Patriot Viper Fin DDR3 PC3 12800 2 x 1 GB Review

ccokeman - 2008-01-19 18:02:12 in Memory
Category: Memory
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: January 23, 2008
Price: $294.99


Are you ready for Intel's next wave of processors and chipsets? If you don't have DDR3 memory, then you probably aren't. With the frontside bus speeds moving ever upwards, system memory is having to scale higher and higher to keep up. DDR3 memory has had the same growing pains that DDR2 had on the initial offerings; high latency, higher costs and lower performance than its predecessor in the currently usable range. DDR2 matured quickly with CAS latency dropping from 6 to 5 to 4 and finally some extremely high performance modules are able to run at CAS 3. DDR3 has begun that maturation process quickly as well. There are modules out that are capable of running at timings similar to DDR2 but at an exorbitant cost. DDR3 performance modules are being released with ever increasing speed capabilities to meet the demands of the enthusiast. These enthusiasts are no doubt running Intel processors as AMD is not looking to adopt the use of DDR3 until 2009 or beyond.

The Patriot Viper Fin PC3 12800 memory features low latencies of 7-7-7-18 at 1600MHz and 1.8 volts. While that is .3 volts above DDR3 spec, the modules carry a lifetime warranty from Patriot. The Viper Fin modules also carry a little something extra, an XMP profile on the SPD module. What is XMP, you ask? In a nutshell, it is Intel's answer to EPP memory programming for Nvidia chipset based systems. It is a preprogrammed SPD profile to allow the end user the ability to choose this profile for no fuss performance tuning of the system memory. So just how well does the Viper Fin PC3 12800 perform? Let's find out!

Closer Look:

Instead of the normal clamshell, Patriot has chosen to box up the Viper Fin DDR3 series. The front of the package has a window so that the modules can be seen. The rear panel talks about manufacturing, engineering, the free tech support line and the lifetime warranty.



Removing the modules from the box shows that the modules are indeed stored in a clamshell. Included with one of the Patriot modules is a memory installation guide.



The Viper Fin modules are a low latency set of DDR3 modules that are manufactured to run at 7-7-7-18 latencies with 1.8 volts at 800FSB. The Viper Fin series of modules are touted as the Extreme Performance lineup of modules. The Viper Fin name denotes modules that feature the unique heatspreaders designed by Patriot.



The Patriot Viper Fin modules use a specially designed aluminum composite heatspreader. The inner layer of the composite is copper and is mounted against the modules, while the aluminum outer layer sheds the heat generated by the modules.








The way to verify that one set of memory modules is better than another is to run a series of benchmarks to put down some basic comparison data. When all things are equal and the only variable is the module being tested, the results are a great way to compare performance, good or bad. In order to eliminate the variables, the only settings that will be manipulated will be the memory timings and voltages when overclocking. The comparison modules will be run at the manufacturer specified timings and voltages at a speed of 1333MHz. In order to reach 1333MHz and 1600MHz, the processor used in the test setup will have a slight overclock from 266MHz to 333MHz and 400MHz. All of the comparison modules were run at 1333 MHz, with the Patriot run at both 1333MHz and 1600MHz to test the modules at each level.

Testing Setup:



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.



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



Overclocked settings:

The Patriot Viper Fin PC3 12800 was fairly easy to clock up to 962FSB (1924MHz). To get the most from this set of memory I will use the 1:2 divider to scale the memory as high as I can. This set of memory has the ability to run extremely tight latencies of 6-5-5-16 at 1333MHz. Starting at 1600MHz, I was able to scale up to 1840MHz with the stock 7-7-7 timings, using 1.9volts. Above that, even more voltage was required to maintain the the CAS latency of 7. At 1880MHz I needed to move the CAS latency to 8 to continue raising the clockspeeds. Once 1900MHz came around, more voltage was needed to maintain stability. By limiting the voltage, I ultimately limited the clockspeeds that could be achieved, but 1924MHz (962FSB) at 8-7-7-20 is nothing to shake a stick at. In fact, 38MHz more puts this memory into the 1000MHz club. Where is that 500FSB quad when you need it?


The benchmarks used in this review include the following programs.




PcMark Vantage: With this benchmark, I will be running the system suite as well as the memory test suite. The measure for the system suite will be the total score. The measure for memory performance is the total memory score. A comparison will be made of the performance at DDR3 1333 , DDR3 1600 and the highest achievable overclocked speed for the Patriot Viper Fin PC3 12800.








SiSoftware Sandra XII: In this program, I will be doing the following benchmarks: Cache and Memory, Memory Bandwidth, and Memory Latency. All benchmarks will be at default timings with the execption of the OCZ Reaper X overclocked results. Higher is better in all tests except for Memory Latency, where lower is better.






At the 1333MHz level, the Patriot offering fell short in the PCMark and Cache and Memory Sandra scores. It did redeem itself in the latency and memory bandwidth testing.



Far Cry: For this game test, we will use the following settings and run the Hardware OC 1.8 benchmark utility. The measure for this benchmark will be in FPS.






Higher is Better


The Patriot offering just blew away the competition in this test. An increase of 20+ frames per second in the lowest resolution, as well as gains in the 1280 and 1680 tests were amazing, to say the least.


After testing five different sets of DDR3 memory, I must say that the highest clockspeeds that I have attained were with the Patriot Viper Fin PC3 12800, 962FSB (1924MHz) 8-7-7-20. 162FSB worth of overclocking headroom means that with a 1:2 memory divider you will be hard pressed to find a CPU that can outscale this memory. Did I mention that this was done at a 1t command rate? With higher speed rated memory, the expectation is that it will go a little faster and further up the clock speed scale. This does hold true in many instances, though not all. With the voltage requirements for performance DDR3 creeping up and away from the 1.5 volts DDR3 spec, cooling the memory modules needs to be addressed. Patriot designed a special Aluminum-Copper composite (ACC) heatspreader that effectively cooled the modules down. Even with 2.0+ volts running through them they never got warm to the touch. One surprise was the ability to run tighter than stock timings at 1333MHz. I was able to run the modules at 6-5-5-16 with only 1.76 volts. Sweet!

When DDR3 is mentioned, price is brought up as the main liability when the talk turns to migrating. At this point, DDR3 performance modules are expensive. I still remember paying $320 for a nice 2 x 1GB set of TCCD modules not too terribly long ago. $300 was the price tag on my first set of DDR2 modules as well. With a price just shy of $300, the entry price is similar to each of the last two generations, at least for a 2 x 1GB set. 4GB sets, on the other hand, are just prohibitively expensive at this point, though moving to Vista may neccesitate having the additional memory. The old sayiong holds true though, you gotta pay to play.

Speaking of playing, gaming performance was another surprise area for me. 5 to 20 frames per second increases just with the switch of the system memory is unreal. Each test was run five times to verify the results. If you are looking to migrate to DDR3, take a careful look at the offerings on the market, but with the overclockability of the Patriot Viper Fin series, you really won't have to look too far. Good looks, cool running, overclocking headroom, and XMP profiles, what else do you need in a set of modules?