Corsair, G.Skill, Mushkin, and Patriot X79 Quad-Channel Memory Review

ccokeman - 2011-11-16 16:44:29 in Memory
Category: Memory
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: January 16, 2012
Price: $119 - $499

Introduction:

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.

Closer Look:

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.

Closer Look:

Having had the opportunity to look at a few of Corsair’s Vengeance series of modules in the past, the consensus was generally a performance value for your dollar with some serious headroom for the overclocker and enthusiast. These modules offer value and performance without having to step up to the Dominator line-up to get your performance and speed fix. Today, what we have from the traditional Vengeance line-up is a pair of 16 GB kits that total 32 GB of DRAM for use in an Intel X79 platform. The original Vengeance series modules were black, but since then, Corsair has offered up the Vengeance series in Blue, White, OD Green, Black, and Red – the version I am looking at today – to ensure that you can select a set that matches the rest of your components for that additional bling factor. Packaging-wise the Vengeance series CMZ16GX3M4X1866C9R modules come with almost identical packaging to the LP sets, save for the color and photo of the included modules. AMD and Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 systems are all supported at a memory speed of 1866 MHz. The back panel shows a glimpse of the modules, with specifications clearly stated. In the center of the back panel, there is short explanation of why Corsair modules are a good choice for an enthusiast build, in multiple languages nonetheless. The front panel also flips open to show off the full-size Vengeance modules.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s clear that the standard Vengeance modules are much different than the low profile version, at least in the looks department. These Vengeance DDR3 modules – part number CMZ16GX3M4X1866C9R – are rated to run at PC3-15000 or 1866 MHz, with latencies of 9-10-9-27 at a low 1.5 V. Undoubtedly, these red modules will look great sitting in a red and black themed board such as the ASUS Rampage IV Extreme.

 

 

The heat spreader used by Corsair on the Vengeance modules is what makes these modules unique. Standing at roughly 1.875 inches tall from top to bottom, these modules are shorter than the Dominator GTX8 modules by 0.5 inches. Even so, they are still an imposing size. The shields are made of stamped aluminum and are held together by the sticker across the top and clips on each end. Thermal tape holds the heat spreader to the memory ICs.

 

 

As with any tall module, there will be some clearance concerns when trying to populate all of the DIMM slots while using a large air cooling solution. However, the additional height of the modules allows them to shed heat more effectively when overvolted. At the rated 1.5 V voltage, the thermal load that needs to be transferred through to the spreaders is such that the heat shields are going to function more for looks than function.

Closer Look:

Corsair's Dominator GT line-up has traditionally been one of the standards to reach for when it comes to memory for enthusiasts and extreme overclockers. The third kit I am looking at today is the Corsair Dominator GT CMGTX8 with DHX Pro connector. These modules are at the pinnacle of Corsair’s DRAM line up. For memory ICs to make it to the Dominator GT line-up, they are rigorously screened for both latency and raw speed, as well as how well they work together at the specifications. This ensures that the modules meet and exceed the expectations of the end user who does step up to the plate and make the commitment to purchase a set of Corsair's best. These modules use DHX+ technology to keep the modules efficiently air-cooled and even allow the end user to get radical with interchangeable heat sinks. Rated to use just 1.5 V at PC3-19200 (2400 MHz) speeds and latencies of 10-12-10-27, it would seem that there may be some headroom with voltage tweaking. Offered at $499 directly from Corsair, these modules require a firm commitment to the brand – when you want the best, there is always a cost barrier. However, what you get in return is the lifetime warranty that Corsair offers on this kit. With two kits to tweak, it will be interesting to see if the memory controller on the test bed processor is up to the task of running an 8 DIMM 2400 MHz combination.

The packaging for these CMGTX8 modules could not be more plain-Jane than a nondescript Corsair-labeled cardboard box. No flash – the weight of the package and the small label are the only clues you need to know in regards to what is sitting inside the box. Inside is nothing less than plain-Jane as well, with a small bit of bubble wrap and a quartet of carefully-stacked modules – each in its own clamshell package.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, we have a pair of Corsair Dominator GT kits to test the 8 DIMM quad-channel performance of these modules and the X79 Platform. What sets these modules apart from the Vengeance series and just about every set of performance modules is the heat sinks that are much more than just massive. Feature-wise, there is the underlying construction, the highly binned memory ICs, the Corsair Link connector, the interchangeable heat sinks, and the rigorous testing required for the honor of being called Dominator GT. The DHX+ (Dual-Path Heat Exchange) heat sink package is one of the more noticeable features and stands 60 mm tall, measured from the top of the removable heat sink to the base of the ribbed DHX+ heat shield. This cooling solution is designed to not only keep the memory ICs cooled, but the module PCB as well. This kit is rated to run at 2400 MHz using 1.65 V with latencies of 10-12-10-27. The labeling contains this information as well as the revision number of the modules and their individual serial numbers.

