Corsair Dominator GT 8GB PC3-12800 CL8 kit Page: 1
Introduction
 
All to often it is easy to overlook one of the most crucial parts in a PC system, you have your CPU, graphics card, PSU, case, motherboard but what about the memory? Without a good memory kit your expensive CPU can become crippled while it waits for the memory to address data. The advent of DDR3 was originally greeted with gasps of despair as it appeared that DDR3 offered little in terms of performance over DDR2, more so the price of the DDR3 kits was extortionate. Today however we see that DDR2 prices are now slightly higher than DDR3 making for a perfect time to upgrade to Intels new LGA 1156 socket.
 
The new range of Lynnfield CPU's have on board memory controllers but that does not alter the fact that buying slow cheap memory will hinder your PCs performance drastically if you do not find a balance between all of your components, in this case the CPU and memory. As ever, enthusiasts are always on the lookout for the latest and greatest pieces of hardware to cram in their shiny new setups so today may I present you with the new Corsair Dominator GT, specifically designed for the P55 chipset.
 
In 8GB (4x2GB) format, the kit will fill up all of the available slots on most P55 motherboards. While this would normally be treated with disdain on older chipsets due to the fact filling every ram slot up would hinder overclocking results, the new P55 chipset is much more capable of overclocking, even with huge amounts of memory onboard. We also found in a previous review that the 6GB mark was perhaps the best configuration for a well rounded, performance machine. To add a further smidgen of future proofing, Corsair have released this 8GB, high performance kit which should satisfy both those who are looking to overclock and those who crave the bandwidth 8GB provides. So the best of both worlds then? Let's hear what Corsair had to say:
 
Very few components make it into the DOMINATOR family. Even fewer are hand selected to build the DOMINATOR-GT. Corsair’s team of engineers run extensive and exhaustive in-house testing and qualification with the premium performance motherboards used by overclockers and ultra enthusiasts.

This unique combination of over-clocking performance testing and guaranteed reliability and compatibility coupled with a limited lifetime warranty, make the DOMINATOR-GT - the cream of the crop, and... the ultimate solution for the ultra enthusiast and overclocker.
 
Specification
 
The following specification was taken directly from the Corsair website. 
 
 Product name Corsair Dominator GT (Blue) PC3-1600
Main Board
Intel
System
Desktop
Type
DDR3
M/B Chipset
Intel P55
CAS Latency 8-8-8-24
Speed DDR3-1600 (PC3 12800)
Test Voltage
1.65v
Registered/Unbufferd
Unbuffered
Error Checking None - ECC
Type 240-pin DIMM
Warranty Lifetime
 
Let's take a look at the modules themselves...


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Packaging & Appearance
 
In typical Corsair fashion, the outer boxes are plain white with just a stick to identify the fan and modules. Taking the contents out of their respective boxes, we see that the modules are individually packed in blister style packaging while the fan assembly comes unassembled but swathed in bubble wrap for protection. While the fan assembly is not difficult to put together, especially for someone who is familiar with the design, a small instruction leaflet would not go amiss.
 
outer box kit
 
Following on from the successful DHX design of the previous Corsair Dominator modules we see the only difference between this kit and those previous is the distinctive electric blue heatsink with matching Dominator sticker. Flipping the module over the theme is the same only this time the sticker displays the modules full specification including bandwidth, latencies and correct voltage.
 
module front module back
 
Because the Dominator GT series are the cream of Corsair, they have seen fit to attach their DHX (Dual-Path Heat Exchange) cooling solution to the module. This works two fold in that this technology uses two methods of heat dissipation, convection and conduction by removing heat from the PCB and from the chips themselves. Traditionally, memory heatsinks are only attached to the memory modules via BGA (Ball Grid Array) but a study by Micron Semiconductor showed that up to 50% of the heat is actually conducted via the circuit board. With this in mind Corsair also attach the cooler to the circuit board itself to give the ultimate in memory cooling.
 
