As·sump·tion - an assuming that something is true; a fact or statement (as a proposition, axiom, postulate, or notion) taken for granted. A very powerful word if we might say so and one that can generally get us in trouble while reviewing hardware. During the course of testing for our upcoming DDR3 roundup, we assumed a few items to be true about the memory we were reviewing. Turns out, our assumptions were off the mark, but for good reason.

Our first assumption is that we should concentrate on the DDR3-1600 kits as they provided a wide range of flexibility for most users. Most of the performance oriented kits would easily hit DDR3-1800+ at decent timings and voltages, satisfying the overclocking needs of all but the hardcore enthusiasts while at the same time allowing very tight timings at lower clock speeds for applications that responded best to a combination of bandwidth and low latencies.

The reason for choosing DDR3-1600 first is that the initial DDR3-1066 and DDR3-1333 6GB kits we received generally clocked about 100MHz~200MHz above their rated speeds and latency improvements required voltages above 1.65V in most cases on our i7 platform. In addition, pricing was not that much less on a per Gigabyte basis, which certainly justified our higher performing selections at the time. By chance, we were looking at 6GB kit prices on Newegg and NCIX last month and noticed a couple of DDR3-1333 6GB kits had dropped below the $100 mark (a virtual flood of 6GB kits are now hitting the $100 mark).

These kits were not available when we started collecting review samples a few weeks ago so we ordered a new Patriot Viper DDR3-1333 (PVT36G1333ELK) 6GB kit for a very reasonable price of $93.99 plus free shipping. Our reason was simple, we just wanted to see how well the latest “budget” DDR3 product on the market clocked and if our assumptions were still correct about the first 1066/1333 kits we received. Considering our test results with the Patriot kit, we checked the credit line and ordered several “budget” 6GB kits from GSkill, Mushkin, Crucial, OCZ, Corsair, and others to feature in our roundup.

We based our second assumption on test results with our DDR3-1600 to DDR3-2000 kits providing the best possible performance on the i7 platform, especially for those overclocking the 920 processors. Our reasoning for sticking with the higher end kits was sound until recent events. The i7 platform was an expensive proposition for most users who wanted to upgrade with decent motherboards costing $300, the “budget” 920 processor going for nearly $300, and 6GB low voltage DDR3 kits costing a good $225 or higher for products that could keep up with the 920 overclocks. This resulted in a very niche market condition and one that if you had to ask the price then you probably were not going to be able to afford it.

A few weeks later, we have X58 motherboards selling for $170 with rebates, a new i7 processor stepping (D0) coming from Intel that promises a little extra headroom in clock rates, and 6GB DDR3 kits selling for around $90. The entry cost to get into an i7 platform has dropped about 34% in the last six weeks if you are pinching pennies like most of us. Guess what, the performance difference in platform selections then and now is less than 2% at best. Only those who plan on serious overclocking need to worry about spending more, but that is always the case.

Another factor in dropping prices is the rise from ashes act that AMD has accomplished with the Phenom II product line. True, it is not in the same performance category as the i7 when it comes to crunching numbers or heavy manipulation of digital content, but the Phenom II is extremely competitive on a price/performance basis when looking at the big picture. Pairing up the current Phenom II X3 720BE with either a DDR2/DDR3 based 790FX/GX motherboard results in some of the best bang for the buck performance you are likely to experience this year, at least until the new X4 95x series comes out.

Of course, Intel has the P55 platform launching later this year and we mention that because DDR3 will soon become the memory of choice for anyone upgrading to a new platform. The Phenom II platform lets you retain your current DDR2 based AM2+ setup until you decide to make the switch and we will soon see that is not a bad option from an everyday performance or cost viewpoint. However, those who need the absolute best performance from the Phenom II should go the DDR3 route at this point.

All that said, we are here today to take a first look at the Patriot Viper Series (PVT36G1333ELK) DDR3-1333 CAS9 6GB memory kit. Heresy, one might claim looking at the specs but this kit delivers the flexibility we have been seeking, only at a lower price point. Until we finish testing our recent "budget" arrivals, we thought it prudent to provide a quick look at how well this particular memory kit clocks and if it higher memory speeds actually matter at stock processor speeds or mild overclocks.

Test Setup and conquering Everest...
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  • mvrx - Thursday, March 19, 2009 - link

    I want my 24GB.. 4GB DDR2 modules have been available for quite a while.. Ready for the DDR3 versions. 12GB doesn't cut it for me ATM.
  • rcr - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Why does this Kit get less points at DDR3-1600 CL7-7-7-20 1T at copying than DDR3-1600 CL8-8-8-20 1T?
  • wicko - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Why does it seem that from these benchmarks that its not practical to do memory overclocking? Not to mention that timings seem to have more potential than the difference in clock speeds we're seeing in this update. Am I missing something?
  • x86 64 - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Still what's the point for the average user to replace his DDR2 kit and motherboard\CPU with DDR3 1066Mhz or 1333Mhz at C9? Seriously what's the point? You can get cheap DDR2 1066Mhz with better timings while still keeping the same board and CPU.

