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Appeared on: Thursday, March 12, 2009
PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory Roundup

1. About the Crucial Ballistix PC3-12800 6GB

With Intel's X58 platform been on the market for some months now, the available triple channel DDR3 memory solutions are enough to allow you choose the best one for your needs. Today we will examine two new kits from Crucial and OCZ rated at PC3-12800. Each kit is offering a capacity of 6GB (3x2GB).

- Crucial BallistiX 6GB kit (2GBx3) BL3KIT25664BN1608

The Crucial PC3-12800 6GB kit (6GBx3) is an enthusiast level product rated at PC3-12800 , meaning that it will operate at 1600MHz with CL8 at 1.65V. The 6GB kit can be used in both 32&64bit operating systems like XP, VISTA and Windows 7. Remember that 32bit operating systems recognize no more than 3GB. The retail price of the kit is around $282 as found at Crucial's web site.

Crucial 240-pin DIMMs are used in DDR3 memory for desktop computers. DDR3 is the latest generation of memory with an improved architecture that allows it to transmit data more quickly.

A dual inline memory module (DIMM) consists of a number of memory components (usually black) that are attached to a printed circuit board (usually green). 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.

Each 240-pin DIMM provides a 64-bit data path (72-bit for ECC or registered or Fully Buffered modules). (The Ballistix and Ballistix Tracer high-performance memory do not come in 72-bit or registered modules.) Standard DDR3 240-pin DIMMs are currently available in DDR3 PC3-8500 SDRAM. Additional speeds will be added as the technology becomes available.

To use DDR3 memory, your system motherboard must have 240-pin DIMM slots and a chipset that supports DDR3. This is because a DDR3 SDRAM DIMM will not fit into a standard DDR2 DIMM socket or a DDR DIMM socket.

The number of black components on a 240-pin DIMM can vary, but it always has 120 pins on the front and 120 pins on the back, for a total of 240. 240-pin DIMMs are approximately 5.25 inches long and 1.18 inches high, though the heights can vary. While 240-pin DDR3 DIMMS, 240-pin DDR2 DIMMs, 184-pin DDR DIMMs, and 168-pin DIMMs are approximately the same size, 240-pin DIMMs and 184-pin DIMMs have only one notch within the row of pins.

- Features

2. Crucial Ballistix PC3-12800 6GB Package

Crucial provided us with the retail package of 6GB kit (2GBx3), part number BL3KIT25664BN1608.

The memory modules are typically placed into anti-static packages:

Each module has aluminum heatspreaders and carry the "BallistiX DDR3" logos in both sides, along with several logos/part number and rating labels..

Zooming at the performance label, you can see the PC3-12800 (DDR3-1600) rating and CL8 cache latency of the modules:

After installing the the memory, we use CPU-Z and see some additional information.

The Crucial PC3-12800 6GB kit supports the JEDEC timings for the 593MHz, and 667Mhz at 1.50V as well as the XMP compatible timings for 800MHz. While the product seems to support DDR3-1600 with CL8 @ 1.65V, the CPU-Z gives CL7 for 800MHz also, which looks very promising. We will see more on this later in the tests.

The Everest Ultimate Edition reports the same embedded timings, and the two XMP profiles are the "Enthusiast" and the "Extreme".

3. About the OCZ PC3-12800 6GB kit (2GBx3)

The OCZ PC3-12800 triple-channel memory kit is qualified specifically for the Intel Core i7 processor / Intel X58 Express Chipset. Intel certified for the Core i7’s triple channel mode, these new 3GB and 6GB kits promise to offer optimal performance via an ideal combination of low voltage requirements, speed, and latency. Developed for enthusiasts and early-adopters, the low voltage

Designed to significantly increase performance levels of the entire platform, these modules feature Intel Extreme Memory Profiles (XMP). The new Extreme Memory Profile options on the new OCZ DDR3 modules allow the end user to select ultimate performance through a framework of predefined and validated optimizations of individual settings without the hassle of manually adjusting each parameter, so the timings, voltage, and speed boot automatically for maximum performance.

Each kit features a second enthusiast profile that enable the modules run at an even more aggressive balance of speed and timings.

OCZ’s modules are 100% hand-tested for quality assurance and compatibility and feature propriety XTC (Xtreme Thermal Convection) heatspreaders for more effective heat dissipation.

- Features

* Intel qualified specification ONLY for boards featuring the X58 chipset. All other boards will automatically boot the memory at 1066MHz.

**OCZ EVP (Extended Voltage Protection) is a feature that allows performance enthusiasts to use a VDIMM of 1.65V without invalidating their OCZ Lifetime Warranty.

4. Crucial OCZ PC3-12800 6GB 6GB Package

We have in our hands the retail package of the OCZ 6GB kit (2GBx3), part number PN - OCZ3X1600LV6GK. The kit is priced at $145 as found over Newegg ($125 after rebate).

The newly designed package has several logos. OCZ claims that we have to do with the "the best performing DDR3 memory on the market. Period."

