OCZ PC3-17000 Flex EX 12GB Review
Reviewed by: ccokeman
Reviewed on: October 12, 2010
Finding the right system memory for your high-end build can seem like a daunting task. There is a wealth of information out on the Internet about what works best with what system and where to find it. There are many memory companies out there making some really stunning products that work to fill every consumers demand from the mild to the wild, including your basic value memory all the way to the high-end limited production set, equipped with the flavor of the week memory IC. It's all out there.
OCZ is one company that does cater to the enthusiast, offering a set of memory to fill each and every price point. Their FLEX XLC line is one that has been out and fits the criteria of being an enthusiast grade product just based on its design and intended use. This series of memory is put together for the high-end user that uses a liquid cooling solution to cool the seemingly ever increasing thermal loads in these systems.
Water cooling is a niche market that is quickly finding more and more people adopting this cooling strategy as a way to cool that high-end system without the noise factor normally associated with a high-end air cooled system.
Now, in the past, this market was made up of enthusiasts who used what they had available and used a bit of ingenuity to make a solution that worked and found ways to cool down everything from the CPU to the hard drives and power supply. Liquid cooling the memory was a logical progression and one made by OCZ several years back. This new series from OCZ features a new, slimmer heat sink design and comes in capacities from 4GB up to 12GB ranging in speeds from 1600MHz to 2400MHz in both dual and triple channel kits optimized for Intel's P55 and X58 chipsets. This set from OCZ is rated at PC3-17000 or 2133MHz and is 12GB in size and is currently the fastest 12GB kit in the Flex XLC lineup. Even though this set is meant to be incorporated into a liquid cooled loop, it still carries a lifetime warranty, so you have some piece of mind when it comes time to put them in the loop.
Instead of the traditional blister pack that you normally see memory modules sold in, OCZ has put this set into a full retail box. The front panel has several windows that show off the OCZ Flex EX modules illustrating their dual cooling capabilities. The back panel of the package lists the advantages of using OCZ memory and how this set is deigned to work with and take full advantage of Intel's Core i7 architecture and goes through a "sophisticated binning process". Also mentioned is the incredible customer support OCZ offers to their customers and the enthusiast community, plus a slew of awards that OCZ has earned with their products that include not only system memory, but flash and solid state drives. Further down is an illustration of how the large fin array and liquid injection system cool the memory IC's on this set of memory.
You have to package the modules in something that limits movement in transit to keep the modules alive. Inside the box are two plastic clamshells that hold the modules securely in place so they do not come into contact with another module. There are a total of three modules in this kit.
This set of modules from OCZ are part of the Flex XLC lineup. This series of modules feature heat spreaders that can be used with one of two cooling methods: air, by way of the large aluminum fin array, or with a water cooled setup, using OCZ's Liquid Injection system. Of course, to get the maximum cooling potential you can add a fan blowing over the modules for maximum heat dissipation. The information on the decal shows this triple channel set of modules carries part number OCZ3FXE2133LV12GK and consists of three 4GB modules for a total capacity of 12GB. This set is rated to run at PC3 17000 or 2133MHz speeds using latencies of 10-10-10-30 at the Intel maximum specified voltage of 1.65v.
The cooling solution used on this set of Flex XLC modules consists of large aluminum bodies over the memory IC's that have a dual purpose design allowing the modules to be used both passively and or water cooled by way of the OCZ Liquid Injection system. The large fin array is attached to the main heat sink body. the modules have two barbed fittings so that the memory can be incorporated into your water cooling system. Inside the heat sink are channels that the liquid passes through that are located right above the memory IC's. If you have seen the earlier revisions of this design, you can see that this latest design is thinner, allowing more modules to be used in a system so that increasing your memory capacity is no longer limited by the size of the cooling solution used on these modules. The diagram of the mechanics of the Liquid Injection system is courtesy of OCZ and illustrates how this cooling solution is used and how the heat dissipation happens.
This set of modules from OCZ not only looks good, but is binned for use at higher speeds, so your overclock is not limited by the system memory. I'm not sure how this set will handle and what kind of benefit we will see in the testing, but let's take a look and see just what this set has to offer in terms of performance. Of course, not without first showing the obligatory beauty shot!
