Sandy Bridge 1.65v v 1.5v

This week I purchased a new work PC – original specs for anyone interested:

Case: Silverstone Kublai KL02B-W BLK
PSU: XFX 850W PSU
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD5-B3
CPU: Intel Core i7 2600K Unlocked
Heatsink: AKASA AK-CC017
RAM: 2 * 6GB 3x2GB CMX6GX3M3C1600C7 XMS
GPU: XFX 6870 1GB
SSD: OCZ 120GB Vertex 3 2.5 SSD
HDD: 3 * (RAID 5) 1TB SAMSUNG HD103SJ SATA F3
DVD: Plextor PX-L890

I built the system, nervously pressed the ‘on’ button and gladly it started. First on the list was setting everything up in the BIOS. I then restarted and began the Windows 7 Pro install..

Blue Screen

Within minutes I had my first blue-screen. After some investigation I discovered this was down to the new Intel RST controller – I needed to install the RAID drivers before installing windows. I did this and got a bit further. Then another BSOD.

Sandy Bridge RAM issues

After tweaking various BIOS settings I discovered the culprit was the RAM. Early on I discovered I’d accidentally purchased triple channel DDR’s, when this newer z68 board is dual channel (my home PC has a Gigabyte X58A-UD5 which is triple channel). I figured I’d be safe to use two sticks from each set in a dual channel configuration though. No such luck.

What I discovered was the RAM would be stable with XMP (eXtreme Memory Profile) disabled – running at 1333Mhz @ 1.5v, but when enabled – 1600Mhz @ 1.65v – it was unstable.

At first I thought the RAM may be at fault so tried all 6 sticks in my home machine – all fine! So after much thought and reading I discovered that Sandy Bridge should only really be run at 1.5v. I took the risk and purchased four Corsair Vengeance CAS8 4GB sticks. The result? All good!

NOTE: Corsair Vengeance sticks have a high-profile! I had to move my heatsink fan to the other side else they wouldn’t fit. I understand low profile versions are available now but I could only only find them at CAS9.

Moral of the story?

There seems to be a lot of speculation as to whether 1.65v memory sticks will work with Sandy Bridge. From my experience, they don’t.

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