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Crucial DDR3-1600 8GB

I recently was presented with an opportunity to review some Crucial memory. Since it has been a long time since we looked at any memory here at Monster-Hardware I thought it would be a fun subject to revisit. Choosing which particular Crucial memory to test however was no easy task. I felt like a kid in a candy store, or in my case a middle aged adult at a pizza buffet. How to choose? Well, first of all, I wanted at least an 8GB kit. Next it had to be fast, preferably with low latency. Lastly, I wanted something that would comfortably fit under my Noctua NH-D14 CPU Cooler that I had to put a second mortgage on our condo to recently buy. Was this too much to ask? It turns out it wasn't, and after some searching I decided on the Crucial Ballistix Tactical PC3-12800 CL8 8GB DDR3 RAM Kit. This offering comes with a matched 4GB pair of DDR3-1600 sticks for the now ubiquitous dual channel operation. Crucial sells this RAM as Part Number: BLT2KIT4G3D1608DT1TX0 if you are interested. At the time of publication the price was 73 usd. Take note: The Ballistix Tactical is not the fastest memory Crucial sells. That honor goes to the Ballistix Elite, it is however the fastest memory they sell without seriously oversized vertical heat spreaders.

Crucial Front     Crucial Back

The Crucial memory arrived safe and sound well-packed inside a bubble envelope mailer. This is important because no matter how good a product is, if it arrives to you damaged it usually isn't of much good. The memory itself was in a traditional retail blister pack with a highly reflective foil insert to spice up the wow factor a bit, as well as to catch your eye on a store shelf. Everything looked great and was certainly visually appealing, but the packaging was somewhat of a pain to get into as you pretty much had to destroy the outer shell to get to the memory. FYI don't plan on storing your memory here to keep it safe from the ESD monster when it is not in use.

Specs:

Manufacturer: Crucial
Part Number: BLT2KIT4G3D1608DT1TX0
Module Size: 8GB Kit (4GBx2)
Package: Ballistix 240-pin DIMM
Feature: DDR3 PC3-12800
Memory Timing: 8-8-8-24
DIMM Type: Unbuffered
Error Correction: NON-ECC
Memory Speed: DDR3-1600
Voltage: 1.5V
Configuration: 512Meg x 64

 

As for the package contents itself, well what you see is what you get--the memory and nothing else. While I had hoped to find some sort of documentation inside the foil insert, that didn't happen. While this is clearly the way the industry is headed, being old school I still bemoan the loss of a proper paper manual. To be fair to Crucial, though, there is enough documentation at their site online to make your head swim and perhaps even drown you in digital data. Some of it includes memory installation guides, and memory installation videos that if you are reading this you probably don't need but it is available for the newbie. If you find yourself having problems they have a memory installation troubleshooting guides as well. Finally, if you are totally lost and don't know what memory you should order for your rig Crucial also has an online memory Configurator. Whew, that is a lot of links, but I have one more. The documentation that most people reading--and me writing, for that matter--want most to see is the PDF Spec Sheet. This particular one is for the 2GB Crucial Ballistix Tactical but the chip numbers match, so I assume it is the same memory, just what I got is of a higher density.

One of the first things I noticed when looking at the Ballistix Tactical memory sticks was the black PCB. This is different from most other manufacturers and really looks good IMO when paired with the yellow heatspreaders--and not just because I am a life long Pittsburgh Steelers fan, but because it looks good when viewed through my side panel. As for the heatspreaders themselves I have always wondered how much is show and how much is go with the modern memory heat spreaders? Since you often see standard DDR3-1333 memory sticks run "naked", and only the higher rated memory normally has heatspreaders at all, from there the faster the memory is, the larger the heatspreaders get. I am going to guess they are only needed on DDR3 memory that run at higher speeds, sport lower latencies, and or run at increased voltages. Whatever the reason, they are there. I am not complaining, since not only are the Crucial Ballistix Tactical memory sticks stamped "United States" on the heatspreaders (a rarity these days) they also feature a Crucial limited lifetime warranty.

Crucail Stick Front     Crucial Stick Back

SPD (Serial Presence Detect) or XMP (Intel Extreme Memory Profile)? First off, let me state that no matter what you might have heard SPD is not the same as SBD (Silent But Deadly). Now that we have cleared the air on that particular subject, as it were, let's get down to business. If you have a recent Intel platform you are using this Crucial Ballistix Tactical kit with, then things are KISS (keep it simple stupid) and you can likely skip reading the rest of this section. If, however, you have an AMD platform--even a very recent one--things are a little more complicated. First, you can choose to run your memory at SPD, which in this case is really programmed for DDR3-1333 and set at 9-9-9-24, by using the "AUTO" selection in your BIOS settings. Or, you can be a little more adventurous and manually set your memory timings BIOS settings at the 8-8-8-24 2T that the Ballistix Tactical is designed to run at (which incidentally is also the same as Intel's XMP). Now one would think it would be a no-brainer which option to choose and that setting your manual timings in the BIOS here would always be faster than SPD, except that in my case it wasn't. So that is not necessarily true.

