Only a short while ago when DDR3 was unleashed upon the public along with Intel's DDR3-supporting P35 chipset, many people were sceptical about any possible performance gains achieved by moving to this new technology. In fact, here at Overclock3D we even performed our own analysis in the Asus P5K vs Asus P5K3 (DDR2 vs DDR3) review and found only a negligible performance improvement in favour of DDR3.
However, in the past couple of months DDR3 technology has been moving forward in leaps and bounds, with enthusiast orientated companies such as OCZ ramping up memory speed and tightening timings like there's no tomorrow. Some of the fastest kits on the market at the moment come in DDR3-1600 and DDR3-1800 formats, with the latter of the two being on the verge of breaking the 2ghz mark - making for some extremely fast read/write performance indeed!
For most of us OCZ needs no introduction. Being one of the innovators in the PC enthusiast market, and with firm beliefs in after-sales service and customer satisfaction, OCZ are pretty much a household name. However, for those of us who have had our heads firmly stuck under a rock for the past 7 years since OCZ's entry into the memory market, here is brief snippet of history taken from their homepage:
Entering the memory market in August 2000, OCZ Technology was built around the determination to manufacture the best high speed DDR and RDRAM. OCZ was founded by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts, and our commitment to the end-user has not digressed. OCZ Technology has been an innovator in many areas. We were the first manufacturer to make Dual Channel optimized memory available to the public, which originally took advantage of nVidia's Twinbank or Dual DDR architecture, found in their nForce chipset. We have now taken that technology and tailored it for the Canterwood, and Granite Bay chipset's. OCZ developed and was the first to implement ULN technology, which has been a critical element in our manufacturing process for some time. We at OCZ diligently work to improve communication with CPU and motherboard chipset manufacturers prior to the release of their products. Only in this manner can we fine-tune our memory's SPD settings, ensuring a synergistic relationship between the memory module, memory controller, and microprocessor. In today’s rapidly evolving semiconductor industry, such communication is not simply research, but a necessary component of our manufacturing process.
Today we'll be taking a look at one of OCZ's high-end DDR3 kits from their Platinum range. So without further ado, let's check out the specs....
OCZ have always been known for furnishing their memory modules with lifetime warranties and generous headroom for pushing memory modules past their stock voltages. The following information has been taken directly from their website, so let's see what they have in store for us this time around:
The new PC3-12800 Platinum Edition was developed to offer enthusiasts a memory solution that takes full advantage of the capabilities of the Intel P35 and X38 Express chipsets. At 1600MHz, the OCZ PC3-12800 Platinum and is rated to run CL7-7-7 to truly take these next generation platforms to new heights. ... Each module is 100% hand-tested for quality assurance and compatibility and features a proprietary platinum-mirrored XTC (Xtreme Thermal Convection) heatspreader for the most effective heat dissipation. As part of OCZ’s line-up of premium memory, the DDR3 series is backed by a Lifetime Warranty and industry-leading technical support for unparalleled peace of mind.
* XTC (Xtreme Thermal Convection) heatspreaders optimize the thermal management of memory modules by promoting greater airflow by means of micro-convection throughout what is usually the dead air space inside conventional heatspreader designs. In this manner, build-up of heat is avoided and thermal dissipation of the memory components is offloaded more efficiently through the honeycomb design. At the same time, mechanical stability is maintained.
**OCZ EVP (Extended Voltage Protection) is a feature that allows performance enthusiasts to use a VDIMM of 1.95V without invalidating their OCZ Lifetime Warranty.
Further to the specifications above, it is worth noting that the SPD on these modules is programmed to JEDEC standard timings of 9-9-9-24 with a frequency of DDR3-1333Mhz at 1.5 volts. In order to run them at OCZ's quoted settings, you will need to manually adjust the settings in your BIOS.
Removing the XTC heatspreaders from the modules reveals a row of eight overclocker friendly Micron D9GTR IC's on one side of the module. Many manufacturers have used the D9GTR IC's in their higher-end PC3-14400 (DDR3-1800) kits, so we should certainly see some decent overclocking results from this Platinum kit.
Nothing really changes when it comes to the packaging used by most manufacturers on their memory kits. The favorite without doubt, is still the clear moulded plastic blister pack. Maybe this is because it allows for the modules to easily be placed on retailers shelves and gives the sexy modules inside maximum exposure, or perhaps it's because it adds very little extra to the overall cost of the modules. Either way, it's here to stay, and we can see that OCZ have adopted this method on their Platinum DDR3 kit as seen below.
Contained within the blister pack is a printed card insert that provides a contrasting background to the modules. I was hoping that OCZ may have come out with an entirely new design for this insert, but unfortunately it shares much the same design as the card used on their earlier DDR2 kits.
