One, singular sensation…

Corsair has always been one of our favorite brands of memory as they have consistently catered to our enthusiast desires with newer, faster options. This time Corsair is offering up a reasonably-priced 4GB kit of DDR3 memory that still runs at 1600 MHz or beyond. Come see if DDR3 has FINALLY overtaken DDR2 for our recommendations.
DDR3 Memory is Reaching Lower

In our most recent motherboard reviews you probably have heard us complain that the price of DDR3 memory was exceptionally higher than that of DDR2 without offering as great a performance jump as we had hoped.  Corsair Memory recently sent us a 4GB kit of DDR3-1600 that might address both of these issues at once. 

Your Standard Dominator Modules

Corsair’s new 1600 MHz XMS 4GB memory kit comes in three different flavors: standard, SLI memory ready and Intel Xtreme Memory Profile ready versions (both extensions of EPP). All three are basically the same product though the SLI and XMP modules have slight changes to their SPD settings to play nice with compatible motherboards and chipsets. 

The Corsair DDR3-1600C9 kit we had came in the form of two 2GB modules giving us what I consider the best current price/performance benefit for system memory.  The 1600 MHz default clock speed of Corsair’s memory offers us a tremendous amount of speed right off the bat without any overclocking.  In our 790i SLI motherboard used for testing, simply swapping out some older, slower modules with this Corsair set automatically enabled the DDR3 speeds at 1600 MHz frequency.  And if you still have the hankering to go a little faster, these modules are surprisingly robust when the voltages are pushed up slightly.

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So it would seem we can cover the “speed” aspect of my complaints on DDR3 memory, but what about the price?  It’s going to be just about impossible for any DDR3 modules to match the rock bottom prices that DDR2 is currently at.  However, Corsair and other memory vendors have been quick to get the prices down on DDR3 pretty much across the board. Today, these Corsair XMS DDR3-1600 4GB kits are selling for as low as $194 after mail-in rebate (check our pricing engine here or for the best price).  That isn’t DDR2 levels yet, but it is a heck of a lot more reasonable than what we were seeing just a few months ago.  Considering you are getting some top-speed 4GB kit for this price, I would say that DDR3 is within reach to most enthusiasts now; not just the wealthiest few.

Basic Performance Tests

Rather than just throw some of these Corsair modules into a pre-configured test bed and run some synthetic numbers at you with no real meaning, I took an opportunity to try something different.  I happen to have an Alienware system in the labs for a review that came with an NVIDIA 790i SLI motherboard, Core 2 Extreme X9770 processor and 4GB DDR3 memory from Patriot rated at…DDR3-1066.  Um what?  Why anyone would build a system with a 1600 MHz FSB processor and 1066 MHz DDR3 memory is a mystery. But what it does allow us to do is swap out those modules for the new Corsair XMS DDR3-1600C9 modules and see what performance gains we see.

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You can see from these above benchmarks that the new Corsair memory modules improved on the system memory bandwidth quite a bit: from 7.98 GB/s up to 8.57 GB/s.  That is a difference of about 7.5% – not bad for such an easy swap.

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In our first test, the memory read speed, the new Corsair XMS DDR3-1600C9 modules are running faster with a 10.36 GB/s score while the original memory ran at 9.2 GB/s: that is a 12% boost with the 1600 MHz modules.  Memory write speeds also increased from 7.61 GB/s to 8.5 GB/s and latency times went down from 61.3 ns to 57.7 ns.

Overclocking and Conclusions

After running through these simple tests I decided to quickly play around with how fast I could overclock these modules.  I first bumped the voltage on the kit to 1.90v in the BIOS and set out with an unlinked bus setting to push the memory alone…

I was able to easily hit 1800 MHz without much work.  Getting beyond that seemed to be a struggle and my top speed was 1825 MHz with another 0.05v added into the mix.  While these aren’t the top speeds we have seen in DDR3 memory modules it is impressive speed for such a well priced memory kit.  DDR3-2000 kits can be found selling for as much as $520 – quite a difference!

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Most readers would consider memory modules to be moving the way of a commodity item for a gaming or enthusiast PC – we aren’t quite there yet but are getting closer.  That is why products like the Corsair XMS DDR3-1600C9 kits are going to become more and more popular – these are memory configurations that are both fast and easy to install.  There is little-to-no legwork necessary by the end user to reach these speeds and that is what MOST users want.  Not all, but that is what those super-high speed modules are for – the extreme overclocker and enthusiast that can’t get enough speed. For those that simply want fast memory for a decent price that can be tweaked the user’s discretion, the Corsair XMS DDR3-1600C9 memory kits fit the bill perfectly. 

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Be sure to use our pricing engine to find the best prices on Intel motherboards and anything else you might need: