Crucial Smart Ballistix 4GB DDR3-1600 Kit

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Product: Crucial Ballistix Smart Tracer 4GB DDR3-1600
Provided By: Crucial
Price: $90.99 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 offers a bit of "Alien Technology" in terms of lighting, control and monitoring.

This kit features 2x 2GB sticks that have 8-8-8-24 1T timings at 1.65v (XMP Ready) and while that doesn't appear to be all that exciting, the new Smart Ballistix modules from Crucial throw an interesting twist into the bag by including software-capable temperature monitoring, lighting control and even usage monitoring.  We'll take a look at the memory as well as the software and see how pretty it is in action.

Package Front
Package Front
Package Back
Package Back

 

First Impressions:

At first glance you may think we stepped back a few years to the original Crucial Ballistix Tracer Memory.  This memory takes a step backwards from the "Finned Ballistix" memory we looked at back in June 2010.  Although this memory kit we are looking at today isn't as beefy when it comes to the heatspreaders, we'll see on the following pages why this is a good thing and what this memory has to offer.  I do like the color and style of the Ballistix Smart Tracer and they seem to run cool enough with these thinner heatspreaders to be safe.  If they get too hot, there are also some options as we'll find out on the next page.

 

 

Specs & Info:

While there isn't that much information on this memory at the moment we have posted some of the relevant information below.  Make sure you head on over to the product page at Crucial's site for all the details.

BL2KIT25664ST1608OB Modules

  • Module Size: 4GB kit (2GBx2)
  • Package: Ballistix Smart 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

 

The Ballistix Smart Tracer features activity-indicating LEDs on the top edge and ground-effect LEDs along the bottom. Add to it the downloadable MOD utility, and you get the real-time temperature monitoring-and more!

Play with even more bling-customized by you. These Smart Tracer modules are available in either Blue/Orange or Red/Green LED color combinations that you can manipulate in real time, switching up the color options. In addition, select from four different LED patterns, adjust brightness, or turn the LEDs on/off. All of this can be done on-the-fly! Turn on the lights — and turn up your performance — with Ballistix Smart Tracer memory.

 

Lined 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. This memory comes with SPD timings of 888MHz at CL6, 1184MHz at CL8, 1332MHz at CL9 and an XMP profile of 1600MHz at CL8.  We didn't test the memory at low speeds and started our testing at PC3-12800 (DDR3-1600MHz) at CL8 with a 1T Command Rate (XMP Setting).  Our other tested speeds for this kit are the somewhat standard DDR3-1866 CL9 (wouldn't run stable at CL8) 2T.  The memory was unstable at 1622 MHz at CL8 so we switched to CL9 timings and hit a wall at 1928MHz.  We tested using both 8-8-8-24-1T and 9-9-9-24-2T settings.

 

 

Test System:


Sandy Bridge
CPU
Intel Core i5-2500K @ 3.30GHz
Motherboard
Gigabyte P67A-UD3 Motherboard
Memory
4GB Crucial Ballistix Smart Tracer DDR3-1600 Kit
Graphics
1x Radeon HD 5870
Cooling
Stock Intel Cooler
Hard Drives
Operating System
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
ATI Drivers
10.12 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 1T at 1.65v as well as the fastest clock speed available at CL9.  Our fastest CL9 speed ended up being DDR3-1928 at 2T with a voltage of 1.60v.  CL7 settings never provided stable results - nor did running the memory at 8-8-8-24 1T at any speed much above stock.  When doing most of our memory tests, we don't over volt the memory, but as this memory has temperature monitoring, we figured that we'd take a go at it.  At 1928MHz the memory has proved itself to be rock stable during a week of testing and temperature logging. 

CPU-Z
CPU-Z
SPD
SPD
Memory
Memory

 

Software:

While the Ballistix M.O.D. (Memory Overview Display) software has now officially been released, it appears to have more functionality than the beta version and they have taken a few suggestions from the community and made things work a little smoother.  This updated version allows for temperature logging, alarms, notification and shutdown as well as total runtime, LED control and a bit more.  Take a look at the screenshots below before we continue on to testing.