Around the back of the card are excerpts from previous OCZ reviews by several other websites. It would have been nice to see some kind of specifications table, but as the card inserts are no doubt mass-produced, it would make things considerably harder (and more expensive) to have a different insert for every model of OCZ memory.
The PC3-12800 Platinum modules utilise OCZ's patented XTC heatspreader. The XTC heatspreaders ensure that the thermal management of memory modules is promoted through greater airflow and by means of micro-convection throughout what is usually the dead air space inside conventional heatspreader designs. In this manner, build-up of heat is avoided and thermal dissipation of the memory components is offloaded more efficiently through the honeycomb design. At the same time, mechanical stability is maintained.
For those of us with a keen eye, you will notice that OCZ have updated the XTC heatspreaders slightly for the DDR3 series by placing a '3' at the top right of the 'Z' logo. We could argue that OCZ should have made a more radical change to the XTC design to make the DDR3 kits easily distinguisable, but in all fairness most manufacturers have only made minor changes to their heatspreader designs for the arrival of DDR3.
The XTC heatspreaders are held in place with very thin double-sided thermal tape. This certainly proved to be a very effective method of securing the heatspreaders as removing them was extremely difficult. If you are planning on replacing the heatspreaders with an alternative solution (maybe water cooling?) then I would certainly suggest warming the modules up first and using a credit card to prize them apart.
With DDR3 speeds ramping up on an almost weekly basis, It's extremely difficult to obtain two or more memory kits with similar specifications to perform any kind of worthwhile comparison. Therefore, the OCZ Platinum PC3-12800 kit will be reviewed as a standalone product using the hardware specified below.
However, as further DDR3 reviews are added to Overclock3D, any products deemed to be within comparative specifications of this review item will be added to the graphs over the next pages.
OCZ Platinum PC3-12800
Intel Core2Duo E6850
Asus Blitz Extreme (P35)
BFG 8800GTS 640mb OC2 Edition
Hitachi Deskstar 80GB 7K80 SATA2 7200RPM 8mb
Stock Intel Aluminium Cooler
Microsoft Windows XP (SP2) 32bit - Latest Patches
To guarantee a broad range of results, the following benchmark utilities will be used:
As with all memory reviews on Overclock3D the Platinum PC3-12800 modules were subjected to a series of benchmark tests under several different configurations. The configurations used tested the memory's ability to run at high frequencies, tight timings and also ensured that that the modules could run with 100% stability at their advertised stock settings.
Stock Frequency & Timings DDR3-1600 / 7-7-7-20 / 1.90v
It is an unfortunate fact that many memory kits tested here at Overclock3D fall at the first hurdle by not being able to run with 100% stability at their advertised stock settings. Therefore the first test for the Platinum kit was to test it's ability to run at 800mhz with 7-7-7-20 timings on 1.9v. As OCZ don't actually specify if the Platinum kit is designed to run at 1T or 2T, we opted to first test the stability of the kit at the higher performing setting of 1T.
By default the E6850 used in this review has a FSB frequency of 333mhz, which even with a 1:2 ratio on the memory falls far short of the stock 800mhz that the Platinum modules are capable of. Therefore, the FSB frequency of the E6850 was raised to 400mhz on a 1:2 divider to run the Platinum kit at exactly 800mhz. The multiplier of the CPU was also dropped from x9 to x8 in order to keep the core speed of the E6850 as close to it's stock 3.0ghz as possible.
After several hours of intense gaming benchmarks coupled with SuperPI and Prime95 stability testing, I'm pleased to say that the OCZ Platinum PC3-12800 kit didn't faulter once, thus showing that the kit is more than capable of running at OCZ's advertised speeds.
Highest Frequency @ Stock Timings DDR3-1804 / 7-7-7-7-20 / 1.95v
Overclocking the OCZ Platinum PC3-12800 modules wasn't as easy as I'd initially anticipated. While a large number of memory modules can achieve extremely good overclocking results by just increasing the FSB and adjusting the voltage, the Platinum PC3-12800 modules were slightly more stubborn - maxing out at DDR3-1702 with 7-7-7-20 timings and 1.95v.
Not convinced that this was the maximum obtainable overclock for these modules, I contacted OCZ for assistance who provided me with the following tips for getting the most out of the Platinum kit:
- In the BIOS set the Transaction Booster to relaxed level 3. - Use 450FSB to enable the DDR3-1800 memory speed divider. - Try the memory modules in slots A2 and B2.
Instantly I saw massive improvements with the Platinum kit managing a whopping DDR3-1804 (902mhz) at 7-7-7-20 timings, while still staying within OCZ's EVP warranty of 1.95v. This 12% increase in speed is already significantly better than some other DDR3 kits we've tested previously, and we should see some even better figures with the timings loosened.