 

 

 

To further look at the cooling features of the Dominator GT lineup, Corsair has presented an image that shows the cooling paths for the heat generated by the modules. Corsair references several studies that explain how a large portion of the thermal load from the memory IC’s ball grid array solder joints is transferred into the PCB and not the face of the memory IC. Corsair's engineers have developed a solution for this with their Dual Path Heat Exchange technology that pulls the heat from both the front side of the memory ICs, as well as directly from the PCB.

 

As a kit rated to run on the bleeding edge, the first challenge is to make sure that you have a memory controller capable of reaching 2400 MHz with all 8 slots populated – a proposition that seems difficult at best and is highly dependent on the CPU.

Closer Look:

G.Skill is a brand that has come a long way from being a relatively unknown company, to one of the top tier memory manufacturers for the enthusiast community. The Ripjaws series of modules are designed for the enthusiast and overclocker, usually coming with a fair amount of overhead to allow end users the flexibility of tweaking settings and voltages for higher memory speeds. I remember taking a chance on my first set of G.Skill memory back when the AMD A64 chips were king. They were a set of "OPB"-approved modules (yeah I know) that allowed me to get to a 310 FSB on my little single core A64 3000+. At that point, I was hooked on the value and performance that they delivered. With regards to G.Skill, I last looked at their RipjawsX and Sniper Series modules just after the socket 1155 Sandy Bridge launch. With Intel's latest Sandy Bridge Extreme processor launch, G.Skill has kits ready to go with speeds up to 2400 MHz and capacities up to 64 GB if your pockets are deep enough. Today, I am looking at a quad-channel 16 GB (4 x 4 GB) DDR3 kit of RipjawsZ modules rated for operation at 2133 MHz and latencies of 9-11-10-28 using 1.65 V, also coming with G.Skills lifetime warranty.

Some of G.Skill’s the higher-end kits come with a Turbulence fan assembly and normally arrive in a cardboard box, but this kit came in the standard retail plastic clamshell. Both the front and back side hold a pair of modules, separated by the sales card which displays the G.Skill logo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These modules have the part number F3-17000CL9Q-16GBZH. To put it into words, this means it is a 16 GB kit comprised of 4 DDR3 modules, each 4 GB in size and designed to run at DDR3 2133 MHz, with a CAS latency of 9 at 1.65 volts. One side of the black heat shield has the G.Skill logo, while the opposite side has a label that has the part number, serial number, latencies (9-11-10-28 2N), and capacity. Intel XMP 1.3 Profiles are also supported. These RipjawsZ modules feature a new ribbed heat shield that adds surface area for additional cooling and vented fins that rise above the PCB to provide more efficient convective cooling. The heat shield is 1.58 inches in height and encases the modules from one end to the other. Like most high performance modules with tall heat shields, the amount of clearance between a large air cooled solution and the modules could pose some clearance issues.

 

 

 

Covered by a lifetime warranty, G.Skill are in for the long haul on their enthusiast memory products. G.Skill is consistently one of the memory brands used by enthusiasts for world record attempts. The nice appearance of the RipjawsZ modules allows them to fit into any build and not look out of place.

Closer Look:

Mushkin's mission statement of "Get More" is a way of life for this company that prides itself on delivering a memory solution for every need from notebooks to high end desktops. Mushkin's Redline memory is one of the standards for enthusiast memory modules, offering enhanced latencies and plenty of overhead that allows overclockers the freedom to, as they say, "Get More" from their computer. This set of memory is designed to work with Intel's latest Sandy Bridge Extreme processors and X79-based motherboards that utilize a quad-channel memory controller for added bandwidth and memory performance. As they do for just about every new product launch, Mushkin is bringing out a series of quad-channel kits to meet the demand for Intel’s new platform. The kit I have today is rated to run at 2133 MHz using latencies of 9-11-10-28 and 1.65 volts. They feature Mushkin’s own Ridgeback heat shields along with their excellent lifetime warranty.

