Crucial Ballistix Tracer 2x2GB DDR3 10666 Review

ccokeman - 2008-10-15 22:40:41 in Memory
Category: Memory
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: November 19, 2008
Price: $199.99

Introduction:

There was a time in the not to distant past where the thought of needing even 256Mb of system memory was unheard of. I remember those days like they were yesterday (It just means I'm old...er). Playing Command and Conquer and enjoying it with my 128MB of system memory. Fast forward to the present! Now it seems that even four gigabytes is on the verge of not being enough to handle tasks on today's fastest systems. Just recently Intel brought out the X58 chipset that supports system memory in a tri channel configuration to keep the latest Intel Core I7 processors fed. Tri channel means for most people at least 3 gigabytes of memory or more. Since a 32 bit operating system can only address just over 3GB of memory many wonder if they need the additional memory. The vast majority of consumers will never know the difference, Some even swear that their system is smoother with more memory even if the OS cannot use it. While that is really subjective it is something that can be sensed. To get around this 3 gigabyte limitation you can always install a 64 bit operating system to make sure you officially get the benefit of your four gigabyte ram purchase.

Raise your hand if you have not heard of Crucial! No hands! Good! That means you all are aware of the Ballistix line of memory modules from Crucial. These modules are part of the high performance lineup from Crucial. So what makes the Ballistix Tracers a little more special than the standard Ballistix? Well for one the black and silver heatspreaders point to the fact that they are different but that's not all. The Tracers get the name from the fact that these modules feature some added "Bling" in the form of a series of LEDs along the top and bottom of the modules. Blue along the bottom and a series of red and green LED's that flash on and off as the memory is being accessed creating a pretty vivid light show inside your chassis. Not only do you get a set of high performance memory but a light show to make you the envy of your Lan party gaming partners. Lets take a look and see if the Ballistix Tracers offer more than just a light show.

Closer Look:

The Ballistix Tracer modules arrive in two individual plastic containers with a wrap that features a window to view the modules on the front with information about the Ballistix lineup on the rear. A fairly simple package compared to some companies who go all out on the package and insert a product that does not perform to the expectation of the package. Pulling the modules from the sleeve you can get the full view of the Ballistix modules. Black and silver on the heatspreader on a black PCB makes for a good looking module.

 

 

 

 

This set of Crucial Ballistix Tracer modules are rated at DDR3 10600 or 1333MHz with latencies of 6-6-6-20 and need 1.8 volts to run at this speed. Running at .30 volts above the JEDEC specification means there will be some additional heat to control. All the rage right now seems to be getting the biggest gnarliest heat spreader you can on the modules when putting some volts to them. Crucial has not gone this route but have chosen to use the thin standard heatspreader to effectively deal with the thermal loads generated by the Tracer modules.

 

 

The Tracer lineup gets its name from the series of LEDs that light the modules up when in use. The tops flash green and red when the memory is being accesed while across the bottom there are Blue LEDs to light the DIMM socket area. This creates quite a light show that definitely will wow your friends when they see the modules in action.

 

 

Lets see what crucial has given us for performance with theses modules!

 

Specifications:

Module Size
4 Gigabyte Kit
Package
Ballistix Tracer 240 pin Dimm with LED
Specs
DDR3 –PC3-10600
Latencies
6-6-6-20
Voltage
1.8
Module size
256Megx64

 

Features:

 

All information on this page is courtesy of Crucial@http://www.crucial.com/store/partspecs.aspx?IMODULE=BL2KIT25664TA1336

Testing:

When it comes time to purchase your new memory modules, most people look to review sites to get a good idea on the performance capabilities of the memory they want to buy. Why, you ask? So they don't have to go through the endless buy it and return or sell it routine to find the set of their dreams. Hey we do it for you! How? By testing the memory with a series of benchmarks that show some of the capabilities of the system memory. Synthetic benchmarks as well as real gameplay are used to show the capabilities. Also, there are comparisons to other performance modules just so that this is not a one-sided affair. That just would not do and offers up only the knowledge of what the featured product can do.

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.

 

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

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

Overclocking memory on an Nvidia chipset based motherboard allows the user to overclock the memory independently from the processors frontside bus speed. But doing this causes a performance "Hit". To get the most from the modules and the entire system running the processor and memory Linked and Synced is the way to a massive difference in the performance of the system. Of course this is the more difficult path to choose. A quad core processor ran linked and synced with the memory is hard on the northbridge, but this is the method I will employ to overclock these Crucial Ballistix modules. Taking the easy way out would be using a dual core CPU to ease the burden on the northbridge and push for a higher speed. Of course your mileage may vary. Pushing the modules to the 860MHz plateau required a loosening of the subtimings from 6-6-6 to 8-8-8 and a slight increase in the voltage supplied to the dimms, moving up to 1.9 volts from the stock 1.8 volts. There was not a whole lot of drama in getting to the 800MHz level. It took a reduction of the timings to 8-7-7. Going further required an increase in the voltage to the modules and further loosening of the subtimings. The final clock speed linked and synced was 860 MHz. This is where the overclocked scores were run for this review.

 

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. A comparison will be made of the performance at DDR3 1333 for a comparison point, and the highest achievable speed for the Crucial Ballistix PC3 10600 2x2GB kit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

In this series of benchmarks the Ballistix Tracers finish ahead of the comparison modules in 4 out of the six tests and had comparable results in the last two(memory bandwidth).

 

Testing:

Company of Heroes is a real time strategy game set during World War II. The object is to occupy and control the ground you capture, while forcing the opponents to capitulate. We will use the in-game performance test to measure the performance of the system.

 

The settings used in this test are listed below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher is Better

 

At 1024x768 the testing showed reduced performance against some of the 2x1GB kits. at 1280x1024 and above the scores indicate a higher level of performance in comparison to the othe modules.

 

Conclusion:

That time in the past where the need for system memory of less than a gigabyte has come and gone and is but a distant memory. Welcome to the now where operating systems can make use of 4 gigabytes or more of system memory. The Crucial Ballistix Tracer DDR3 PC3 10600 modules deliver performance with a little extra bling for the guys and gals who like to show off the innards of their system. In my testing I found the Crucial modules superior to all of the modules I have tested to date. The only weak spot was the memory bandwidth and 1024x768 gaming score, this was however a small enough difference that in day to day operation you would never see at the performance differential. The tight timings do help with the performance of these modules. Even though some of the comparison modules are running tighter timings they come close but do not deliver the same performance. When it came time to overclock the modules they yielded almost another 200MHz on top of the 666MHz stock speeds. That folks is a 30 percent increase in clock speed. To get there required loosening the timings but the modules still contributed heavily to the significant improvement in performance. The flashing LEDs are actually a little mesmerizing when you are tired but the blue LEDs to light the dimm sockets just takes a little of the luster away from the flashing green and red LEDs on the top of the modules. At 1.9 volts the heatspreaders really never even got warm to the touch. Coming in at $199 dollars the pricing is comparable to other high performance DDR3 kits. But most of them don't come as a cas 6 set. These Ballistix Tracer Modules from Crucial offer excellent performance, good looks and the ability to push the clock speeds to get that last level of performance from your system.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: