Corsair Dominator GT DDR3 1866 6GB Kit Page: 1
Introduction
 
World leader in high-performance memory, Corsair are renown for manufacturing quality products. From basic memory modules to the high end Dominator class memory products, Corsair cater for every appetite. The pinnacle of their DDR3 line up, until most recently, fell to the Dominator range of memory.  They are the staple diet of overclockers everywhere and while in the past they may not have been leaders in the most aesthetically pleasing modules and while performing amongst the top of the class, never really broke free or set the pace for other brands to follow.  Corsair hope to change all this with the Dominator GT range.
 
The Dominator GT's are the logical evolution of the original Dominators that enthusiasts have come to know and love through there exceptional performance and solid reliability. Sporting next gen heat exchangers (DHX technology), the aesthetics of the Dominators have been improved most noticeably with the removable heat sink fins which have made the transition sleek understated black to 'in your face' racing Ferrari red. It's not just for looks alone though because Corsair claim the cooling is enhanced through this new design. Hopefully then, this new look Dominator GT kit will not just be a colourful re-hash of the same modules we reviewed here.
 
The kit we have for review today is the 1866MHz derivative (TR3X6G1866C7GTF) sporting stock latencies of CAS 7-8-7-20 and run at 1.65v. Corsair do however afford the more discerning buyer sets of hand screened 2000MHz kits should you feel that the already blistering stock speed of 1866MHz not enough. The 1866 kit we have for review also comes complete with the revised Dominator cooler sporting two 60mm fans instead of the whiny 3x 40mm ones we have seen previously. If air cooling is not your bag then you can purchase a separate Thermoelectric heat sink which Corsair claim cool the modules down to as much as 20c below ambient temperature! This however would also require the use of a water cooling setup to cool the TEC's down so today we will be using the revised Dominator GT fan cooler.
 
Here's what Corsair had to say about their latest product:
 
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 Product page:
 
Each three module set is tested at 1866MHz
Packaged together immediately following system test
Tested together at 1866MHz, Vdimm = 1.65V at latency settings of 7-8-7-20 on X58-based motherboards.
SPD programmed at:
XMP 7-8-7-20 values at 1866MHz
JEDEC standard 9-9-9-24 values at 1333MHz.
1.65 Vdimm
6144 MB of DDR3
Includes Airflow fan for maximum thermal transfer
Lifetime warranty
 
As you can see, Corsair are making some big noises about each Dominator kit being hand tested before sending out. This is great news as you are assured a kit that works without any errors. However should you be unfortunate enough to receive a faulty kit, Corsairs class leading lifetime warranty affords peace of mind through their excellent RMA procedure.
 
Let's take a look at the new look Dominators shall we?


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Packaging & Presentation
 
The kit arrived packed neatly in a plain white card board box with no exterior markings (hence no photo). Opening up the box I was greeted with the three memory modules packaged in the traditional blister style packs we have come to know. Also in the box was a further white package that I presumed contained the memory cooling fan assembly.
 
Taking the modules out of there re-sealable packs we get to adore the fresh new colour scheme. I must say I do like it and it certainly stands out from the crowd. The first thing you notice are the bright, almost luminous red heat sinks that match the Dominator GT stickers perfectly.
 
package 3
 
The modules are no bigger than previous Dominator modules and are actually a little smaller than some modules that have gone O.T.T on there extravagant heat sink designs. The front of the module has the new Dominator GT sticker adorned in the middle of the sleek black aluminium heat sink. The rear of the module is where you will find the specification of the memory along with the product code.
 
front back
 
The top heat sink has been redesigned from the original Dominator ram in that there are now three fins in place of one large one. These fins are evenly placed along the top of the module in one sliver of Aluminium. Whether the new heat sink actually cools the module any better than previously is hard to tell so I will take Corsair's word on that but the fins certainly look the business. It also hurts like hell pressing down on them to insert the memory into their motherboard memory slots multiple times!
 
side top
 
The modules on test today are the lower specified 1866MHz variants which means somewhere in the exceedingly (some might even call excessive) testing procedure, Corsair technicians have found they are not stable enough to run at the top specified 2000MHz. Instead they have been 'binned' to the lower 1866MHz speed. This is not to say they are faulty in anyway, much like processors and graphics cards, speed binning is part and parcel of most products produced with silicon on board. Unlike some manufacturers who just rely on chip name though, Corsair hand test their modules to ensure they get the speeds right. With tight timings of 7-8-7-20 at 1.65 Vdimm, the Dominator GT's will certainly make some shakes in the memory market.
 
