Does high speed DDR4 make any difference?
We are often asked by customers if there is any benefit to high speed memory. Feedback from online sources shows mixed reports and our own experiences when testing average frame rates in various games certainly backs up those claiming a minimal improvement. When asking the DRAM experts at Corsair for their feedback they told us to change the way we test; specifically to record gameplay fps over time using FRAPS and take a reading of the minimum frame rate spikes instead. After all, it doesn’t matter if your average frame rate is 60fps or 600fps, it’s only the dips you’ll actually feel and that make a real world difference. This holds especially true if you are using V-Sync to synchronise your frame rate with your monitor’s refresh rate and a dip results in a judder!
We took two speeds of memory for our test, 16GB of “standard” Corsair Value Select 2133MHz DDR4 and some super whizz-bang Corsair 3000MHz Vengeance LPX DDR4 and installed them in the same Intel Core i7 6700K-powered gaming rig. We equipped this with a GTX 1080 8GB GPU and overclocked the CPU to a robust 4.7GHz to minimise any other factors that might introduce bottlenecks.
To make sure our gaming conditions were representative of how people actually play games we ran four popular titles at maximum detail on our 27” 1440P test monitor. The four games are ARMA 3, Civilisation: Beyond Earth, Fallout 4 and The Witcher 3.
As you can see, in every single case there’s a measurable improvement in the minimum recorded FPS in each of these games. Whilst the average frame rate was within half a % with either memory speed installed (well within the margin for error of the benchmarks), the improvement in minimum frame rate was as much as 23%. Subjectively, the difference was more difficult to ascertain but with v-sync locked at 60Hz we noticed fewer fps interruptions on the run with the faster RAM installed. With a 144Hz gaming monitor, we'd imagine there to be even more of a noticable variance.
Whilst by no means an exhaustive test (we are not Anandtech, nor do we try to be!), there’s some really compelling evidence in this short test for investing in high speed memory for your gaming PC, even if the gains are not immediately obvious in your normal 3DMark or "timedemo" based benchmarks.