Dual-channel DDR3 RAM (Part 3)

8/14/2013 9:19:51 AM

Crucial Ballistix Tactical LP 16GB DDR3-1600MHz

There was a time, not so long ago, when customers who wanted a faster type of Crucial RAM would opt for Ballistix. The especially daring among us would choose Ballistix Tracer, which added flashing LEDs to the equation and that was pretty much the end of the matter.

These days, Crucial has a mind-boggling array of Ballistix products that fall into three distinct families with sub-groups that bring the total to seven. The divisions between these groups deserve some attention to give an insight into the way that Crucial approaches the DDR3 market. The main features in the mix are clock speed, operating voltage, the style of heat spreader and the height of the module.

Crucial Ballistix Tactical LP 16GB DDR3-1600MHz

Crucial Ballistix Tactical LP 16GB DDR3-1600MHz

Ballistix Elite runs at 1600MHz-2133MHz with up to 1.65V and uses tall heat spreaders to contain the extra power. Ballistix Sport XT is similar to Elite and uses tall heat spreaders, but it runs on 1.5V and tops out at 1866MHz. The regular Ballistix Sport also runs on 1.5V but is slower at 1333MHz-1600MHz, while Ballistix Sport VLP (Very Low Profile) looks impressive, as it manages to run at 1600MHz despite only requiring 1.35\/. The modules only stand about 13mm high, which would be very desirable for a Mini-ITX small-form-factor PC.

The third family is Ballistix Tactical, which appears to have a fair amount in common with Sport. Ballistix Tactical Tracer runs at 1600MHz-1866MHz on 1.5V with the added eye candy of a set of LEDs in the top of the module. Ballistix Tactical is slower at 1333MHz-1600MHz and doesn’t have any lights, and frankly I struggle to see how it differs from Ballistix Sport.

Ballistix Sport DDR3-1280 8GB

Ballistix Sport DDR3-1280 8GB

At first glance, I expected the Ballistix Tactical LP (Low Profile) that I have on test here would simply be a more compact version of the regular Tactical RAM, and it does indeed only stand 20mm proud of the motherboard slots. The rated speeds are 1333MHz-1600MHZ, but the heat spreaders look like midget versions of the larger Tactical modules. The interesting feature is that Tactical LP come with two XMP profiles that are both clocked at 1600MHz with 8-8-8-24 latency timings.

Generally speaking, you find memory with dual profiles will have one profile that delivers maximum performance at one voltage (say, 1.5V) and a second profile that runs faster at a higher voltage (say, 1.65V). This is the first time I have come across two XMP profiles that are identical apart from the operating voltage.

During my testing the two profiles behaved almost identically both in terms of power draw and also in terms of performance, and the 1.65V profile only delivered a tiny handful of extra marks in my benchmark tests.

If you’re determined to save every last scrap of power in a small-form-factor PC, you may be interested to learn that Ballistix Tactical LP supports two profiles that run at an even lower voltage of 1.28V with speeds of 1218MHz and 1370MHz.

The idea that a manufacturer would deliver two XMP profiles that operate at the same speed and latencies looks strange to me and suggests that Crucial has its doubts that motherboards will support the 1.35V profile correctly. The way I see it is that Crucial Ballistix Tactical LP is best thought of as 1.35V low voltage DDR3-1600 RAM that comes with a back-up XMP profile that is certain to work correctly at 1.5V.

Crucial has taken an unusual approach with Ballistix Tactical LP, and the result is compact low-power memory that operates at 1600MHz, and the price of $149 for 16GB looks like good value.


·         Price: $164

·         Manufacturer: Crucial

·         Website: www.crucial.com

·         Quality: 7/10

·         Value: 8/10

·         Overall: 8/10

Kingston HyperX Beast 16GB DDR3-2400MHz

I am not especially keen on product names that promise more than they can deliver, so l did a double take when I saw that Kingston had sent me some DDR3 memory called HyperX Beast. The alternative high-end Kingston memory is called HyperX Predator, which makes my teeth itch with similar annoyance.

Kingston HyperX Beast 16GB DDR3-2400MHz

Kingston HyperX Beast 16GB DDR3-2400MHz

So you have a choice of aggressive names to choose from, but under the surface it seems likely that Kingston is offering the same memory chips with a choice of heat spreaders and XMP profiles.

Predator uses very tall heat spreaders with models that have a maximum speed of 1866MHz-2400MHz. and each module has two XW profiles. In some cases the profiles are closely spaced, (for example, at 2133MHz and 2400MHz) while other models are spread further apart at 1600MHz and 2133MHz.

Beast is similar to Predator, but the heat spreaders are basic aluminum stampings that are stuck on either side of the module, in much the same way as the Corsair Dominator LP These matt-black heat spreaders are fairly substantial and stand 42mm above the motherboard slots, so they’re unlikely to be suitable for a small-form-factor PC.

Kingston HyperX Beast 8 Kit

Kingston HyperX Beast 8 Kit

Using smaller, less substantial and cheaper heat spreaders means you midst lose a smidgen of clock speed, but you certainly save some cash.

There are models of HyperX Beast that start at 16DDMHz, but at the higher end there are models that run to the same 2400MHz as the fastest Predator.

If you compare two kits of 1668 memory, you will see that 2133MHz Beast costs $164, while the same speed of Predator costs $199.

“You might lose a smidgen of clock speed, but you certainly save some cash”

The Beast memory we were sent has two XMP profiles, with the slower profile running at 2133MHz with 11-13-13-30 latency figures on 1.60M while the flat-out, take-it-to-the-max profile is 2400MHz 11-13-13-32 and requires 1.65V.

Now I ask you: who would choose to use a 1.60V profile when a mere 0.05V extra yields another 267MHz? Naturally I ignored the lower XMP profile and went for the full monty and it behaved perfectly.

If you’re keen to save power and heat, you might consider another model of beast that runs at 1600MHz with 1.5V, but I caution against this approach and urge you to give up on Beast altogether. You should instead march swiftly towards the Corsair Vengeance LP, which blazes along at 2133MHz on 1.5V and only requires tiny low profile heat spreaders.

The Beast memory ran at a default speed of l333MHz so my first benchmarks required a manual elevation to 160OMHz, and then I got on with testing at the Ml speed of 2400MHz. This high clock speed delivers heaps of performance, but it has to be said that the Kingston loses out very slightly to the Avexir Core Blue, which has slightly tighter latency timings. The differences are trivial and are outweighed by the fact that the Avexir XMP wasn’t recognized by my ASRock motherboard, whereas the Kingston ran like a Swiss watch.

Kingston puts the icing on the cake with pricing that comes in at $179 for 16GB, and that is very good value for 2400MHz memory.


·         Price: 179

·         Manufacturer: Kingston

·         Website: www.kingston.com

·         Quality: 9/10

·         Value: 8/10

·         Overall: 8/10

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