Gaming Performance vs. Memory Speed

One game actually made it to our list of applications that benefit from faster memory: H.A.W.X. The rest were a mix of slight to borderline noticeable increases in overall performance.

FarCry 2

Featuring fantastic visuals courtesy of the Dunia Engine, this game also features one of the most impressive benchmark tools we have seen in a PC game. We set the performance feature set to Very High, graphics to High, and enable DX10 with AA set to 2x. The in-game benchmark tool is utilized with the Ranch Small level and we report an average of three test runs.

Although the differences are minor, we do notice a linear scaling in frame rates as we improve both bandwidth and latencies. Average frame rates are up 7% and minimum frame rates by 10% when moving from 1066 C7 to 1866 C7.

Left 4 Dead

This game is a blast and addictive to boot - provided you like killing hundreds of zombies while trying to take care of your teammates and sustaining high blood pressure rates. We enable all options, set AA to 2x and AF to 8x, and play back a custom demo of a game session from the Runway Finale chapter within the Dead Air campaign.

Average frame rates improved around 2% and minimum frame rates about 5% as we moved from DDR3-1066 C7 to DDR3-1600 C6. In a recurring theme, DDR3-1600 C6 offers the best overall performance although we noted no differences in game play.

Company of Heroes: Tales of Valor

The oldest title in our test suite is still the most played. CoH has aged like fine wine and we still find it to be one of the best RTS games on the market. We crank all the options up to their highest settings, enable AA at 2x, and run the game under DX9. We track a custom replay of Able Company’s assault at Omaha Beach with FRAPS.

Average frame rates improved around 4% as memory bandwidth increased with DDR3-1600 C6 offering the best overall performance. However, there was no difference in game play between 1066 C7 to 1866 C7 as minimum frame rates did not change for the most part.

Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II

We are big fans of the Warhammer franchise, especially Dawn of War II. One of the latest RTS games in our library is also one of the more demanding titles on both the CPU and GPU. We crank all options to High, enable AA, and then run the built-in performance benchmark for our result.

Minimum frame rates responded well to latency and bandwidth improvements with DDR3-1600 C6 offering the best overall performance. Average frame rate performance increased by 3% and minimum frame rates by 41% when moving from 1066 C7 to 1600 C6.

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

While not a true flight simulation or even serious air combat game, it is a lot of fun and looks visually stunning on a 30” monitor with all options turned up. In our case, we set all options to high, enable 2xAA and DX10, and then use FRAPS to time a custom demo sequence. We run three loops of the benchmark and average our scores for the results.

In H.A.W.X., minimum frame rates improved about 14% going from 1066 C7 to 1866 C7, while average frame rates improved 6%.

World in Conflict - Soviet Assault

WIC is an RTS favorite around here and one that can still bring the latest systems to their knees if all options are enabled. We set our options to High, DX10, 2xAA. 4xAF, and then utilize FRAPS to track a repeatable game sequence for our results.

Another example of the ping pong effect as memory bandwidth and latencies are optimized at 1066 C5, 1333 C6, and 1600 C6 settings, which offer the best overall performance. DDR3-1333 C6 offers a 3% improvement in average frame rates and 12% in minimum frame rates over 1066 C7 as one example.

General Apps That Don't Show an Improvement Choosing a DDR3 Kit for an Overclocked CPU


View All Comments

  • BrianInfo - Thursday, July 30, 2009 - link

    1.) The recommended DDR3-1066 Patriot PSD36G1066KH is non-ECC and unbuffered. Will this be an issue for the personal desktop use, mainly for video/audio transcoding/muxing?

    2.) The article does not specify how to achieve the CAS5. Does anyone succeed the CAS5 with this Patriot DDR3-1066 and/or overclocked DDR3-1200?

    3.) Is it possible to achieve the CAS5 with other brand, such as GeIL CAS7 GV36GB1066C7TC or Crucial CT3KIT25664BA1067??

