Crucial Ballistix Tracer DDR3-1600 6GB Kit

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Product: Crucial Ballistix Tracer 240-pin DIMM PC3-12800 6GB Kit
Provided By: Crucial
Price: Find Lowest Price Online

 

Introduction:

After a few rough years of ridiculously high prices, I think it's safe to say that DDR3 has finally arrived for the masses.  While the 6GB kit we have on the bench from Crucial today is more for the elitist gamer, mainstream DDR3 is finally affordable.  This makes the 6GB Triple-Channel kit of DDR3-1600 CL8 (CL7 capable through XMP) kit a decent performer for the $300 price tag online.  When it comes to overclocking, this kit is no slouch and we manage to squeeze every drop of performance from this kit possible and that makes it one sweet ride for your shiny new Core i7 system.

We've looked at PC3-12800 before - but this kit features 3x 2GB sticks that have 8-8-8-24 timings at 1.65v and this is what separates it from earlier memory we looked at that was CL9 memory.

 6GB Kit Package
6GB Kit Package
Package Side
Package Side

 

First Impressions:

Crucial has completely pimped out their DDR3 with colored heatspreaders and matching LEDs.  The Ballistix Tracer DDR3 6GB kits come in Blue, Red, Green and the original Black flavors and all have timings of 8-8-8-24 at 1.65v.  All of this memory is XMP ready as well and this can make the memory run faster, tighter, and adjust voltages as need - if you use a supporting motherboard.  It's pretty impressive how this memory will scale with the right XMP profile.

Packages Laid Out
Packages Laid Out

 

While Crucial has foregone the simple static bags and brown box, they still use regular sticks of memory - that haven't necessarily been matched into triple-channel kits like other manufacturers claim.  I questioned Crucial about this and they stated that all memory in these bundles is from the same batch and therefore matches up just fine.  We used a couple of different kits throughout testing and never had any issues.  I guess they are matched good enough.

 

Specifications & Info:

As is typical of Crucial memory, the specifications are a bit lean, but there is more information below on their Ballistix Tracer memory.

BL3KIT25664TG1608

  • Module Size: 6GB kit (2GBx3)
  • Package: Ballistix Tracer 240-pin DIMM (with LEDs)
  • Feature: DDR3 PC3-12800
  • Specs: DDR3 PC3-12800 • 8-8-8-24 • Unbuffered • NON-ECC • DDR3-1600 • 1.65V • 256Meg x 64

 RAM Lights
RAM Lights

What is Ballistix Tracer memory? Ballistix Tracer memory is specifically built for performance enthusiasts and case modders who want to push the performance envelope while adding flash appeal to their boxes. The Ballistix line of high-performance memory modules features advanced speed grades, low latencies, and integrated aluminum heat spreaders. Ballistix Tracer memory features a black PCB, black integrated heat spreaders, and one or two rows of eight "chasing" red and green LEDs atop the module, circulating in a random pattern based on memory utilization. A custom-designed circuit relays bus activity to the LEDs, allowing them to accurately reflect usage of each memory module. In addition, eight blue ground effects LEDs emit a constant glow near the pins. 

 

On the next page we'll look at the test setup before we dive into the performance numbers.


Test Setup:

In this section we will show the setup of the test system for our memory testing. I have provided separate configurations for each of the speeds we have tested 1600MHz CL8 (stock), fastest CL7 speed, and the fastest CL8 speed possible. It is important to note that in order to achieve some of these speeds we have tested this memory kit at, it required overclocking the FSB, which in turn increases our CPU clock speeds. For all of my testing I used the EVGA X58 motherboard and keyed in specific timings in order to keep everything comparable.  Please keep in mind that in order to reach CL7 speeds at 1600MHz, we had to slow down the rate to 2T instead of running at 1T on the standard CL8 tests.

 

Test System:


Intel Core i7
CPU
Intel Core i7 920 - 2.66GHz
Motherboard
EVGA X58 SLI
Memory
6GB Crucial Ballistix DDR3-1600 Kit
Graphics
2x Radeon HD 4850 Crossfire
Cooling
Hard Drives
2x Seagate 640GB HDD RAID 0
Operating System
Windows Vista Ultimate x64 w/SP1
ATI Drivers
9.1 Drivers

 

We only used three main memory settings for testing the Crucial Ballistix Tracer DDR3-1600 memory.  We use the timings on the label - 8-8-8-24 1T at 1.65v as well as the fastest clock speed available using the highest XMP setting shown in CPU-Z.  This ended up being DDR3-1626 at CL7.  Finally we clocked up the DDR3 as fast as possible using the CL8 settings for stock speeds, left the voltage at 1.65v and found out how high we can take this memory before it gets flaky on us.  The result was an impressive 1806MHz at CL8.  I'm sure we could take it higher with a bit more voltage and slower timings like many other companies, but we want top-end performance from this kit, and I believe we got it.

