So you bought yourself a new Athlon 64 CPU and want to pair it up with high quality components to extract maximum performance from your new PC? What memory should you buy?
It’s safe to say that PC2700 and older memory will not live up to the A64 challenge, starting from PC3200 your system will have all the memory bandwidth it needs to be blistering fast. Back in the glory days of the Athlon XP and Pentium 4 people pushed their FSB upwards to increase the memory bandwidth and this paid off quite well with an increase in performance
of ~15% without the CPU being clocked higher!
. Companies saw the need for memory rated higher than PC3200 and so the unofficial PC3500/3700/4000/4400/xxxx standards were born.
When Athlon 64 was released to the public many tried their tested tactics on this new platform, getting the HTT (A64’s equivalent to the FSB) as high as possible to gain extra performance. But A64 has an on-die memory controller,unlike the Athlon XP or P4, this controller allows you to run memory asynchronous to the HTT. Running memory async to the system bus is of course nothing new, but what is
new, is the fact that performance between a system running memory async versus one running memory synchronous is virtually non-existent.
Sure there will be applications and benchmarks which will show you a difference favoring the synchronous 1:1 running system, but overall this increase in performance is nothing compared to the gains we so accustomed to have when doing the same on Athlon XP or P4.So here today we are focusing on proving that Gamers don’t need expensive memory to get the most out of their Athlon 64 system.System Setup
Here’s our test hardware, an Athlon FX CPU has the advantage of being able to increase/decrease the multiplier which helps us in our tests, but it is not needed, the FSB:MEM divider in the BIOS allows you to keep the memory running within specs AMD Athlon A64 FX-55 (13x200)
Swiftech H20-120-FB Water Cooling Kit
MSI K8N Neo2
Samsung SATA 7200 120GB -8 mb (OS)
2X512 MB Gskill PC4400 LE TCCD
The PC4400 G.Skill memory is also rated CL2 2-2-5 at PC3200, this will come in handy in this test.
Our first configuration has the CPU running at 2800Mhz with a 14x multiplier, so our memory is running 200Mhz
Next up we decrease the multiplier to 10x and increase the HTT to 280Mhz
If you buy a no-name or budget PC3200 pair of memory sticks, then those will most likely run at CL2.5 3-3-x at 200Mhz. So we configured our G.Skill like this:
When you spend a few more $/€ you can get “eXtreme” sticks which will operate at very tight timings at PC3200 speeds; CL2 2-2-5
Then we have the “Extreme Performance” categorie which will run at insane speeds close to/and over 300Mhz at more relaxed timings. CL2.5 3-3-7 at 280Mhz!
Recently a new series of “Extreme Performance” sticks was launched, most likely equipped with Winbond UTT memory chips, they keep running tight timings all the way up to PC4000 speeds, but require massive amounts of DDR voltage to do so. We would have loved to include a pair of those in our test as we have an OCZ DDR Booster lying ready here, but we don’t have this type of modules in our lab right now.
And this is what you’ve all been waiting for, the hard proof. We start of with a synthetic benchmark. Sisoft Sandra’s memory benchmark measures the maximum bandwidth of your system and reports results back in Mb/s
As you can see, with the memory running synchronous at 280Mhz the bandwidth increases with a quite impressive 1600Mb/s. The difference at PC3200 speeds with different timings is less pronounced: ~60Mb/s
But do we “play” Sisoft Sandra, SuperPi, 3DMark2001SE and other benchmarks? No!
Some do “play around with” these benchmarks to obtain the highest scores and I’m sure they’re having a great time doing so.
But you’re not going to buy more expensive memory just to “show off” are you? If you answered yes to this question, then you should not be reading this article anyway as you already know the outcome.
For those who do like to get the most bang for their buck, we present you our game benchmarks ->