Corsair DDR3 CL8 1600MHz XMS3 Dominator 6GB Kit Page: 1
Introduction

Bye bye DDR2, you have served us all very well and it's been nice knowing you. Sadly, all good things come to an end. An end that is if you intend on upgrading to Intel's latest CPU. Intel has finally cut it's support for DDR2, at least for the new Skt 1366 format. If you cannot bare the thought of relinquishing your faith toward DDR2 then maybe this review is perhaps not for you as the order of the day is DDR3 and todays special - 6GB of Corsairs finest Dominator series ram.

The maturity of DDR3 has helped pave the way for this new breed of  high speed kits that even at a tasty 1600mhz are not the highest available bandwidth with 1866+mhz on the horizon. Today however, we will be sampling the triple channel dominator kit. The Dominator 1600mhz kit comes in two guises, C8 and C9. Corsair have aimed the C8 kit at the 'Ultra Enthusiast' while the C9 caters for the 'mainstream enthusiast'. Never being ones to disappoint, we managed to secure the 'Ultra Enthusiast kit' for your pleasure.

With Core i7 comes new architecture and a new memory controller. No longer is the memory latency stifled by the use of a middleman (North bridge), the memory controller is now on die which has also allowed an expansion from Dual to Triple channel. Of course DDR3 does not need to be run in triple channel, much the same as DDR2 didn't need to run in dual channel but for optimum performance it is highly recommended that you run DDR3 in triple channel mode.

Let's hear what Corsair have to say about their latest DDR3 kit:

The TR3X3G1600C8D is a 6144MByte kit of DDR3 SDRAM DIMMs based upon Corsair's high performance Dominator family of memory which includes Intel's Extreme Memory Profiles (XMP 1.2). This enables a robust, profile based high performance DDR3 over-clocking solution for Intel X58 platforms targeted for enthusiasts, gamers and overclockers who want to extract maximum performance from their platforms. Built using Corsair's Dual-path Heat Xchange (DHX) technology, this part delivers outstanding performance in the latest generation of X58 DDR3-based motherboards. This memory has been verified to operate at 1600MHz at latencies of 8-8-8-24 at 1.65V


Specification

Manufacturer: Corsair

Model Number:
TR3X3G1600C8D

Capacity
: 6GB (3x2GB)

Type: DRAM

Technology: DDR3 SDRAM

Form Factor: DIMM -240 pin

Memory Speed: 1600Mhz

Latency Timings: 8-8-8-24

Voltage: 1.65v

RAM Features: Matched triple kit Dominator with DHX + Technology for X58 based motherboards with an Intel Core i7 CPU

Requirements: Compatible X58 Motherboard - 3x 240pin DDR3 slots

Service and Support Lifetime Warranty

Price: £294.84 -Ebuyer.com

Enough of the small talk, let's take a look at the kit itself...


Corsair DDR3 CL8 1600MHz XMS3 Dominator 6GB Kit Page: 2
Packaging & Appearance

The package arrived in a smart if somewhat basic cardboard box which as you can see from the picture below is quite a lot larger than the modules themselves. Surrounding the modules are a few air-bags which in turn protect the over sized plastic blister style packaging. As these modules are hot off the manufacturing conveyor belt they didn't arrive with any inner sleeve that would normally be found on a retail product but luckily, I feel confident about installing a memory module so don't require any demeaning instructions.

Box inner box

3 is the magic number 1
 
The modules themselves are very striking with their matte black ribbed heatsink, The front of the module has all the details you should need such as Vdimm requirements and timings. Because of the heatsink, the memory modules are approx double the height of a standard ram module, The height of the PCB surprised me most however as it is nearly 1cm taller than that of a standard module.

Module Front Module rear

Perspective 1 Perspective 2
 
The width of the memory modules were thin enough to easily fit them side by side in the DIMM slots located directly next to one another so motherboard compatibility should not be a problem but because of the height I would stay clear of a motherboard with sockets directly next to a CPU socket as this could prevent a CPU cooler being fitted.

Length Width
 
The heatsink can be separated into three separate heatsinks with the top section removable via 3 Allen key screws. This top section is fixed to the bottom section via a bracket that slides between the two side heatsinks. The top heatsink also has two thin strips of thermal interface tape attached to the bottom.

I would have liked to show you the memory integrated chips themselves but despite ample amounts of heat and force the modules just wouldn't separate from the heatspreaders. We have however contacted Corsair who can confirm that the modules have Elpida A-die chips on them.

Heatsink 1 Heatsink 2
 
So in typical Dominator style this memory kit is stunning to look at, VERY well built and no doubt cools those stubborn IC's down a treat. How do they perform though. It's time we found out...