Mushkin has gotten away from the standard retail blister pack and delivers their latest products with a retail box is true to the Mushkin black, white, and green color scheme – a welcomed upgrade to the packaging. The front has a window that shows off one part number, 993997, of the Mushkin Redline Ridgeback modules. The Mushkin logo and trade slogan take center stage beside the photo of the module. The back side of the package lists the benefits of Mushkin memory – enhanced bandwidth through higher frequencies, optimized timings for improved efficiency and improved response time, hand-testing to ensure that the modules live up to the Mushkin reputation, and the confidence in their product to offer a lifetime warranty. Inside the package, the four modules of this 16 GB quad channel kit are held in a pair of plastic clamshell enclosures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pulled from the new packaging, the Redline modules stand out with a brilliant red coloring that looks great in boards with a red and black theme, such as those from ASUS's ROG line. One side has the Mushkin "Redline" branding, while the other has a small Mushkin logo with the information tag. This tag displays the module specifications, such as the 16 GB capacity, PC3-17000 speeds, and latencies of 9-11-10-28 using 1.65 V.

 

 

A few years back, Mushkin moved from the well-performing Frostbyte technology heat shield and came out with an improved design using a beefier Ridgeback design. This allows the modules to shed a higher heat load due to the angled fins or “Ridges” if you will. At the center of the Ridge is a strategically-placed Mushkin logo, so one knows exactly what you are running. The Ridgeback heat shield measures just over 1.5 inches tall, putting the fins right in the airflow path to and from the CPU cooling solution for more effective cooling. The whole assembly is screwed together rather than being just clipped on – a much more secure design and a massive step forward, aesthetically.

 

 

Rated on the higher end of the scale, these modules should have some additional headroom left in them, just based on prior experience with modules similar to these that were used on our Sandy Bridge socket 1155 platform. Offering additional cooling capabilities, they may stand some voltage "tuning".

Closer Look:

Much like when Intel dropped the first iteration of Sandy Bridge and the P67 platform on the world, Patriot has delivered a memory kit tailored to the new platform. For the earlier socket, we had the Patriots Division 2 dual-channel kit to fit the bill and now with Intel upping the ante to quad-channel capability, Patriot has delivered their Viper Extreme Division 4 memory kits specifically for this platform. Kits are available from 8 GB to 16 GB in capacity. The kit from Patriot we have today is part number PXQ316G1600LLQK, featuring XMP 1.3 and the latest Viper Extreme series hybrid cooling. Let’s see what they have to offer in comparison to the rest of the sets of memory in this roundup.

The packaging for these modules is just as flashy as the Viper Extreme Division 2 kit that I looked at earlier this year. The front shows an image of the four modules, the Division 4 logo, XMP certification, and the basic specifications of the memory. The back side has a paragraph detailing the virtues of the Viper Extreme Division 4 memory – from the copper and aluminum cooling, to the Intel XMP certification and hand testing of each kit for the highest possible quality. Inside are two blister packs that contain the modules and a sales card.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patriot's Viper Extreme modules part number PXQ316G1600LLQK is a 16 GB set of modules that run at PC3-12800 speeds (1600 MHz) with latencies of 8-9-8-24 using 1.65 V. This kit is comprised of 4 x 4 GB modules for 16 GB in capacity. One side shows the Patriot Viper Extreme logo while the other again has a copper-colored decal detailing the specifications of the memory. This doubles as a warranty label.

 

 

While the lower latencies and speed should help the modules’ performance, the cooling solution is where Patriot has a point of difference. Over the years, the Viper series heat shields have morphed from a ribbed aluminum-bonded-to-copper design called AOC, to a Viper II extruded aluminum shield, to the latest Viper Extreme design that uses an extruded aluminum body over a copper strip that pulls the heat from the memory ICs. This doubles as a visual feature that serves to give the modules a popular industrial look.

 

 

As the lowest rated speed rated in this comparison, it will be interesting to see if the tighter latencies can overcome the higher speeds of the rest of the modules. With the gap between memory dividers, the modules will hopefully have enough headroom to reach the 1866 MHz or higher frequency and add more value to this kit.