angle timings
 
The top heat sink can be easily removed thanks to three Allen key 'Cap-head screws'. While there is no need to remove the fins for anyone sticking to air cooling, this procedure is necessary should you be adventurous enough to try the TEC cooler Corsair have in production for these modules. The thermal pad on the heat sink is nothing too interesting and should suffice to transfer heat from the main body to the coloured fins.
 
thermal
 
Here we see the new Dominator fan. Gone are the small whiny 40mm fans which have been replaced with quieter yet more powerful 60mm fans. The unit arrives in an un-built state but you won't need any instructions to fit the side brackets onto the main body being that there are only four screws.
 
controller fans
 
With the side brackets screwed into place the Dominator fan stands proud. Fitting the cooler was easy enough but I would advise users to use extreme caution when fitting as the brackets are bent so that it  takes some pressure to fit them to the memory tabs. At one point my fingers slipped and the cooler immediately clasped down on the memory itself rather than the tabs they were designed to grip. Luckily no damage was done but the force at which they grab down I would not have been surprised if it had damaged them.
 
fans
 
The kit is certainly a sight to behold and I love the new red theme going on with the Dominator GT's. While the product packaging is basic, the kit we received is not a full retail product so it would be unfair of us to mark it down solely for the bland packaging. The option of adding separate cooling is a good idea while prices of such cooling remain to be seen. The air cooler with this product is, on looks alone, certainly worthy of comment as I would hope the new design would make less noise than before and as there are now bigger fans, these should push more air over the modules. Whether this affects overclocking potential remains to be seen.
 
Let's move on to the test setup I will be using today...


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Test Setup

For today's testing we will be using the Gigabyte EX-58 UD5, a mid-range Core i7 motherboard from Gigabyte that will allow us to push the memory on test to its absolute limit. Here's a breakdown of the rest of the components:
 
Processor
Intel Core i7 920 'Nehalem' @ 2.66Ghz

Motherboard
Gigabyte EX58-UD5

Memory
Corsair Dominator GT CL7 1866MHz 7-8-7-20 3x2GB kit
Corsair Dominator CL8 1600MHz 8-8-8-24 3x2GB kit

Graphics Card
Nvidia 280GTX

Drivers
GeForce 180.60

PSU
Gigabyte Odin 1200w

Operating System
Windows Vista Ultimate 64bit SP1 + Updates
 
1 2
 
3 4
 
I appreciate the UD5 is perhaps not the best colour co-ordinated motherboard to use with the Dominator GT ram, for that you may wish to consider the Foxconn Bloodrage which matches the colour scheme of the Dominator GT perfectly, as would the lush but highly expensive EVGA classified. But I digress.
 
Setting the ram up proved a little troublesome. For some bizarre reason I could not get the full 3x2GB kit to POST. Despite a couple of BIOS changes the UD5 refused to POST with anything but a single stick. Even entering the correct default SPD settings or indeed utilising the X.M.P profiles on the sticks made no difference. I wasn't until I moved the modules around, using the same slots but alternating the positions of the modules did I have success in getting the setup to post. This might be something you may wish to remember should you encounter the the same difficulties.
 
I am sad to report that the cooler is not that much quieter than the previous 3 fan version. While it may have two larger fans there is still the whooshing sound of air passing over the blades which is akin to an ATI graphics card under load conditions. They do however push a lot of air onto the Dominators so it goes without saying this noise can be justified with the extra cooling the fan provides. In testing the modules certainly got hot when under load so the justification of using a memory cooler is certainly warranted should you wish to extend the lifetime of the Dominator kit.
 
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
 
For the run of benchmarks, we will be comparing the 1866MHz 6GB Dominator GT to the original Corsair Dominator kit.
 