- 2133MHz DDR3
- CL 10-10-10-30
- Available in 12GB (3x4GB) Triple Channel Kits
- OCZ Lifetime Warranty
- 1.65 Volts
- 240 Pin DIMM
- 2 x1/8" ID (inner diameter) barbs
- Flex EX heatsink
- Part Number 12GB Triple Channel (3x4GB) - OCZ3FXE2133LV12GK
All information courtesy of OCZ @ http://www.ocztechnology.com/products/desktop-memory/ddr3/enthusiasts/flex-xlc-series/triple-channel-ddr3--small----optimized-for-intel---core----i7-processor---intel---x58-express-chipset/ocz-ddr3-pc3-17000-flex-ex-12gb-low-voltage-triple-channel.html
This set of OCZ memory is the first 12GB set of modules I will be testing. Testing this 12GB set of water cooled modules from OCZ, the the Flex EX PC3 17000 2133MHz set of modules, will require the use of a small overclock to get to the memory to the rated speeds. To keep the CPU close to its 2.66GHz clock speed, I will be reducing the clock multiplier and raising the bclock to get the 2133MHz rated speed with latencies of 10-10-10-30. The testing will include both stock and overclocked settings to see just how much headroom this set of modules has. Each set of modules is tested in this method to keep the CPU as close to the 2.66GHz default speed as possible, while maximizing the memory speed. The voltages used will be all the available options in the BIOS to reach the maximum clock speed while using the default 1.65v for the stock testing. For the overclocked testing, all bets are off. The test system is listed below and was used for each of the modules tested with a fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64 bit.
- Processor: Intel Core I7 920
- Cooling: Air:Noctua NH-U12P SE 1366
- Motherboard: MSI X58 Eclipse SLI
- Memory: OCZ Flex EX PC3 17000 10-10-10-30
- Video Card(s): XFX HD 5870 1GB
- Power Supply: Mushkin 1000 watt Joule Modular power supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 1TB SATA
- Optical Drive: NEC DV5700
- OS: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
- Case: Thermaltake Armor +
- Comparison Module #1: Mushkin Redline 996805 6-8-6-24 1600MHz
- Comparison Module #2: G.Skill Pi Series 7-8-7-24 1600MHz
- Comparison Module #3: Mushkin 998687 8-9-8-24 1866MHz
- Comparison Module #4: Corsair Dominator TR3X6G1600C8D 8-8-8-24 1600MHz
- Comparison Module #5: Kingston HyperX T1 9-9-9-27 1600MHz
- Comparison Module #6: Mushkin Blackline 998677B 7-7-7-20 1333MHz
- Comparison Module #7: Patriot Viper II Sector 7 9-9-9-27 1800MHz
- Comparison Module #8 Kingston HyperX H2O PC3 16000 9-10-9-27
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
- Memory: OCZ Flex EX 12GB 10-10-10-30 2214Mhz
Running 12GB of memory at 2133MHz was something I figured would be a pretty tough chore and hard for the IMC on my 920 to do, but was pleasantly surprised to see that I was able to do this quite easily. However, it did take a bit of trial and error setting the QPI voltage to allow it to happen. I had to go to 1.55v to get stable at the 2133MHz stock speeds. Higher than I would like to run but it's what it took to get there. Going higher required me to bump the QPI volts and the memory voltage up to up another few notches until I reached the uncore limit on my chip on air right at about 4400MHz, while reaching 2214MHz on the memory. The bad thing is I feel there is more left in this set. Loosening the sub-timings further did not help to increase the clock speeds any higher. By tightening the timings to 8-9-8-27 I was able to run these modules comfortably at just over 2000MHz by increasing the voltage to the modules to 1.74v to get me prime stable at 2022MHz. Cas 7 could be done up to just over 1900MHz without insane voltages but if you buy a set of modules rated for 2133MHz, you do at least want to run them at that speed. Either air or water cooling this 12GB set of modules from OCZ should get you to at least a 220 bclock on your combo depending on your memory controller. Some are much stronger than others as shown by the results I have gotten with this chip. Time to start looking for a better CPU or switch up to the 980X, it looks like.