Specifications:

Corsair:

Part Number
CML16GX3M4X1600C8
CMZ16GX3M4X1866C9R
CMGTX8
Size
16 GB Kit (4 x 4 GB)
16 GB Kit (4 x 4 GB)
8 GB Kit (4 x 2 GB)
Performance Profile
XMP
XMP
XMP
Fan Included
No
No
No
Heat Spreader
Vengeance LP
Vengeance
DHX+
Memory Configuration
Quad-Channel
Quad-Channel
Quad-Channel
Memory Type
DDR3
DDR3
DDR3
Package - Memory Pins
240
240
240
Package - Memory Format
DIMM
DIMM
DIMM
Tested Voltage
1.5 V
1.5 V
1.65 V
SPD Voltage
1.5 V
1.5 V
1.5 V
Speed Rating
PC3-12800 (1600 MHz)
PC3-15000 (1866 MHz)
PC3-19200 (2400 MHz)
SPD Speed
1333 MHz
1333 MHz
1333 MHz
Tested Speed
1600 MHz
1866 MHz
2400 MHz
Tested Latency
8-8-8-24
9-10-9-27
10-12-10-27
Warranty Lifetime
Lifetime
Lifetime
Lifetime

 

G.Skill:

System
Desktop
System Type
DDR3
M/B Chipset
X79
CAS Latency
9-11-9-28-2N
Capacity
16 GB (4 x 4 GB)
Speed
PC3-17000 (2133 MHz)
Test Voltage
1.65 V
Height
40 mm / 1.58 inches
Registered/Unbuffered
Unbuffered
Error Checking
Non-ECC
Type
240-pin DIMM
Warranty
Lifetime
Features
Intel XMP (Extreme Memory Profile) Ready

 

Mushkin:

Type:
DDR3
Voltage:
1.65 V
Speed Spec:
PC3-17000
Frequency:
2133 MHz
Module Size:
16 GB (4 x 4 GB)
Timings
tCL:        9
tRCD:     11
tRP:        10
tRAS:     28
Heatsink:
RIDGEBACK-Red

 

Patriot:

Product Name
Extreme Performance
Patriot Part #
PXQ316G1600LLQK
Description
Viper Xtreme Series, Division 4 Edition
DDR 3 16 GB (4 x 4 GB) 1600 MHz Low
Latency Quad Kit
Certification/Safety
RoHS
Product Warranty
Lifetime Warranty
Unit UPC
0815530012573
Packaging Type
Blister Pack
Net Weight
.24 lbs / 218 gm
Gross Weight
.30 lbs / 270 gm
Units per Inner Carton
12
Units per Master Carton
72
Unit Dimensions
.30" (D) x 5.2" (W) x 1.63" (H)
.76 cm (D) x 13.3 cm (W) x 4.1 cm (H)
Packaging Dimensions
0.63" (D) x 4.72" (W) x 7.09" (H)
4.43 cm (D) x 15.6 cm (W) x 18.7 cm (H)

 

Features:

Corsair:

 

 

Mushkin:

Patriot:

 

 

 

All information cortesy of Corsair, G.Skill, Mushkin and Patriot.

Testing:

To find out just what kind of performance these kits of memory will deliver, I will be running them through a series of benchmarks to see how they compare. 16 GB and 32 GB kits that range in speed from 1600 MHz to 2400 MHz will be tested at their native speeds as well as overclocked as far as the test platform and CPU will allow. Overclocking on the Intel's X79 series platform is much like that on P67 and Z68, with strict multiplier and bclock limits. However, the option to use the gear stepping of the Socket 2011 platform allows for some interesting combinations. The test setup used for this evaluation is listed below. Turbo Boost has been disabled to eliminate an uncontrolled clock speed increase that may skew the results. The CPU will be run at the default clock speed for the baseline testing and then bumped as close to 4.5 GHz as possible for overclocked testing.  The operating system is Windows 7 Pro 64-bit with all current patches installed at the time of testing. The graphics driver is AMD Catalyst 11.12.

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Modules:

 

CPU-Z: This application shows us the settings that we have chosen in the BIOS. Items shown in this application include CPU speed and bus settings, motherboard manufacturer, BIOS revisions, memory timings, and SPD chip information.

CPU-Z

 

Task Manager: We use this utility to show physical memory, kernel memory, page file, and processor usage.