 
Overclocking
 
Starting from scratch we disabled on the settings that may affect the overclocked settings such as Intel Speed Step 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:

stock cpu SPD
 
JEDEC
 
The above screen shots are what the Gigabyte UD5 motherboard decided to set as a 'stock' setting basing it's findings on the SPD settings on the DDR3 kit. Not content with these settings as these are not what Corsair advertises, I delved back into the BIOS and set the X.M.P to profile 1 (programmed via the modules) and here's what they came up with:
 
stock cpu XMP
 
Now that's more like it! However, something still wasn't right as the tRAS setting was 25 as opposed to the advertised setting of 20. I would also like to have seen the Command Rate running at 1T so I decided upon setting the modules up myself rather than rely on the XMP settings.
 
cpu set set
 
Finally the correct settings are shown in CPU-Z. Why XMP did not set these settings I cannot say as JEDEC clearly shows the XMP setup. This is possibly a quirk with the UD5 BIOS (F7) which is the latest official BIOS available from Gigabyte. Never the less, these are the settings I will be using in today's benchmarks.
 
So how far did I manage to push the 6GB kit?
 
max bandwidth latencies
 
2000MHz was easily attained with the stock settings with no need to reduce latencies or increase voltages. However, to push them any further and still have some degree of stability, the Vdimm was pushed up a couple of notches to a still conservative 1.7v. With this voltage now powering the modules, I was able to attain a blistering 2128MHz! Better still, the latencies only needed relaxing ever so slightly to reach this. Sadly, relaxing the timings any further did not yield any notable increases in bandwidth but I was very pleased with the speed already achieved. I did manage to lower the latencies below stock to 7-6-6-20 while maintaining the stock bandwidth of 1866 which again is quite an achievement at this speed. Well done Corsair, some damn fine performance is to be had with this kit!

Returning the settings back to their stock values I then ran our suite of memory benchmarks to see how the modules compare. Let's see how I got on...


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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
 
Sisoft Sandra showed just how much more bandwidth the Dominator GT's allow. Everest also showed  the Dominator GT's to be by far the faster modules.
 
SuperPI again showed the GT's to be superior even though the original Dominators got off to a quick start with the 1m run. Over a greater amount of time though the Dominator GT's showed their worth beating its forbear by a fair margin.
 
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.
 

 
Results conclusions

As expected, the additional bandwidth coupled with lower timings had a decent affect on the Futuremark scores. Far Cry 2 also showed good frames per second gains overall.

Let's head over to the conclusion...


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Conclusion
 
Corsair have done a great job of refreshing the old Dominator modules. The new and improved Dominator GT 1866 6GB kit showed some great improvements were to be had across all of the benchmarks I ran today.
 
Overclocking the Dominator GT's was a very thrilling experience as I just didn't know when they would stop. I could lower the latencies or I could increase the bandwidth depending on my preferences with the bandwidth topping out at an amazing 2128MHz with 8-8-8-24 timings! This is some achievement from Corsair and while I do not advocate running 1.7v through DDR3 (as this goes above what Intel recommend so who am I to argue), I would say that for the overclocker who thrives on benchmarking, this kit will serve you very well indeed. I have little doubt that increasing the voltage further would allow even higher gains but my bravery ran out when the editor gave me some worrying looks.
 
The packaging is adequate, nothing more and nothing less. However as this kit was not a full retail package it is hard to assess what the end-user will receive but the package that landed on my doorstep was enough to ensure they kit arrived safe and sound and free from damage. The kit itself is very alluring and simply feels expensive. The weight of the modules also adds to this sense of value. The colour scheme may not match all motherboards but the modules certainly draw the eye to themselves and distinguish themselves very well from lesser products. If you have these in your setup then others will certainly know you are serious about performance.
 
Perhaps the only draw back of the kit is the price. Although DDR3 prices have plummeted of late, the high end kits and especially those kits with low latencies still command a premium. Costing a smidge over £250 they certainly cannot be described as cheap nor can they possibly be the sensible choice for the average Joe who just wants a kit to run your every day i7 based PC. It's hard to belive that we were paying this amount for 2GB of 1066MHz DDR2 not so long ago! The Dominator GT's are not aimed at the average Joe though, they are clearly marketed towards the extreme performance enthusiast and if you find yourself in this niche market then I cannot recommend this kit more as price aside, they have to be one of the best DDR3 6GB kits on sale today.
 
The Good
- Great looks
- Astonishing overclocking ability
- Modular cooling design can be added to
 
The Mediocre
- Included cooling fan is still noisy
- May need tweaking to setup correctly
- Speed reliant on a strong CPU memory controller
 
The Bad
- Nothing to report
 
 
Thanks to Corsair for providing the Dominator GT 6GB kit for today's review. Discuss in our forums.