module top module side
 
The rear of the module displays the specification of the memory modules. 1600MHz is the rated speed of these modules which just so happens is the maximum the P55 chipset officially supports but as we all know, they will overclock much higher than this with compatible memory modules. We shall be putting this to the test with the Corsair kit later in the review. Latencies of 8-8-8-24 are pretty much standard for this speed and should afford a little headroom come overclocking time by lowering them a notch or two. 1.65v is the maximum vDIMM recommended by Intel and as such this is the voltage Corsair have set this kit to. While I would not normally recommend exceeding this voltage, in testing I have not encountered many problems upping this voltage a notch or two but keeping below the 1.7v level. Some memory chips scale better with added voltage while others remain stubborn, we shall see if the GT kit is the former or latter later in the review.
 
module perspective SPD
 
As this kit is labeled with Ver 3.1 I am happy to report that they do not come with the unreliable Elpida Hyper chips which have reportedly failed in the past. Micron chips are the ICs of choice at present which should afford a solid level of overclocking. Thanks to the removable top of the module, additional cooling methods can be used such as watercooling or indeed DICE, should Corsair finally release the promised adaptors needed for this extra cooling. If extreme cooling is not your bag, this kit comes with an air cooler that now has two larger 60m fans rather than the three 40mm fans used in previous designs. Hopefully this will cut down on the noise while still keeping (or indeed improving) airflow.
 
removal fan
 
Keeping to the tried and tested design is no big deal as the Dominator is a distinctive design that still sets itself apart from other manufacturers. Add a flash of colour, this time blue and the kits aesthetics are further enhanced. The tops of the ram are also removable so if you are a dab hand with a spray can or paint brush you can easily paint them to match the overall theme of your setup should you wish without the risk of damaging the modules themselves.
 
Let's move on to the test setup and overclocking section...


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Test Setup

To ensure that all reviews on Overclock3D are fair, consistent and unbiased, a standard set of hardware and software is used whenever possible during the comparative testing of two or more products. The configuration used in this review can be seen below:
 
i7 Rig

CPU: Intel i7-870 @ 4GHz
Motherboard: MSI P55-GD80
Memory: 4x2GB Corsair Dominator GT PC3-12800 CAS 8-8-8-24
HD
: Hitachi Deskstar 7k160 7200rpm 160GB
GPU: Asus GTX275
PSU: Gigabyte ODIN 1200w

 
Installing the kit was a relatively simple affair despite the cooler not having any assembly instructions. The blue tipped heatsinks on the Dominator GT kit are very fetching and will match any blue themed setup perfectly. Our test board, the MSI GD80-P55 is one such board.
  
without cooler with cooler
 
The bulk of the cooler presented a slight issue in that it blocked a third of the CPU cooler upon installation. To make matters worse, should you wish to orientate your CPU cooler in a horizontal position, the cooler would be unusable. The good news is that the 60mm fans are a great improvement over the previous 40mm variants. The cooler no longer whines like a women watching the football on TV, instead it just hums along pretty much silently, going about its business cooling the modules. You may read on some review sites that the cooler is loud. Upon first inspection I would have been inclined to agree but it is 'not the cooler that's loud, it's due to the cooler blocking airflow to the CPU HSF which gives the inclination that the Dominator cooler is making the noise when in fact it is not. When the memory cooler was run independently, away from the CPU cooler, it ran almost silent.
 
without cooler 1 without cooler 2
 
During the testing of the setups above, special care was taken to ensure that the BIOS settings used matched whenever possible. A fresh install of Windows Vista was also used before the benchmarking began, with a full defrag of the hard drive once all the drivers and software were installed, preventing any possible performance issues due to leftover drivers from the previous motherboard installations. For the 3DMark and gaming tests a single card configuration was used.
 
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
 
As the kit is clocked to 1600MHz in stock format, the CPU base clock will not need to be overclocked as the dividers on the P55 chipset allow a maximum of 1600MHz. Add to that the X.M.P profiling and the setup was very easy with this feature enabled.
 
 
SPD stock
 
As the Dominator GTs now utilise Micron chips instead of the highly clockable but unreliable Elpida Hypers I was not holding out much hope of the dominator GTs clocking much higher than the stock 1600MHz. I am however happy to report that the kit clocked very well reaching a none to shabby 1980MHz, just a touch from the golden 2000MHz. At this clockspeed however, the kit was a little unstable so I dropped them down to a much more stable 1900MHz. Sadly, raising the latencies and increasing the voltage slightly did not affect the overclocking but 1900MHz at CAS 8 is a very good performance for an 8GB kit.
 
