Crucial Ballistix PC3-12800 2GB DDR3 Kit Page: 1
Introduction & Specs
 
When it comes to PC Memory, Crucial are one of those companies that every man and his dog will have heard of. With roots stemming from Micron Technology - an OEM memory manufacturer with almost 30 years under its belt, there is no question that Crucial modules are designed by some of the most experienced engineers in the industry. More information on Crucial's history can be found over on their website, but here's a snippet of the best bits:
 
For nearly three decades, Micron has learned that when you make some of the very best memory in the world, lots of companies want it, from computer makers to wireless device manufacturers to printer producers. (And we're really glad that they do!)

But then Micron asked, well, what about the end user? What about the everyday folks who want to upgrade their existing systems with OEM-quality memory — the home desktop user, the IT network guy, the student notebook user? Why don't we offer our memory to the public, at factory-direct pricing?

So in 1996, Micron responded to a growing demand for high-quality memory upgrades among end users who wanted the best possible performance from their systems. Micron launched Crucial Technology in September of that year, and for the first time, end users had the opportunity to buy directly from the manufacturer the same memory modules bought by the world's major OEMs for original installation in their systems.
 
Back in April 2007, Overclock3D was fortunate enough to test Crucial's high-end DDR2 based PC2-8500 Ballistix kit. Showing extremely good performance combined with no-nonsense looks, the kit managed to obtain our Recommended award. This certainly wasn't the first time we'd been impressed by the Ballistix either. Rewind a further 6 months back in the history of Overclock3D memory reviews and we come to the Ballistix PC2-6400 kit that left our labs with both Editors Choice and Value for Money awards.
 
Today we're back once again, but this time taking a look at Crucial's latest DDR3 Ballistix kit. With a stock speed of PC3-12800 and default timings of 8-8-8-24, the kit may not sound anything special when compared to some of the top-end kits by other manufacturers. However, our experience of previous Ballistix kits tells us to reserve our judgements until after the testing. So with this in mind let's take a look at some of the vital stats of these modules 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.
 
Specifications
# Module Size: 2GB kit (1GBx2)
# Package: Ballistix 240-pin DIMM
# Feature: DDR3 PC3-12800
# Specs: DDR3 PC3-12800 • 8-8-8-24 • Unbuffered • NON-ECC • DDR3-1600 • 1.8V • 128Meg x 64
 
I have to say that I was pretty disappointed by the information available for these modules. It seems that Crucial's website has recently undergone a face-lift and some of the vital information such as warranty duration/terms have not been included. In addition, many other manufacturers also list the maximum voltage that can be used on their modules without risk of voiding the warranty. By omitting this information, Crucial could well be turning a way a large portion of the overclocking crowd.


Crucial Ballistix PC3-12800 2GB DDR3 Kit Page: 2
Packaging
 
One thing I've always commented on in previous memory reviews from most other manufacturers is the over-use of the clear plastic blister style packaging. Not only does this method of packaging provide very little protection for the modules during shipping, but it also raises concerns regarding ESD damage. As we've seen in previous reviews, Crucial have always put protection before appearance - and it doesn't look like anything has changed with their DDR3 kits either...
 
Crucial Ballistix PC3-12800 Packaging Crucial Ballistix PC3-12800 Packaging
 
Crucial Ballistix PC3-12800 Packaging Crucial Ballistix PC3-12800 Packaging
 
Consisting of a single walled plain cardboard box sealed with a large Crucial sticker, the outer packaging of the Ballistix kit gives no indication as to what modules are contained within. However, on opening the box we can see that Crucial have individually sealed the modules in their own anti-static bags - each complete with their own barcode labels.  This could possibly signify that the boxing of the modules is performed at the final stage of the picking process when you order a kit directly from Crucial's website.
 
 
Appearance
 
The Ballistix DDR2 kits have always been instantly recognisable by their trademark Gold painted Aluminium heatspreaders and Black PCB's (with the exception of the "Ballistix Tracer" series). However, many manufacturers have changed the look of their DDR3 modules to help distinguish them from their elder DDR2 counterparts. Have Crucial followed suit? Let's find out...
 
Crucial Ballistix PC3-12800 Front Crucial Ballistix PC3-12800 Back
 
Crucial Ballistix PC3-12800 Crossed Crucial Ballistix PC3-12800 Top
 
At a glance, the Ballistix PC3-12800 DDR3 kit looks almost identical to its DDR2 predecessors. However, on closer inspection we can see that Crucial have removed the clips at the top of the heatspreaders, thus relying entirely on sticky pads to keep everything in place. Other small changes include the addition of "DDR3" text below the Ballistix logo, and a slight change to the Crucial logo at the left of the modules. Overall, not much of a noteworthy change in all honesty.
 
