Corsair Dominator GT TW3X1600C6GT Memory Review
Reviewed by: ajmatson
Reviewed on: July 26, 2009
As processor speeds keep increasing to satisfy our hungry enthusiast cravings, memory needs to keep up in order for us to remain strong and competitive. Memory manufacturers have been spending time and money researching how to squeeze every bit of juice out of its modules and chips to give us the best performance available. When it comes to memory, there are two things you need to take into consideration when making your selection. The first one is the speed that the memory operates at and the data rate, such as DDR3-1333. The faster the speed, the better chance for increased memory bandwidth and overall performance. In addition to the speed of the modules, a user needs to take into account the latencies. You can have the fastest set of memory, but if your latencies are outrageously high then your bandwidth might suffer more than slower speeds and tighter timings. One of the sets that pushes boundaries to set the limits on speed and latency for AMD-based DDR3 systems is Corsair with its Dominator GT TW3X1600C6GT set of memory, designed to be optimized for AMD's Phenom-based systems. This kit is an ultra low latency kit with two matched modules that deliver speed and performance to the Phenom crowd (a crowd has been overlooked in the enthusiast market for a awhile, but are now making a comeback). This Dominator GT set runs at speeds of 1600MHz for those AM3 boards that can handle 1600MHz overclocked, such as the ASUS Crosshair III Formula and the Gigabyte GA-MA790FXT-UD5P motherboards, with ultra low latencies of 6-6-6-18 at 1.65v for blistering performance on your new platform.
The modules we received came directly from the Corsair testing center after being run through the company's quality control process. To secure the contents during shipping, each module was placed in its own package to prevent damage. Corsair uses a black scheme with red or Rosso accents, as Corsair calls it. The heatspreaders are made of a thick aluminum with extruded siding designed to dissipate the heat quickly and evenly across the modules. Corsair calls this design DHX for Dual-path Heat Xchange. The reason it is a dual-path design is that not only are the chips cooled by the heatspreader attached to them on the outside of the chip, but the heatspreader is also attached to the PCB, giving heat another pathway out.
Included with the Dominator GT Phenom series is the signature Dominator Airflow fan, designed to keep your modules nice and cool when pushing the speeds to the breaking point. The Dominator GT series features the new design with the black heatspreader and red fins. The fins can be removed and you can either add larger fins or you can use the new Corsair CWCDHX Hydro H30 water cooling block or the Corsair CWCDHXTEC Ice T30 sub-ambient TEC cooling subsystem to cool your modules to a whole new level (hopefully helping you reach overclocked speeds that were not obtainable before). The fans that make up the Dominator Airflow are comprised of two larger fans than what the previous revision had, which run at a bit slower speeds. This allows more cool air to flow over the memory. The fans have no unique markings on them other then the Corsair stickers, so I could not track down any specific information on them.
Now that everything is out of the box, let's move on to the testing.
Memory Fins and Airflow Fan
- Two matched 2GB modules for use in high performance Phenom-based DDR3 systems
- Ultra-low 6-6-6-18 latency
- Dominator GT with rosso corso accents
- Includes Airflow fan for increased cooling performance
Now we get to the testing phase. Will the ultra low latencies make a difference in the performance of the memory running at 1600MHz? To test this set and see if the latencies make a huge difference, I will be running a series of benchmarks designed to push the memory and show its performance. I will be comparing this set of memory against two other 4GB sets running at 1600Mhz with their stock latencies. One set is the Corsair XMS3 DHX series, which is the little brother to the Dominator GT, and the second set is the OCZ Spec Ops Urban Elite, which is designed for gamers. All hardware will be run at their stock speeds, timings, and latencies unless otherwise noted to keep any variables from interfering with the scores.
- Processor(s): AMD Phenom II X4 955
- Motherboard: ASUS Crosshair III Formula
- Memory: Corsair Dominator GT 2x2GB DDR3-1600MHz 6-6-6-18
- Video Card : NVIDIA GTX 260 (216)
- Power Supply: Mushkin 800w Modular Power Supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 7200.11 750GB SATA w/ 32MB Cache
- Optical Drive: Lite-On 8x DVD+/-RW
- OS: Windows Vista Ultimate Edition
- Comparison Module #1: OCZ Spec Ops Urban Elite DDR3 2x2GB 1600MHz 8-8-8-24
- Comparison Module #2: Corsair XMS3 DHX 2x2GB DDR3-1600MHz 9-9-9-24
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: AMD Phenom II X4 955 @ 215x16 = 3440MHz
- Memory: Corsair Dominator GT @ 6-6-6-18 DDR3 1720MHz
Overclocking the Dominator GT memory was tricky. I could get close to 2000MHz, however I had to really loosen the timings to the point that the bandwidth suffered a lot. It would not run anything stable at less than 9-9-9-22 timings and that was a big jump from the stock settings. So I took a different approach and left the timings at 6-6-6-18, pushing the reference clock up a little at a time until I could not boot and pass memtest86+ without any errors. I was at a wall at 215MHz above the reference clock even when I pushed the voltage of the Dominator GT set up a bit. When I ran some tests, it was stable and performed a lot better than when the timings were loosened with the higher speed. So for the overclocking tests, I will be running the Dominator GT set at 1720MHz with latencies of 6-6-6-18.
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 Latency, and Memory Bandwidth. Higher is better in all tests, except for Memory Latency, where lower is better.
For PCMark Vantage in the Total Score run, the Dominator GT was the best by a hair. However, in the Memory Score test, the Dominator GT was in the middle of the pack, 20 points behind the XMS3 DHX set. For the Sandra tests, the Corsair Dominator GT won in two of the four tests and tied with the other two sets on one test.
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!
- Anti-Aliasing: x0
- Anisotropic Filtering: x2
- Game Settings: High
- VSync: Off
For the 1680x1050 and 1920x1200 resolutions, all the sets tied, but at 1280x1024 where the benchmark is more CPU dependent, the power of the Dominator GT memory helped get a few more frames.
The Corsair Dominator GT memory continues the tradition of quality and reliability that the Dominator name has come to be known for. While this set did not break any world records, it performed the best when put to the test again other sets of memory in its class. The Dominator GT set was the best in five of the nine benchmarks and tied in two of the remaining four. When it came to overclocking, the Dominator set was able to be pushed an additional 120MHz, which might not sound big, but the bump was done with the low latencies kept the way they were, which yielded a nice gain in bandwidth, allowing for better overall scores in the PCMark Vantage and Sandra tests. The one downside I have with this set is the price. While the memory performed the best of the sets, the gain needs to be weighed against the premium for the Dominator GT memory. Is it worth it? If you have the money and want the best, then by all means I think it is. But if you are on a budget and have to take into account the system price as a whole, the $349.99 price tag might have you looking at other sets, such as its little brother the XMS3 DHX memory.
All in all, I am quite pleased with the Corsair Dominator GT TW3X1600C6GT memory. With the option to cool it using water or even TEC, your potential for this kit is toward the sky as long as you are willing to fork over the cash to have the best.
- Optimized for Phenom-based systems
- Ultra low latencies
- Multiple cooling options for extreme speeds
- Airflow fan included for lower temps
- Lifetime warranty
- Very expensive memory