We discussed the availability of AMD branded memory modules earlier this month, but today AMD is officially unveiling information on their memory platform. There are a few major questions many will have: why is AMD entering the memory market at all, and what do they hope to offer that we can’t already get from other vendors? Let’s take those in turns.

The reason for AMD’s entry into the memory market comes from two areas. First, AMD’s APUs are now shipping in large volumes and can definitely benefit from higher bandwidth memory modules. We’ve already shown the sort of performance scaling you can get from an A8-3850 with higher clocked DRAM, but many people buy A-series APUs as part of a prebuilt system, and right now lots of OEMs are still cutting corners on the RAM and using DDR3-1333. That’s the second aspect of the move: AMD wants to enable a [buzzword alert!] “holistic customer platform experience”, and they may be able to help drive down costs for AMD platforms. A final element AMD mentions is a desire to drive and enable future memory product developments.

The other item to discuss is what AMD offers that we may not already have. Here the distinction between AMD branded memory and other options isn’t quite so clear, but AMD will be doing testing and validation in their labs using AMD platforms. AMD also notes that they will not be using any ETT (Effectively TesTed) or gray market RAM. The latter is used as a term to collectively group hardware that may be less desirable; as an example, Intel unboxed CPUs are “gray market” because they are intended for OEM use but can still end up being sold at retail. Basically, gray market parts would cut out some of the supply channel (in the example just cited, gray box processors typically cut out AMD/Intel and only have a short warranty from the seller). ETT parts on the other hand are a way of cutting costs by skipping branding; the RAM is still tested and is supposed to be high quality, but without branding it’s one small way to reduce costs. Generally speaking, ETT memory is destined for value RAM modules, so basically AMD is saying is that their AMD RAM will start out a step above value RAM. AMD also states that they will take end-to-end ownership of the AMD Memory ecosystem, working with module manufacturers, memory partners, IC partners, distributors, and VARs (value added resellers).

With that out of the way, let’s discuss the specifics of what AMD Memory will be available and the target markets. Here’s a slide from AMD’s presentation summarizing things:

 As you would expect from any memory, the AMD RAM will work with both AMD and Intel platforms; the main difference between the tiers will be the speed and packaging. Entertainment Edition memory will target the mainstream/value segment, come in single 2GB and 4GB DIMM packages, and is rated for CL9 operation at DDR3-1333 and/or DDR3-1600; Entertainment Edition memory is already available, starting in October. The Performance Edition memory should start shipping this month, and it will come in 2GB, 4GB, and 8GB capacities (these are presumably two-DIMM kits with 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB total capacities; Bulldozer could potentially use four-DIMM kits). The main difference with Performance Edition memory is that it is rated for CL8 operation at DDR3-1333/1600 speeds. Last is the Radeon Edition memory, which will come in 4GB and 8GB kits and offer DDR3-1866 and up to DDR3-2133 support with CL9 operation (and presumably CL7/8 operation at lower speeds). The Radeon Edition parts will also have support for overclocking via AMD OverDrive software; availability is expected in Jan/Feb 2012.

So what does all of this really mean? That’s the difficult part. If all AMD memory supported speeds of at least DDR3-1600, that would be a clear break from the current offerings, but the press release indicates that there will be both DDR3-1333 and DDR3-1600 parts. The upgrade to DDR3-1600 provides a significant performance increase; we linked our Llano A8-3850 article above showing some of our own results, but here are some charts of our testing along with AMD’s results:

Gallery: AMD Memory

AMD shows up to a 20% performance increase in their testing by upgrading from DDR3-1333 to DDR3-1600, while our own results show an average increase in performance of around 14% across seven tested games (with a range of improvement of around 8% to 41%). Should you choose to spring for faster DDR3-1866 memory (or just overclock some decent DDR3-1600 RAM), the average performance increase is around 20% and up to 40% in some cases (or as low as 8% in Civ5). This isn’t too surprising as the AMD Fusion GPUs are significantly faster than competing solutions and the combination of shared memory bandwidth with the rest of the platform along with generally slower memory speeds (compared to dedicated GPUs) is a double-whammy. So why would AMD continue to sell anything less than DDR3-1600? Your guess is as good as mine.

Several of us have chatted about the AMD Memory announcement, and really we’re not quite sure if this is necessary or useful. If it means systems with better quality and higher performance RAM at the same price, that would be a good thing, but the persistence of DDR3-1333 for desktop parts doesn’t jive with that goal. What’s more, RAM prices are already incredibly low, so AMD entering a commodity market doesn’t appear to be a good way to improve the bottom line.

AMD’s first partners for their branded memory initiative are Patriot Memory and VisionTek, with Patriot being a familiar name to memory shoppers and VisionTek known for their graphics products. There’s nothing inherently wrong with AMD branded memory, but unless the price is lower than existing options (e.g. AMD mentions bundles as something we’re likely to see), there’s also not much that it adds to the market. For now, we’ll stick with recommending you buy RAM that will supports at least DDR3-1600 speeds if you’re buying a Llano (or future APU) system; whether that memory is AMD branded or otherwise will likely be far less important than how much the memory costs for the desired level of performance.

