Performance and Benchmarks
Before running any complex performance benchmarks, we decided to see what the Windows Experience Index (WEI) results showed before and after upgrading the RAM. For those who aren’t familiar with the WEI, it is a simple performance assessment within Windows 7 that lists the key components of your PC and scores them on a scale of 1.0 to 7.9 (don’t ask me why the top score isn’t 10). We expected to see an increase in the WEI Memory score on both notebooks since we doubled the amount of RAM in both cases and were using faster RAM. The end results were in keeping with those expectations:
Original WEI results for the Toshiba Satellite A665
HyperX WEI results for the Toshiba Satellite A665
Original WEI results for the ThinkPad W520
HyperX WEI results for the ThinkPad W520
As you can see in the results above, the scores for the memory increased on both notebooks after upgrading to the Kingston HyperX RAM. It’s important to note that the overall WEI score remains unchanged since the overall WEI score is based on the lowest score (in the case of the Toshiba the graphics card was the slowest component and in the case of the ThinkPad the hard drive was the slowest part).
Again, keep in mind that this PnP HyperX memory is only running at 1866MHz on notebooks like the ThinkPad W520 that support it. Notebooks like the Satellite A665 will only run the memory at 1066MHz. Below are a few CPU-Z screen shots for the W520 running the 8GB of 1066MHz RAM and the 16GB of 1866MHz HyperX RAM (notice that actual speed is being reported as 930.5MHz (x2) or 1861MHz.
Next, we decided to put these notebooks to the test with some of our standard performance benchmarks such as PCMark and 3DMark. Again, we assumed we would see consistent performance gains since we upgraded both notebooks with twice the memory. Unfortunately, the results were mixed.
PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
PCMark Vantage measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark06 measures overall graphics performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark Vantage measures overall graphics performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):
At first glance, the results speak from themselves. The Toshiba Satellite A665 saw modest performance gains across the board after upgrading to the new Kingston HyperX memory. On the other hand, the Lenovo ThinkPad W520 wasn’t quite as friendly with these “plug and play” RAM modules. If the PCMark and 3DMark synthetic benchmarks are to be believed, the system performance of the W520 decreased about 1-2 percent after the “upgrade.” That said, it’s important to point out that the additional RAM still proves beneficial if you have a large number of high-resolution images open in Photoshop or if you have multiple HD video files open in Adobe Premiere.
In a final test, we ran the ThinkPad W520 through 3DMark06 and 3DMark Vantage using just the Intel integrated graphics which use the system memory rather than the Nvidia graphics card which uses its own discrete memory. As expected, the results show a modest boost in graphics performance after the upgrade to 16GB of HyperX.
3DMark06 (Intel integrated graphics results):
3DMark Vantage (Intel integrated graphics results):
For better or worse, these results actually support a claim that many of our editors have made in recent years: Although having more RAM is a good thing, system memory alone is no longer the weak link it used to be. Back in the days when Windows XP machines were shipping with 256MB of RAM, upgrading to 1GB made a huge improvement to system performance. Now that modern notebooks regularly ship with between 4GB and 8GB of system memory you simply don’t get the same boost by upgrading the RAM. The point is not that Kingston’s HyperX memory doesn’t offer good performance gains but rather that 4GB or 8GB of system memory is already a lot of RAM for 2011.
I have little doubt that the Kingston HyperX memory is better than many slower RAM modules on the market today, but if you’re looking for the biggest “plug and play” performance boost you’re probably better off replacing your laptop’s hard drive with one of Kingston’s high performance solid state drives (SSDs). A fast SSD should provide a much more noticeable speed boost than a RAM upgrade … assuming that you’ve already got at least 4GB of system memory and you have a slow hard drive in your laptop.
At the time of this writing the Kingston HyperX 1600MHz and 1866MHz memory are the only RAM modules that reach the faster frequencies for the latest Intel Sandy Bridge processors. If that matters to you then this memory is indeed a worthwhile upgrade. However, if you’re simply looking for a “plug and play” upgrade to your current notebook, it’s likely that a RAM upgrade alone won’t provide a massive performance boost.
- First “Sandy Bridge Ready” Memory Modules
- Faster frequencies than the competition
- Plug and play simplicity
- Doesn’t give a massive performance boost
- More expensive than slower RAM