Task Manager

 

Overclocking:

Corsair Overclocked settings:

Overclocking the Corsair modules resulted in a totally different experience for each, with requiring varying approaches to getting the end result. Of course, the strength of the memory controller is also going to determine the ultimate speed potential on this platform. With the 32 GB set of Vengeance LP (Low Profile) modules, I had to work with a base clock speed of 1600 MHz using 1.5 V and the stock 8-8-8-24 latencies. The highest clock speeds I could reach without totally blowing the sub-timings out of the water was a prime95 stable 1898 MHz by increasing the voltage to 1.6 V, bumping the memory multiplier to the 1866 MHz mark, increasing the CPU bclock, and loosening the primary timings to 9-11-10-28. This will still yield satisfactory performance for everything short of hardcore benchmarking. In any case, it is an increase of almost 300 MHz over the baseline 1600 MHz rated speed, which offers increased bandwidth for higher performance. When the voltages were pushed, the modules did heat up due to how closely they were packed when in 8 DIMM configuration. Airflow helps, but the low profile heat sink is undoubtedly not as efficient in this configuration as the full size Vengeance design.

With the full size Vengeance modules, I expected a very similar overclocking experience, but it took a different route to get to my result. Starting out with bumping the memory multiplier divider to 2133 MHz resulted in a failed boot attempt and a BIOS recovery. Bumping the voltage up or loosening the sub-timings did not result in a successful boot at 2133 MHz either. On original Sandy Bridge systems, the only solution left would be increasing the bclock frequency. With their limited bclock tweaking ability though, only a small bump would be possible due to the maximum bclock potential of about 106 MHz on air with most CPUs. However on Sandy Bridge Extreme, Intel pulled some tricks out of their sleeve by allowing the use of Gear Ratios for the CPU bclock. By choosing the correct memory multiplier and 125 MHz bclock strap, I was able to tweak the timings (TRCD & TRP) and voltages (1.6 V) to reach just over 2000 MHz while running at 9-11-10-28 1T. This effort was worth only 150 MHz over the stock 1866 MHz clock speed, but nonetheless, offers a slight bump in performance for the time and effort. Compared to the low profile modules, the cooling performance was like night and day. The standard taller fin design is easily more efficient than the low profile design in all cases.

The Dominator-GT modules offered the largest overclocking challenge in the entire comparison set of modules. In its defense, just getting to 2400 MHz with 8 slots populated is a feat in itself – populating 4 slots makes it a little easier on the memory controller. What I found, after beating on these modules for ages, was that my memory controller was just not up to the task of getting them over the rated 2400 MHz by loosening primary or sub-timings, or increasing voltages on the memory controller, CPU, and modules themselves. Dropping down to four DIMMs had the same result of being incapable of bumping over 2400 MHz. With that done, I tried to tighten the timings a little to see if this would result in a higher level of performance. Again, I was up against a brick wall with these modules. Seeing as how the memory controller was good for 2400 MHz, I was expecting a little more, but it seems the high hopes I had were more limited by the memory controller than the modules themselves. Even without overclocking, the modules still deliver excellent performance when combined with a stock or overclocked CPU. Even when packed in an 8 DIMM configuration, these modules never warmed up whilst cooled by a single fan. The DHX+ cooling solution just works incredibly well, even with up to 1.7 V pushing through the modules.

 

 

 

G.Skill Overclocked settings:

The last G.Skill memory I looked at did quite well in the overclocking department and thankfully, this kit does not deviate from that path – the base speed of 2133 MHz was just the starting point for the kit. Making the jump to 2400 MHz, though, required some tweaking of the primary latencies and voltages. CAS latency was bumped to 10 with the tRCD bumped to 12 and the voltage to 1.67 V. The memory controller voltage was fine at 1.05 V with this configuration as seen by the long term (well, 7 hours at least) stability testing of the overclock. The higher speed, coupled with a decent CPU overclock, showed measurable performance gains in testing. The overclocking margin or headroom came in at 13+% or 281 MHz for the time spent tweaking the modules for maximum clocks without killing every day performance. This kit from G.Skill reached the highest overclocked speed in comparison to the other modules in this testing session.

 

Mushkin Overclocked settings:

I have never been disappointed with the memory kits that Mushkin brings to the table, so now is not the time to start a slide into the rat hole. Mushkin’s Redline kits are their high end modules designed for overclocking and in testing, these modules do not fail in that regard – I was able to reach a final mark of 2364 MHz or 231 MHz above the already high stock 2133 MHz speed. This is a bump in clock speed of almost 11%. Since I could not reach 2400MHz, I resorted to the same solution I used on some of the other kits and bumped the CPU gear ratio to the 125 MHz strap, while reducing the CPU clock multiplier to compensate for the increase in CPU clock speed. With that said, I was still getting in the ballpark of 4.5 GHz on the CPU. Add some bclock tuning and I was able to stretch up to 2364 MHz with a bump in voltage and loosening of primary latencies to 10-12-11-28 using 1.66 V. One thing to note; the Ridgeback-designed heat spreaders are far more efficient than the Frostbyte design that has served them for so long, keeping the modules cool with just a small bit of airflow over them.

