Crucial Ballistix Finned DDR3-1600

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Product: Crucial Ballistix Finned DDR3-1600 4GB Kit
Provided By: Crucial

Price: N/A at time of publication

 

Introduction:

Crucial is no stranger to the memory industry.  They've been around long enough earn the respect of the community.  They've also been around long enough to learn from their mistakes.  They've had a few issues over the years with some bad batches of DDR2, but their DDR3 memory seems to be a bit stronger.  Today we are looking at a brand-new DDR3-1600 CL8 4GB kit that has some upgraded heat spreaders.

This kit features 2x 2GB sticks that have 8-8-8-24 2T timings at 1.65v and while that doesn't appear to be all that exciting, the new finned Ballistix modules from Crucial throw an interesting twist into the bag by including software-capable temperature monitoring on their modules.  We'll take a look at the memory, the software and see how well they stack up in a couple of light benchmarks.

 Ballistix Package

 

First Impressions:

At first glance, you notice that this memory has much beefier heat spreaders that other Crucial memory.  In fact, previous Crucial Ballistix memory has had very thin aluminum heat spreaders that - although they look good - are thin enough not to hold much heat.  They also can get quite warm during normal operation unless you have good airflow in your case.  These heat spreaders are quite heavy and offer much greater thermal dissipation properties - are pimped out with a flashy logo on the front and are all business in the back - sort of a reverse mullet if you will.

Front Side
Front Side
Front And Back
Front & Back

 

Specs & Info:

While there isn't that much information on this memory at the moment, our testing and analysis has revealed these few details.

BL25664FN1608.16FF Modules

  • Module Size: 4GB kit (2GBx2)
  • Package: Ballistix  240-pin DIMM (with fins)
  • Feature: DDR3 PC3-12800
  • Specs: DDR3 PC3-12800 • 8-8-8-24 • Unbuffered • NON-ECC • DDR3-1600 • 1.65V • 256Meg x 64

 

 Closeup
Close Up

On the next page we'll take a look at the test setup and the software before we jump into testing.

 

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) and the fastest CL8 speed.  This memory was not able to run stable at DDR3-1600 CL7 nor was it able to achieve CL8 at 1T like many other Crucial kits we've tested.  It runs fine at the rated 8-8-8-24 2T, and has some more room for overclocking if you're not afraid to bump the voltage.  Also, 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 the Patriot Viper Triple-Channel reference tests, we used the EVGA X58 motherboard and keyed in specific timings in order to keep everything comparable.  The memory we're testing today is sitting on the ASRock H55DE3 motherboard and is only a dual-channel kit.  By mere math, we can deduce that we should be seeing at least a 33% performance hit in some tests.

 

Test System:


Intel Core i7 - 860
CPU
Intel Core i7 860 - 2.8GHz
Motherboard
Memory
4GB Crucial Ballistix DDR3-1600 Kit
Graphics
1x Radeon HD 5870
Cooling
Hard Drives
Operating System
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
ATI Drivers
10.4 Drivers

 

We only used two main memory settings for testing the Crucial Ballistix DDR3-1600 memory.  We use the timings on the label - 8-8-8-24 2T at 1.65v as well as the fastest clock speed available at CL8.  Our fastest CL8 speed ended up being DDR3-1872 at 2T with a voltage of 1.75v.  CL7 settings never provided stable results - nor did running the memory at 8-8-8-24 1T.  When doing most of our memory tests, we don't over volt the memory, but as this memory has temperature monitoring and large heat sinks, we figured that we'd take a go at it.  At 1872MHz the memory has proved itself to be rock stable during a week of testing and temperature logging.

Stock Speed
Stock Speed
SPD Timings
SPD Timings

As you can see, the memory comes with several SPD values that should make it work in pretty much any system.  At DDR3-888 it clocks in at CL6, DDR3-1184 is set at CL8, DDR3-1333 comes in at CL9 and the XMP Profile of DDR3-1600 is locked in at CL8.  As we'll shown below the memory has a bit more to offer though.

Overclocked
Overclocked

 

Software:

While the Ballistix M.O.D. (Memory Overview Display) software is still in Beta, it appears to have the functionality working and the only thing I really hope they do is to beef up the temperature logging and have it display each DIMM in its own column.  This would allow third-party charting of each module's temperature much easier that with them alternating in the CSV file that it generates.  That being said, please take a look at the screenshots of the software below.

BallistixMOD - Main
Ballistix M.O.D. - Main
BallistixMOD - Settings
Ballistix M.O.D. - Settings
BallistixMOD - Temps
Ballistix M.O.D. -Temperature

 

As you can see above, the main screen of the software shows pretty much the same information as CPU-Z.  The settings page allows you to log temps, open the log or delete the log.  Each time you choose to log temperatures, it appends the file and it could get quite large over time.  The temperature screen shows each module individually and gives you the option here to log as well. 

The screen capture above on the right shows the memory at first boot and running quite cool in the air conditioned office.  When pushing it at DDR3-1872 and looping memory benchmarks, it heated up to 45C and felt barely warm to the touch.

On the next page we'll jump into some benchmarks and find out how fast this dual channel kit is when compared to a triple-channel kit.

 

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


It's interesting to see that Everest shows very similar performance numbers even though the Patriot Viper kit is a triple-channel kit and theoretically should be faster.  According to this benchmark, the Crucial kit edges it out in Read, Write and Latency but trails behind slightly in Copy performance.

 

Benchmarking - SiSoft Sandra:

If you want to compare your DDR3 performance, you can head on over and grab SiSoft Sandra here and compare away.  We've compared the triple-channel Patriot Viper kit with the Crucial Ballistix kit once again.  Notice the major difference in this benchmark.

 SiSoft Performance

With the extra channel, the Patriot kit cleans up, but note the excellent 2.5GB/sec performance you gain from pushing your memory a little farther.  DDR3-1872 seems to work quite well.

 

Final Thoughts:

Crucial has taken one of their standard kits of RAM, attached better heat spreaders and hired a magician in order to get the RAM temperature viewable in a piece of software.  The kit itself isn't all that insane in terms of performance, but the temperature monitoring will likely appeal to enthusiasts.  If Crucial could broker some kind of deal to get this data included into mainstream overclocking utilities, they'd appeal to an even wider audience.  Finally, they need to add shutdown, or alarm features if the RAM temperature exceeds a certain point.  This would help extend the life of your RAM and give you a little confidence when pushing it to the limit. 

If you have a dual-channel Core i3/i5/i7 system that you want to pimp up and push to the max, the Crucial Ballistix Tracer has some pretty nice overclocking capabilities and throws in a nifty little temperature monitoring program to boot.  It's worth a look if you need a dual-channel 4GB kit.

Pros:

  • Large heat spreaders
  • Software monitoring of DDR3 temperatures!
  • XMP profile
  • Runs at 8-8-8-24 2T up to 1872MHz

 

Cons:

  • Not yet available
  • Hopefully 8GB kits will be available at launch

 

 

BCCRating
 
Gold

 

 

We have no retail price on the kit, so I can't comment on the value - still because of the features, performance and stability - it scores a Gold Editor's Choice Award.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them in the forum at the "Comments" link below.