Testing 4000MHz RAM: games

Ashes of the Singularity, Far Cry 5 and Crysis 3.

We opted to use three titles that will be familiar to anyone that's seen our recent processor reviews: Ashes of the Singularity Escalation, Far Cry 5 and Crysis 3. Please note that while the games and their settings remain the same, our results here aren't intended to be comparable to those from our processor reviews. Remember, we've locked our 9900K to an all-core turbo of 4.7GHz, so it's not able to boost a few cores to 5GHz as it would under its default settings. That results in slower frame-rates across the board, but as we're looking for consistency that's a price we're willing to pay.

The results here are shown with our in-house performance analysis tools. On a full-fat computer (as opposed to a mobile device), you'll see a YouTube video embed. Click the play button, and you'll see the results from each run play out in real time in the frame-rate and frame-time graphs below the video. We've selected four runs to play by default, but you can tick or untick the boxes on the right side of the screen to choose the results that you're most interested in.

Below the real-time metrics, you'll see a bar chart of the overall frame-rate. Here, you can hover over the results to switch between the averages and the (frequently more illuminating) best or worst one per cent scores. You can also click on the bar chart to switch between the recorded frame-rates and the relative differences from the result you're hovering over and the others we recorded. If you're on mobile, you'll just see the bar chart, which will be more static, so it's worth revisiting the page on desktop if you want to go deep into the results!

Real time strategy title Ashes of the Singularity Escalation is the first pick, thanks to its integrated CPU benchmark. This was programmed to perform all of the processing of the real game, so it's a truly representative test of in-game performance - with the only wrinkle being units can't die, so unit counts remain extremely high throughout the test.

In Ashes, we see a ten per cent advantage for 4000MHz CL16 RAM over 3200MHz CL16. Looking at the CL19 results, we get a slightly smaller gap - around eight per cent. If you compare the results of two frequencies at different timings, there is a very small advantage to having faster timings, but it's generally under one per cent. Lowest one per cent scores follow a similar trajectory, with differences between different timings being wiped out by run-to-run variance - but the higher frequencies do still translate to slightly increased frame-rates, with between a seven and ten per cent uptick in worst one per cent scores depending on whether you check the CL16 or CL19 results.

Our other RAM sticks performed slightly better at their XMP settings compared to our 4000MHz RAM at equivalent speeds, which could be attributed to slight changes to the motherboard-determined secondary or tertiary timings between the different kits.

Ashes of the Singularity: CPU Test

  • 3600MHz C16 XMP
  • 3400MHz C16 XMP
  • 3200MHz C16 XMP
  • 4000MHz C16
  • 3800MHz C16
  • 3600MHz C16
  • 3400MHz C16
  • 3200MHz C16
  • 4200MHz C19
  • 4000MHz C19
  • 3800MHz C19
  • 3600MHz C19
  • 3400MHz C19
  • 3200MHz C19

Next is Far Cry 5. This recent release relies heavily on single-threaded performance for its world processing, making it a natural candidate for testing processor performance at 1080p.

Let's start with the CL19 results once again. We get small increases on each step from 3200MHz to 4200MHz, with run-to-run variance occasionally resulting in a performance regression but the overall trend remaining clear. There's an eight per cent uptick in performance between 3200MHz and 4200MHz, which moves the average frame-rate from 152.5fps to 165.3fps - not a boneshaking difference, but a difference nonetheless.

The CL16 results start from a higher figure, around 160fps, with the top 4000MHz result topping out at 167fps. That's a span of nearly five per cent from lowest to highest, with most CL16 results about two to four per cent higher than their CL19 equivalents. Once again, the XMP RAM performed the best for their given frequencies, but this time the differences were only around one per cent to the good.

Our worst one per cent results also improved with frequency, with the CL19 results showing bigger increases than the CL16 results. The span between worst and best was 26 per cent for CL19 and only six per cent for CL19.

Far Cry 5: Ultra, TAA

  • 3600MHz C16 XMP
  • 3400MHz C16 XMP
  • 3200MHz C16 XMP
  • 4000MHz C16
  • 3800MHz C16
  • 3600MHz C16
  • 3400MHz C16
  • 3200MHz C16
  • 4200MHz C19
  • 4000MHz C19
  • 3800MHz C19
  • 3600MHz C19
  • 3400MHz C19
  • 3200MHz C19

Finally we have Crysis 3. This game isn't the most recent release, having come out in 2013, but it remains a DF favourite thanks to its challenging jungle scenes which still provide a stern test for even modern CPUs. We know some readers would prefer to see a more modern game here instead, but don't worry - Crysis Remastered is set to come out sometime this year, so you'll get your wish soon enough.

Crysis 3 was the most consistent in our testing, with increases in frequency resulting in extremely small but measurable improvements to frame-rates. For CL19, moving from 3200MHz to 4200MHz resulted in an average frame-rate boost of just 2.3 per cent, with a similar 2.0 per cent figure for CL16. Unsurprisingly, the XMP results were almost identical to the results we recorded for our Corsair kit at the same speeds and primary timings. Finally, worst one per cent scores increased by a similar amount to the averages - 2.5 per cent for CL19 and 1.4 per cent for CL16. Crysis 3 looks like a game where you're really not limited by RAM very often - and an important reminder for anyone looking to splash out on high-spec RAM that not all games will benefit from it.

Crysis 3: Very High, SMAA T2X

  • 3600MHz C16 XMP
  • 3400MHz C16 XMP
  • 3200MHz C16 XMP
  • 4000MHz C16
  • 3800MHz C16
  • 3600MHz C16
  • 3400MHz C16
  • 3200MHz C16
  • 4200MHz C19
  • 4000MHz C19
  • 3800MHz C19
  • 3600MHz C19
  • 3400MHz C19
  • 3200MHz C19

That brings our testing to a close, so let's wrap things up, shall we?

Testing 4000MHz RAM: Are higher frequencies worth it?

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About the author

Will Judd

Will Judd

Senior Staff Writer, Digital Foundry  |  wsjudd

A bizarre British-American hybrid, Will turns caffeine into technology articles through a little-known process called 'writing'. His favourite games are Counter-Strike, StarCraft and Fallout 2. Will also tweets the latest tech deals at @DealsFoundry.

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