Misconceptions about the vaunted Motherboard QVL List
Many motherboard makers would like you to believe that this is Holy Grail, of what DRAM to buy to run with your mobo, and nothing could be further from the truth. A few things to know first, when you look at a mobo’s specs people look at DRAM freqs the mobo can handle, let’s say on mobo brand ACME XXX, it is advertised as running 1333, 1600 OC, 1866 OC, 2133 OC, and 2400 OC frequencies, so make note of the ‘OC’, this implies that an OverClock of the system will be required to achieve said freq/speed. Another thing they advertise is the Maximum Amount of DRAM the mobo can handle, these days on newer mobos it generally ranges from 16 (2 8GB sticks) to 64GB (8 8GB sticks) (there are some X79 that state support for 128GB 8-16GB sticks) of DRAM. So, let’s next say you bought an ACME XXX mobo and it’s advertised for up to 32GB and 2133 DRAM. This is where it can get interesting for a number of reasons.
1. They never mention what CPU was used for testing, which normally is the most powerful available for the mobo. So YOU NEED TO DO SOME RESEARCH to ensure your CPU is capable of running the DRAM, particularly with AMD CPUs, many have an extremely hard time running even 2 sticks of 1600, the newer FX CPUs are supposed to be able to run 1866 (they advertise 1 stick per channel) and while the 8150 can run that and possibly even faster, going to 4 sticks can be troublesome. Also not all CPUs are equal, have seen plenty of 8120 that can run 1866, and even more that can't, unless you want to cook things in your case..
2. They are getting better in the advertising and some provide a disclaimer that the QVL is only a sampling of the DRAM that can run on the mobo as they can’t test all the available DRAM (I’ve often asked most all the manufacturers why they don’t provide a list of incompatible DRAM, since generally there won’t be any, unless the DRAM doesn’t fall into the specs of the chipset i.e. some chipsets won’t run 8 or 16 GB sticks).
3. They also are getting better in that some are starting to advertise (to a degree) how they test the DRAM and this may surprise you – Say you want to build a superfast rig, so you buy the ACME XXX mobo that runs up to 2400 sticks and can handle 32 GB….and you buy a set that’s on their QVL……did you realize it was probably ‘TESTED’ at the mobos default boot freq/speed (See notes on CPU-Z Maximum Bandwidth above under CPU-Z), using the info from the SPD, that it wasn’t tested at the actual speed/freq of the DRAM itself. Some are actually putting it on their list that they test using the MOBO’s default boot speed.
So. It’s up to you to do a little research, both on the mobo and CPU to find the capabilities of each before you decide on a set of DRAM and do not solely trust reviews at reseller sites. Once you get familiar with DRAM and capabilities of various CPUs and chipsets, you can often get a few laughs from reading these reviews. I’ve seen reviews from people claiming to have a high level of technical expertise making outlandish claims of running say 16GB of 2133 DRAM using an AMD 965 at the CPUs stock speed and everything at default, when they are probably running the sticks at 1333 and a high CL like 11. I’d suggest looking for reviews from actual sites that test the items in question and/or coming here to ask before purchasing.
You also might take note that the mobo manufacturers do what ‘testing’ they do, with whatever DRAM is on hand, a good example is the newer X79 chipset/2011 socket mobos, which are made utilizing XMP 1.3, and again, generally speaking most of the sticks tested go back to XMP 1.2, and in fact a number of the QVLs include DRAM sets that aren’t even made anymore, and in some cases haven’t been for a very long time – but…they had them, stuck them in and the system booted under defaults…so they went onto their QVL.
At this point in time you will also see few mobos being tested with multiple sets of 32GB sets and even less of 64GB sets, which IMO is based on the costs of the sets and also they don’t want to have to try and provide support for sets like these.
So, when you get DRAM and go to the mobo manufacturer and get a response like ‘If it’s not on our QVL we don’t support it’ or if it’s on the QVL they tell you to check with the DRAM manufacturer, you’ll have a better idea of why….they know you bought the 1866, 2133 or better set to run at the speed it’s advertised for, but they don’t test for it……….this is also why you often see them showing two sets of the same model to ‘test’ 4 stick combos, when GSkill and I (and others) strongly recommend get a single set that’s been tested to work together, it’s often cheaper to buy two 2 stick sets than a single 4 stick set, and those two sets (say 1866 or better) were tested at the mobos default of 1333 or 1600