Corsair XMS3 DHX PC3-12800 (DDR3-1600) 4GB Kit Page: 1
Introduction
 
Corsair PC3-16000At the end of last year, a high-end 2GB DDR3 kit from a top manufacturer would have set you back a rather eye watering £300+. This, along with the bargain bin pricing of 4GB DDR2 kits, forced memory manufacturers to hold back on the production of their 4GB DDR3 kits in fear of releasing them to an audience not willing to lay down ~£500 for a new set of sticks.
 
However, the dust is finally settling and largely thanks to the public's unwillingness to make the jump to a DDR3 based platform, memory manufacturers are being forced to bring down the cost of their DDR3 kits to much more reasonable levels just to draw some of the attention away from the well-aged, and pretty static (development-wise, not ESD - ed) DDR2 platform.
 
Today we're going to be taking a look at  Corsair's mid-range 4GB DDR3 kit, affectionately known as TW3X4G1600C9DHXNV. With the same overall design and focus on performance at a reasonable price as the recently reviewed DDR2 TWIN2X4G6400C4DHX kit that walked away with both our "Editors Choice" and "Value for Money" awards, can the DDR3 version woo us in the same way? Let's check out the specs:
 
XMS3 DHX Series - Cool DDR3!
Sporting Corsair’s signature fin memory heat sink and patented heat-removing printed circuit board design, the new XMS3 DHX products feature DDR3 performance while promoting increased stability. DHX technology allows this memory to have superior thermal characteristics to enable it to run cooler than a module with stamped or mesh heat spreaders. The result is enabled superior reliability, stability and performance capability.

Features
• 4096 Megabytes of DDR3 memory
• Two matched CM3X1G1600C9DHXNV modules
• DHX technology provides maximum cooling
• Certified as SLI-Ready Memory
• 100% tested at 1600MHz in NVIDIA-based motherboards
• Lifetime warranty

Test Spec Features
• Each module pair is tested together at 1600MHz
• Packaged together immediately following system test
• Tested together at 1600MHz, Vdimm = 1.8V, at latency settings of 9-9-9-24 on NVIDIA nForce 790i Ultra SLI motherboards
• SPD programmed at:
• EPP2.0 9-9-9-24 values at 1600MHz
• JEDEC standard 9-9-9-24 values at 1333MHz
 
As mentioned in our previous review of the XMS2 DHX PC2-6400 kit, the patented DHX cooling technology provides direct metal-to-metal contact between the inner plates of the heat sink and the tracks on the modules' PCB. Studies carried out show substantial amounts of the heat generated by IC's is conducted into the PCB, meaning the DHX system is currently the only solution on the market to address this problem.
 
By using NVIDIA's EPP2.0 profiles, Corsair has earned "SLI Ready" certification for the XMS3 DHX PC3-12800 kit. This provides assurance that the modules will run at their stock speed of 1600mhz with 9-9-9-24 timings on newer NVIDIA chipset-based motherboards. Interestingly, the kit has a fairly low 1.80v voltage requirement for a 4GB kit of this speed and should hopefully give us some overclocking headroom over the next few pages.
 
Should you ever have any problems with the modules, Corsair have also backed them with a reassuring lifetime warranty - provided the purchase was made through an authorised reseller. Further information on Corsair's warranty policy can be found here.


Corsair XMS3 DHX PC3-12800 (DDR3-1600) 4GB Kit Page: 2
Packaging & Appearance
 
Designed to attract attention when placed on the shelves of the traditional computer retail outlet, the Corsair XMS3 DHX kit is packaged inside a vacuum-moulded, clear blister pack that gives you a full frontal of the modules and their comb-like heatspreaders.
 
Those of us who have read some of Overclock3D's previous memory reviews will know that this budget-style packaging doesn't really go down very well with us as it provides little protection for the modules when shipped out via an e-tailer. However, that said - so long as the modules are placed in a rigid box and not a jiffy bag when shipped, they should arrive in pristine condition.
 
Corsair XMS3 DHX Packaging Front  Corsair XMS3 DHX Packaging Back
 
A black and orange printed cardboard insert has been placed behind the modules to further enhance their look when on a retailer's shelves. Interestingly, the insert contains no information about the modules other than their size. Those of us wanting to  find out other details such as the speed, timings and voltage will need to refer to the specifications sticker attached to the front of the modules. While this is hardly ideal, we can only assume that this has been done to allow Corsair to use the same inserts across the entire XMS3 DHX 4GB range.
 
