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Ultra-Speed DDR3 Revisited: AMD APU Memory Scaling

Subject: Memory
Manufacturer: Kingston

Ultra-Speed RAM, APU-Style

In our review of the Kingston HyperX Predator 2666MHz kit, we discovered what those knowledgeable about Intel memory scaling already knew: for most applications, and specifically games, there is no significant advantage to increases in memory speed past the current 1600MHz DDR3 standard.  But this was only half of the story. What about memory scaling with an AMD processor, and specifically an APU? To find out, we put AMD’s top APU, the A10-7850K, to the test!

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Ready for some APU memory testing!

The APU

AMD has created a compelling option with their APU lineup, and the inclusion of powerful integrated graphics allows for interesting build options with lower power and space requirements, and even make building tiny mini-ITX systems for gaming realistic. It’s this graphical prowess compared to any other onboard solution that creates an interesting value proposition for any gamer looking at a new low-cost build. The newest Kaveri APU’s are getting a lot of attention and they beg the question, is a discrete graphics card really needed for gaming at reasonable settings?

Continue reading our article on using high speed DDR3 memory with AMD APUs!!

Most PC gamers are using 1080p monitors (or lower), and this resolution does not present a particularly difficult load on a modern GPU at low to medium detail settings. With the release of the newest game consoles at $400 - $500, there are more reasons than ever to look at putting together a gaming PC in this price segment. Not only can the same investment provide infinitely more versatility on the PC side, but it should also be noted that when comparing a PC game against a console version of the same title, the PC would surpass it in visual quality. Why? Most console games – even the newest releases – actually run at 720p, not 1080p, and they are using lower detail quality as well. 

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Hitting the sub-$500 price target is not difficult when basing a system around an APU, and it is of course this technology from AMD that is at the heart of the Xbox One and Playstation 4 to begin with! The impressive graphics specs on the newest Kaveri APU’s certainly suggest that discrete graphics might not be needed for acceptable 1080p gaming, but this can depend on some external factors as well. Certainly the subject of APU graphics performance warrants a look at memory speed, as after all, it is the system memory that will be in use by the integrated graphics. Additionally, a good CPU cooling solution might allow for not only some CPU overclocking, but GPU core increases, too.

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Today we’ll see just how much extra performance can be gained by pushing the components past their rated specs on this particular build, and attempt to answer at least a few of the many questions about APU gaming. Of course, this is not a perfect study, and there might be faster or less expensive options out there for any of the components chosen here. The scope of this article is limited to one system, but will serve to show how memory bandwidth can affect gaming performance with an APU.

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April 11, 2014 | 11:21 AM - Posted by collie (not verified)

Thanks Sebastian, this realy did answer alot of questions. Great read

April 11, 2014 | 12:27 PM - Posted by JohnGR

Mantle results in Thief or BF4 would have been welcomed here, to see how much the combination of faster RAM and Mantle helps with the average and maybe more important, with minimum frames. Or maybe just to see if faster RAM has the same or different impact under Mantle compared to DX11.

April 11, 2014 | 01:02 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Since Mantle reduces the CPU overhead, I wouldn't think it would have much of an impact at all, but testing that hypothesis wouldn't hurt.

April 11, 2014 | 01:40 PM - Posted by BBMan (not verified)

Thanks for this review. The 2400 point is nice- I hadn't realized how much these have dropped in price. That was almost as surprising as the performance results. Still, someone who is nickle and diming it over the $$$ between 1600 and 2133 kits is probably looking at another system entirely if they're looking at 2400, but from what I've seen, it almost doesn't make sense to at least drop in a 2133 anyhow.

April 11, 2014 | 03:12 PM - Posted by grommet

Are there plans to see how RAM speeds affect an APU/video card crossfire setup? eg. a 7850K with a R7 250

April 11, 2014 | 03:34 PM - Posted by Hikingmike

Thanks for the experiment and review!

"is a discreet graphics card really needed for gaming at reasonable settings?"
"the newest Kaveri APU’s certainly suggest that discreet graphics might not be needed for acceptable 1080p gaming"
"building a system without a discreet graphics card offers the possibility of a full-featured system build"
"and would save nearly enough over the 7850K to buy a discreet GPU as well"
...

This kind of discrete is spelled discrete.

April 11, 2014 | 10:48 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

Hey, if I was going to misspell a word, might as well do it like 10 times! (Corrected, thanks.)

April 11, 2014 | 07:17 PM - Posted by mtrush (not verified)

pretty sure you'd want to save your money on expsensive memory and just get a discrete gpu

April 12, 2014 | 05:55 AM - Posted by RunningDuck

thx for the test.

was the ram dual rank or single rank memory?

if dual rank can you repeat the result of this test ( http://www.computerbase.de/2014-01/amd-kaveri-arbeitsspeicher/2/ )

the result on computerbase.de was that dual rank is faster than single rank.

April 12, 2014 | 01:37 PM - Posted by Holly (not verified)

These results aren't surprising. The IGP is basically an underclocked HD 7750 (a card I own).
Any word on DDR4 arrival for the mainstream?

"It’s likely that a different processor would be chosen for a low cost build"

I'm in this situation now. I need something to replace a failing Core i3 530 @3.7Ghz and H55 mobo. I can get a Haswell Pentium and B85 mobo for $120-160 and be content. Budget minded people replace what's broken and salvage what they can.
Shopping Newegg last night Kaveri wasn't on my radar.

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