Highest Frequency @ Relaxed Timings DDR3-1946 / 8-8-8-25 / 1.95v
Loosening the timings to 8-8-8-25 allowed the modules to be pushed even further with system stability only becoming a limiting factor at DDR3-1960 (just 20mhz short of 1ghz!!). I have no doubts in my mind that by increasing the voltage to 2.0v, we could have easily seen the Platinum PC3-12800 kit hit DDR3-2000 (1000mhz) and possibly even beyond! This is without doubt some seriously overclockable ram.
Sisoft Sandra is a synthetic benchmark utility capable of reporting and benchmarking a wide range of system components. For the OCZ platinum PC3-12800 memory we run both the Memory Bandwidth and Memory Latency benchmarks 3 times to ensure accuracy of results.
Everest is in many ways similar to Sisoft Sandra. Focusing mainly on Software and Hardware information reporting, Everest also comes with a benchmark utility suitable for testing the read, write and latency performance of the memory subsystem.
SuperPI is the benchmark of choice for many overclockers. It's lightweight to download and can give a quick indication on how good a system is at number crunching.
The first thing to note about the above benchmark results is that neither Everest or Sandra were able to successfully benchmark the Platinum PC3-12800 kit when it was running at its top speed of DDR3-1946. This certainly wasn't an issue with the stability of the modules, as they successfully completed several hours of SuperPI and Orthos testing. I can only assume that the results from the modules running at these speeds were beyond the programmed parameters of both benchmarks.
However, even without these results we can see that the OCZ Platinum PC3-12800 kit is blisteringly fast, managing not short of 10GB/s on the Everest Read benchmarks and a 52.2ns latency when overclocked on the Everest Latency benchmarks.
3DMark is a popular synthetic gaming benchmark used by many gamers and overclockers to gauge the performance of their PC's. All 3DMark runs were performed 3 times with averages being calculated from each of the results.
F.E.A.R. is a game based on the Lithtech Jupiter EX engine. It has volumetric lighting, soft shadows, parallax mapping and particle effects.Included in the game is a benchmark facility that taxes the entire PC system. This benchmark was run 3 times to ensure uniformity of results.
Quake 4 is a game built on the Doom 3 engine. Benchmarking was performed using Quake4Bench and a custom timedemo recording along with 4xAA, 8xAF settings at a resolution of 1280x1024.
Counter-Strike:Source is a popular multi-player FPS based on the extremely scaleable Source engine. The game takes advantage of many DirectX 9.0c features, but is fairly undemanding on the GPU and tends to thrive on systems with fast CPU's and Memory.
As expected, all results show that the greatest performance comes with the memory clocked at DDR3-1946 with 8-8-8-25 timings. Obviously we need to keep in mind that the CPU speed is over 600mhz faster than the stock DDR3-1800 setting and almost 300mhz higher than the DDR3-1804 setting, but regardless of this we can see that the Platinum kit gives the CPU plenty of room for overclocking without the need to run the memory on a divider thus compromising bandwidth.
After overcoming some initial hurdles with our Asus Blitz motherboard with the help of OCZ, the Platinum PC3-12800 modules showed us exactly what they were made of. Managing an extremely good 102mhz overclock on the stock 7-7-7-20 timings taking them up to DDR3-1804, we couldn't believe that they had much more left in them. However, on loosening the timings to 8-8-8-25, the Platinum kit reached a whopping DDR3-1946 with 100% stability and even showed potential for blasting past DDR3-2000 with a little extra voltage.
Priced at £335 over at Komplett, the Platinum kit may seem expensive on first impressions. However when you take into consideration the current price of DDR3 and the cost of similar kits from other manufacturers (including unbranded modules), the OCZ Platinum kit is actually extremely well priced, and based on it's amazing overclock results - worth every penny.
So in summary OCZ have once again shown us that after 7 years in the business they still haven't taken their finger off the pulse or lost sight of their original goal to produce some of the best overclocker friendly memory modules in the market. The Platinum PC3-12800 kit is yet another great addition to their memory line-up, and a perfect start to what I'm sure will be an interesting (and extremely fast) range of DDR3 modules.
The Good • Manages DDR3-1804 on stock timings • Loosening timings to 8-8-8-25 allows speeds up to DDR-1946 (and higher with extra volts) • Usual OCZ lifetime warranty with great after-sales support. • Competitive pricing for a DDR3 kit.
The Mediocre • Packaging could do with spicing up.
The Bad • Nadda!
Thanks to OCZ for making this review possible. Discuss this review in our forums.