PC Hardware is akin to the arms race that happened during the Cold War. Just when you thought that the available performance was more than enough, suddenly something new appears and moves the goal-posts. Whilst America and the USSR might have been increase megaton yields, on the silicon battlefield it's all about megahertz.
When it came to dual-channel DDR3 the recent king of the hill was the Kingston HyperX T1 but G.Skill have come screaming back with a kit rated at a blistering 2500MHz CAS9.
Sporting an upgrade of the excellent Trident heatsink and with such ridiculous speeds available, does it retake the crown or is it starting to out-perform the motherboards into which it's placed?
There is, of course, only one way to find out and so OC3D return to the P55 test rig one last time to see if we can crown a winner.
With the main improvement being in pure speed, so much so that we finally see something rated at PC3-20000, the rest of the kit is pretty standard. Despite the incredible speed on offer the timings aren't too bad rated at 9-11-9-28.
|M/B Chipset||Intel P55|
|Speed||DDR3-2500 (PC3 20000)|
|Test Voltage||1.65 Volts|
Let's take a look at the G.Skill offering before we put it under the microscope.
The Trident comes in the standard G.Skill box they use for their RAM which also comes equipped with the blue-LED cooler. It's beyond sturdy and even the postman couldn't make a dent in it.
Opening it up we find a equally serious bit of thick cardboard containing the cooler and the memory itself. You can just see the top of one of the RAM sticks at the bottom, they flank the cooler.
The cooler is the same one we've seen from G.Skill before. If it's not broke then don't fix it is our motto so as it worked so well before it's nice to see them keep the formula. Compared to many RAM coolers this requires no assembly and just stretches over your RAM slots allowing for simple installation.
Now to the DIMMs themselves. They are very similar to the earlier Trident branded RAM from G.Skill but the heat-sink is a little thicker and generally more substantial as it would have to be with the memory running at 2500MHz.
It is quite something to look at the sticker on the back of the G.Skill and see such gaudy numbers.
Everyone has different opinions on aesthetics and whilst we appreciate that black and red is so popular it's almost becoming passé, there is no denying that the Trident is a stunning looking kit. The extra heft in the heat-sink really gives them a purposeful edge.
4GB G.Skill Trident DDR3-2500
Intel Core i7-870
ASUS HD5850 Top
Cougar 1000CM 1000W PSU
Windows 7 x64
For our testing we'll be comparing against the Kingston HyperX T1 2133MHz which is the current best Dual-Channel kit we've had in our UD4.
Overclocking... or not
As you would expect the G.Skill XMP profile has to make some serious changes to enable it to run at the rated speed. It ups the BCLK to a heady 208MHz, only 3MHz shy of the limit on this particular board. Also worth noting is that according to G.Skill it should run at 9-11-9-28-2T, but our XMP is programmed to 9-11-11-31-1T.
The need to have such a high bus speed to obtain the 2496MHz RAM speed does leave us with a bit of a problem. Our Gigabyte P55 UD4 tops out at 211-212MHz on the BCLK, so overclocking isn't really an option. Sure we could do it but an extra 36MHz wont show anything worthwhile. We can't play with the dividers either as we're already maxed out at 12 on the DRAM side of things.
Given this it was decided to go a little in the other direction, back to 200MHz BCLK which still gives us a Memory speed of 2400MHz but enables us to run at CAS8 instead. Specifically 8-10-10-28-1T still at 1.65v.
We could probably go slower still to get the timings a little tighter, but that's utterly defeating the point of the kit.
Time to see how it performs.
A couple of things to note about the graphs. Firstly although both the HyperX and Trident are at their XMP, the G.Skill is rated at 363 MHz faster. The 'Tweak' version of the HyperX is pretty much the same as the XMP settings for the Trident, so really the main comparison is between the two middle bars. The orange bar is for the 2400MHz CAS 8 settings, which should see reasonably similar results.
Read tests are pretty nice in which the reduction down to CAS8 at the expense of barely any clock speed really pays dividends over the default G.Skill. The Write test is almost linear with clock speed, apart from the HyperX stealing quite a march on the rest. Yet once we move to the Copy test, which should be a nice balance between read and write, it all settles down with the G.Skill at XMP settings just holding a slender lead.