RAM Sticker
RAM Sticker

 

Many DDR3-1600 kits for the Core i7 come with CL9 timings, but according to the XMP profiles available in this RAM, Crucial believes that it can run fine at CL7 with a 2T Command Rate.  The "default" XMP settings are CL8-8-8-24 2T, but we actually ran all of our CL8 memory tests at 1T command rate.  The CL7 test had to be ran at 2T.

 XMP Profiles
XMP Profiles

 

Included below are a couple more screenshots of CPU-Z and the EVGA Eleet utility showing system settings.  We will follow these up with some benchmarks on the next page.

 CPU-Z & RAM
CPU-Z & RAM
CPU-Z - Motherboard
CPU-Z - Motherboard

 

 

 

1626 CL7
1626 CL7

 


Benchmarking - Everest:

Because there is a lot of system tweaking that goes along with clocking up memory to non-standard speeds, we haven't included any "real-world" benchmarks.  In order to get the memory to run at speeds other than 1066MHz, 1333MHz, 1600MHz or 1866MHz the motherboard bus and CPU must be clocked up in order to achieve these speeds.  As we've shown before the CPU plays a huge roll in benchmark performance and so it's not fair to compare WinRAR compression when the CPU is clocked up 400MHz faster.  Of course the "RAM" will look faster, but in reality the CPU is the one doing the work.  For this reason we use two simply synthetic benchmarks to show memory performance.  How it affects performance in the real-world will depend largely on CPU, motherboard and other hardware bottlenecks so we have to be content with synthetic benchmarks to gain our number metric.  First up is Everest.

Everest
(click for larger chart)

 

While it should be no surprise that CL7 performance at 1626MHz is faster than CL8 performance at 1600MHz, the results aren't quite as impressive as we hoped due to the poorer command rate of 2T.  This is effectively twice as long as the 1T command rate at CL8.  Regardless, when the CPU is overclocked a bit and the memory is running at its fastest stable speed of 1808MHz the performance numbers in Everest are pretty impressive.  Latency measures under 28ns and copy speed is well over 20GB/sec.  Even write speed measures an incredible 15037MB/sec.

 

Benchmarking - SiSoft Sandra:

If you want to compare your triple-channel DDR3 performance, you can head on over and grab SiSoft Sandra here and compare away.  Please keep in mind that if you are using a dual-channel kit, your performance numbers will look dismal.

SiSoft Bandwidth
SiSoft Latency

 

SiSoft shows that there is little to no difference in performance at CL7 or CL8 when running right around 1600MHz.  One test shows 0.05GB/sec less performance and the other shows 0.04GB/sec better performance.  I think it's safe to say, it's pretty much a draw.  What does take the lead and the cake is the performance over 1808MHz CL8.  We reach over the magical 30GB/sec performance with this memory according to SiSoft.  In terms of latency, we use SiSoft Sandra to measure linear and random latency and while linear latency remains static at 6ns, we do gain a whole 1ns of latency when moving from DDR3-1600 CL8 to DDR3-1808 CL8.  Tighter timings doing seem to help here as the Command Rate of 2T seems to negate performance when running at CL7.

 

Final Thoughts:

RAM Glam This is our first official Triple-Channel kit of DDR3 to hit the bench here at BCCHardware and as such we don't have any other numbers to compare it too.  That being said, the performance of this kit seems to be very solid and we actually managed to hit higher frequencies at tighter timings than many other sites that have reviewed the same kit.  That just shows that even though you purchase good DDR3, there is still some "luck of the draw" involved in getting a kit that overclocks well.  It's not the most expensive kit of DDR3 on the planet, but it certainly isn't the cheapest PC3-12800 CL8 kit around either.  This makes it score only average in terms of value, but when it comes to "bling factor" it scores pretty high.  Overall, this is a great kit and if you are building a system to show off, this kit deserves a spot in your 240-pin DIMM slots.

 

Pros:

  • DDR3-1600 at CL8 Kit
  • Looks good and offers equally good performance
  • Multiple XMP profiles
  • Runs at 8-8-8-24 1T up to 1808MHz

 

Cons:

  • A bit expensive for a 6GB DDR3-1600 kit

BCCRating
 
 Editors Choice

 

I'd like to thank Crucial for sending out this 6GB kit of DDR3-1600 for us to review. If you have any comments or questions, please head on over and post those in the forum at the "Comments" link below.