We should admit the OCZ's packaging is better that Crucial's. Everything is protected into a hard plastic shell, which can be re-used to store the memory modules if necessary.

The modules feature a propriety XTC (Xtreme Thermal Convection) heatspreaders for effective heat dissipation. The Intel Core i7 logo is also available to ensure the compatibility of the product with Intel's X58 platform.

The OCZ PC3-12800 6GB kit supports the JEDEC timings for the 533MHz and 610Mhz with 1.50V, according to CPU-Z. The memory also offers XMP compatible timings for 500MHz and 800MHz. The DDR3-1600 comes with 1.65V and CL8.

The Everest Ultimate Edition reports the same embedded timings:

5. Overclocking tests

We used the following PC setup for our tests:

Installing the latest BIOS to your motherboard ensures that you will get the maximum performance and also you will not face any incompatibilities.

For the stability tests we use the Prime95 v25.6 and MemTest v3.80 utilities under Windows VISTA x64. The Asus P6T motherboard offers various dividers in order to "overclock" the memory without messing up with the processor. We left most of the BIOS options to the "Auto" mode, and we only selected the DRAM voltage at 1.66V, as Intel indicates.

- Crucial PC3-12800 Results

The Crucial memory kit easily reached the 1066MHz with CL6, with the voltage kept at 1.65V

Staying at CL6 and pushing the frequency at 1333MHz also resulted to a totally stable system:

As we tried to further push the frequency up to DDR3-1600, we faced some problems. First of all the motherboard selected CL9 for the 800MHz speed under the Auto mode, which is not allowed according to the specifications.

Asus P6T Deluxe selects CL9 for 800MHz...

We tried to reach the CL8 for 800MHz by manually changing the BIOS settings. However the system is totally stable only after selecting the 2T Command Rate (CR):

The only way to get a stable system at 1T CR was to further increase the voltage at 1.68V:

Continuing our quest for the upper overclocking limits, we selected the next memory divider and the DDR3-1866 came easily with CL9 @ 1.66V:

Eventually we got a totally totally stable system evan at 1898MHz:

Summing up the overclocking performance, we should mention that we were rather confused, since the embedded cache latencies showed CL7 for 800MHz, which actually didn't work at least with the latest BIOS revision for the Asus P6T motherboard.

We also had problems getting the motherboard work at CL8 for 800MHz under the "Auto" DRAM settings. We had to manually set 8-8-8-24-2T @ 1.66V or 8-8-8-24-1T @ 1.68V to get the expected results.

- OCZ PC3-12800 Results

Let's proceed to the tests with OCZ's DDR3 solution. We started from the 1066MHz and the memory worked just fine at CL6, 1.65V:

For a stable system at 1333MHz, we had to increase to CL7 first:

The nominal DDR3-1600 setting was also easily reached and OCZ's modules gave us CL8-8-8-24-1T at 1.65V:

The limits of these modules are reached by selecting the next memory divider (DDR3-1866) with CL9 @ 1.66V. After that point, the memory didn't work very well. Although the MemTestPro didn't report any problems, the system kept rebooting with with Prime95.

OCZ's PC3-12800 memory gave us exactly what its specifications promised, while we did not face any compatibility issues with the Asus P6T Deluxe motherboard.

In the following page you can find a comparison among these memory solutions, in terms of performance (benchmarks).

6. Performance comparison, final thoughts

- Performance comparison

In the table below you can find the results of the Sisoft Sandra given for each of the three PC3-12800 rated 2GBx3 kits. Obviously the higher numbers indicate a better performance at least for Memory Bandwidth and Cache&Memory Index.

Starting from the 1066MHz, we see that the Crucial PC3-12800 is the fastest solution, a lead also maintained at 1333MHz. At the 1600MHz and the 1866MHz, the faster memory module was the OCZ PC3-12800.

The highest performance came from the Crucial modules, reaching the 1896MHz (via overclocking).

- Summary

Today we had the chance to examine two new 6GB memory kits for Intel's X58 platform. The x64 bit operation system works better with more memory, so a 6GB fast kit is always a nice tool in the hand of enthusiasts.

The Crucial PC3-12800 proved to be a highly overclockable memory kit with very aggressive embedded timings. However, our test motherboard (Asus P6T Deluxe) could not automatically set the timings for the 800MHz, something we did manually. We would also like to see a better pricing for Crucial PC3-12800 DDR 3 kit, which is currently listed at $282 at Crucial's website.

The OCZ PC3-12800 kit comes certified for the Core i7 CPUs and standard specifications for the category. OCZ has paid attention to the design of the black aluminium heatspreads and besides the attractive appearance, they hopefully do their job efficiently. The kit lived up to its promises and delivered DDR3-1600 with CL8 @ 1.66V. The Asus P6T Deluxe worked perfectly and in the modules gave the highest scores in both DDR3-1600/1866 speeds. Although we didn't manage to further overclock the kit, we are very happy with its retail price, which is ~$125 after rebate.

The recession has not left anyone untouched, so we think that the OCZ's kit is a more reasonable purchase for amateur or enthusiast users, at least for now..


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