Corsair, G.Skill, Mushkin, and Patriot X79 Quad-Channel Memory Reviewccokeman -
Price: $119 - $499
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With the introduction of Intel's Sandy Bridge Extreme processors and X79 chipset-based motherboards, quad-channel memory kits have come of age. There are currently a slew of memory kits on the market ready to take advantage of the performance provided by the enhanced architecture. As you might expect, these kits are ranging from the pedestrian 1066 MHz, all the way to the extreme 2400+ MHz end of the scale. Coincidentally, the XMP (Extreme Memory Profile) standard has also been updated; XMP 1.3. XMP is a one-stop shop for enabling performance profiles and can be enabled in the BIOS. In this roundup of memory modules, we will take a look at a broad cross-section of this segment, with kits from Corsair, G.Skill, Mushkin, and Patriot. With that said, they all fall squarely in the enthusiast sector and are popular modules bringing a bit of flash to go along with functionality. At the moment, DRAM prices are still depressed, so stepping up to 16 GB of DDR3 memory is not as significant a cost until you reach to the higher speed bins. Keep in mind, going up to 32 GB is still going to cost you some change from the piggy bank any which way you look at it. Even with the current pricing of DRAM, a large variety still carry price premiums, though still attractive compared to past pricing. The kits I am looking at today range from the $119 Patriot Division 4 1600 MHz kit, to the pair of 16 GB Corsair Vengeance kits that run between $149 and $499 depending on the latencies and speed bin. Without further ado, let’s take a look at what each manufacturer has to offer in terms of performance and overclocking ability with this all new platform.
The first memory kit up is from Corsair and part of their Vengeance series of modules which are designed for the enthusiast and overclocker. What I have is a pair of 16 GB Corsair Vengeance LP (Low Profile) modules rated to run at PC3-12800 or 1600 MHz speeds, with a CAS latency of 8 at only 1.5 volts. The packaging is standard for the Vengeance line up – the front panel shows a profile view of the modules with processor support presented on the lower left, which includes both AMD as well as Intel's current lineup. Capacity is shown on the top right. The back of the package reveals specifications on the modules through a window. There is also text on the box that talks about the select memory IC's used for the modules as well as the limited lifetime warranty, both in several different languages. The product SKU is on the bottom left corner, showing the model number of the specific set of modules. This package also has a front panel that opens to show the end user exactly what they will be getting inside the package.
Out of the two packages, there are a total of 8 modules for this pair of PC3-12800 Corsair Vengeance LP CML16GX3M4X1600C8 16 GB kits. What that long string of letters and numbers equates to is that this kit is the capacity of 16 GB (x2 for our testing), PC3-12800 speeds (1600 MHz), and the DDR3 JEDEC spec of 1.5 volts with latencies of 8-8-8-24.
Where the Vengeance LP kits differ significantly from the traditional Vengeance modules is in the overall height of the heat sink package. The aluminum shields are ribbed for added surface area and are just tall enough to reach over the top of the actual DIMM PCB. This lower shield is more than adequate to shed the heat from the memory IC's at 1.5 V so fear not. The real reason for the shorter shield is to allow the modules for use with larger CPU heat sink that either hang over or have fans that hang over the DIMM slots on the motherboard. If your memory modules are too tall, this can prevent the full capacity of the board from being utilized and has been a problem for quite some time now, as more and more memory slots are added to boards for support of additional channels and capacities.
These low profile modules should allow all the DIMM slots to be populated while still running tight latencies at 1600 MHz and higher speeds. Since they are made for overclocking, the true test will be in the amount of head room they have.