G.Skill RipJaws-Z 16GB £80
25th Nov 2011 | 15:30
Intel X79-compatible memory kit boasting a whopping 16GB of RAM
Is Intel's new X79 PC platform a true desktop solution? Or is it a thinly disguised server platform? The answer to that question could be critical when mulling over the latest X79-compatible memory kits, such as the new G.Skill Ripjaws-Z 1,600MHz 16GB RAM.
There are two key issues at stake. The first is raw memory bandwidth. In standard trim, Intel's outgoing X58 platform sported three channels of relatively lowly clocked DDR3 memory.
If anything, it still pumped out more memory bandwidth than was strictly necessary.
In that context, the X79 and its quad-channel controller fed by higher clocked DDR3 DIMMs looks borderline ludicrous.
The reason it exists, of course, is to ensure Intel's closely related server systems have the bandwidth they need.
Meanwhile, arguably the best thing about the new Sandy Bridge E processors that slot into the X79 platform is their immense oveclockability. Making the most of that requires decent memory.
With all that in mind, what should you make of the G.Skill Ripjaws Z series 1,600MHz 16GB kit?
As good as the G.Skill RipJawsZ modules genuinely are the concerns about the need for such huge amounts of RAM, or the quad-channel design, are more telling.
You really aren't getting a huge boost in performance, if any, with such a vast amount of quad-channel DDR3 memory.
Video encoding performance
Memory bandwidth performance
The G.Skill RipJaws-Z 16GB quad channel memory kit isn't cheap. There's no point pretending otherwise.
On the other hand, neither are Intel's new Sandy Bridge E Core i7 processors. Or motherboards with the obligatory X79 chipset.
If you want the best, you're going to have to pay for it. But is this nattily named RipJawsZ kit really a winner?
For starters, each kit is hand tested, which is nice. It's also XMP 1.3 ready, which means it's not just any old quartet of DDR3 1,600MHz DIMMs. It's specially developed for the X79 platform.
If that's so much digital double speak to you, XMP or Extreme Memory profile is a user-friendly way of cranking up various memory settings and timings without the need for hand tuning. The latest 1.3 standard generally tightens things over 1.2, enabling better performance and stability.
As for the specifics, this G.Skill RipJawsZ nominally clocks at 1,600MHz with 9-9-9-24 timings at 1.5V.
Oh, and it's 4GB per stick of DIMM memory, making for a mildly monumental 16GB of RAM overall.
If that mountain of RAM doesn't sound like plenty to you, G.Skill actually do kits all the way up to 32GB. That's 8GB per stick.
For the record, we used the G.Skill RipJaws-Z 16GB kit for our Core i7-3960X review, and the sticks ran rock solid all the way from the the 3960X's nominal 3.33GHz clockspeed through 4.8GHz without a blip.
The X79 may be a new platform, but G.Skill has the question of stability licked.
As for raw performance and the question of whether you actually need four channels, we re-ran several of our benchmarks with just two of the four DIMMs inserted.
The highly threaded benchmarks came back identical, while World in Conflict averaged just a single frame per second slower. In other words, there's not a big enough difference to rule out testing error.
With any new platform, stability is a worry. So the combination of G.Skill's claims of hand testing each kit and our experience of impeccable reliability during testing bode extremely well.
Support for the full XMP 1.3 profile is also welcome and should make the RipJaws-Z ideal for long-term overclocking.
It's early days for both the X79 platform and the XMP 1.3 memory profile, so it's hard to be too emphatic about the G.Skill RipJaws-Z 16GB's performance.
But its biggest problem is that in desktop performance terms there's little need for four channels. Few will benefit from the 16GB capacity, either.
The G.Skill RipJaws-Z 16GB is a well executed quad-channel kit. We're just not sure you need quad-channel on the desktop.