for the entry level 1066MHz modules at like timings. Although not shown, in this article anyway, reducing the memory timings to 7-7-7-20 at DDR3-1066 will close the slight performance gap quickly in most instances.

Understanding Nehalem's Memory Architecture Intel's Warning on Memory Voltage
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  • anand4happy - Sunday, February 8, 2009 - link

    saw many thing but this is the thing something dfferent

  • nidhoggr - Monday, November 10, 2008 - link

    I cant find that information on the test setup page.
  • nidhoggr - Monday, November 10, 2008 - link

    test not text :)
  • puffpio - Wednesday, November 5, 2008 - link

    would you guys consider rebenchmarking?
    from the x264 changelog since the nehalem specific optimizations:
    "Overall speed improvement with Nehalem vs Penryn at the same clock speed is around 40%."
  • anartik - Wednesday, November 5, 2008 - link

    Good review and better than Tom's overall. However Tom's stumbled on something that changed my mind about gaming with Nehalem. While Anand's testing shows minimal performance gains (and came to the not good for games conclusion) Tom's approached it with 1-4 GPU's SLI or Crossfire. All I can say is the performance gains with Nvidia cards in SLI was stunning. Maybe the platform favors SLI or Nvidia had a driver advantage in licensing SLI to Intel. Either way Nehalem and SLI smoked ATI and the current 3.2 extreme quad across the board.
  • dani31 - Wednesday, November 5, 2008 - link

    I know it would't change any conclusion, but since we discuss bleeding edge Intel hardware it would have been nice to see the same in the AMD testbed.

    Using a SB600 mobo (instead of the acclaimed SB750) and an old set of drivers makes it look like the AMD numbers were simply pasted from an old article.
  • Casper42 - Tuesday, November 4, 2008 - link

    Something I think you guys missed in your article/conslusion is the fact that we're now able to pair a great CPU with a pretty damn good North/South Bridge AND SLI.

    I found that the 680/780/790 featureset is plainly lacking and that the Intel ICH9R/10R seems to always perform better and has more features. If any doubt, look at Matrix RAID vs nVidia's RAID. Night and day difference, especially with RAID5.

    The problem with the X38/X48 was you got a great board but were effectively locked into ATI for high end Gaming.

    Now we have the best of both worlds. You get ICH10R, a very well performing CPU (even the 920 beats most of the Intel Quad Core lineup) AND you can run 1/2/3 nVidia GPUs on the machine. In my opinion, this is a winning combination.

    The only downside I see is board designs seem to suck more and more.

    With socket 1366 being so massive and 6 DIMM slots on the Enthusiast/Gamer boards, we're seeing not only 6 expansion slots (down from the standard of 7) but in most boards I have seen pics of, the top slot is an x1 so they can wedge it next to the x58 IOH which means your left with only 5 slots for other cards. Using 3 dual slot cards is out of the question without a massive 10 slot case (of which there are only like 3-5 on the market) and even if you can wedge 2 or 3 dual slot cards into the machine, you have almost zero expansion card slots should you ever need them.

    Then we get to all the cooling crap surrounding the CPU. ALL these designs rely on a top down traditional cooler and if you decide to use a highly effective tower cooling solution, all the little heatsink fins on the Northbridge and pwer regulators around the CPU get very little or no airflow. Now your in there adding puny little 40/60mm fans that produce more noise than airflow, not to mention that the DIMMs are hardly ever cooled in today's board designs.
    Call me a cooling purist if you will, but I much prefer traditional front to back airflow and all this side intake top exhaust stuff just makes me cringe. I personally run a Tyan Thunder K8WE with 2 Hyper6+ coolers and the procs and RAM are all cooled front to back. Intake and exhaust are 120mm and I have a bit of an air channel in which that airflow never goes near the expansion card slots below, which by the way have a 92mm fan up front pushing air in across the drives and another 92mm fan clipped onto the expansion slots in the back pulling it back out.

    I dont know how to resolve these issues, but I think someone surely needs to because IMHO its getting out of control.
  • lemonadesoda - Tuesday, November 4, 2008 - link

    "Looking at POV-Ray we see a 30% increase in performance for a 12% increase in total system power consumption, that more than exceeds Intel's 2:1 rule for performance improvement vs. increase in power consumption."

    You cant use "total system power", but must make the best estimate of CPU power draw. Why? Because imagine if you had a system with 6 sticks of RAM, 4 HDDs, etc. you would have ever increasing power figures that would make the ratio of increased power consumption (a/b) smaller and smaller!

    If you take your figures and subtract (a guestimate of) 100W for non CPU power draw, then you DONT get the Intel 2:1 ratio at all!

    The figures need revisiting.
  • AnnonymousCoward - Thursday, November 6, 2008 - link

    Performance vs power appears to linearly increase with HT. Using the 100W figure for non-CPU draw means a 25% power increase, which is close to the 30% performance.

    Unless we're talking about servers, I think looking at power draw per application is silly. Just do idle power, load power, and maybe some kind of flops/watt benchmark just for fun.
  • silversound - Tuesday, November 4, 2008 - link

    great article, tomsharware reviews always pro intel and nvidia, not sure if they got pay $ to suppot them. anandtech is always neutral, thx!

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