3GB, 6GB or 12GB Investigated



With the advent of a triple channel memory controller on Intel's latest CPU, enthusiasts have been forced to ask a new question: Which memory configuration is best? A simple question that usually provokes more questions and debate than perhaps any other component in a PC system.

Just a couple of years ago it was a simple choice. Get the fastest 2GB kit you can afford. With Windows Vista consuming (or should I say utilising) more memory than XP and 64bit becoming the operating system of choice, 4GB kits were rapidly becoming the norm. DDR2 prices though were and still are, very cheap so a £50 investment was not going to bankrupt anybody anytime soon. This changed however with DDR3 and for the most part, the reasoning behind most people opting to stick with DDR2. The price of DDR3 has lowered slightly but it is still significantly higher than DDR2 and if you want the latest CPU from Intel and want to get the most out of it, a triple DDR3 kit must be on your shopping list. Luckily for us, the prices have dropped enough now that kits can be bought for little more than DDR2 so the damage is not too great.

But what size kit should you buy? 3 GB would be enough for most people surely? What of the rumours that 6GB is now the standard and gives the best performance? Should I go for broke and get 12GB, after all bigger is always better right? Thanks to Corsair, who have kindly provided OC3D with 3 different kits, these are the questions I hope to answer in todays article.

All the kits we intend to use for todays review have the same timings, same frequency and being from Corsair, one of the worlds for most memory module manufacturers, compatability will hopefully not be an issue. The results will hopefully also give a true account of how memory capacity affects system performance. I will be interesed in how memory capacity limits the CPU overclock because with Intels 4 series chipsets anthing over 4GB proved difficult to get stable at high overclocks. With the memory controller now on-board the CPU rather than being controlled separately from the Northbridge, I suspect that the extra heat generated will increase with memory size as more stress is placed on the memory controller and with heat usually goes hand in hand with a decrease in potential overclocks. How much so we will find out later in the review.


The specifications for the three kits up for review today were taken directly from Corsair's website.


As you can see, there's not a great deal between them bar the price and the capacity. Let's hope there's more to distinguish the kits in our run of benchmarks but before we test the kit, let's delve a little deeper in the requirements of triple channel DDR3...
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Most Recent Comments

27-03-2009, 18:54:44

Lol at the photos with all the ram. And 200 quid for 12GB, I paid that for 6GB 1333MHz. Prices are really dropping now.

Nice and unique review, really sheds some light on questions which are asked a lot and answered rarely.Quote

28-03-2009, 05:01:48

That was a really good review - I really enjoyed reading that.

I want to have enough RAM to take photos like that though. Quote

28-03-2009, 06:52:46

Outstanding article.

The large leap in the price from 6g to 12g as opposed to the leap from 3g to 6g really pushes the business requirements for the largest kit. The CS4 results show they'll get reward for it professionally in terms of time over work hours. Even tho 6g will do a great job, 12g plus the cost, minus perhaps the vat and time saved would make it viable.

(*cough* most of ours still use 2g in the main, with 4g if they're lucky - don't know of any 8g machines - 775 ofc) If the heads of the departments concerned really had their heads around the figures, they'd be more concerned with maxing the memory of their pcs rather than paying over the odds for a retailed pc with an nvidiafx card that will relatively not help them as much. Go figure.

From what I can see as far as the gamer is concerned, 3g is no issue, particularly for those who fps the majority of the time. I'd perhaps throw in an argument of certain games utilizing more memory over others. 6g for £95 or so in the present climate is surprizingly cheap, meaning I expected it to cost a whole lot more.

I think it will get to a stage where 6g is so cheap that considering u've spent 100s on ur mobo and cpu, a matter of 10s of pounds between 3 and 6 would make it a non-issue and covers more bases.

I'm glad u did an OS reinstall between memory switches, there would have been many complications otherwize.

Great stuff.Quote

28-03-2009, 07:05:52

Cheers for the comments guys.

This was perhaps the biggest, most time consuming article/review I have done thus far. As we have not done a test on this magnetude to date, a lot of experimentation was used to find the optimum testing procedures, image and video sizes etc because, as you say Rast, without a re-install, there were anomolies and strange results that didn't match what I was expecting. Not only that but passing filters over a 4gb image with 3GB of ram ground the system to a halt whereas 12 GB found it a breeze, if somewhat time consuming.

I used each kit for a week's worth of 'everyday' computing. 12GB is definately worth it if you are working with large files and although most of the benchmarks don't significantly back this up, simply opening and closing programs, general vista use etc made the expereince so 'slick'.Quote

28-03-2009, 07:31:56

If u still have the 12g in-house, it'd be interesting if u could create a ram disk and run a game off it. Dunno how u'd do that with Vista.Quote

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