 

Patriot Overclocked settings:

Patriot’s Division 4 modules really surprised me with their overhead through simply loosening the primary latencies to a similar level as the Mushkin, G.Skill, and Corsair Vengeance modules. Even with the stock 1600 MHz frequency, this low latency kit stepped up with a 600+ MHz bump in clock speed. These modules were so much more flexible than the Division 2 kit I looked at after the Intel Socket 1155 Sandy Bridge launch – simply an amazing increase over baseline and on the order of a 75% bump in speed. This does not translate into a 75% increase in performance, but it definitely helps the cause if you spend the time to get there. Voltage on the memory was tweaked a bit to 1.67 V and the memory controller kept to the same 1.05 V as in the rest of testing. The latencies were moved to a much less palatable CAS 10 from the XMP profile CAS 8. When trying for CAS 9, I was only able to reach 1984 MHz. The 3960X seems to be a little latency tolerant for everyday use, since there is a nice size boost in overall bandwidth. The Viper Extreme heat shields also do their job as intended and keep the modules cool when pushed.

 

The maximum memory speed for each set of overclocked modules is indicative of how well the modules ran on this test system. As such, your results may differ in either a positive or negative way based on the capabilities of your hardware. That said, your mileage may vary!

 

The benchmarks used in this review include the following:

Benchmarks:

Testing:

PCMark Vantage: With this benchmark, I will be running the system suite, as well as the memory test suite. The measurement for the system suite will be the total score. The measurement for memory performance is the total memory score.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

 

PCMark 7 is the latest iteration of Futuremark's popular PCMark system performance tool. This latest version is designed for use on Windows 7 PCs and features a combination of 25 different workloads to accurately measure the performance of all PCs from laptops to desktops.

  

  

Higher is Better

 

Geekbench 2.1 provides a comprehensive set of benchmarks engineered to quickly and accurately measure processor and memory performance. Designed to make benchmarks easy to run and easy to understand, Geekbench takes the guesswork out of producing robust and reliable benchmark results.

   

   

   

 

Super PI Mod 1.5: is a program designed to calculate Pi up to the 32nd millionth digit after the decimal and is used as both a benchmarking utility and simple stress test to check your overclock before moving forward with more rigorous testing. The world records for this benchmark utility are hotly contested.

   

 

At stock speeds, the higher frequency modules seem to deliver greater levels of performance. The GTX8 modules struggle in the suite scores, but come up big in the memory scoring part of the test. Mushkin and G.Skill’s modules are usually close to the top positions. The Patriot Viper Extreme modules delivered when overclocked in the PCMark 7 testing.

Testing:

SiSoftware Sandra 2011: In this program, I will be running the following benchmarks: Cache and Memory, Memory Bandwidth, and Memory Latency. Higher is better in all tests, except for Memory Latency, where lower is better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

   

 

AIDA64 Extreme Edition: is a software utility designed to be used for hardware diagnosis and benchmarking. I will be using the Cache and Memory benchmark to test each module’s read, write, and copy bandwidth, as well as the latency test.

  

  

  

  

Higher is Better

In the Sandra testing, the Corsair GTX8 modules offered the highest memory bandwidth and lowest latency, yet close to the lowest result in the cache and memory test. When overclocked, the Mushkin Ridgeback Redlines and G.Skill RipjawsZ modules achieve better results in the latency as well as the cache and memory testing. The AIDA 64 testing shows that frequency is king in read, copy and latency tests, while the write testing saw better results from the modules with tighter timings and lower frequencies. The difference isn’t by much, as the results are close enough to not see any real world change in performance. Overclocking shows benefits, but the majority of the upswing rests in CPU speed-based performance improvements.

Testing:

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is a first-person shooter developed by EA Digital Illusions CE (DICE) and published by Electronic Arts for Windows, PS3, and Xbox 360. This game is part of the Battlefield franchise and uses the Frostbite 1.5 Engine, allowing for destructible environments. You can play the single-player campaign or multiplayer, the latter with five different game modes. Released in March 2010, it has sold in excess of six million copies so far.

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It seems that throughout testing, memory frequency had little overall impact on the performance in this FPS game. The margin between the highest and lowest performance is a single FPS across the entire comparison field – small enough to not be impacted by capacity or speed, as various  capacities (32 GB) and speeds (up to 2400 MHz) are represented here.

