Introduction, How PCM Works, Reading, Writing, and Tweaks

I’ve seen a bit of flawed logic floating around related to discussions about 3D XPoint technology. Some are directly comparing the cost per die to NAND flash (you can’t - 3D XPoint likely has fewer fab steps than NAND - especially when compared with 3D NAND). Others are repeating a bunch of terminology and element names without taking the time to actually explain how it works, and far too many folks out there can't even pronounce it correctly (it's spoken 'cross-point'). My plan is to address as much of the confusion as I can with this article, and I hope you walk away understanding how XPoint and its underlying technologies (most likely) work. While we do not have absolute confirmation of the precise material compositions, there is a significant amount of evidence pointing to one particular set of technologies. With Optane Memory now out in the wild and purchasable by folks wielding electron microscopes and mass spectrometers, I have seen enough additional information come across to assume XPoint is, in fact, PCM based.

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XPoint memory. Note the shape of the cell/selector structure. This will be significant later.

While we were initially told at the XPoint announcement event Q&A that the technology was not phase change based, there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and it is likely that Intel did not want to let the cat out of the bag too early. The funny thing about that is that both Intel and Micron were briefing on PCM-based memory developments five years earlier, and nearly everything about those briefings lines up perfectly with what appears to have ended up in the XPoint that we have today.

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Some die-level performance characteristics of various memory types. source

The above figures were sourced from a 2011 paper and may be a bit dated, but they do a good job putting some actual numbers with the die-level performance of the various solid state memory technologies. We can also see where the ~1000x speed and ~1000x endurance comparisons with XPoint to NAND Flash came from. Now, of course, those performance characteristics do not directly translate to the performance of a complete SSD package containing those dies. Controller overhead and management must take their respective cuts, as is shown with the performance of the first generation XPoint SSD we saw come out of Intel:

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The ‘bridging the gap’ Latency Percentile graph from our Intel SSD DC P4800X review.
(The P4800X comes in at 10us above).

There have been a few very vocal folks out there chanting 'not good enough', without the basic understanding that the first publicly available iteration of a new technology never represents its ultimate performance capabilities. It took NAND flash decades to make it into usable SSDs, and another decade before climbing to the performance levels we enjoy today. Time will tell if this holds true for XPoint, but given Micron's demos and our own observed performance of Intel's P4800X and Optane Memory SSDs, I'd argue that it is most certainly off to a good start!

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A 3D XPoint die, submitted for your viewing pleasure (click for larger version).

You want to know how this stuff works, right? Read on to find out!

Author:
Subject: Memory
Manufacturer: Corsair

Show me your true colors

It's no secret that RGB accessories and components have been quite popular in the past few years. One of the most recent introductions in the quest to make everything related to your computer RGB LED customizable is system memory. 

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Today, we're taking a look at Corsair's RGB DDR4 offering, the Vengeance RGB memory kit.

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As you might expect, from the outside the Vengeance RGB DIMMs look mostly like standard memory modules. The heat spreader is full metal and has a matte texture, giving it a nice flat appearance and feel.

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The real magic lies underneath the removable top portion of the heat spreader. Taking this piece off will reveal the lightbar in all its glory. This removable portion of the heat spreader allows you to choose between maximum LED visibility and the more subtle appearance of the "slotted" design. For attention oriented people like me, it's also nice that you can flip the lid of the heat spreader so that the Corsair logo is oriented in the same way when you have 4 DIMMs installed into a motherboard.

Unlike the GEIL EVO X RGB memory that we used in our Ryzen 5 CPU review, the Corsair Vengeance RGB memory does not depend on your motherboard having headers for external RGB strips, but rather is fully controlled through Corsair Link software on your PC.

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With Corsair Link installed on a supported platform (more on that later), it's very easy to customize the look of the Vengeance RGB modules. These LEDs are individually addressable so you can do patterns like Color Pulse and Shift as well as a Rainbow effect. You can also pair together modules into groups so that the effects are synchronized together.

After getting the memory installed and customized to our liking, we decided to run a couple of memory benchmarks on this kit at the stock DDR4-2400 speeds for the Kaby Lake platform, and at DDR4-3000 which this kit is certified for. Although it's worth nothing that Corsair claims this memory is very overclockable. 

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In synthetic memory benchmarks, you can definitely see the expected difference in performance from running at DDR4-3000 vs DDR4-2400. Read/Write/Copy as well as memory bandwidth sees a nice increase. Although, as we have seen over the years, increases in memory bandwidth don't seem to translate to large performance increases in real world applications. 

