Test Setup and Methodology
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Core i5 DDR3 Memory Kit Shootout - 4GB kits
Choosing the right kind of memory for your socket 1156 build is essential, but with such a bewildering array of different manufacturers and specifications on offer knowing where to start can be difficult. This is particularly true if you have been out of the loop for a couple of years, as DDR3 timings, speeds and nomenclature can be confusing.
Today we are comparing five different 4GB kits of 1600 MHz DDR3 from four of the most important memory manufacturers in the industry. 1600 MHz DDR3 can also be listed under a different designation; PC3-12800. This number is derived from its peak theoretical bandwidth. All of our test kits have been supplied by a real retail store rather than from the manufacturer directly, so it should be representative of what you can buy yourself rather than an insight into which firm can cherry-pick the best review samples.
The Test Specification
Without further ado, let's introduce our test specification. It consists of the exceptional Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD4 motherboard, a Core i7 860 processor and an Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro Rev. 2 CPU cooler. We used a Silverstone 600W PSU and our test OS was installed on an Intel X25-M 80GB SSD. All benchmarks were performed on a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit.
Testing the RAM
To test the performance of each module we employed the two most popular memory bandwidth applications in the industry; Lavalys Everest and Sisoft Sandra. When testing the overclocking prowess of each module we changed the DRAM voltage to 1.65V in the BIOS - the maximum allowed under Intel's P55 / X58 guidelines - and manually set the timings to 9-9-9-24. We then stressed the RAM at each of our speed "hurdles" for 2 hours using a combination of Prime 95 on blend mode and Intel's Linpack benchmark. If it passed this test it was considered stable and we moved onto the next speed bump.
Our four speed bumps are 1600MHz, 1800MHz, 1900MHz and finally 2000MHz effective frequency. Testing the ceiling limit for each module is fairly unhelpful as all modules perform slightly differently. By setting targets that enthusiasts often want to shoot for we are hoping to give you a better idea of each kit's likely capabilities.