Mushkin XP3-15000 8-9-8-20 3x2GB Review
Reviewed by: ccokeman
Reviewed on: May 18, 2009
With the introduction of the Core i7 processors and X58 chipset, the availability of DDR3 memory modules in tri-channel kits has blossomed to speeds once thought impossible, considering the low voltage requirements of the Core i7 processor. When the i7 was first released, the warning about the voltage requirements was all over the place, and stated that memory voltages above 1.65 volts could cause irreparable harm to your CPU. The warning stickers are placed over the DIMM slots on each X58 motherboard, as well as being prominently displayed in the motherboard manual on the memory installation page. What this did was force memory manufacturers start looking for modules that would work with this restriction, so they do not offer a set of memory that would help you void your CPU warranty and ultimately expose themselves to liability concerns. Each manufacturer initially struggled to get high performance kits out for the launch of the Intel i7 processors, and as time has gone by (six months plus) the modules' speeds have crept upwards while the timings have tightened. Gone are the days when you needed 2.0 volts on a set of DDR3 memory to get to 2000MHz. Currently, there are sets available that push the boundaries of what can be expected with the 1.65 volt specification, with some kits running 2133MHz or higher. These modules come with a premium price tag, though.
Mushkin is one of the premiere memory manufacturers that deliver a high quality product that usually exceeds expectations, and the XP3-15000 3x2GB Tri-Channel kit should be no exception. With rated timings of 8-9-8-24 at 1866MHz and 1.65 volts, these modules should provide increased performance in applications where enhanced memory bandwidth allows increased performance. Mushkin's slogan is "Get More", and if past performance is an indicator, then yes we should get more - when it comes to performance and overclocking overhead. Let's see just how much "more" we get!
Mushkin's modules come in a standard retail clamshell that is easy to open, as the edges do not have the usual heat sealed edges. From the front, the XP3-15000 modules are the first thing you see, with the Mushkin logo as a backdrop. The phrase "Get More" is prominently displayed on the top left corner. The rear view contains a brief list of instructions, as well as a troubleshooting guide you can use as a quick reference if you happen to have problems while installing the modules.
The Frostbyte heatspreaders used on this set of memory are black, signifying that these modules fall in the XP, or Extreme Performance, lineup. The specifications of the modules are on a sticker on each of the sticks. The part number for these modules is 998687. This part number equates to the XP3-15000 3x2GB triple-channel kit of modules with rated timings of 8-9-8-24 at 1866MHz using 1.65 volts, the maximum safe specification for the Core i7 processor. Cooling for the Mushkin modules is carried out by the Frostbyte heatspreaders. This is a flow-through design that does help cool the modules while providing a sleek look to them. They don't have quite the cooling ability of the "Ascent" design, but we are not running 2.0+ volts through the modules either.
Let's get the modules installed and see if the XP3-15000 does indeed deliver "more!"
To find out just how well a product performs, you have to test it in a real world environment so that you don't just blindly believe what the manufacturer says the product will do. Some are right on the money, while others fall somewhat short. On the other hand, there are products that exceed the manufacturer's specifications and will perform at a higher level than what the specifications lead you to believe. To find out what kind of performance Mushkin's XP3-15000 modules deliver, I will be running them through the OverclockersClub suite of benchmarks to see how the performance compares to that of modules at both the rated 1866MHz, as well as some lower rated modules running at 1800MHz as a comparison.
- CPU: Intel Core i7 920
- Motherboard: MSI X58 Eclipse
- Memory: Mushkin XP3-15000 8-9-8-24
- Video Card(s): Nvidia GTX 260-216
- Power Supply: Mushkin 800 watt Modular Power Supply
- Hard Drive: Seagate 1 TB 7200.11 SATA
- Optical Drive: Asus DVD-R
- OS: Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit SP1
- Comparison Module #1: OCZ DDR3-12800 Platinum 3x2GB 7-7-7-24
- Comparison Module #2: Mushkin HP3-12800 3x2GB 9-9-9-24
- Comparison Module #3: Patriot Viper Series DDR3-10666 3x2GB 9-9-9-24
- Comparison Module #4 Walton Chaintech Apogee GT 3x2GB DDR3
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.