Corsair XMS3 DHX Front Corsair XMS3 DHX Back
 
Corsair XMS3 DHX Crossed Corsair XMS3 DHX Nit Comb
 
Two large ridged aluminium heatspreaders adorned with four rows of heat dispersing fins are attached to the IC's and PCB on each side of the memory module make up the DHX cooling system. Unlike memory modules from some other manufacturers, the XMS3 DHX kit is no wider than your average memory kit and thus shouldn't have any compatibility issues on motherboards where the DIMMs are close together.
 
The black and green "NVIDIA" colouring of the specification stickers gives them an eye catching and extreme look that will undoubtedly be right at home on any NVIDIA-based system.
 
Corsair XMS3 DHX Side Corsair XMS3 DHX Side
 
Corsair appear to have used some super-strong adhesive for affixing the heatspreaders to the IC's. No matter what we tried - whether it be crowbar, blow torch or pliers - our attempts to seperate the two were fruitless. This obviously prevented us from obtaining a positive identification on the manufacturer of the IC's, giving us little idea as to how the modules are likely to perform during the review.


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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:
 
Processor
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 "G0" 2.4GHZ 2x4MB

Motherboard
Asus Striker II Extreme 790i

Memory
Corsair XMS3 DHX PC3-12800 (DDR3-1800) 4GB
Crucial Ballistix PC3-16000 (DDR3-2000) 2GB
CSX Diablo PC3-16000 (DDR3-2000) 2GB

Graphics Card
Sapphire Ultimate X1950 Pro 256mb PCI-E

Graphics Drivers
ATI Catalyst 8.6.64789

Operating System
Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 + Updates
 
While we was unable to obtain any similar specification 4GB DDR3 kits in time for the review, it will certainly be interesting to see if the Corsair kit can make up for its 200mhz speed disadvantage over the Crucial and CSX kits with its extra 2GB of memory. While we're not expecting any miracles, Corsair has performed extensive research in the "gaming with 2GB vs 4GB" area and has published some interesting results.
 
To guarantee a broad range of results, the following benchmark utilities will be used:
 
Synthetic Benchmarks
• Lavalys Everest 4.0
• SuperPI Mod 1.4
• Cinebench 10

3D Benchmarks
• 3DMark05
• 3DMark06
 
3D Games
• Unreal Tournament 3
• Crysis
• Quake4
• Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
 
All 3D based benchmarks were performed using a resolution of 1024x768, low quality settings and no additional AA (Anti Aliasing). This reduces any affect that the graphics card may have on the results, either positive or negative, leaving the CPU and Memory subsystem to do most of the work.
 
 
Overclocking
 
While our natural-born instinct as overclockers was to jump right in and start pumping extra voltage through the Corsair kit, there is one important issue that needs to be explored first: stability. Too often here at Overclock3D we've received memory kits that simply don't work at their advertised speeds or voltages, leading to system crashes, corrupt OS installs and generally a lot of missing hair from the OC3D review teams' heads.
 
Therefore, the first part of our testing procedure before we started getting our hands dirty was to test the Corsair kit at 1600mhz, 9-9-9-24 with 1.8v:
 
Stock Settings - 1600mhz / 9-9-9-24 / 1.8v
 Corsair XMS3 DHX @ Stock Corsair XMS3 DHX @ Stock
 
Thanks to the combination of NVIDIA's EPP2.0 profiles and the ASUS Striker II 790i chipset motherboard, the installation and configuration of the modules was immensely easy. A quick flick of the "SLI Ready Memory" option in the BIOS to "Enabled" saw everything configured automatically and installing Windows presented no issues.
 
The stability of the kit was further reinforced when we performed a gruelling hour-long OCCT stress test on the entire system. Once again, this test passed without fault, indicating that the Corsair XMS3 DHX PC3-12800 kit is rock solid at stock settings.
 
Overclocked - 2000mhz / 9-9-9-24 / 1.8v
Corsair XMS3 DHX Overclocked Corsair XMS3 DHX Overclocked
 
Moving on to the fun stuff, the Corsair didn't disappoint here either. Managing to hit 2000mhz without any adjustments to voltages or timings, this just goes to show that even Corsair's non-Dominator kits pack a serious punch. Interestingly, bumping up the voltage didn't seem to help take the kit much further than this, with a not-so-stable overclock of 2024mhz being obtained with the use of 1.86v.


Corsair XMS3 DHX PC3-12800 (DDR3-1600) 4GB Kit Page: 4
Everest
 
Everest is an information & diagnostic utility complete 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.
 
Everest Memory Read
 
Everest Memory Write
 
Everest Memory Latency
 
 
Cinebench
 
Cinebench 10 is a benchmarking tool based on the powerful 3D software Cinema 4D. The suite uses complex renders to gauge the performance of the entire PC system in both single-core and multi-core modes. Testing was performed a total of 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being omitted and an average created from the remaining 3 results.
 