CPUZ 1

Before I throw out the CPU-Z screenshots and the SiSoft Sandra benchmark numbers I thought I would talk a little about memory stability. Memory stability was tested with a a combination of Prime95 (1hr Blend Test), assorted game benchmarks (3DMark, AvP, Heaven DX11), and normal PC usage (Firefox, OpenOffice, Photoshop Elements). After each memory speed bump I ran the memory through the full battery of tests listed above to ensure overclocked stability. When I began testing the memory, scaling results were very disappointing, since no matter the motherboard or memory settings I selected in BIOS, the Crucial Ballistix Tactical wouldn't even post at DDR3-1600 speeds. Almost out of ideas, I decided to flash the BIOS to the latest Version 0705 non-Beta BIOS available for my ASUS M5A97 EVO Motherboard. From there, things changed drastically with the Crucial Ballistix Tactical memory. Not only did it boot DDR3-1600 (using the BIOS default settings) by merely selecting it in the BIOS, I then went on to set a personal best for the highest memory speed I have ever personally achieved.

Test System:

AMD Phenom II X6 1090T O/C 3.75GHZ
ASUS M5A97 EVO Motherboard
Crucial Ballistix Tactical DDR3-1600 8GB
Seagate ST31000524AS 1TB SATA HD
Lite-On SHM-165S6S DVDR
HIS IceQ X Turbo Radeon HD 6950 2GB
Noctua NH-D14 CPU Cooler
Corsair 750HX Power Supply
Windows 7 (64-bit)

CPUZ 2

The stock DDR3-1333 used as a baseline taken at SPD (9-9-9-24 1T).

CPUZ 3

The maximum memory speed stably achieved at SET (8-8-8-24 2T).

CPUZ 4

The maximum memory speed stably achieved at SPD (9-9-9-24 1T).

SiSoftware Sandra Lite 2012

Frequency Memory Timings Voltage Bandwidth Latency
1333 Mhz SPD (9-9-9-24 1T) 1.51V  12.63 GB/s  633 µs
1733 Mhz SET (8-8-8-24 2T) 1.51V  14.82 GB/s  540 µs
1907 Mhz SPD (9-9-9-24 1T) 1.65V  16.17 GB/s  495 µs

 

 

 

 

The Benchmark results above were not at all what I expected. Although it is not shocking that when set to SPD (9-9-9-24 1T) the Crucial Ballistix Tactical memory was able to clock higher than with the XMP (8-8-8-24 2T) settings I manually entered in the BIOS, I didn't expect it to clock so much higher at SPD that both bandwidth and latency was actually improved over my best XMP results. In the past before this review I have as a matter of practice always manually set the memory timings as tight as I could and just assumed that this was the fastest possible configuration. Lesson learned. So don't be like me, dear readers, and potentially leave free performance on the table unused. Take the time to actually benchmark your memory with both SPD and the XMP settings before deciding how you want to run it long term. While I can make no promises that your results will mirror mine, you might find yourself as pleasantly surprised as I was. The voltage needed--or rather not needed--was also pleasantly surprising. Only at the very highest settings (1907 Mhz) did I have to bump up the voltage from the default 1.51V to 1.65V to achieve complete system stability. In fact, the memory would boot up into Windows at 1907 Mhz at the default 1.51V, but the memory fell back to operating at Single Channel mode with those settings. Bumping the memory up to 1.65V in the BIOS returned things to normal Dual Channel operation.

Conclusion:

The Crucial Ballistix Tactical PC3-12800 CL8 8GB DDR3 RAM Kit is one of the rare reviews that I have written for this site in the last ten+ years that I really have to nitpick to find anything of note to complain about. As is, the things I list here are so minor they probably wouldn't even be mentioned in most of our reviews. First, the packaging should be resealable. Memory being so susceptible to ESD needs to have a place to be stored when not in use. Next I would like to see a paper user's manual of some sort. Even if it is only a simple single folded page pamphlet, there is plenty of room for it inside the foil packaging insert. While all this info and much more is available online, what if this is a new build and I need to know something important like the memory timings before I can get my PC properly working and get online? I know firsthand the auto settings in the BIOS will usually work but they are not always infallible. Last, but not least, how long is it going to be before we start seeing some DDR3 that actually have the correct DDR3-1600 SPD settings programmed? Is it really that hard to amend the JEDEC profile from 666 Mhz to 800 Mhz? Was this not one of the reasons for JEDEC updating their standards last year to include DDR3-1600 memory? In the end, though, none of these minor gripes should prevent you from owning this very over-clockable memory. Highly recommended.

Pros:

  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Should fit under most Coolers
  • Reasonably priced
  • Free (USA) shipping from Crucial
  • Extremely overclockable
  • Attractive design

Cons:

  • SPD timings still stuck at DDR3-1333

I would like to thank Crucial for providing us with the Crucial Ballistix Tactical DDR3-1600 used in this review.

Added: November 18th 2011
Reviewer: JimAdkins
Score: 9  
Related Link: Crucial
Hits: 19066
Language: english

  

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