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Corsair Vengeance:

Let’s start with the Vengeance modules. The LP set of modules is equipped with the shorter Vengeance heat sink and will fit well under large air cooling solutions. This allows all DIMM slots to be populated whilst running a large head sink and gives the end user the ability to pop in not just 8 GB or 16 GB in memory, but up to 64 GB without any clearance issues of any kind – something not possible with the standard Vengeance kits unless you use a smaller CPU cooler or one of the many self-contained liquid cooling solutions on the market such as the Corsair H100. Using only 1.5 V to reach the rated speeds and tight latencies of 8-8-8-24, the Vengeance LP modules deliver the expected level of performance for their specifications. That aside, the 1866 MHz Vengeance "Red" modules that use 9-10-9-27 timings and 1.5 V also performed right where it should, based on the rated speed and timings.

Overclocking the LP modules was fairly straight forward, but some consideration needed to be made for running 32 GB and greater capacities – kept stable by increasing the memory controller voltage. This was repeated with the 1866 MHz kit as well. All it took to get the Low Profile kit to 1898 MHz was choosing the 1866 MHz divider in the BIOS, increasing the bclock to 101.7, loosening the timings to 9-11-10-28, and bumping them to 1.6 V. Using 1.6 V on the LP kit does heat them up when packed in an 8 DIMM configuration, so additional airflow is recommended – pretty simple and straight forward. The 1866 MHz kit took some work and a different tact, requiring the use of the 125 MHz strap on the CPU to get the modules just over 2000 MHz while keeping the same timings and voltage tuning used on the LP kit. The higher voltage did not seem to influence the temperatures of the "Red" modules, due to the much larger cooling surface and intrusion into the airflow around the CPU.

With the move to quad-channel kits for Intel's X79 platform, there are a wealth of kits out there that won’t break the bank when using 16 GB of memory. The Low Profile kit retails for $149, while the 1866 MHz kit requires a little more spending on your part at $170. Going straight up to 32 GB will double these costs. Both kits come with Corsair's lifetime warranty, XMP Profiles, rugged looks, functional cooling and offer overclocking headroom for your hard earned dollar.

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Corsair Dominator GT:

The Dominator GT line-up from Corsair is often seen as the pinnacle "Halo" modules that come up in dream machine discussions. As such, there is that bit of exclusivity as the Dominator GT line-up is highly binned for max speed and latencies to deliver pinnacle performance. With that said, there is a price to be paid on this kit, much like buying a tuner corvette or any other super car you choose. The only pricing I can find for these modules puts them in a price club of their own, at close to $500. In testing, the modules delivered top performance in just about all of the bandwidth related tests, showing that 2400 MHz right out of the box is going to deliver an increase in performance over, say, a 2133 MHz or 1600 MHz set of memory. Higher speeds equal greater bandwidth and lower latency, ergo better performance.

Overclocking-wise, I had high hopes of taking these modules to 2500 MHz and above, but it seems that to get the most out of modules on the X79 platform, you need a really stout memory controller to reach the upper reaches, especially with all 8 slots populated on a motherboard. Even with only four slots populated, I could do no better than 2400 MHz with my chip. Tightening the timings at 2400 MHz was a no go either, as the chip would just not have it. The big takeaway is that having a stellar memory controller will be what it takes to get the most from these modules. Dropping down to 2133 MHz does offer some opportunity for tweaking, but these are rated for 2400 MHz. The most outstanding feature of these modules is, by far, the DHX+ conductive and convective cooling solution. Using very large replaceable heat sinks and heat shields, it pulls heat from both the PCB and memory ICs to allow the modules more tolerance of voltage-induced heat loads. Even with up to 1.75 volts, these modules remained at just about ambient temps with a Noctua fan blowing over them – the solution definitely works as intended. That excellent cooling comes at a penalty of using a large air cooled CPU heat sink though, as the modules are so tall, they will interfere with the fans or heat sinks. Another extra on the modules is the Corsair DHX Pro connector to interface with Corsair’s upcoming Link monitoring and control system. As "Halo" modules, the Dominator GT looks and acts the part with high performance and an incredible cooling solution.

