With every new Intel platform release, the future of DDR3 memory is more assured, and after the triple-channel Core i7/X58, it even has a few new wrinkles. AMD is slated to introduce a new DDR3-based Phenom line, potentially when the move to 45nm is complete, so there is no question that DDR3 is both the present and the future.
The question is really which type and speed of DDR3 memory is right for you - should you go for the ultra high-end and buy a pair of low-latency modules, or save some money and snag a mainstream kit? That's what we're looking at here, as the OCZ DDR3-1333 Gold 2x1GB kit certainly qualifies as mainstream, if not entry-level, and it will be interesting to see how this low-priced kit matches up.
OCZ offers a wide range of DDR3 memory, from ultra low-latency FlexXLC (CL6 @1600 MHz/CL8 @2000 MHz) to the entry-level Value series, as well as the high-end Platinum and mainstream Gold models, among others. The PC3-10666 Gold Edition 2x1GB hovers right above the baseline for DDR3, offering slightly better looks, cooling and overclocking than a standard "bare" DDR3 module, but still at a very low price.
The specifications for the OCZ PC3-10666 Gold Edition 2x1GB kit include a base 1333 MHz operating frequency, a 1.7V DDR3 voltage, standard CL 9-9-9-20 timings, and a 1.9V EVP (Extended Voltage Protection) for overclocking while still enjoying the lifetime OCZ warranty. These modules also feature gold-mirrored heatspreaders using XTC (Xtreme Thermal Convection) technology for added heat dissipation and potentially higher overclocking.
Before moving onto the benchmarking section, our first step was to determine exactly what type of clock speeds and memory timings the OCZ PC3-10666 Gold Edition 2x1GB modules are capable of. First off, we attempted to lower the memory timings to CL8 at the default DDR3-1333 clock speeds, but even with a higher voltage, this was a tough nut to crack and after a few too many boot failures and operating system crashes, we moved on, and attempted to test the outer clock speed limits of these DDR3 modules.
Our first step was to use an unlocked Core 2 Extreme to allow for full DDR3 multipliers, and then start moving up the list. Surprisingly, the OCZ PC3-10666 Gold modules easily hit 1600 MHz at CL9, providing a free clock speed boost right out of the chute. The OCZ DDR3-1333 modules were rock solid at this speed and it offered a nice performance upgrade. Trying to move any higher to the 1800-1900 MHz overclocked level was simply not possible, even with higher voltages and relaxed memory timings, but this is hardly a surprise given the price and market positioning of this mainstream OCZ DDR3.