High-speed and low-power conundrumThe birth of DDR3-2GHz for Core i7
Scaling up to 2GHz on DDR3 memory isn't anything new. We tested some Crucial Ballistix DDR3-2,000 back in May of last year, and it ran perfectly well with 9-9-9-28 latencies. The problem, however, was that it required 1.9V - some 26 per cent above JEDEC-recommended voltages - to do so.
Knowing that the Core i7 memory-controller baulks at voltages much in excess of 1.65V, and going above this limit may well cause long-term problems to the processor, memory manufacturers have looked at ways of keeping high speeds with voltages in check: 2GHz at 1.9V simply doesn't cut it.
Running any high-speed DDR3 for Core i7 requires the manufacturer selecting limited-quantity ICs, laboriously testing them to ensure compliance, and then packaging them together in packs of three, for tri-channel operation. Compare this to the easily-binned parts for, say, DDR3-1,333 and you can see why, in part, DDR3-1,866+ is so damn expensive.
As happens from time to time, the major IC manufacturers - Elpida, Samsung, et al - release new DRAM with enviable properties, making them particularly suited to a certain speed or latency. This is exactly what's happened with the latest batch of Elpida Hyper ICs, and Corsair has taken full advantage by adding them to the DOMINATOR GT 2GHz and 1.86GHz kits.
DOMINATOR GT: online only
The standard-bearer for Corsair's Core i7 line-up, DOMINATOR GT will only be available directly from Corsair, through its brand-new Performance Shop: an online portal for purchasing some of the company's flagship wares. Built using the aforementioned Elpida Hyper ICs, we're informed that the modules go through a rigorous screening, build, and testing process to ensure operation at 2GHz with 1.65V (or less).
Knowing this, the reasoning behind releasing them directly makes implicit sense, as Corsair won't sell - or, indeed, be able to manufacture - enough modules to make it worthwhile for an eclectic range of retail partners to hold stock. Rather, focussed wholly on the die-hard enthusiast or supremely well-heeled consumer who wants the best of everything, Corsair reckons it can provide better support for truly cutting-edge components, and we kind of agree.
The point here is not to validate Corsair selling directly, but, logically and objectively, pointing out the need, if you will, of selling super-high-end, expensive components with the greatest support level in place.
With a little background out of the way, let's take a peek at the modules.