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Appeared on: Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Crucial BallistiX DDR3-1600


1. Introduction

Crucial, a division of Micron, recently announced a new series of DDR3 memory modules based on Micron chipsets. The new memory has all the features needed to become a competitive product on the market. Apart from testing how fast this DDR3 memory can go, we were also curious to see how it would perform against another DDR3 products with similar specs, such as the SuperTalent PC3-1600CL7. But first, let's meet the Crucial Ballistix DDR3-1600 series.

- Crucial Ballistix BL2KIT12864BA1608  — The ultimate in gaming performance

The Ballistix line is specifically built for performance enthusiasts who want to push the performance envelope without worrying about data loss or corruption, mysterious intermittent errors and display problems, or worse — the dreaded BSOD! The Ballistix line of high-performance memory modules features advanced speed grades, low latencies, and integrated aluminum heat spreaders.

A Ballistix dual inline memory module (DIMM) consists of a number of memory components that are attached to a black printed circuit board. The gold pins on the bottom of the DIMM provide a connection between the module and a socket on a larger printed circuit board. The pins on the front and back of a DIMM are not connected to each other.

Ballistix 240-pin DIMMs are found in DDR3 memory. DDR3 — the next generation of memory — boasts an improved architecture allowing very fast data transmission. Ballistix 240-pin DIMMs are available in DDR3 PC3-12800 SDRAM (DDR3-1600).

- Main features

- Retail package

Crucial provided us with the retail package of their 2x1GB Ballistix PC3-12800 series. The retail price is around US$680, and the modules can be obtained directly from Crucial. The kit we received arrived in our labs in a common carton box, with the memory modules packed inside antistatic plastic bags.

After removing the memory modules from the plastic bags, we see that from a first look, there aren't many changes compared with the BallistiX DDR2 series. Certainly, there are fewer logos, on both sides of the product.

After installing the memory, we used CPU-Z to get more information. Crucial's DDR3-1600 supports the new Intel extension, "XMP", while it also has the "standard" JEDEC timings embedded for 533 and 609MHz:

Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) technology comes from Intel. Extreme memory profiles (XMP) are SPD (Serial Presence Detect) settings that are activated once memory modules are installed into a system with a mainboard that supports such settings. It is projected that XMP will be supported by mainboards based on Intel X38 chipset and will allow memory modules to function at higher clock-speeds with aggressive latency settings to provide additional performance.


2. Testing DDR3 memory

In order to test the memory modules, we used the following setup:

While for benchmarking, we used:

We overclocked our Intel E6600 CPU up to 3.60GHz, in order to eliminate the CPU factor as much as its possible:

Memory Frequency
Real Frequency
Voltage
FSB:RAM
CPU x
FSB
CPU Speed
DDR3 1333 CL6-6-6-16
666,50
1.80
3:5
9
400
3600
DDR3 1600 CL7-7-7-17
575,00
1.90
1:2
9
400
3600
DDR3 1800 CL8-8-8-21
625,00
2.00
1:2
8
450
3600
DDR3 1849 CL8-8-8-24
924,10
2.25
1:2
7
462
3234

Keeping the FSB at 400MHz and CPU multiplier at 9x, we could directly compare DDR3-1333, DDR3-1600. Then, we dropped the CPU multiplier to 8x and raised the FSB up to 450MHz, in order to again get 3.6GHz CPU speed. Finally, to find the maximum memory speed, we dropped the CPU multiplier to 7x and raised the FSB. Below are the highest memory speeds we achieved, with 2.25V:

In all cases, the memory modules had to pass each synthetic memory test without any problems. Note, that results vary from memory module to module, and at these very high overclocking speeds, you need very good cooling, for the Northbridge and of course, the CPU.


3. SiSOFT Sandra - RightMark

SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. It should provide most of the information (including undocumented) you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices whether hardware or software. It works along the lines of other Windows utilities, however it tries to go beyond them and show you more of what's really going on. Giving the user the ability to draw comparisons at both a high and low-level. You can get information about the CPU, chipset, video adapter, ports, printers, sound card, memory, network, Windows internals, AGP, PCI, PCIe, ODBC Connections, USB2, 1394/Firewire, etc.

Sisoft Sandra offers two tests, un-buffered and buffered. We summed them and took the average.

In all tests, the Crucial PC3-1600 was fastest.

 

Before this test packet was created there was no proper software for measuring vital system parameters such as CPU/Chipset/RAM providing steady and reliable (reproducible) test results and allowing for changing test parameters in a wide range.

Vital low-level system characteristics include latency and real RAM bandwidth, average/minimal latency of different cache levels and its associativity, real L1-L2 cache bandwidth and TLB levels specs. Besides, these aspects are usually not paid sufficient attention in product technical documentation (CPU or chipset). Such a test suite, which combines a good deal of subsets aimed at measuring objective system characteristics, is a must have for estimating crucial objective platform parameters.