However, with the advent of AMD's latest Ryzen CPUs, we have seen a new importance on memory speed in relation to certain applications including gaming. While we managed to run Vengeance RGB memory a DDR4-3000 speeds on our ASUS Crosshair VI Hero platform with no issues, you do lose the RGB functionality.

Currently, the Corsair Link software utilizes the Intel Management Engine software to enable support for changing the RGB LEDs over the DDR4 bus. This means that when you install the memory into a Ryzen system, you are unable to customize the LED patterns, with the memory modules staying in their default state of cycling through colors in an unsynchronized method. 

Corsair has said that Ryzen support for RGB customization is coming, and we will be on the lookout for when the updated version of Corsair Link software is available.

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At $160 for the 16GB kit, the Corsair Vengeance RGB DDR-3000 Memory carries about a $30-$40 price premium over similar non RGB-enabled kits. While it may seem a bit ridiculous to spend extra money just to get light up RAM, if you are working on a color scheme with your system and already have things like an RGB Motherboard and GPU, Corsair Vengeance RGB memory could be the final touch you are looking for.

Subject: Memory
Manufacturer: Corsair

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of Corsair

Corsair's newest enthusiast targeted DDR4 memory kit features 4 x 4GB DDR4 modules rated for operating speeds of up to 3200MHz, catering to both the Intel X99 and Intel Z170 motherboards The modules are passively cooled with Corsair's Vengeance LPX aluminum heat spreads. The kit also comes with two Corsair Vengeance Airflow memory fans for additional active cooling.

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Courtesy of Corsair

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Courtesy of Corsair

The modules included with the the Vengeance DDR4-3200 16GB kit feature the latest design innovations in Corsair's Vengeance DDR4 memory line, including redesigned LPX heat spreaders for cool running at their rated 1.35V voltage. The modules have been optimized for quad channel operation with an Intel X99 motherboard as well as dual channel operation in an Intel Z170 motherboard, pairing well with both the Intel Haswell-E and Skylake processors. The modules also support the latest version of Intel XMP (Extreme Memory Profile), XMP 2.0.

Continue reading our review of the Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3200 memory kit!

Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

High Bandwidth Memory

UPDATE: I have embedded an excerpt from our PC Perspective Podcast that discusses the HBM technology that you might want to check out in addition to the story below.

The chances are good that if you have been reading PC Perspective or almost any other website that focuses on GPU technologies for the past year, you have read the acronym HBM. You might have even seen its full name: high bandwidth memory. HBM is a new technology that aims to turn the ability for a processor (GPU, CPU, APU, etc.) to access memory upside down, almost literally. AMD has already publicly stated that its next generation flagship Radeon GPU will use HBM as part of its design, but it wasn’t until today that we could talk about what HBM actually offers to a high performance processor like Fiji. At its core HBM drastically changes how the memory interface works, how much power is required for it and what metrics we will use to compare competing memory architectures. AMD and its partners started working on HBM with the industry more than 7 years ago, and with the first retail product nearly ready to ship, it’s time to learn about HBM.

We got some time with AMD’s Joe Macri, Corporate Vice President and Product CTO, to talk about AMD’s move to HBM and how it will shift the direction of AMD products going forward.

The first step in understanding HBM is to understand why it’s needed in the first place. Current GPUs, including the AMD Radeon R9 290X and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980, utilize a memory technology known as GDDR5. This architecture has scaled well over the past several GPU generations but we are starting to enter the world of diminishing returns. Balancing memory performance and power consumption is always a tough battle; just ask ARM about it. On the desktop component side we have much larger power envelopes to work inside but the power curve that GDDR5 is on will soon hit a wall, if you plot it far enough into the future. The result will be either drastically higher power consuming graphics cards or stalling performance improvements of the graphics market – something we have not really seen in its history.

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While it’s clearly possible that current and maybe even next generation GPU designs could still have depended on GDDR5 as the memory interface, the move to a different solution is needed for the future; AMD is just making the jump earlier than the rest of the industry.

Continue reading our look at high bandwidth memory (HBM) architecture!!

Subject: Memory
Manufacturer: Corsair

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of Corsair

Working in concert with GIGABYTE, Corsair developed the Dominator Platinum DDR4-3400 16GB kit to pair up perfectly with the X99-SOC Champion motherboard. The DDR4 modules feature orange anodized heat spreaders that exactly match the SOC-Champion's color scheme as well as two Dominator Vengeance Platinum memory coolers with integrated orange LEDs. The memory modules are build with hand-screened ICs to ensure the rigorous quality demands necessary for achieving the rated speeds.

