3GB, 6GB or 12GB Investigated



Anyone who has read my reviews previously will know I'm a sucker for new technology, so when Corsair asked if I'd like to review 3 of their XMS kits I jumped at the chance. While the kits are not at the cutting edge of performance (see the Dominator kit for ultimate performance), they are all designed for i7 to run at the same timings and bandwidth so it was the perfect opportunity to answer a question I had posed myself since the advent of 64bit operating system. Does more ram give an increase in performance?

The short answer is yes. But that's an answer that could be misleading as the performance benefits we have shown are so small, so insignificant that it begs the question: Is it really worth it? Again it's down to circumstance. The benchmarks we ran today were of the game and the game alone. MSN, outlook, utilities and all those other little programs that swallow a chunk of memory were not installed on our test rig. The games used were also timedemos, which while giving the most accurate results for comparison purposes (we wouldn't have it any other way), might not be most exemplorary way to test out a 12GB kit. As stated previously, 12GB just felt more fluid overall and after a weekends worth of gaming with the 12GB kit on my own PC which has multiple  programs running in the background, I can certainly tell the difference. Games and programs opened and closed like the first day of install, something that is a rarity on my own pc due to everything I have running in the background.

I personally find 3GB to be too little. While it coped with all the benchmarks fine and ran Vista without issue, it did seem a little sluggish at times and I certainly noticed a lot more egg-timers (read 'circles') when running the 3GB kit. This was most evident in the run of Photoshop which brought the system to it's knees. On the opposite side of the scale, 12GB was a dream to use. Vista appeared to load quicker, although this was later proven to be a placebo effect after I timed it. Vista was however, much more flexible to use. Think back to when you first do a fresh install of XP and realise how snappy it is compared to your old install. Jumping from 3GB to 12GB gives the same feeling, as Vista simply felt 'snappier' the more memory I used. Switching from one kit to the other just emphasised the fact, opening documents, loading programs, playing media, editing pictures just felt slick and going back to 3GB gave the impression Vista was struggling, although before using both the 6GB and then 12GB I didn't notice how sluggish it really was.

The benchmarks I ran today certainly do not scream 'buy 12GB now' and for the most part I would agree. 12GB is a ridiculous amount of DDR3 to install in an everyday system, it gives no noticeable performance gains for gaming (unless you are a system hog), little performance difference in what I assumed would be it's biggest selling point, video encoding and limited our overclocks by at least 200MHz. Photoshop showed the biggest gains overall but unless you are dealing with some very big images and applying lots of filters then 6GB would cope easily. It also had an effect in general Vista use but not enough to make me rush out and buy upgrade. Perhaps if one were to change their gaming habits and worry less about the number of open applications then the benefits of gaming with 12GB would be much more apparent.

3GB performed surprisingly well. Although we have shown it to come bottom of the pile in the benchmarks we have run, you certainly would not notice it, at least until you started to edit large files in photoshop, or have the luxury of trying out a higher capacity system. Maybe that's a little harsh but after doubling and then tripling the capacity, the 3GB kit just felt inferior.

So the 6GB kit gives the perfect happy medium. The gains 12GB had over the 6GB kit were minimal overall and this time there was minimal difference in Vista's performance as opposed to the 3GB kit. The 6GB kit did not appear to put anywhere near as much stress on the CPU, given that we achieved 200 MHz more. Once the 6GB threshold is exceeded, performance differences seemed to diminish. There were simply not enough differences between the 2 kits to warrant the extra cash injection needed. Sure, a full rack of memory looks the part and certainly grants those extra E-Peen points people yearn for but the sensible money goes on the 6GB kit, at least until Microsoft decide to munch through more of our memory with a new Operating system.

The 3GB, 6GB and 12GB kits I reviewed today are all available from Ebuyer.

A huge thanks goes to Corsair for providing the three XMS kits for todays article. Please discuss in our forums.

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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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