RightMark offers a variety of test results, including both read/write performance from synthetic and performance tests:

We see that in all tests, there is very little between the two manufacturers modules, with perhaps the SuperTalent modules having a slight edge.


4. Science Mark - SuperPi

Science Mark 2.0 is an attempt to put the truth behind benchmarking. In an attempt to model real world demands and performance, SM2 is a suite of high-performance benchmarks that realistically stress system performance without architectural bias. Science Mark 2.0 is comprised of 7 benchmarks, each of which measures a different aspect of real world system performance.

ScienceMark2 is a benchmark utility that is heavily affected by memory performance. SuperTalent was faster at DDR3-1333 and DDR3-1800 speeds, while Crucial faster at DDR3-1600, but the differences are slight.

 

SuperPI has become an utility to benchmark modern systems. In August 1995, the calculation of pi up to 4,294,960,000 decimal digits was succeeded by using a supercomputer at the University of Tokyo. The program was written by D.Takahashi and he collaborated with Dr. Y.Kanada at the computer center, the University of Tokyo.

A Total SuperPI result from Intel XE6800

This record-breaking program was ported to personal computer environments such as Windows NT and Windows 95 and called Super PI. The software offers up to 32M calculations of PI numbers. For all memory settings, we tested only up to 2M calculations.

The best results occurred with Crucial at DDR3-1800 and SuperTalent at DDR3-1600, both producing a time of 33.672 seconds.


5. Everest Ultimate Edition 2007 - PC Mark05

Click for official website!EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems. Furthermore, complete software, operating system and security information makes EVEREST Ultimate Edition a comprehensive system diagnostics tool that offers a total of 100 pages of information about your PC. The software has several built-in tests for memory and CPU/FPU.

Again, there is very little between the modules and there is no clear winner.

 

Click for homepage!PCMark®05 is everything you need to reliably and easily measure the performance of your PC and determine its strengths and weaknesses. With PCMark05, you will be able to select the optimal upgrades for your existing PC, or choose the right new PC that fits your specific needs. This easy-to-use product gives you the same tools and knowledge that virtually every professional tester in the industry uses. Below you can see all three available scores, memory, CPU and total.

The Crucial PC3-1600 was faster in all test results.


6. Comparison with DDR2 Technology

It would be interesting for users to see what kind of performance gain they can get when using the newest and fastest DDR3 modules. A direct comparison with DDR2 technology gives some interesting information.

First of all, we wanted to compare how DDR3 memory performs against very fast DDR2 memory with the same timings and the same CPU. For this reason, we tested the following memory speeds and timings:

Comparison with DDR2
Memory Frequency
Real Frequency
Voltage
FSB:RAM
CPU x
FSB
CPU Speed
DDR3 1067
CL5-5-5-15 (1T)
533,50
1.80
1:2
9
267
2403
DDR3 1150
CL5-5-5-15 (1T)
575,00
2.00
1:2
9
288
2592
DDR3 1250
CL5-5-5-15 (1T)
625,00
2.10
1:2
9
313
2817

In all cases, we used the same timings and same CPU internal multiplier. We raised the memory voltage and FSB in order to have exactly the same conditions as with already tested DDR2 memory. Keep in mind, that for all DDR2 tests, we used the eVGA 680i LT motherboard, which is Nvidia 680i based. In all these tests, we used the following BIOS settings:

Memset offers information about exactly what memory timings the Asus P5K3 Deluxe has chosen:

All test results are shown below:

So, can we come to any conclusion from the above graphs? Well, yes there is. DDR2 memory is very competitive, even though it loses out in two out of the three memory tests. However, the performance/price ratio is definitely in favor of DDR2 memory.


7. Conclusion

Crucial, a division of Micron, uses Micron chipsets to assemble very fast DDR3 memory modules. The new BallistiX DDR3 series are expected to give more or less what other manufacturers offer at their proposals. While the specs indicate 1600MHz with CL8, we managed to make the memory work at CL7 without much effort, just pump up voltage a bit up to 1.90V.

I was curious to see how this memory would perform compared to the SuperTalent PC3-1600CL7 modules. The results speak for themselves. More or less, both modules are "equal". They operated at the same memory frequencies with similar timings and similar performance. We cannot declare a clear winner out of this "contest", even though the Crucial modules support the embedded XMP profile, which SuperTalent doesn't.

From an overclocker's point of view, we managed to get the Crucial modules up to 924MHz, two MHz less compared with the SuperTalent DDR3-1600CL7.

Perhaps with different memory and motherboard settings, these kits could go even higher. But you can't go wrong with the Crucial BallistiX DDR3-1600 memory kit. The retail price of US$680 (as found at Crucial's website) is much higher than what the SuperTalent DDR3-1600CL7 is currently sold at. It's a matter of time before Crucial drops its prices, since other vendors have introduced faster rated DDR3 memory at a lower price.

Concluding this review, we believe Crucial has a very good product, somewhat pricier than its competitors. If the price was right, we would have highly recommended this product.



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