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  • l3bowsk1 - Monday, November 28, 2011 - link

    I recently bought 4GB of G.Skill 8CLS DDR3-1600 for like $25 - it's even cheaper now. Will AMD beat this price? No? Then why bother? While some brands are more reliable than others, RAM is pretty much commoditized these days, unless you are building a bleeding-edge system.

    And if you are building a bleeding-edge system, it ain't gonna have an AMD chip in it, unless you've taken a couple sharp blows to the head lately.

    With $80 dual-core Sandy Bridge CPUs beating out AMD quad-cores at almost twice the price (check out the Bench section), AMD is quickly losing their relevance in the desktop market. And something tells me that expanding their brand into new segments isn't going to help.
  • YukaKun - Monday, November 28, 2011 - link

    That's one step closer to a fully integrated solution! SoC for PCs, anyone?

    I think it's a good idea if they actually manage to make a good quality product and pair it with their own solutions.

    I had some issues with RAM vendors with my A8 (Kingston HyperX modules, more precisely), so if an AMD branded module with ensure me that there will be no problems, I could support them with my hard earn money.

    Besides, they REALLY have to work on RAM this time, since half of the HT link will be used by the graphics subsystem with the RAM, lol. Come on AMD, make a great comeback already!

  • think-ITB-live-OTB - Monday, November 28, 2011 - link

    AMD combining the CPU and the GPU worlds. Now going for the memory market. Brilliant!! AMD RAM, SSDs yes please! but... AMD pretty please, once this foray is tackled. MOBOs next!! oh and Operating System. Holy Hell Batman!!

    A transparent/clear unbranded red acrylic computer case housing an AMD branded Motherboard, AMD CPU/GPU combination, AMD branded RAM and an AMD branded SSD. Powered by an AMD developed LINUX distro focusing on AMD drivers + pushing OpenCL OpenGL etc..

    drop that badboy off on Intels desk with a sticky.
    Like Apples? how bout them Apples!!

    would be a developers Dream!! one phone call for any problem!
    an entire ecosystem (a true ecosystem) unto itself. Lets not discuss the Apple illusion shall we? k.

    I think is a great move. Its a step in giving AMD the edge Intel has enjoyed for so many years. Development focus on their products.
  • nicolbolas - Monday, November 28, 2011 - link

    Possibly a APU with RAM built in?

    i imagine that would sell like crazy for laptops.

    also would boost the graphics of APU's by not having the RAM be limited.

    kind of like the GPU part of the APU, the RAM could adjust with the clock speed of APU (at max clock RAM is at 1800+ MHZ)

    than if you wanted more ram, you could dedicate the RAM on APU to the GPU (making it a lot stronger than now) and use the RAM you install in the system of system RAM

    of course, this would be expensive, but a much better lane setup
  • think-ITB-live-OTB - Monday, November 28, 2011 - link

    why not? of course the technology will have to mature. Is definitely beneficial in a mobile environment. Having everything (or close to everything) on the same page sort to speak, would help in thermal management (ie automatic dynamic voltage control of many facets of the entire system).

    Processing power is reaching its current limitations. Without an endeavour into thermal control, i dont see how real-world users benefit. Having an entire system unified... real break-throughs in thermal management can happen. Who wouldnt want current or better processing power in devices that run 20+ hours on single charges, due to battery advancement and system efficiency. The latter of course coming from the ability to control more than a CPUs TDP levels dynamically. can you imagine a single power-saving button click lowering voltages on the CPU - the RAM - the storage mediums AND the Motherboard itself (shutting down none used essentials like extra buses etc).

    AMD has the graphics and central processing factors covered, this step into memory gets us all one step closer to the above becoming a reality.

    a little far fetched from the topic ... but really, is it? everything is within the same circle. Its all in how you look at the circle - the possibilities reveal themselves.

  • BSMonitor - Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - link

    What Kool-Aid are you drinking?
  • think-ITB-live-OTB - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    The kind without Sugar.
    Who pissed in your Cornflakes?
  • sinPiEqualsZero - Monday, November 28, 2011 - link

    I can see why people are saying that AMD is "seeding" an ecosystem. But here's my problem: they don't have wads of cash, are dwarfed by Intel, and have just cut 10% of their workforce. That implies that someone believes it is to their advantage to dedicate some of the 90% to AMD-branded RAM instead of to Bulldozer, Brazos, drivers, graphic chip design, supporting software developers, or heck, even marketing.

    With a company this size, I am very much worried about them "casting a wide net" instead of getting really good at a few things that work together. And then they went and supported DDR-1333 which throws me for a loop. Is anyone as confused by this as I am?

    I think this is a bungle on their part but am willing to listen to other perspectives.
  • think-ITB-live-OTB - Monday, November 28, 2011 - link

    wads of cash doesnt necessarily mean anything. Just look at the worlds political systems. Wads of cash, no vision. Greed takes over and no cash left. Companies world-wide have had to let people go.
    I think AMD are seeing a bigger picture but are no different than any other large company in feeling a purse string struggle and had let some people go as well as down on a performance level simply because the baby steps need maturing. That takes time and costs money.

    Besides having more products labelled AMD is marketing. That can only help sell and generate money.

    the 1333 enigma ..hmm, guessing so current value boards that do not work at 1600 they wanted to give those folks a chance to buy AMD as well?
  • BSMonitor - Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - link

    Dude. Get some coffee. You are tripping.. BAD.

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