X58 Triple Channel DDR3 Memory Roundup! 8 Mid-range Kits Tested

Memory by thorgal @ 2009-04-09

In the ever raging sales battle among memory manufacturers, the Core i7 launch must have been the wind that shook the barley. While everyone was convinced i7 would be the real start of DDR3 technology, it also was a ´back to the drawing board´ call for most, having to come up with lower voltage memory parts - with decent performance - in a hurry. Four months into the launch now, we present you with a roundup of 8 mid-range kits from 8 different manufacturers. Begun, the new battle has.

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Crucial Ballistix PC12800

Crucial PC12800 "Ballistix"

As a final test candidate, Crucial came into our labs with their freshly released 1600Mhz kit. Crucial is a bit of a special case in the memory landscape, as they are a brainchild of Micron Technologies. This is actually my first Crucial review, so here are their credentials, borrowed from my fellow reviewer Keith:

The Crucial story starts with Micron Technology, Inc., one of the largest dynamic random access memory (DRAM) manufacturers in the world and the only one based in the U.S. Headquartered in Boise, Idaho, Micron manufactures DRAM chips and assembles them into high-quality memory modules for sale to original equipment manufacturers ("OEMs") worldwide...in 1996, Micron responded to a growing demand for high-quality memory upgrades among end users who wanted the best possible performance from their systems. Micron launched Crucial Technology in September of that year, and for the first time, end users had the opportunity to buy directly from the manufacturer the same memory modules bought by the world's major OEMs for original installation in their systems.

I guess Crucial did not have their retail package ready yet, so this is what the mailman brought in :

(click for larger version)

The bar-shaped brown box just holds three individual modules, each in its own protective antistatic package. The package was clearly designed to hold only two modules, but fitting three was not much of a problem. Underneath the modules Crucial also included a small printed manual, for the less experienced among us. In case you wonder, this box fitted into a larger protective box to make sure our modules arrived in one piece...

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Packaging: more shots

OK, so much for packaging, let's look at the inside :

(click for larger version)

As we mentioned, we were lucky to get one of the freshly released 1600Mhz kits from Crucial. These modules are part of the ballistix lineup, which consists out of the "normal" modules and the tracers. Ballistix stands for the performance oriented modules, and they come in a few different heatspreader colors. Our kit came in orange, but when you go for the tracers a few other colors are available. The crucial modules are equipped with a rather simple looking, basic heatspreader, with the ballistix name on them and a sticker with the part number. If you want more bling, the tracer (LED-equipped) modules no doubt are your thing, but this is beyond the scope of this review.

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More module images

It took a while for me to notice it, until I installed them into the test system actually, but after doing so I noticed to my regret that Crucial had sent us a 3Gb kit, instead of the 6Gb kit we agreed on. This wasn't obvious from the outside (the module size is nowhere mentioned), however it was printed on the antistatic bag (which I obviously hadn't seen). As you'll notice later on, the module size does have an influence on some of the tests we did, and as such this kit is not completely comparable to the others. I decided to include it anyway, as I didn't want to keep Crucial waiting too long for their review.

Anyway, here are the specifications :

  • 1600MHz DDR3 (PC12800)
  • Latencies : 8-8-8-24-2T (CAS-TRCD-TRP-TRAS-CR)
  • Operating voltage : 1.65 Volts
  • 240pin DIMM
  • Intel XMP profile 1 : 8-8-8-24/1600Mhz @ 1.65V
  • Intel XMP profile 2 : 7-7-7-24/1600Mhz @ 1.65V
  • Parity : Unbuffered
  • Memory size : 3x 1024Mb

    Again, quite standard specifications. Crucial also provides support for Intel's XMP profiles, they even include 2 profiles inside their SPD's. The first profile is the standard specification cas 8 profile, but the second is a rather aggressive cas 7 profile (albeit at a command rate of 2T). This looks very promising for the performance results, which start on the next page.


    Overclocking wise a little warning up front : as these are 1Gb modules, there is a chance that they will overclock better - on average - compared to a similar 6Gb kit. Please take this into account when reviewing these results.

    Starting off with cas 7 once more, the modules performed very well compared to the other candidates, topping out at 785Mhz, equal to the Corsair and Mushkin kits. This might be a little disappointing when looking at the XMP profile we mentioned above, but don't forget we test at a command rate of 1T at all times. When we relaxed TRCD to 8 cycles however, testing at 7-8-7-24-1T, we could hit 1600Mhz and thus complete the testing at 200Bclk.

    At cas 8 the real fun started, as the modules overclocked to a very respectable 912 Mhz (1824Mhz DDR). For the record, this was still with a vdimm of 1.65V (1.665V bios) and a QPI voltage of 1.395V (bios), which we kept for all modules. This memory being Micron, we can expect it to scale further with additional voltage, something I haven't tested yet.

    At cas 9 we missed the 1GHz mark by a few Mhz once more, hitting 996Mhz prime stable, with the same voltages. Relaxing to a command rate of 2T we easily hit the 1Ghz mark. Finally, these modules also allowed the operation of cas 6 at 1333Mhz.

    Madshrimps (c) Madshrimps (c) Madshrimps (c)
    Testing max cas 7, cas 8, cas 9

    More than time for some benchmark results, starting on the next page >>>
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    Comment from Kougar @ 2009/04/10
    I decided not to include the results in this review yet, as there wasn't actually anything wrong with the kits at their rated speeds. Both did the rated speeds and timings without any issues, they just didn't overclock to any satisfying level.
    This has been observed with Corsair Dominator kits in other reviews. Link

    I was just about to buy a kit of OCZ Platinum, nice to see the overclocking results here, thank you. Should probably mention the 6GB OCZ Platinum 1600MHz kit is available for $80 shipped AMIR, cheapest 1600MHz kit of all those tested.
    Comment from blind_ripper @ 2009/04/10
    80$ , thats cheap!

    btw u got a pic mixed up @ page 8 from the OCZ's, cas 7 has the cas8 pic .
    althoughe very nice work thorgal
    Comment from thorgal @ 2009/04/10
    Originally Posted by Kougar View Post
    This has been observed with Corsair Dominator kits in other reviews. Link

    I was just about to buy a kit of OCZ Platinum, nice to see the overclocking results here, thank you. Should probably mention the 6GB OCZ Platinum 1600MHz kit is available for $80 shipped AMIR, cheapest 1600MHz kit of all those tested.
    Yes, I read the xbit article, they come to about the same conclusion indeed.

    The Patriots can also be had for $79,99 now at Newegg, could be the OCZ's are equally cheap somewhere (they're $89,99 at Newegg).
    Comment from leeghoofd @ 2009/04/10
    Great work Ram "Torsten" Guy
    Comment from Kougar @ 2009/04/10
    Yes, but the Patriots are CAS 9. OCZ Platinum is CAS 7 (better than anything Corsair offers too).

    Didn't hear it from me: Newegg Promo code EMCLRLV42 for $10 off OCZ3P1600LV6GK ($80). Even less if buying NIB on ebay.
    Comment from Jaco @ 2009/04/11
    good article / review .

    Still reading ... lots of numbers