Ballistix MOD SPD
SPD Info
Ballistix MOD Temp
Temperature Monitor
Ballistix MOD Lights
Lighting Control

Ballistix MOD Settings
M.O.D. Settings
Ballistix MOD About
M.O.D. About Info

 

Some of the information in the Crucial M.O.D. utility is identical to that found in CPU-Z.  Crucial does offer temperature monitoring, alarm, shutdown, run-time and light control as well.

On the next page we'll jump into some benchmarks and find out how fast this dual channel kit is when compared to some memory we've tested recently.  We'll also take a look at the lights and see how well they add a custom touch of class to your PC.


Benchmarking - AIDA64:

Because there is a lot of system tweaking that goes along with clocking up memory to non-standard speeds, we haven't included a lot of "real world" benchmarks.  Often, in order to get the memory to run at speeds other than 1066MHz, 1333MHz, or 1600MHz, 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.

With that being said, the new Sandy Bridge Core i5/i7 platform has a native 1333MHz memory controller and many motherboards have options that allow you to change the memory multiplier to achieve fast memory speeds (up to 2133MHz on the P67A-UD3 from Gigabyte) without overclocking the CPU or bus.  This will allow us to show how simple memory speed improvements affect total system performance...or how little it affects performance.  The results are below.  First up is AIDA64 (formerly known as Everest).

AIDA

When it comes to memory performance in AIDA64 - the higher number the better in terms of read/write/copy and lower latency numbers are better.  You can see that the Crucial Smart Tracer kit does very well - and in fact wins many of the benchmarks against the Patriot DDR3-1600 CL9 kit at stock speeds.  When overclocked, the Crucial kits wins everything - except the read test where once again the Patriot Viper Extreme DDR3-1866 kit edges it out.

The other two tests are Cinebench and SuperPi.  We used SuperPi to calculate Pi to 1 Million decimal places using different memory speeds to see if memory speed affects programs that are largely CPU dependent.  The results pretty much speak for themselves.   Cinebench 11.5 was used in both CPU rendering as well as GPU / OpenGL modes to see how memory speed affects workstation performance.  I was surprised to see CPU scores stagnate while OpenGL score improved as the memory became faster.  

Cinebench
SuperPi

 

At stock speeds, all CPU scores are pretty much the same with Cinebench, but they do open up a bit as the clock speed increases.  Crucial does very well up against the Sandy Bridge optimized memory from Patriot, but the faster-overclocked DDR3-1866 kit edges out Crucial once again.  SuperPi shows the identical story.  Stock performance is almost identical, but overclocked performance gives the win to the faster DDR3-1866 from Patriot.

The Ballistix Smart Tracer has some good performance, but it's not all about performance.  Below is a video clip of the memory in action as I adjust the lights with the M.O.D. Software.

 


Final Thoughts:

Crucial has taken one of their Ballistix Tracer kits, integrated an interesting chip, licensed alien technology and offers lighting control, temperature monitoring and more into an affordable kit of DDR3.  The kit itself isn't all that insane in terms of performance, but the bonus features will likely appeal to enthusiasts.  In our original review of the Ballistix M.O.D. kit, we mentioned the need for alarm or shutdown capabilities and they have included this on the updated Ballistix Smart Tracer.  This makes for a very appealing package - that will cost you more than a standard 4GB DDR3-1600 kit, but it adds a lot more bling to the ring.

If you have a dual-channel Core i3/i5/i7 system that you want to pimp up and push to the max, the Crucial Smart Ballistix Tracer has some pretty nice overclocking capabilities and throws in some sick lighting control.  I'm a fan.  It's worth a look if you need a dual-channel 4GB kit and want to impress your enemies at the next LAN party.

Pros:

  • Awesome custom lighting
  • Software monitoring of DDR3 temperatures!
  • XMP profile
  • Decent overclocking kit at CL9

 

Cons:

  • Doesn't overclock much at CL8 
  • Only 2GB sticks available currently

 

 

BCCRating

 

Gold

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