    To me DDR3 and i7 are completely pointless right now unless you have money to burn. The i7 is the GTX280 of the generation, little performance gain for the average user over last generation hardware. Maybe it would be different if there were more multithreaded applications on the desktop but there just aren't. No I'm not counting audio\video encoding apps since it's not something you do all day everyday.

    Also I'm surprised that and other sites like HarOCP act satisfied with today's software. When hardware companies start slipping they get pounced on but when the software creators are lazy we act like it's the norm (capable software to match the hardware is just as important to me). I understand this is mainly a hardware site but it's just that software is so important to the big picture and it disgusts me how far behind the software part has fallen. You can have the latest cutting edge hardware but if the software isn't there it's pointless. That's how the i7 feels to me. It feels like total overkill at this point in time. If you think this will somehow rapidly change in the next few years you're fooling yourself.
  • erple2 - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    If you already have a quad core processor, then I don't think that there is that much point to buying up an i7 system right now, unless you have money to burn. If you have a P4 (or single processor Athlon64 system), however, then there is actually a point to it. If you're looking at massive parallelization, however, there is a market. Who in the consumer market space actually needs that? I'd estimate that's about 0.01% of the market (who does CFD in their spare time???).

    I'm not going to comment on the software comment. Suffice it to say that multi-threaded software for generic tasks is EXTREMELY HARD to do. Ask John Carmack why Quake isn't optimized to run on quad core processors.
  • The0ne - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    multi-threading is hard to do that is why I don't understand why everyone is so rush to be on the dual/quad bandwagon. Sure you have the hardware but what's making use them and making use of them EFFECTIVELY and EFFICIENTLY? You have server apps that have been programmed to do that but commercial?

    All these bloated commercial software are a joke to me really. Yes, you can justify a portion of them taking chunks of gigabyte but come on. Maybe I'm just a little disappointed because coming from embedded programming is different, which it didn't use to be. More efficient programming, less resources used and no need for giga-cpu configuration to run your web browser.

    Having said that however,I thought being a enthusiast means you do what you love doing even if you go broke or have no purpose for the PC. Kinda like fixing up your car, painting toys, drawing, etc. Enthusiast aren't you average Joe, they do it because they love doing it.

    I build PCs not to use them but for the joy of building, customizing and testing. That's enthusiast to me :)
  • x86 64 - Thursday, March 19, 2009 - link

    Funny you should mention efficient software that uses less resources. I was thinking about an article I read where Microsoft was bragging that they had coded a Windows Vista derived kernel that ran on something like 60MB RAM with the rest picking up around 300MB. What happened to that? Why do we have this beast in Vista\Win 7 that idles at 1.5GB? Then again it's not only MS but just about any mainstream commercial application you can think of. They come out so bloated I wouldn't even consider installing it let alone actually paying money for it.

    You're right it IS about having fun and building\benching and just enjoying the technology, no question about it. It's just that even my "aging" E8400\8800GTX\680i\4GB DDR2-1200Mhz system has yet to be fully stressed or even approached it's limit. Occasionally when unpacking a large WinRaR archive or .ISO image RAM usage hit's 3GB utilization. I mean the best workout my PC gets is from a PS2 emulator. Other than that it's power is still relatively untapped. If there were more games and software that could efficiently and more importantly EFFECTIVELY use an eight thread, 6GB-12GB RAM and dual GPU setup it would actually make it worthwhile owning something like that.

    Well anyways back on topic, a DDR3 kit rated 1066Mhz\1333Mhz CAS 9 is completely pointless if you ask me. I'll stick with my 4GB DDR2 PC-9600 kit I bought for $175 that will do 1150Mhz C4 or 1333Mhz C5.
  • x86 64 - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Well by your logic I should get a break too. My job is extremely hard. So should I get a pass when I don't feel like doing something because it's hard? I imagine designing CPU's and GPU's is extremely hard so should Intel and AMD just do a half ass job because of it?

    The Quake series wasn't optimized for quad cores because they didn't even exist when the last game was released. If you're talking about the 1.4.2 patch that adds support for dual cores well then I agree that coding for multiple cores is probably very hard to do when the framework has already been laid. I'm not asking these companies to go back and optimize all their software and games from 5 years ago. What I am asking is for them to add support for multiple cores when they redesign or write their new applications and games.

    What's the point of having all that CPU power if it's just going to waste? I understand that the software\hardware paradigm is constantly shifting with one advancing faster than the other for periods of time but this is ridiculous. I don't ever remember software being so far behind. IMO it's in a sorry state right now.
  • RMSe17 - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    It's great to see a low cost product performing as well as the really expensive alternatives. That being said, would you guys consider doing another X58 motherboard roundup, this time targeting the lower cost motherboards? It seems that all the reviews that I find have the best motherboard from each company compared, but I am curious as to how the "budget" X58 boards compare, especially when it comes to overclocking potential.

    Thanks a lot for all the reviews,
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    We are working on "budget" X58 roundup right now. I will be honest, we had one ready but after receiving several new boards from MSI, Zotac, Gigabyte, and ASUS that are selling for under $230, we decided to blow it up and start over. It will go up near the end of the month after we finish up a review of the latest IG boards.

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