Why it matters: Opportunities to increase RAM performance typically come from the extreme memory profile (XMP) set by the manufacturer or enthusiasts with enough understanding to manually tune voltages, timings, and frequencies. Earlier this week AMD successfully filed a patent for an automatic RAM overclocking tool that appears to remove the guesswork, trial, and error from the tuning process. The tool would give users the ability to custom-tune and test overclocked memory settings at the push of a button, no headaches required.
Memory overclocking isn't a new practice in the PC community. For years, enthusiasts have pushed the limits of their RAM beyond the rated JEDEC standard to squeeze every drop of performance from their modules. Tuning RAM can reap big rewards in performance but requires understanding a wide variety of settings, voltages, and frequencies. This understanding is usually accompanied by lengthy bouts of stability testing.
The introduction of Intel's XMP technology (also known as DOCP on most AMD platforms) provided the average user the ability to overclock modules by changing a bios setting to a pre-configured profile designed to work across a number of hardware configurations. But even this pre-configured overclock is not guaranteed and can require manual intervention to achieve system stability. AMD's new memory tuning technology appears to automate the process of testing and tweaking parameters to ensure profile stability.
According to the patent, the new technology would alter frequency and specific RAM timings for the RAM kit and hardware combination being used, then test and adjust the settings to ensure stability. The automated stability tests include Error Correction Code (ECC) and other tests designed to detect bit errors. Once the frequency and timing-based tests are complete, the tool generates the new RAM profile using the subtimings and settings specific to that PC's hardware.
RAM timings typically fall into one of several categories defined as primary, secondary, and tertiary. Primary timings are those settings typically listed on a RAM kit's packaging and typically include CAS latency (CL), RAS to CAS delay (tRCD), row precharge time (tRP), and row active time (tRAS). Secondary timings are typically not listed in vendor marketing documentation but can still have a tremendous impact on your RAM's ability to perform. Tertiary timings, which are even further in the weeds, can also affect performance but vary greatly across different hardware combinations.
Automated tools are sometimes shunned by overclocking enthusiasts due to a tool's broad coverage and often risk-averse approach. As a result, manual tunes typically yield better performance results. These results, however, require a level of knowledge, time, and effort that many are not willing to put in. The ability to automatically tune any RAM, regardless of price or quality, to a specific hardware configuration certainly sounds attractive.
We'll likely have to wait for AMD's new family of CPUs and chipsets to see just how far down the rabbit hole their automated solution goes.
Image credit: AMD Wraith Prism and RAM by Timothy Dykes