- Processor: Intel Core i7 920 167x20 = 3348MHz
- Memory: Mushkin XP3-15000 8-9-8-24 DDR3 2021MHz
Trying to get over the 2000MHz mark was an exercise in futility with the first i7 920 and motherboard I used. Once I moved to a second CPU and motherboard, I was able to eclipse the 2000MHz barrier with the Mushkin XP3-15000 memory, at its rated timings of 8-9-8-24. This, of course, required adjusting the CPU voltage, the memory voltage, subtimings and most importantly, the QPI - or Integrated Memory Controller - voltage. The specifications call for a vDIMM of 1.65v and QPI volts of 1.475v for operation at 1866MHZ with latencies of 8-9-8-24. With these voltage settings, the modules were rock stable, even when tightening the timings to 7-8-7-24; just a slight increase in the memory voltage to 1.75v was required for stability. This is above the specification of 1.65v set by Intel, but the memory speed is above what most people run as well. By dropping the memory speed to just over 1600MHz, the timings were tightened up to 6-7-6-18. At this level I was able to drop the voltage to the modules to 1.70v, with a reduction in the voltage to the memory controller as well. Ultimately, the highest stable point I could reach was 2021MHz at 8-9-8-24 with 1.84 volts to the modules, and 1.665v to the memory controller; both of these voltages are well above what some would call "unsafe" for the life of your hardware. But hey, this isn't computing for the safe, now is it? Nope! Overclocking takes additional volts to most parts of the system, it's just what level of safe are you willing to live with?
The benchmarks used in this review include the following:
- CPU-Z Version 1.49
- Windows Task Manager
- PCMark Vantage
- SiSoft Sandra 2009
- Left 4 Dead
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.
While the XP3-15000 set from Mushkin did not produce the highest suite score in PCMark Vantage, they did, however, blow away the rest of the test modules in the memory test. In the Sandra testing, it was much of the same. The Mushkin XP3-15000 outperformed all of the comparison modules at stock settings. When overclocked, the modules performed even better.
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. You goal is to make it to a rescue point, all the 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 zombie. These zombies are quick and work with the pack mentality. Your job: survival!
- Anti-Aliasing: x0
- Anisotropic Filtering: x2
- Game Settings: High
- VSync: Off
The Mushkin XP3-15000 performed best at the 1280x1024 and 1680x1050 resolutions. In the two mid-resolutions, the Mushkin modules were clearly superior, while at 1920x1200 the video card starts to become the limiting factor for performance, with all five memory sets within three frames per second.
With the performance delivered by the Mushkin XP3-15000 modules, I would have to say that yes, you do "Get More." This set of modules came out on top in all but two tests; those being the suite score on PCMark Vantage, and the 1024x768 test in Left 4 Dead. The tests where Mushkin did come out on top, their sticks were clearly superior. In the Sandra testing, the modules easily outperformed the Chaintech modules in all four tests. The stock timings on these modules are set at 8-9-8-24, and need 1.65 volts to get there. With just an increase in vDIMM to 1.70v, these modules were capable of running tighter timings of 7-8-7-24 1T with no other changes needed. The maximum overclock on the modules was 2021MHz at 8-9-8-24, while at 7-8-7-24 I was able to pull out 1949MHz. Both of these results needed voltage increases much higher than the level required to run at 1866MHz, with QPI voltage up to 1.66v and memory voltage to 1.84v to get there. While some might consider this the death zone, so far I have not killed any of my hardware or had it degrade from voltages that are not "every day" voltages. Even running at 1.84 volts, the Frostbyte heatspreaders were literally cool to the touch and did the job they were designed to do quite effectively. While nowhere near scientific, the fingers don't lie about temperatures yet. Right now, these modules can be had for a shade under $200 at Mushkin's online store. Not bad when you consider the performance they deliver. Mushkin has been a player in the performance memory market for years now, and have consistently delivered modules that look as good as they perform. This set is no different! Good looks, great price, excellent performance and it all really boils down to the motto on the packaging of every set of Mushkin modules. Get More! I did!
- Tighter than stock timings possible
- Cool running
- Excellent performance
- 2000MHz capable
- High volts for max clocks