Perhaps with the P55 kit, the most worthwhile overclocks do not arise from screaming bandwidth but tighter timings. Again, the Dominator GT kit impressed, running at CAS 7-7-7 with no trouble whatsoever. Raising the bandwidth at this latency proved troublesome with numerous BSOD but at the stock level, the kit was stable as a rock.
 
bandwidth latency
 
After returning the kit back to it's default speed, I ran our standard set of memory benchmarks pitching it against the recently reviewed 4GB GSkill kit. The GSkill kit was run both underclocked (1600MHz and stock speed (2000MHz) to give the best comparison. Special consideration should be given to the 2000MHz results where the CPU was overclocked to 4GHz which will also benefit the benchmark scores. The most significant comparison is like for like (1600MHz vs 1600MHz) but adding the higher clocked kit into the mix shows what difference both bandwidth and CPU speed add versus a larger DDR3 kit.
 
Let's see how both kits performed...


Corsair Dominator GT 8GB PC3-12800 CL8 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
 
As expected, the Dominator kit could not really compete with the GSkill kit when both kits were clocked at their stock speeds. However, the Dominator kit did have the slight edge when pitched against the underclocked GSkill kit, albeit slight.
 
Let's move on to the 3D benchmarks...


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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.
 
 
 
Crysis is without doubt one of the most visually stunning and hardware-challenging games to date. By using CrysisBench - a tool developed independently of Crysis - we performed a total of 5 timedemo benchmarks using a GPU-intensive pre-recorded demo. To ensure the most accurate results, the highest and lowest benchmark scores were then removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.

 
 
Results conclusions
 
3D Mark was not the Dominator GT kits forte unfortunately and as such I did not expect the kit to perform to well in the games. However, as both Far Cry 2 and Crysis show, the additional 4GB of the 8GB Dominator GT kit gave a boost to the FPS in both games. So while most synthetic benchmarks will not show the performance advantage of additional memory, real world games and applications certainly benefit from the extra GBs the new Corsair kit provides.

Let's head over to the conclusion...


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Conclusion
 
When we were asked to sample Corsairs latest Dominator GT kit for the P55 chipset, the review team at OC3D were all clambering to get their grubby little mitts on them. Luckily for me, I got in there first and I must say I am happy I did. Not only does the kit look gorgeous, matching our test setup and indeed any similar motherboard with the same colour scheme but it also has the performance to match looks. Switching from the old Elpida chips to Micron was a stroke of genius as not only are the Micron chips more reliable but they also overclocking monsters.
 
The Dominator GT kit we had for review easily surpassed the 1900MHz mark and with a little more time and persuasion could have hit 2000MHz. Bandwidth though is not the be all and end all of overclocking memory and Corsair know this so keeping the kit at it's stock speed I am happy to report that if tight latencies are your bag, the Dominator GT kit is certainly worthy of consideration, hitting Cas 7-7-7 with relative ease and stability.
 
Perhaps the only downside to the kit is the large air cooler. While I certainly appreciated the reduction in noise, the increase in size might be an issue for some. On our test setup, the cooler blocked some airflow to the CPU cooler. While no reason not to buy the kit, it is something worthy of consideration, especially if you intend on using an oversized CPU HSF assembly. I did not manage any different overclocks with the cooler in-situ so I can only assume that the coolers main purpose in life is to extend the lifespan of the memory modules as they do run a little hot without the cooler attached, despite the sexy heatsinks.
 
All in all if you are looking for a larger than standard 4GB kit, the 8GB Corsair Dominator GT kit is certainly a kit that will suit your needs. High overclocking, aesthetically pleasing and backed up by Corsairs award winning support and warranty should make the buying decision all the easier.
 
The Good
- Blue tipped DHX Dominator Heatsinks
- Quiet memory cooler
- Very good overclocking ability
- Lifetime Warranty
 
The Mediocre
- Air cooler size may be an issue for some
- Basic packaging
 
The Bad
- Nothing
 
 
Thanks to Corsair for providing the Corsair Dominator GT kit for todays review. Discuss in our forums.