When the discussion is held between those who believe low CAS is more important and those who feel speed is king, we generally have seen in recent times that speed just about wins out. Because we've hardly lost any speed to obtain our CAS8 rating on the tweaked G.Skill then all three kits in the 2400MHz area give very similar results.
If there is one accusation you cannot level at Sandra it's inconsistency. As a pure test of Memory performance, as opposed to AIDA64 which is also affected by CPU speed, we can see that the G.Skill takes both first and second place, with the drop to CAS8 giving about .5 GB/s improvement over the kit at stock.
Cache and Memory Bandwidth
When everything is combined in the Cache and Memory bandwidth test to give a score across the board of available bandwidth things rapidly change. No longer is the G.Skill pumping out such huge numbers, although at 2400MHz CAS8 it's still ahead of the 2500MHz CAS9 XMP profile.
wPrime, with its plethora of calculations (up to 1 billion) can be affected greatly by the CPU speed as well as the memory capabilities. Due to slight variances in bus speeds to attain the various RAM speeds for reviews, although all tests had the CPU in the 3.7GHz range you need to be aware that there are a dozen or so MHz here and there difference.
Nonetheless the drop to CAS8 has the desired affect just putting the G.Skill in first place, although the real differences are so slight as to be meaningless..
PC Mark Vantage
PC Mark has long been known as providing a very easy to use, easy to understand method of testing your systems performance for daily use without actually having to use it for days on end. Thanks to its built-in application suite and realistic method of testing you can just set it running which helps hugely for those of us who test large amount of hardware all the time. Today we can see that at all settings we get roughly similar results except in video editing in which the extra CPU overclock needed to obtain the overclocked Kingston gives us a benefit, and picture importing where the pure speed of the G.Skill wins out by quite some margin.
As with all rendering software CineBench is largely dependant upon the CPU, however there is just enough benefit obtained from the CAS8 tweak to take home the gold.
Many companies seem to produce endless steams of minutely different RAM in a variety of barely variable heat-sinks or packages. G.Skill on the other hand don't often produce a new kit, but when they do it's usually something worth taking notice of.
Such is the case with the G.Skill Trident kit on test today.
Blazing speed barely covers it. It's fearsomely quick for a dual-channel kit, and the XMP is such that it really works 'out of the box'.
In fact it's so good at stock that if you're after the fastest plug-and-play dual-channel kit on the market then you really shouldn't need to look no further. The heat-sink is gorgeous, it doesn't require any tweaking at all and even if you run it in passive mode it doesn't get hot, although the cooler is provided and works very well should you be nervous.
Unfortunately it's not quite that cut and dried.
For a start the XMP requires a motherboard capable of doing over 200MHz BCLK. Most should be able to do this easily but even our Gigabyte P55A-UD4 is heading towards its limit at the required 208MHz. This means if you're after a kit that overclocks well then you either need a motherboard capable of extreme Bus Speeds, or look elsewhere.
We did manage to get the timings down a little bit whilst still retaining most of the speed, but to go any tighter on the timings you'd have to go even slower on the RAM. Dropping to around the 2000MHz mark on the RAM merely to obtain CAS7 would be missing the point of the G.Skill Trident, and also not gaining any of the benefits of having such super-fast RAM.
G.Skill almost in danger of having a product that performs too highly if only because it will push your system to the limits. However for so long we've been saying that companies are far too cautious with their hardware and we regularly prove that there is tons of overclocking headroom. So we'd be fairly hypocritical if we complained that there isn't a lot of headroom available in the G.Skill Trident for "free" performance, but rather they've hit the bump-stops straight out the gate.
Pricing is currently unavailable although looking at other similarly spec'd kits we'd expect the G.Skill to come in around the £140-£150 mark considering it comes with the G.Skill cooler as well.
Assuming that you haven't got a very poor quality motherboard, the G.Skill Trident is a fantastic performing kit truly gives phenomenal high-speeds with no tweaking whatsoever.
Thanks to G.Skill for providing the PC3-20000 Trident for review. Discuss in our forums