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Courtesy of Corsair

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Courtesy of Corsair

The modules included in the Dominator Platinum DDR4-3400 16GB kit toute many design innovations enabling them to maintain their rated speed, such as the latest version of Corsairs Dominator DHX aluminum heat spreader which directly cools the specially designed PCB and hand-sorted ICs for module construction. The modules are optimized for use with the Intel® Core™ “Haswell-E” CPUs and the Intel X99 platform and include support for the latest version of Intel XMP (Extreme Memory Profile), XMP 2.0.

Continue reading our review of the Corsair Dominator Platinum memory modules!

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!!

Subject: Memory
Manufacturer: Kingston

So Many MHz, So Little Time...

If you've looked at memory for your system lately you've likely noticed a couple of things. First, memory prices have held steady for the past few months, but are still nearly double what they were a little over a year ago. Second, now that DDR3 has been a mature standard for years, there is a vast selection of RAM from many vendors, all with nearly identical specs. The standard has settled at 1600MHz for DDR3, and most desktop memory is programmed for this speed. Granted, many modules run at overclocked speeds, and there are some out there with pretty outlandish numbers, too - and it’s one of those kits that we take a look at today.

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Hardly subtle, the Kingston HyperX 'Predator' dual channel kit for review today is clocked at a ridiculous 1066MHz OVER the 1600MHz standard. That's right, this is 2666MHz memory! It seems like such a big jump would have to provide increased system performance across the board, and that's exactly what we're going to find out.

We all want to get the most out of any component, and finding the best option at a given price is part of planning any new build or upgrade. While every core part is sold at a particular speed, and most can be overclocked, there are still some qualifying factors that make selecting the fastest part for your budget a little more complicated. Speed isn't based on MHz alone – as with processors, where it often comes down to number of cores, how many instructions per clock cycle a given CPU can churn out, etc.

Continue reading our review of the Kingston HyperX Predator 2666 MHz DDR3 memory kit!!

Subject: Memory
Manufacturer: Corsair

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of Corsair

Corsair Vengeance Pro DDR3 memory is the latest edition to their award winning Vengeance line of memory. Corsair re-engineered the included heat sinks for better performance and even designed in the ability to customize the module color via a removable aluminum clip along the top of the modules.

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Courtesy of Corsair

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Courtesy of Corsair

The Vengeance Pro modules come in three different color schemes - black and red, black and blue, and black and silver. The modules themselves are optimized for use with the 4th generation Intel® Core™ “Haswell” platform and include support for the latest version of Intel XMP (Extreme Memory Profile), XMP 1.3. The modules themselves are available at rated speed grades from 1600MHz to 2933MHz, in 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB configurations.

Technical Specifications (taken from the Corsair website)

Size Speed DIMM Count Part Number
16GB 2933MHz, 12-14-14-36, 1.65V 4 CMY16GX3M4A2933C12R
32GB 2800 MHz, 12-14-14-36, 1.65V 4 CMY32GX3M4A2800C12R
32GB 2666 MHz, 11-13-13-35, 1.65V 4 CMY32GX3M4A2666C11R
16GB 2666 MHz, 11-13-13-35, 1.65V 2 CMY16GX3M2A2666C11R
32GB 2400MHz, 10-12-12-31, 1.65V 4 CMY32GX3M4A2400C10R
16GB 2400MHz, 10-12-12-31, 1.65V 2 CMY16GX3M2A2400C10R
32GB 2133 MHz, 11-11-11-27, 1.5V 4 CMY32GX3M4A2133C11
16GB 2133 MHz, 11-11-11-27, 1.5V 2 CMY16GX3M2A2133C11R
8GB 2133 MHz, 11-11-11-27, 1.5V 2 CMY8GX3M2A2133C11
32GB 1866 MHz, 9-10-9-27, 1.5V 4 CMY32GX3M4A1866C9
16GB 1866 MHz, 9-10-9-27, 1.5V 2 CMY16GX3M2A1866C9
8GB 1866 MHz, 9-10-9-27, 1.5V 2 CMY8GX3M2A1866C9
32GB 1600 MHz, 9-9-9-24, 1.5V 4 CMY32GX3M4A1600C9
16GB 1600 MHz, 9-9-9-24, 1.5V 2 CMY16GX3M2A1600C9
8GB 1600 MHz, 9-9-9-24, 1.5V 2 CMY8GX3M2A1600C9

Continue reading our review of the Corsair Vengeance Pro memory modules!

Author:
Subject: Memory
Manufacturer: GSkill

Memory? Why?

