The Crucial Ballistix range has been around for longer than some of us care to remember. My old Socket 939 Athlon used to have Ballistix memory in it, and the fact it's remained part of the Crucial line-up, albeit in a very different form, is testament to the solidity of the brand.
The Elite variant of the Ballistix line is Crucials very top range product. With a limited lifetime warranty and designed for those who seek the very best, this should live up to its Elite billing, especially as one of the things that always used to make it stand out from the competition was the low timings and overclocking capabilities.
The set we have on test today is the 1866MHz @ CAS9 version designed for Dual-Channel applications, and as such we'll be testing it on our i5-2500K. With temperature monitoring built in and an all-black look it covers the needs of those who like their RAM to be functional and attractive.
|Size||8 GB : 2 x 4 GB|
|Form Factor||DIMM 240-pin|
|Memory Speed||1866 MHz ( PC3-14900 )|
|Timings||CL9 ( 9-9-9-27 )|
|Features||Temperature monitoring, Intel XMP, Dual-Channel, Integrated heatspreader, unbuffered|
Speaking of attractive, let's take a look at it.
The first thing you'll notice is that the Ballistix Elite comes in one of those heat sealed blister packs that is guaranteed to chew its way through scissors, a Stanley knife, and your fingers. Why companies insist on using this is beyond us.
With that dealt with it's clear that this will be a highly desirable kit even if you're only interested in the aesthetics. The black heatspreader on a black PCB just looks gorgeous, and the chrome Ballistix Elite logo really compliments it well.
As is always the case it with anything the photos don't do it justice. This is a very attractive memory kit indeed.
Crucial Ballistix Elite 8GB 1866MHz CAS9
Intel Core i5-2500K @ 4GHz
Cougar CM1000 PSU
Windows 7 64 Bit
Unquestionably one of the most frustrating things is the appearance of this kit before we've upgraded our test setup. We know that this Ballistix Elite will run at 2133MHz with a bit of voltage prodding, yet the MSI P67A just refused to play ball. Roll on Ivy Bridge and a motherboard that is a more willing partner.
With that disappointment out of the way it's a good opportunity to compare the faster but looser timings of G.Skill Ares with the slower, but much tighter Crucial Ballistix Elite.
PC Mark Vantage
Wow. If ever you needed a demonstration of how, within reason, a tighter set of timings can be equally as beneficial as a fast speed rating, the Ballistix Elite makes a mockery of its 266MHz deficit to be neck and neck with the Ares. An impressive start.
The AIDA64 tests are far more about pure speed than low timings, and the results bear this out. Although the Crucial kit does very well in making it to fourth spot in our graph and not far behind some very fast memory. The 23GB/s copy speed is a particular highlight.
Probably the biggest surprise is that even with the CAS9 timings the latency is rated as slower than the CAS11 Ares and indeed many other CAS9 kits. Although as we saw in PC Mark Vantage it doesn't affect the performance.
Sandra shows the Ballistix being even closer with a bandwidth of 26.5 GB/s, a mere .8 behind the Ares. With the 4GHz i5-2500K factored into the equation the Cache and Memory Bandwidth test gives a very healthy 108 GB/s.
Cache and Memory Bandwith
Consistency is definitely the key here. No matter what the test the Crucial Ballistix Elite is right up at the sharp end. Although it's only fifth in our CineBench R11.5 test, it's only 1.6% behind the highest result we've seen in memory testing.
wPrime95 makes good use of the lower timings from the Ballistix Elite to give a healthy score of just under 300 seconds for the 1024M place test.
The balance between low timings and fast speed is always a delicate one with various memory kits giving us different takes upon the old question of which is better.
The Crucial Ballistix Elite demonstrates clearly that with good quality memory chips and low timings you aren't crippled in performance by only running at 1866MHz. In fact given our knowledge of how Sandy Bridge just loves lots of memory speed we were amazed at how close a lot of the results were.
Although the pure synthetic tests of AIDA64 and Sisoft Sandra show that the Ballistix Elite hasn't got the absolute performance of the 2133MHz brigade, actually when we tested the more real-world applications of CineBench and PC Mark Vantage the gap all but disappeared.
Of course the big disappointment is that our MSI board absolutely refused to overclock. We know from other results around how a bump up to 1.65v can allow the Ballistix Elite to run at 2133MHz and retain the CAS9 timings. However as that's something that we know should be possible but couldn't demonstrate ourselves we have to score based on what we found.
Out of the box the Crucial Ballistix Elite performance was excellent. It was outstandingly close to a lot of pricier memory kits and just looking at the results you'd assume it was a 2133MHz kit. It looks the business too with the matte black heatspreader on a black PCB. You're getting a lot of memory and a lot of performance for a very reasonable £50, and for that we're happy to award it our Gold Award.
Thanks to Crucial for supplying the Crucial Ballistix Elite for review. Discuss in our forums.