Corsair DDR3 CL8 1600MHz XMS3 Dominator 6GB Kit Page: 3
Test Setup

For todays testing we will be using the Asus P6T Deluxe, a mid range i7 motherboard from Asus that we hope to use for all of our memory testing.
Here's a breakdown of the rest of the components:
 
Processor
Intel Core i7 920 'Nehalem' @ 2.66Ghz

Motherboard
Asus P6T Deluxe

Memory
Corsair DDR3 CL8 1600MHz XMS3 Dominator 6GB Kit

Graphics Card
Nvidia 280GTX

Drivers
GeForce 180.60

PSU
Gigabyte Odin 1200w

Operating System
Windows Vista Ultimate 64bit SP1 + Updates
 
For testing the memory we used a number of synthetic benchmarks and games:
 
Synthetic Benchmarks
  • Lavalys Everest 4.10
  • SuperPI mod_1.5
  • Sisoft Sandra 2009
3D Benchmarks
  • 3DMark Vantage
  • Far Cry 2
 
 
Overclocking
 
Starting from scratch we disabled on the settings that may affect the overclocked settings such as Intel SpeedStep as well as disabling the C-State settings which may also affect some of the results in the benchmark testing phase of the review. Here's how the sticks look at stock speed:
 
Stock1 Stock2


 
With the Corsair already running at a speedy 1600mhz I was very interested to see how far they could be pushed but at the same time I was worried by the various rumours around the net (aswell as the warning in the Asus BIOS) that exceeding 1.65v on the ram could permanently damage the CPU. Other rumours suggest that as long as the Vdimm is kept within 0.5v of the Vcore then it will be fine. At this point in time I decided to err on the side of caution and just give the Corsair kit a little boost by upping the Vdimm to 1.7v. Hopefully neither the CPU nor the DDR3 Corsair kit will suffer any longterm effects of overvolting.

1800 1 1800 2
 
I managed to push the ram to 1800 Mhz resulting in a 200mhz overclock. An excellent result considering the timings are the same and didn't require slackening off at all. I did manage a suicide boot at 1941Mhz but this resulted in a BSOD after a minute into Vista. Slackening the timings to CAS9 made no difference so it appears that 1800mhz is the bandwidth limit for this kit. So, onto the timings to see if I could squeeze a little more out of this kit.

Unfortunately, lowering any of the timings resulting in a non boot scenario, regardless of what frequency was set. This was a little disappointing as some of the mid range DDR3 dual channels are quite capable of running at CAS 7 1600Mhz.

Let's take a look at how this extra 200Mhz difference makes in our standard set of memory benchamrks...


Corsair DDR3 CL8 1600MHz XMS3 Dominator 6GB Kit Page: 4


SiSoftware Sandra
(the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC. Each of the benchmarks below were run a total of five times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average being calculated from the remaining three.

 





Everest
 
Focusing mainly on software and hardware information reporting, Everest also comes with a benchmark utility suitable for testing the read, write and latency performance of the memory subsystem. Each of these benchmarks were performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average calculated from the remaining 3.
 




 
 
 
Super PI
 
SuperPI is the benchmark of choice for many overclockers. It's lightweight to download and can give a quick indication on how good a system is at number crunching. Once again, testing was performed a total of 5 times, with an average being calculated from the middle three results.
 
 



 
 Results Observations
 
Predictably, the overclocked setup gave enhanced results and shows the extra amount of bandwidth available should you overclock the Corsair ram past it's stock settings. Let's see if  these overclocked settings have an affect on our run of 3D tests...


Corsair DDR3 CL8 1600MHz XMS3 Dominator 6GB Kit Page: 5
 
3DMark is a popular synthetic gaming benchmark used by many gamers and overclockers to gauge the performance of their PC's. All 3DMark runs were performed a total of 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results.

 
 

 
 


Ubisoft has developed a new engine specifically for Far Cry 2, called Dunia, meaning "world", "earth" or "living" in Parsi. The engine takes advantage of multi-core processors as well as multiple processors and supports DirectX 9 as well as DirectX 10. Running the Far Cry 2 benchmark tool the test was run 5 times with the highest and lowest scores being omitted and the average calculated from the remaining 3.
 
 

 
Results conclusions

As you can see, the additional bandwidth has had a noticeable effect on the 3D and gaming benchmarks. However consideration should be given to the fact that the CPU frequency was also increased along with the memory frequency which perhaps has a bigger bearing on the results.

Let's head over to the conclusion...


Corsair DDR3 CL8 1600MHz XMS3 Dominator 6GB Kit Page: 6

Conclusion

The Corsair Dominator triple channel DDR3 C8 is a formidable piece of kit. Not only does it look extremely cool with the improved Dominator heatsinks but it has the performance to match. It simply breezed through all of our benchmarks scoring the highest bandwidth tests we have seen at OC3D thanks to the triple channel as opposed to the Dual channel of old.

As this is the first triple channel kit we have tested at OC3D it is difficult to draw a conclusion on how well this kit performs against other triple channel kits so one can only assume that the Corsair Dominator we have on test today is the perfect match for any i7 setup. We have now run the kit on 3 different i7 setups including the P6T Deluxe and only the MSI Platinum X58 had issues running the DDR3 at it's stock setting of 1600mhz but we feel this is most likely a motherboard issue and not a compatibility issue with the ram.

If you are planning on going i7 in the future then I can wholeheartedly recommend the Corsair Dominator and were it not for the price, it would no doubt have been coveted with the Editors choice gold award but then DDR3 isn't cheap, nor is an i7 setup. For that reason, at least until we have tested more DDR3 triple channel kits, the Corsair kit is awarded the performance stamp of approval.


The Good
- Overclocked to 1800mhz
- Excellent heatspreaders
- Good looking

The Mediocre
- Unable to lower timings
- Voltage ceiling (1.65v stock)
- The price

The Bad
- Nothing to report




Thanks to Corsair for providing todays DDR3 kit for review. Discuss in our forums.