XMP or Extreme Memory Profiles, is an Intel technology that allows you to change multiple memory settings by simply selecting a different profile, taking advantage of higher than standard memory speeds. If you’ve ever wanted to overclock your memory but didn’t want to fiddle with frequency, voltage and timings, this is the way to do it.
How does XMP memory work?
When you power on your computer, it conducts a power-on self-test. Part of this process includes automatically configuring installed hardware, including your memory.
Your computer needs to know the model of your RAM as well as which timings and frequency to set. Your BIOS will use a small chip on your RAM modules called an SPD (serial presence detect) chip to set memory timing and frequencies properly. XMP is an extension of SPD which provides higher frequencies and tighter timings for your memory to run at. It also corrects for the extra voltage required which provides a stable overclock with the click of a button.
XMP profiles essentially allow high-performance RAM, which run above industry DDR specifications, to be appropriately set up for your system.
How do I enable XMP?
XMP profiles can be accessed from within the BIOS on supported motherboards. These profiles may provide different levels of overclocking, which can all be checked via the BIOS.
There are two major versions of XMP in use today, and which one you can use depends on your memory and platform:
- XMP 2.0: This is common for DDR4 memory. It offers two XMP profiles as standard.
- XMP: 3.0: This was launched alongside DDR5 memory. It offers up to three XMP profiles as standard and a further two customisable user profiles.
To enabled XMP, simply select one of the profiles, save your settings and reboot. You can confirm your new overclock using a program such as CPU-Z.
What if I don't turn on XMP?
All high-performance RAM uses XMP profiles, because they all run above standard DDR industry specifications. If you don't enable XMP, they will run at your system's standard specifications that are dependent on the CPU you have. That is to say, you won't take advantage of the higher clock speeds that your RAM may have.
In most circumstances, this will be fine. Your system will simply run to spec, and you can rest easy knowing everything is nice and stable. However, XMP allows your system to set motherboard and CPU parameters correctly, to allow higher frequency RAM modules, that are designed to run beyond usual specifications.
Failing XMP and AMP, you could always find out the XMP profile speeds and feeds for your RAM and enable them manually in your BIOS.
Why are there multiple XMP profiles?
XMP supported modules contain two or three factory set memory profiles, depending on which version of XMP you have available. That'll be either XMP 2.0 or XMP 3.0.
The first profile usually contains enthusiast settings; these allow your memory to run at the rated speed advertised on the box. These settings enable only a modest overclock and are also the most stable. The second profile often contains more extreme settings that offer a much higher level of performance. The third profile is usually similarly set up for more extreme memory, too.
It's worth noting that these XMP profiles are set by the manufacturer, so may differ between memory sticks. XMP 3.0 also offers two user-configurable profiles for your own fine-tuning.
Is XMP stable?
Any time overclocking is involved, there is a risk of instability. With XMP the configurations included are thoroughly tested for the specific memory you are using, however. The timings, voltage and frequency are set to compliment each other and mitigate much of the instability that can creep up with a manual overclock.
No automatic configuration can account for outside factors, though, such as a CPU overclock. This is something to keep in mind if you experience any instability.
Similarly, if you're mixing and matching RAM sticks from different sets, you may be limited in which XMP profiles are stable. Usually the top speed of the worst set of RAM sticks is your best bet for stable operation, but you may still be able to push speeds and latency further if required.
|Header Cell - Column 0||XMP 1.0||XMP 2.0||XMP 3.0|
|Vendor profiles (static)||2||2||3|
|Descriptive profile names||No||No||Yes|
|On Module voltage control||No||No||Yes|
|Total bytes allocated to XMP||78||102||384|
What are the differences between XMP 2.0 and XMP 3.0?
XMP 3.0 offers more profiles than XMP 2.0, for greater fine tuning of your memory's speeds and latency. It's been introduce alongside new DDR5 memory, and is able to offer three factory set XMP profiles out of the box and two user configurable profiles if you prefer to go it alone. These profiles can also be renamed.
XMP 3.0 also comes with support for more standardised voltage control through DDR5's integrated voltage regulator.
Perhaps the most exciting feature to arrive alongside XMP 3.0 is Intel's Dynamic Memory Boost Technology. This automatically switches between JEDEC standard and XMP memory profiles for preferred performance and efficiency at any given time. This is an Intel platform feature, however, so AMD chips won't be able to utilise it even with XMP memory installed.
Do AMD compatible motherboards support XMP?
Yes. You'll find most AM4, Ryzen-compatible motherboards offer full compatibility for XMP. However, you may still find reference to AMD's sister technology AMP, or X-AMP, on occasion.
AMP stands for AMD Memory Profile, and though it's been around for a long time now it has never quite reached a level of market saturation that Intel's XMP has. It is essentially one and the same with XMP in practice, however—with a compatible memory kit, it makes it easy to enable faster memory profiles. Some motherboard manufacturers also took this into their own hands with DOCP and EOCP, which essentially turn XMP on for AMD boards using memory SPD settings. You don't often see these in use anymore, though, and you'd be hard-pressed to find memory with AMP-specific speeds nowadays.
XMP rules the roost, and memory will be marketed with XMP compatibility. Though AMD might have a plan in mind to weaken Intel's grip on the memory speed standard.
There have been rumours of RAMP, or Ryzen Accelerated Memory Profile, which would be AMD's answer to XMP 3.0. This is likely to also be compatible with XMP 3.0, as AMP is today with XMP, so should work much in the the same way with DDR5 memory kits already available. Though this has not yet been confirmed, it's expected with the shift to AM5.