Aaah memory.  It has been some time since we last had a memory review, and for good reason.  Memory got pretty boring.  Ten years ago this was not the case.  DDR was just fresh on the scene and we were starting to see memory speeds and bandwidths get to a place where it would have a significant effect on performance.  Latencies were of utmost importance, and the fastest 2.2.2.6 DIMMs running at DDR 400 speeds were often quite expensive.  Then things sort of mellowed out.  DDR-2 did not exactly bring faster performance over DDR initially, and it was not until DDR-2 800 and 1066 speeds that we actually saw a significant boost over previous gen DDR 1.  DDR-3 brought even more yawns.  With the jump to integrated memory controllers from both AMD and Intel, DDR-3 speeds were nearly meaningless.

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The primary reason for this rather vanilla time in the memory market was that of individual bandwidth needs for CPU cores.  Most research into this issue points to an individual CPU core needing only 3 to 4 GB/sec of bandwidth to support its data needs.  AMD and Intel have gone to great lengths to increase the efficiency of not only their memory controllers and prefetchers, but also the internal caches so fewer main memory accesses are needed.  So essentially a quad core processor would really only need upwards of 12 to 13 GB/sec of bandwidth in real world scenarios.  DDR-3 1333 memory modules in a dual channel configuration would be able to support that kind of bandwidth quite easily.  So what exactly was the point of having faster memory?  Also, CPUs using DDR-3 memory are not as sensitive to latencies as we have seen in previous generations of parts.

Click to read the rest of the article.

Author:
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

The Basics

Introduction

If you have been visiting PC Perspective at all over the last week there is no doubt you have seen a lot of discussion about the currently running Battlefield 3 beta.  We posted an article looking at performance of several different GPUs in the game and then followed it up with a look at older cards like the GeForce 9800 GT.  We did a live stream of some PC Perspective staff playing BF3 with readers and fans, showed off and tested the locked Caspian Border map and even looked at multi-GPU scaling performance.  It was a lot of testing and a lot of time, but now that we have completed it, we are ready to summarize our findings in a piece that many have been clamoring for - a Battlefield 3 system build guide.

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The purpose of this article is simple: gather our many hours or testing and research and present the results in a way that simply says "here is the hardware we recommend."  It is a the exact same philosophy that makes our PC Perspective Hardware Leaderboard so successful as it gives the reader all the information they need, all in one place.

Continue reading our guide for building a system for Battlefield 3!!

Author:
Subject: Memory
Manufacturer: OCZ Technology
Tagged:

Shifting focus

Yesterday OCZ Technology announced that it was going to exit the memory market as of February 2011, the very same memory market that helped make it the well-known company it is today. After hearing the news we were both saddened and curious: why did they make this decision, what happens to all of those current OCZ memory users and where are they going from here?

Author:
Subject: Memory
Manufacturer: General
Tagged:

Tour Overview

Before Gigabyte’s Open Overclocking Championship 2009 North America Regional Final this weekend, Kingston invited several members of the media to tour their global headquarters and manufacturing facility located in Fountain Valley, Calif. Check out our quick overview of Kington's main production facility for their newest DDR3 memory modules.

Author:
Subject: Memory
Manufacturer: Corsair Components
Tagged:

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.

Author:
Subject: Memory
Manufacturer: Corsair Components
Tagged:

Introduction to Domination

Corsair shows us another DDR3 Dominator installment: this time using Intel Extreme Memory Profiles to overclock to 1800 MHz on a CAS 7 latency. Sure DDR3 is still expensive, but now it's also fast and easy to overclock!

Author:
Subject: Memory
Manufacturer: Corsair Components
Tagged:

Corsair CM3X1024-1800C7D

Corsair and Super Talent sent along some of their top speed DDR3 memory for us to play around with and we came away more than slightly impressed about the future of DDR3 memory for the enthusiast!

Author:
Subject: Memory
Manufacturer: OCZ Technology
Tagged:

Flex XLC Module Technology

OCZ has a very impressive memory option on the test bed today that offers both a great passive cooling option as well as liquid cooling for enthusiasts that really want to push their memory overclocking.

Author:
Subject: Memory
Manufacturer: Corsair Components
Tagged:

The New Dominator Module

Corsair's Dominator memory modules look like nothing else you have seen on system memory before with a unique cooling device and fantastic overclocking results to go along with it.

Subject: Memory
Manufacturer: Corsair Components
Tagged:

Introduction and Specifications

We review the latest Corsair XMS2 8500 dual-channel memory kit. Unlike other reviews you may have read, we overclock using three different motherboards to give you a better idea of how it will perform.

Subject: Memory
Manufacturer: Corsair Components
Tagged:

Introduction & Specs

We take a look at two DDR2 offerings from Corsair. The overclocking results are surprising which bodes well for Corsair's current DDR2 line-up.

Author:
Subject: Memory
Manufacturer: Corsair Components
Tagged:

The Modules

Corsair is set to release a new memory technology with the ability to monitor and display temperature, voltage and frequency in a cool new package.