The maximum memory speed for each set of modules when overclocked is a measure 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:
- CPU-Z Version 1.54
- Windows Task Manager
- PCMark Vantage
- Geekbench 2.1
- Super Pi 1.5
- SiSoft Sandra 2010
- Batman Arkham Asylum
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 PCmark Vantage testing shows that the test is not heavily influenced by the system memory capacity, but by the latencies and speed of the memory. In the Sandra testing the faster speed of the modules help them outperform the comparison field in the baseline testing, but the comparison field catches up when overclocked. The OCZ Flex EX set does deliver the highest memory bandwidth in the testing both stock and overclocked.
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.
In the Geekbench testing the overall scores do not reflect the higher scoring in the memory tests where the OCZ Flex EX kits delivered the highest results. In the Super Pi Testing the OCZ kit delivered the fastest completion time of the modules tested.
Batman: Arkham Asylum is a game that brings together two bitter foes, The Joker and Batman. The Joker Has taken over Arkham Asylum, Gotham's home for the criminally insane. Your task is to rein the Joker back in and restore order. This game makes use of PhysX technology to create a rich environment for you to ply your trade.
- Global settings = Low
- Ambient Occlusion = off
- Resolutions 800x600, 1024x768, 1280x1024
The additional capacity and looser timings did not help increase performance above that of some of the 6GB sets with tighter timings.
When I first saw this set of modules I was impressed with how well they were built but had to wonder just how well they would perform and even whether I could get them up to the rated speeds. I found that getting to 2133MHz was no problem at all at the rated timings and voltages requirements. This does mean you will have to work the voltages on your system to reach this level, specifically increasing the QPI voltage to allow the memory controller on your CPU to handle 12GB of memory at speeds above 2100MHz.
When it came to overclocking this set of memory I hit roughly the same walls I hit with the Kingston HyperX H20 set OCC just looked at. At right around 2200Mhz, the memory controller on my poor tetest-bed Core i7 920 just would not give me any more clock speed and would start dropping channels. By lowering the clock speed, I was able to tighten up the sub-timings to get the modules to run at Cas 8 at just over 2000MHz and Cas 7 at just over 1900MHz, if you choose to run this set at a lower speeds. But then again this is a kit meant to run at 2133MHz, so you will want to get what you pay for and use them at the rated speed.
I did find that running 12GB of system memory at this speed is possible without totally insane voltages. Not to say it does not require some tweaking, as it does to get there. If you find you need to really hit the memory voltage to get to your overclocking goals, you have the luxury of knowing that keeping your modules cool is easy enough to do by incorporating them into your liquid cooling loop or putting a fan right above the modules to take advantage of the large fin array. These cooling methods are not mutually exclusive and you reach the maximum cooling potential when using both cooling methods.
Now, in most of our benchmarks, I really did not see a game-changing increase in performance when you keep the CPU at close to its rated speeds while running the modules at the rated speeds and higher. This is something that really is the expectation, as gaming and some synthetic benchmarks are really not going to show where this much memory has an impact. Programs that chew up large quantities of system memory, such as Photoshop, really can show the value of this kind of capacity. With 2133MHz memory, you will need at least a 213Mhz bclock to get to the point where you can start maximizing the memory speeds with high bclock overclocking.
Priced at just over 500 bucks, this set of memory is not cheap. Even so, the pricing for a trio of 4GB modules is pretty steep when compared to a 6GB set, but when you double capacity and compare apples to apples, the costs comparison picture looks a bit more rosy. 12GB of performance memory comes with a hefty price tag no matter how you add it up - whether it's 6 x 2GB or 3 x 4GB.
There was a time in the not so distant past when 1GB of memory was enough to get the job done. With 64 bit operating systems that can take advantage of larger capacities of memory, those days are over. Is 12GB of memory overkill at this point for the average user that builds a high-end rig for gaming? Probably so, but in a multi-purpose build for video rendering or large file sizes in Photshop, too much is never enough. Evidence enough for me, is viewing the memory usage on my brother's Core i7 rig when working with huge files to show the need for this kind of memory kit.
OCZ has put together this Flex EX 12GB kit to meet the needs of the extreme user. This set from OCZ has rugged good looks, awesome cooling capabilities and comes with a lifetime warranty. If 12 gigabytes of memory is too much for your needs or budget, OCZ does offer a 6GB kit with the same great feature set in a 1600Mhz kit, of course with tighter timings and a lower price point.
- Dual cooling capability
- High speeds
- Good looks
- Lifetime warranty
- Ability to run tighter timings