Geil Black Dragon DDR3 Gaming Series PC3 12800 2x2GB Review

ccokeman - 2009-11-30 15:29:36 in Memory
Category: Memory
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: December 14, 2009
Price: $107


The introduction of Intel's Nehalem architecture opened up a new era for high performance DDR3 memory. No longer would voltages of 2.0v and higher be acceptable for use with its latest flagship processors. The voltage recommendation from Intel was 1.65v maximum. This had memory manufacturers scrambling to find compatible ICs that would work at the same speeds with the lower voltage specification. Fast forward to September 2009 and Intel dropped the mainstream version of its Nehalem architecture, the socket 1156 Core i5 and I7 8 series processors and P55 equipped motherboards. While the flagship 9 series made use of a triple channel memory controller, the mainstream variant was limited to a dual channel setup with the same voltage constraints to keep the integrated memory controller happy. That leads us to what I will be looking at today, a dual channel set of memory from Geil. The Black Dragon PC3 12800 2x2GB gaming series modules are rated to run at latencies of 8-8-8-28 using just 1.6 volts. Kind of right around where many performance modules are running these days. What's different about these modules is that they have been run through Geil's Die-Hard Burn process to ensure that these modules can perform in even extreme conditions. Let's take a look and see how well they perform.

Closer Look:

The Geil Black Dragon modules come in a retail package that is gold themed and carries the image of a dragon on the front. This set of modules is part of the DDR3 Gaming series and has been subjected to Geil's in house DBT process that enhances the lifespan of the modules.The rear facade has a couple of windows so you can see the modules and the specifications sticker. The back also lists the part number and latencies. The DBT logo is again on the lower side of the panel with the slogan "Tough on Performance Tougher on Reliability."











The modules are sealed in a clamshell blister pack and come with a small caution label that talks about the SPD (Serial Presence Detect) settings that are programmed on the modules' SPD chips and how they may differ from the rated timings. The voltage part of the label educates the consumer on following the Geil recommended voltages and where you can find the rated voltage.



The Black Dragon Modules are part of Geil's DDR3 Gaming series of memory. These modules are available in a variety of speed and latency combinations. This set is rated at DDR3 1600MHz (PC3-12800) and are shipped with timings of 8-8-8-28 at 1.6 volts. The modules use a black PCB that has the outline of a set of the dragon's eyes in gold. The modules have a red LED at each corner that gives the modules a little bit of flash on top of the gold and black theme. Once installed, it's easy to see where the modules are. These LEDs are lit full time and do not flash with activity like Crucial's Ballistix Tracer lineup.




With the modules installed it's time to see if the dragon has teeth!




All information courtesy of Geil @


Many people believe that memory modules all perform the same, but this is not true. Every module overclocks and performs differently. You want to get the best for your money and there are many ways to test what memory performs best. To test the Geil Black Dragon Gaming series modules, I will be running them through the OverclockersClub suite of benchmarks to see how the performance compares to that of modules that are rated at both a lower and higher rated speed, but with similar timings of 8-8-8; these modules run at 8-8-8-28 at 1600MHz. The CPU is run at a clock speed of 200 x 16 on the Patriot modules, while the Corsair and Kingston modules are run with the CPU at 160 x 20 with the memory multiplier of 10 to keep the modules at their rated 1600MHz speed. For the overclocking test, I will use a combination of voltages and increasing the bclock on the CPU to increase the clock speed of the OCZ XMP modules to see if they are capable of reaching higher speeds.

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.


Overclocked settings:

Overclocking these modules on the ASUS Maximus III Formula and P7P55D Premium proved fruitless. By fruitless I mean not by a single MHz higher, regardless of timings or voltages, would they budge from the rated 1600MHz speed. Kind of strange considering the fact that I could tighten up the timings at 1600MHz to 7-8-7-20 with a slight bump in voltage. This offered a small jump in performance that really was only measurable in the synthetic benchmarks. Thinking there had to be something wrong I swapped the modules out into my X58 platform and promptly took them up to just over 1900MHz with little effort. I updated the BIOS on the Max III (1105) and P7P55D Premium (1102) to the latest publicly available BIOSes and still could not get them above the 1600MHz threshold. I had a similar problem on the Gigabyte P55UD6 as well. All of these boards are on the qualified vendor list of supported motherboards so it's a shame to see these modules not able to push above the 1600MHz threshold on several P55 boards, the board and chipset these modules are designed to be run on. Get a board without a compatibility problem though and they rocket right on up to almost 2000MHz.



The benchmarks used in this review include the following:



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.
















SiSoftware Sandra 2009 SP2: 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.






The Black Dragon modules from Geil delivered a higher score in the PCMark Vantage memory testing than the other modules. The Sandra testing shows that the modules deliver performance right along the average for this speed and latency.


Left 4 Dead is a new release from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. Your goal is to make it to a rescue point, all while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie "I Am Legend" comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombies. These zombies are quick and work with pack mentality. You have but one job: survival!














The Geil modules delivered performance that is on par with the other modules, as was expected. The modules did not contribute to an FPS increase nor did they show a decrease.


The Geil Black Dragon Gaming series memory is a good looking set of memory with a black and gold theme that goes hand in hand with some of the best looking motherboards out there. However, good looks can only take you so far. Performance is the other half of the equation. One thing you will notice right away is that the modules do not have a heatspreader on them to help dissipate heat from the memory ICs when cranking up the volts. Though with a voltage specification of 1.60 volts, if used at the rated speed, timing and voltage, do you really need them? Even so, the Black Dragon modules are tested with Geil's Die Hard Burn in Technology that takes up to 1000 modules and subjects them to a torture test at temperatures up to 100 degrees Celsius. So if heat is gonna kill them they have most likely gone through a tougher test than the end user will ever put them through. Hence the slogan on the packaging,"Tough on Performance Tougher on Reliability." When it came to performance, the one test that the Black Dragon Modules showed an advantage was PCMark Vantage, where the memory score eclipsed that of the other modules tested. The rest of the testing showed performance right where it should be by comparison. The one beef I have with this set is that the modules would not budge above the rated 1600MHz threshold on two P55 boards that are on the qualified motherboard list. I updated the BIOS on both boards to the latest publicly available BIOS and still no luck in overclocking the modules. I figured I had seen this before on another P55 board so I swapped the modules to my X58 based MSI Eclipse SLI board (also on the QML) and was able to run the Black Dragon modules all the way up to 1934MHz (967MHz), a significant improvement with the voltage kept at 1.65v and bumping the timings up to 9-9-9-28, a much better result. The Black Dragon modules offer good looks, flashy LEDs, a lifetime warranty and some nice overclocking with a price that is pretty reasonable at $107.