Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 2GB DDR2 Kit Page: 1
Introduction

Back in November 2006 we were fortunate enough to get our hands on a 1gb PC2-6400 Ballistix kit fresh from the Crucial factory. The kit performed admirably, managing to overclock all the way up to DDR2-1120. Hugely impressed by the Ballistix's overclock-ability and competitive pricing, the kit was rightfully awarded both our 'Editors Choice' and 'Value for Money' awards. Since then Crucial have been hard at work pushing the capabilities of their modules and today we are lucky enough to take a look at their latest addition to the Ballistix family:

When You Have The Ultimate Performance System, Can You Really Tolerate Inferior Memory?

It doesn't matter how fast a memory module is if it isn't stable and doesn't fit your system. Software crashes, choppy game play, and driver and operating system hiccups — all can be caused by bad memory modules. Performance and stability are Crucial! Don't settle for anything less than Ballistix!

The Ballistix line is specifically built for performance enthusiasts who want to push the performance envelope without worrying about data loss or corruption, mysterious intermittent errors and display problems, or worse — the dreaded BSOD! The Ballistix line of high-performance memory modules features advanced speed grades, low latencies, and integrated aluminium heat spreaders.


Specifications

The following information has been taken directly from Crucial's website:

What is Ballistix memory?
The Ballistix line is specifically built for performance enthusiasts who want to push the performance envelope without worrying about data loss or corruption, mysterious intermittent errors and display problems, or worse — the dreaded BSOD! The Ballistix line of high-performance memory modules features advanced speed grades, low latencies, and integrated aluminum heat spreaders.

What is a Ballistix 240-pin DIMM?
A Ballistix dual inline memory module (DIMM) consists of a number of memory components that are attached to a black printed circuit board. The gold pins on the bottom of the DIMM provide a connection between the module and a socket on a larger printed circuit board. The pins on the front and back of a DIMM are not connected to each other. Ballistix 240-pin DIMMs are used to provide DDR2 SDRAM memory for desktop computers. DDR2 is a leading-edge generation of memory with an improved architecture that allows it to transmit data very fast. Ballistix 240-pin DIMMs are available in DDR2 PC2-4200 SDRAM (DDR2 533), DDR2 PC2-5300 SDRAM (DDR2 667), and DDR2 PC2-6400 (DDR2 800).

It looks like the Crucial web developer needs a bit of a kick as they have failed to mention their more recent PC2-8000 and PC2-8500 kits in the Ballistix blurb.

• Module Size: 2GB kit (1GBx2)
Package: Ballistix 240-pin DIMM
Feature: DDR2 PC2-8500
Configuration: 128Meg x 64
DIMM Type: UNBUFFERED
Error Checking: NON-ECC
Speed: DDR2-1066
Voltage: 2.2V
Memory Timings: 5-5-5-15

The specifications of the Ballistix modules are fairly standard for a PC2-8500 kit:- moderate timings set at 5-5-5-15 and a voltage of 2.2v for maximum compatibility with motherboards that have a limited vdimm selection.

Unfortunately, no mention of a maximum allowed voltage has been specified on Crucial's site. This could well be a problem for overclockers wanting to increase the voltage given to the modules in order to push them past their specified speeds - but without the risk of voiding any warranty.

Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 DDR2 Packet Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 DDR2 IC's

The Ballistix IC's are somewhat hard to identify as most of the serial numbers seem to be over-printed with a square Ballistix logo. No doubt they will have been manufactured by Micron (as Crucial is it's subsidiary company), but they certainly don't seem to bear the mark of the overclocker friendly D9 range. In fact, the only legible print on the module was "BKYV", which turned up no results in a Google search.

Anyway, enough of facts and figures. Let's move on to the next page and see what they look like...

Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 2GB DDR2 Kit Page: 2
Packaging

Most memory modules that I've reviewed in the past have been packaged in a clear plastic blister pack. This seems to work well for showing off sexy heatspreader designs, but doesn't always provide optimal protection for the memory against damage.

Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 DDR2 Box Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 Packet

As with the previously reviewed PC2-6400 modules, Crucial have decided to package their Ballistix modules in a double walled cardboard box sealed with a Crucial sticker. This may look very plain, but certainly serves its purpose in protecting the modules contained within. To prevent any damage from static electricity occurring to the memory, each module is individually packaged in a sealed anti-static bag.


Appearance

Crucial have been using the the same heatspreaders for all of their Ballistix range for almost a year now. Therefore it was no surprise to see the PC2-8500 modules furnished with the very same gold clip-on design that we first became acquainted with in the previous Ballistix review.

Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 Front Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 Back

Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 Heatspreader Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 PCB

The Ballistix modules use a full-cover heatspreader design finished in metallic gold paint with an aluminium silver surround. Printed on the right-hand side of the module is a black and red Ballistix logo. A nice touch is the black PCB, which looks rather extreme when compared to the more standard green that we've come to expect from other manufacturers.


Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 2GB DDR2 Kit Page: 3
Test Setup

Processor: Intel Core2Duo E6700 "Conroe"
Motherboard: Asus Commando P965 (unmodded)
Graphics Card: Sapphire ATI X1950Pro 256mb
Hard Disks: 2x Hitachi Deskstar 80gb SATA-II 8mb Cache (RAID0)
Power Supply: Enermax Infiniti 720w
Operating System: Windows XP SP2



Settings

As with all DDR2 reviews on Overclock3D the Ballistix modules were subjected to a series of benchmark tests under several different configurations. The configurations used tested the memory's ability to run at high frequencies, tight timings and also ensured that that it could run with 100% stability at stock settings.

DDR2-1066 / 5-5-5-15 / 2.2v

CPUZ CPUZ

It's an unfortunate fact that some memory modules we've tested here at Overclock3D in the past haven't even been able to run stable at stock settings. Sometimes this is down to an incompatibility between the motherboard chipset and memory IC's, and other times the modules just havent been tested extensively at their rated speed. With this in mind, the first test we perform on any modules passing through the OC3D labs is their ability to run at the settings specified by the manufacturer.

I'm pleased to say that the Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 kit passed the stock testing with flying colours, managing to run at 5-5-5-15 / DDR2-1066 with the rated 2.2v.

DDR2-1066 / 4-4-4-6 / 2.35v

CPUZ CPUZ

Increasing the memory voltage to 2.35v allowed the timings to be tightened to a very respectable 4-4-4-8 while still running at DDR-1066. These tighter timings should offer a slight performance boost over the stock settings as I'm sure we will see over the next page.

Attempting to tighten the timings further than this proved unsuccessful regardless of how much extra voltage was used.

DDR2-1220 / 5-5-5-15 / 2.35v

CPUZ CPUZ

One of the most important factors in purchasing RAM modules for most PC enthusiasts is how far they can be overclocked. Previous Crucial Ballistix kits we've tested have proved to be very good in this regard, and I'm pleased to say that things haven't changed with their PC2-8500 kit. Managing an impressive 14% overclock up to 610mhz (DDR2-1220) from the stock 533mhz frequency with only 2.35v, the Ballistix kit should certainly appeal to the overclocking crowd.


Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 2GB DDR2 Kit Page: 4
Benchmark Results

For the benchmark phase of our review, the Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 2Gb kit was subjected to several popular benchmarks in order to illustrate outright performance. All benchmarks were run three times and an average taken to guarantee uniformity of the results.

Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 Everest Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 Sandra

Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 Everest Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 Sandra

As expected, both Sisoft Sandra and Everest showed the greatest performance advantages with the memory running at DDR2-1220. The lower timings of 4-4-4-8 at DDR2-1066 also offered a small performance improvement over the stock 5-5-5-15 settings.

Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 SuperPI Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 SuperPI

The same pattern can also be seen in both the SuperPI 1m and 16m results, with the DDR2-1220 results shaving several seconds off the stock and lowered latency (4-4-4-8) settings.

Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 3Dmark05 Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 3Dmark06

Tighter memory latencies didn't really seem to have much effect on either of the 3DMark suites, with only a negligible amount of points between each of the 533mhz benchmarks. Yet again we can see that the higher frequency DDR2-1220 setting stole the show.

Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 CSS Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 FEAR

Strangely the real-world gaming benchmarks showed very little difference between each of the settings. This could possibly suggest that the memory subsystem was not a bottleneck in the overall system specification and possibly the graphics card was the limiting factor.


Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 2GB DDR2 Kit Page: 5
Conclusion

There's no denying that the Crucial Ballistix PC2-8500 modules are champion overclockers. Requiring a modest 2.35v to break the DDR2-1220 barrier, I'm convinced that with a little extra voltage and possibly active cooling, the Ballistix could easily be capable of giving any top-end PC2-9600 kit from another manufacturer a run for its money.

Unfortunately there is a downside - the price. Available only from Crucial's online store, the Ballistix modules wade in at a hefty £275, making them more expensive than some PC2-9200 offerings from other respectable manufacturers.

Komplett


Pros
• Respectable 14% overclock up to DDR2-1220.
• Manages 4-4-4-8 timings at DDR2-1066.
• Packaging ensures safe arrival of your purchase.

Cons
• Very expensive for PC2-8500.
• Heatspreader design may not appeal to everyone.


Recommended Award


Thanks to Crucial for providing the Ballistix modules for review. Discuss this review in our forums.