Cinebench 1x
 
Cinebench 4x
 
 
SuperPI
 
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.
 
SuperPI 1m
 
SuperPI 16m
 
 
Result Observations
 
At its stock speed of 1600mhz, the Corsair XMS3 DHX kit falls behind the higher-clocked Crucial and CSX kits in the Everest memory benchmarks. This is obviously expected, as these particular benchmarks are not affected by the quantity of ram (2GB vs 4GB) but only its speed. However, as we move on to the Cinebench and SuperPI 1m tests, the difference in results is less prominent.
 
With the XMS3 kit overclocked to DDR3-2000, the tables turn. With a speed now equalling that of the other kits on test, the XMS3 kit is able to take the crown in both SuperPI, Everest and Cinebench.


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3DMark
 
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.
 
3DMark05
 
3DMark06
 
 
Result Observations
 
In both 3DMark05 and 06, the results are fairly even right across the board. However, if forced to nitpick, we can see that the Corsair XMS3 DHX kit once again tops the leader board when clocked to 2000mhz, possibly indicating that 3DMark does give a slight preference to 4GB over 2GB. Even with the Corsair kit clocked at its stock speed of 1600mhz, it is still only just a handful of points behind the rest.


Corsair XMS3 DHX PC3-12800 (DDR3-1600) 4GB Kit Page: 6
Call of Duty 4
 
Call of Duty 4 is a stunning DirectX 9.0c based game that really looks awesome and has a very full feature set. With lots of advanced lighting, smoke and water effects, the game has excellent explosions along with fast gameplay. Using the in-built Call Of Duty features, a 10-minute long gameplay demo was recorded and replayed using the /timedemo command a total of 5 times. The highest and lowest FPS results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
Call of Duty 4
 
 
Crysis
 
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 pre-recorded demo designed to stress the CPU and Memory subsystem. To ensure the most accurate results, the highest and lowest benchmark scores were then removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.
 
Crysis
 
 
Quake4
 
Quake 4 is a game built on the Doom 3 engine. Benchmarking was performed using Quake4Bench and a custom timedemo recording. The benchmark was set to run a total of 5 times, with Quake4Bench automatically calculating an average result at the end of the run.
 
Quake4
 
 
Unreal Tournament III
 
Unreal Tournament 3 is the highly anticipated game from Epic Games and Midway. The game uses the latest Unreal engine, which combines fast gameplay along with high quality textures and lighting effects. All benchmarks were performed using UTbench to create a bot match on the DM-BioHazard map. As usual, all benchmarks were performed 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.
 
Unreal Tournament 3
 
 
Result Observations
 
Looking first at the results from the Corsair XMS3 kit at its stock speed, we can see that in almost every game benchmark it actually beats out the higher-clocked Crucial and CSX kits. While this may only be by 1-2fps at 1600mhz, increasing the speed to 2000mhz sees the Corsair XMS3 kit further increase its lead.
 
This is undoubtedly shows that gaming with 4GB (especially on Windows Vista) is more beneficial than a high-speed 2GB kit.


Corsair XMS3 DHX PC3-12800 (DDR3-1600) 4GB Kit Page: 7
Conclusion
 
Corsair XMS3 DHX
Being the first 4GB DDR3 kit ever to be reviewed on Overclock3D, the Corsair XMS3 DHX PC3-12800 has certainly become the yardstick for which all future DDR3 reviews will be measured against. Starting with appearance, the DHX heatspreaders used on the kit look simply awesome, and despite not being fixed to the modules with a combination of screws, clips and sticky pads like kits from other manufacturers, they are most certainly steadfast and won't be separating from the modules any time soon.
 
Obviously looks are only a small part of the whole story, and with an impressive overclock of 400mhz taking the kit to DDR3-2000 with no additional voltage required, the XMS3 PC3-12800 kit has shown that it can match, and in some cases even beat, the the overclocking abilities of the more mature 2GB counterparts.
 
Coming in at a price of £276 (26/06/08) over at Scan.co.uk, the cost of DDR3 and specifically 4GB kits are still quite high when compared to DDR2. However, when you consider that a kit of this calibre would have cost around the £500 mark around the beginning of the year, the price suddenly seems a lot more reasonable.
 
 
The Good
- Sexy Heatspreaders with innovative design.
- Works flawlessly at stock settings.
- NVIDIA's EPP2.0 profiles make configuration a breeze.
- Manages DDR3-2000 at stock voltage.
 
The Mediocre
- Price still fairly high but has come down significantly.
- Didn't seem to respond very well to additional voltage.
 
The Bad
- Absolutely nothing
 
 
Overclock3D Recommended Award
 
Thanks to Corsair for providing the XMS3 DHX PC3-12800 kit for review. Discuss this review in our forums.