    4.) According to Tom's Hardware, not all the X58 motherboards support CAS5">
    so does it mean I cant obtain the ideal performance with the combination of "ASRock X58 Extreme" motherboard with "Patriot PSD36G1066KH" Tweaked-CAS5 DDR3? I really like the Asus P6T SE but the layout of the two (blue) PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots, too close to each other is killing me:(

  • iwodo - Sunday, June 28, 2009 - link

    Spend the extra money on an SSD rather then faster Memory. Although i would love to see how Tri Channel differs from Dual Channel. ( Same results? )
    And how integrated Graphics differs in memory speed.
  • lemonadesoda - Friday, June 26, 2009 - link

    Gary, you obviously get paid by wordcount. Too much waffle. Get to the meat faster.

    And what about this $200 between cheap and expensive DDR3 kits? How about seeing WHERE that $200 could have been spent in OTHER upgrades, ie. CPU or GPU, and running benchmark comparisons against THAT setup vs. the first.

    Otherwise, thanks for running all the tests and creating the data for us to review :-)
  • PrinceGaz - Thursday, June 25, 2009 - link

    As soon as I looked at the chart on the first page of the article, it was clear that the DDR3-1600 C9 memory would represent the best bang for the buck. It was only marginally higher priced than the DDR3-1066 C7 (and the DDR3-1066 C5 doesn't count as you overclocked the DDR3-1066 C7 for that purpose), and was sure to perform at least as good, and probably better than significantly higher priced DDR3-1333 modules at C8, and almost as good as the DDR3-1333 C7.

    Given that faster memory modules only ever have a negligible effect on real-world performance (unless you are a pirate and spend a lot of time using PAR2 checkers to rebuild damaged files from newsgroups, or WinRAR to then extract the original files, the sort of stuff I certainly won't say I do), then you may as well get the cheapest brand-name memory available. If you're spending in the upper mid-range on your CPU, then go for slightly faster (like the 1600 C9) but still quite cheap memory-modules. The only people who should be getting those top-of-the-range modules or anything close to that price level are those who have already decided on the fastest Core i7 CPU avilable (i7 975 currently), as otherwise they're wasting their money on the wrong bit of hardware.
  • Souka - Thursday, June 25, 2009 - link

    I'm more confused than ever... what to buy?

    Putting together a new system...
    Win7 or Vista x64
    i7-920 CPU
    x58 MB
    ATI 4890 video

    Memory? I'd like to go with 6GB (3x2gb), thought I had my choices narrowed down to:
    Opt1: $138 mushkin 6GB(3x2GB) 1333(PC3 10666) Model 998706, Cas6, 6-7-6-18
    Opt2: $175 mushkin 6GB(3x2GB) 1600(PC3 12800) Model 998691. Cas6, 6-7-6-18

    But after reading this article, and your comments... I'm very!
  • PrinceGaz - Thursday, June 25, 2009 - link

    Given a choice between either DDR3-1333 or 1600 memory with identical timings (6-7-6-18), but a $37 price difference, I'd probably go for the 1333, especially as you have decided on an i7-920. If you want to spend a little more to improve yours sytem performance, the memory speed is the last place to look at to do so. Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Sunday, July 5, 2009 - link

    I took just the opposite from it - he has a 4980 there - overclockable nicely, is saving quite a bit with lower cpu, and what else can get him another 2,5,7,14 % in framerates, especially minimum in some cases ? I think the higher ram is much better and worth it after seeing this articles results.
    He will OC the 4890 and the cpu likely, so that fast ram will give it that great finisging kick and make it awesome.
    Spend the $37 and be happy - definitely.
  • Hrel - Thursday, June 25, 2009 - link

    G.Skill 1.5-1.6v 1333 Cas 8-8-8-21 = 65
    Crucial 1.8v 1333 Cas 6-6-6-20 = 64 (sold out right now)

    OCZ 1.9v 1600 Cas 7-7-7-24 = 54 (after 20 mail in rebate)
    Patriot 1.9v 1600 Cas 7-7-7-20 = 95 (free shipping)
    Patriot 2.0v 1600 Cas 7-7-7-20 = 100 (Green, which I like)

    So basically, it really ONLY makes sense to buy the OCZ 1600 Cas 7 for 54 bucks, why pay more for less?!!!
  • sonci - Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - link

    Really boring for me,
    lucky, I didnt read it all
  • StraightPipe - Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - link

    cough * troll* Reply

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