G.SKILL Pi Series F3-12800CL7T-6GBP Tri Channel 6GB Review

ccokeman - 2010-02-12 22:27:47 in Memory
Category: Memory
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: April 11, 2010
Price: $174.99


In the world of computing, you can never have too much memory. With 64-bit operating systems and drivers that support the hardware for them, more and more gamers, enthusiasts, and technology lovers alike are packing their computers with as much memory as they can afford. The Intel i7 series introduced a new technology trend for us with their supporting X58 motherboards which was triple channel memory. This design allows us to run even more memory with less cost by adding another channel to populate with lower cost memory. The design also broke the 32-bit barrier since most users populate each channel with at least 2GB stick of memory. Each channel at 2GB brings us to a memory sweet spot of 6GB. There have been many companies that have developed triple channel memory for this platform, one of which is G.Skill. The particular set we are going to be looking at today is the G.SKill Pi series. It is a three module set of 2GB sticks designed to run at enhanced latencies and low voltages to give your system the boost it needs. The Pi series also uses a unique heat spreader design to keep them cool, which we will take a look at a little later in the review.


Closer Look:

The G.Skill Pi Series Tri-Channel memory comes packaged in a blister pack which makes examining the modules easy without having to remove them from the packaging. The front of the package proudly displays the three memory modules with the Pi Series heat sinks. On the back of the blister pack is the model number which shows F3-12800CL7T-6GBP. There is also a bit about the design of the G.Skill memory made for Intel i7 processors with the triple channel design for maximum performance. On the top of the back is the G.Skill memory logo which states "Where Speed Is, Extreme Speed, Extreme Power".










This set of G.Skill Pi memory is rated to run at 1600Mhz DDR3 with timings of 7-8-7-24-2T with a low voltage of 1.5v which is under the max 1.65v for an i7 processor. The Pi series uses a unique black aluminum heat spreader which uses curved fins to allow the airflow from the case to pass not only over them, but between them as well. This maximizes the cooling effect and keeps your memory running longer and more efficiently. If you notice at the end of the heat spreader, there is a tunnel that is created by the curves of the design that funnels airflow down inside the heatsink. This provides even more cooling closer to the base of the heat spreader where the critical parts of the board are.




Now that the memory is un-packaged, we can test them to see how they perform.


Main Board:
System Type:              
CAS Latency:      
6GB (2GB x3) /
12GB (2GB x6)
DDR3-1600 (PC3 12800)
1.5 Volts
Error Checking:
240-pin DIMM


Information courtesy of G.Skill @ http://www.gskill.com/products.php?index=252


To test the G.Skill Pi Series memory modules, they will be put through a series of benchmarks designed to see how well they perform under load. With the set having lower power requirements, I am curious as to how well they will stand up among other sets designed for raw speed. They will be compared to other sets of memory designed for the Intel Socket LGA 1366 platform running a triple channel memory design. For the overclocking test, I will use a combination of voltages and timing increases while increasing the base clock on the CPU. This will increase the clock speed of the modules to see if they are capable of reaching higher speeds to deliver additional performance.


Testing Setup:

Comparison Modules:


CPU-Z: This application shows us the settings that we have chosen in the BIOS. Items shown in this application include CPU speed and bus settings, motherboard manufacturer, BIOS revisions, memory timings, and SPD chip information.

CPU-Z Pics


Task Manager: We use this utility to show physical memory, kernel memory, page file, and processor usage.



Overclocked settings:


Overclocking these modules from G.Skill was much like the overclocking experience I had with the ECO 4GB set of modules I recently looked at. This set of modules needs a paltry 1.5 volts to run its rated timings of 7-8-7-24 at 1600Mhz. At the rated speed, these modules could easily run Cas 6 with no problems whatsoever. Scaling the modules upwards was easy to a point much like the ECO modules. At this point (1800Mhz) an increase in Cas latency did nothing to increase clock speeds, even upping the cas latency to 9 had no effect, even increasing the voltage did not impact the overclocking at this point either. The only thing to allow higher clock speeds at this point was to increase the TRCD setting to 9 from 8. This opened up a another level of overclocking madness that took me up to 963Mhz. What I found interesting was that the modules would run a Cas latency of 6 at the same level as Cas 7, again much the same way the ECO modules responded. Voltage was kept at or below the 1.65v maximum Intel specification as I did not see a "payoff" going any higher. 963Mhz is an 163Mhz or a roughly 20% increase in clock speed that was reached with just a little massaging of the timings and voltages.


The benchmarks used in this review include the following:



PCMark Vantage: With this benchmark, I will be running the system suite, as well as the memory test suite. The measurement for the system suite will be the total score. The measurement for memory performance is the total memory score.
















SiSoftware Sandra 2009 SP4: In this program, I will be running the following benchmarks: Cache and Memory, Memory Bandwidth and Memory Latency. Higher is better in all tests, except for Memory Latency, where lower is better.






In the PCMark Vantage testing, the G.Skill Pi series modules delivered the second highest scores in both the suite score and memory score. The Sandra testing shows results that are comparable with the rest of the 1600Mhz rated modules.


Left 4 Dead is a first-person shooter from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. Your goal is to make it to a rescue point, all while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie "I Am Legend" comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombies. These zombies are quick and work with pack mentality. You have but one job; survival!














The G.Skill modules offer performance comparable to the rest of the modules, at the low end of the range in the 1024x768 and 1280x1024 resolutions and the high end of the range above 1280x1024.



When it comes to the performance testing of the G.Skill Pi series modules, the performance was better than the average in the PCMark Vantages tests, but for the rest of the testing the modules stuck right with the pack. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Well benchmarks don't tell the whole story. With the modules installed, the tighter timings offer something that is not really measurable, but is more "feel" than anything else, that being a little snappier response. Couple that with the fact that only 1.5 volts are required to run the modules at the aggressive rated timings and speeds of 1600Mhz 7-8-7-24. The other bonus shows up in a system that is slightly better in the power efficiency department just because you are not burning that energy to get your results. Even if you have to bump the volts up a notch or two when overclocking, the heat spreaders are large enough to handle the thermal load. The heat spreaders are a unique design that does shed the heat and does so quite well, leaving them cool to the touch. I put this to the test by running the modules up to 1.65 volts during the overclocking testing and was pleased with the results. This set of G.Skill Pi Series modules responded well when it came time to overclocking, with an almost 21% increase in clock speed up to 963Mhz. This was done not only at a Cas latency of 7 but at Cas 6 as well. This set of modules seemed to overclock better with lower volts as going higher than 1.65v did not generate any payoffs in clock speed or timings. Of course your mileage may vary.

While looks are not always a selling point, for some it is the breaking point that makes or breaks the sale. The tall heat spreaders on this set of Pi series modules look good and would complement just about any build, the only downside being that the height of the heat spreaders may cause some fit issues if you are using a large heat sink and trying to fit the modules in the closest dimm slot to the CPU. Not a huge problem, but this is one that is shared by just about every manufacturer. It may make running 12GB of memory a challenge depending on your CPU cooling solution. With all that said, the G.Skill modules do not disappoint. This set offers aggressive timings at low volts and with their ability to turn up the speed, they should not be ignored for their very competitive $175 price point.