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G.Skill RipjawsZ:

This 16 GB quad-channel set of RipjawsZ is one of the higher speed bins in their X79 quad-channel line-up, with a rated speed of 2133 MHz. This set of memory delivered great performance throughout testing and was one of the better performing sets, especially when overclocked. Running at an overclocked 2414 MHz, this kit ran at the highest overall speed of all the modules. Not the largest increase over the baseline, but the highest speed overall. By loosening up the latencies and giving the modules a small boost in voltage, the modules responded well with increased bandwidth and memory performance. I think with even looser latencies and a better memory controller, there will still be some speed left in the modules – looks like it’s time for a 3930K! When I first laid eyes on these modules, the first thing I noticed was the new look of the RipjawsZ heat shield alongside the black PCB. The new design is taller, so it sits further out into the airstream to and from the CPU cooling solution. Although this allows the modules to be kept cool under load, you will still run into same interference issues when all of the DIMM slots are populated on the motherboard. There is not as much open space along the top of the heat shield as on the earlier design, but the modules do not seem to heat up above ambient air temps with a small amount of airflow over them. Backed by a lifetime warranty, G.Skill has these RipjawsZ modules prices aggressively at $159 for a 2133 MHz kit. Even with the low price of DRAM, this presents an enormous value for the end user looking to get increased memory performance.

 

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Mushkin RidgeBack Redline:

This quad-channel set of Redline Ridgeback modules from Mushkin delivers great performance and was usually in the top three out of six comparison kits throughout just about every test. As a 2133 MHz kit, it is already on the higher end of the binning spectrum and I was hoping to hit 2400 MHz with just a slight loosening of the latencies, but was unable to get there. That being said, this kit was able to reach 2364 MHz with voltage, bclock, and latency tuning to further cement its performance legacy as the prime kit to have. If spending the time to tweak memory or if unsure of how to manually set the modules in many of the complex uEFI BIOS implementations, there is no worry as Mushkin's quad-channel kits carry an XMP profile that will set them up with one click in the BIOS. The hand-testing process ensures that each kit will deliver consistent performance and live up to Mushkin's high quality standards. In case something goes wrong, Mushkin has a lifetime warranty on these modules, as well as their support forums for additional help. Mushkin's Ridgeback heat sink design is very beefy and allows the memory ICs to shed heat efficiently – more so than the Frostbyte design they have previously used. These modules are easily one of the heaviest in the comparison field, though that is not a bad thing in this case. The height of the modules will only cause concern with large CPU heat sinks when the DIMM slots closest to the CPU are populated. Keep in mind, this is not a problem exclusive to Mushkin, but one synonymous with all high performance memory equipped with tall cooling solutions. Currently priced at $209 from etailers, this kit carries a premium over the other 2133 MHz kit in this roundup. The heat sink package drives some of this upswing in cost but from a looks and cooling performance standpoint, the tradeoff is worth it. Once again, Mushkin offers a high quality kit that delivers performance and good looks – all in one package!

 

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Patriot Viper Extreme Division 4:

Earlier last year, I looked at a set of Division 2 modules and found that although they ran at stock settings, they just did not offer much up in the way of overclocking headroom. The Division 4 modules, on the other hand, jumped straight up to 2200+ MHz, simply by tweaking the primary timings and voltages. This was a complete turnaround in comparison to the earlier Sandy Bridge kits. While the Division 4 modules had the highest overall headroom in the comparison field, it is important to remember that your mileage may vary depending on the memory controller of your CPU and the speed binning of the modules. A speed bump of 600 MHz is pretty stout, even though it requires the timings to be loosened up considerably, though no more so than the rest of the field at 10-12-11-28. The stock speeds of 1600 MHz are slower than most of the comparison kits, while latencies of 8-9-8-24 are among the tightest. The Viper Extreme heat sinks are one of the most prominent features of this memory kit, with the extruded aluminum shell over a copper strip that runs across the memory ICs for effective shedding of heat generated by the 1.65 V and up that I put through them. This design builds off the original Viper series heat sinks AOC construction and combines it with the extruded shell used in the Sector 5 and Sector 7 modules from a couple years ago. In testing, these modules the heat sinks delivered cool temperatures and allowed for some spirited extra voltage tuning. As you might expect, clearance could get tight around the CPU cooling solution if all 8 DIMM slots are populated. The copper-colored labels and glimpses of copper through the black extruded aluminum heat sinks give these modules a unique look to go with their aggressive pricing of right around $119 for 16 GB of high performance memory. Good Looks, great headroom, excellent pricing, and a lifetime warranty from Patriot together on this quad-channel kit – simply great.

 

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