Crucial Ballistix PC3-12800 PCB Crucial Ballistix PC3-12800 IC's
 
Removal of the heatspreaders certainly isn't for the faint of heart, and actually required the use of a blowtorch to heat the adhesive thermal pads up to a point where they could be removed without pulling the memory IC's off with them. Interestingly, Crucial have decided to print over the Micron logo and IC serial numbers with a large Ballistix logo. This prevented us from obtaining a definite identificaiton of the IC's modules, but an educated guess would be that Crucial have used the highly overclockable D9GTR IC's.


Crucial Ballistix PC3-12800 2GB DDR3 Kit Page: 3
Test Setup
 
With DDR3 speeds ramping up on an almost weekly basis, It's extremely difficult to obtain two or more memory kits with similar specifications to perform any kind of worthwhile comparison. Therefore, the Crucial Ballistix PC3-12800 kit will be reviewed as a standalone product using the hardware specified below.
 
 
Crucial Ballistix PC3-12800
ProcessorIntel Core 2 Quad Q6600 "G0" 2.4GHz 2x4MB
MotherboardAsus P5K3 Deluxe
Graphics Card  Sapphire Ultimate X1950 Pro 256mb PCI-E
Hard Disk Hitachi Deskstar 80GB 7K80 SATA2 7200RPM 8mb
CPU Cooling Stock Intel Aluminium Cooler
Operating System Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate (Latest Updates)
Graphics Drivers ATI Catalyst 7.4.44981
Motherboard Drivers Intel INF 8.300.1013
 
To guarantee a broad range of results, the following benchmark utilities will be used:

Synthetic Memory Subsystem
• Sisoft Sandra XII 2008c
• Lavalys Everest 4.0

File Compression & Encoding
• 7-Zip File Compression
• River Past ViMark

3D / Rendering Benchmarks
• Cinebench 10
• 3DMark05
• 3DMark06

3D Games
• Quake 4
• Bioshock
• F.E.A.R


Settings & Overclocking

As with all memory reviews on Overclock3D the Ballistix PC3-12800 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 with stock timings, high frequencies with loosened timings and also ensured that that the modules could run with 100% stability at their advertised speed, latency and voltage settings.
 
 
 Stock Frequency & Latency
DDR3-1600 / 8-8-8-24 /1.8v
CPU-Z Stock CPU-Z Stock
 
Crucial have always been a "safe-bet" when it comes to modules that work flawlessly out of the box and the Ballistix PC2-12800 kit is certainly no different. Even with a fairly low stock voltage of 1.8v, the kit managed to pass several hours of Prime95 stress testing at 8-8-8-24 timings on our Asus P5K3 test bed. This is very good news for those of us who are looking for a DDR3 memory kit that can installed and forgotten about, but the Ballistix range is all about overclocking! So let's get down to the nitty gritty and see what this kit is capable of...
 
 
Stock Frequency @ Lowest Latency
DDR3-1600 / 6-6-6-12 / 2.1v
CPU-Z Lowest Latency CPU-Z Lowest Latency
 
Bumping the voltage up to 2.1v allowed for some serious tightening of the timings on the Ballistix kit. Both the CAS# Latency, Delay and RAS# Precharge effortlessly came down by 2 clocks, with the Cycle Time also accommodating a considerable reduction down to 12 clocks. This is actually the tightest timings we've managed to obtain from any DDR3 kit tested on Overclock3D so far (Previous kits have only managed 6-7-7-12), and certainly goes to show that the Ballistix kit has been given quite conservative stock timings.
 
 
Maximum Frequency @ Stock Timings
DDR3-1820 / 8-8-8-24 / 2.1v
CPU-Z Overclocked CPU-Z Overclocked
 
With most of the other DDR3 modules we've tested recently hitting close to DDR3-2000 I was certainly expecting something very similar from the Ballistix kit. However, after several hours of tweaking, trying the memory in different slots and applying extra cooling to the modules, the highest overclock I was able to obtain at the 8-8-8-24 stock timings was DDR3-1820. This certainly isn't anything to be sniffed at; as it's still a good 110mhz increase from the stock 800mhz speed, but unfortunately it falls just a little short of some of the other DDR3 kits tested on Overclock3D recently.


Crucial Ballistix PC3-12800 2GB DDR3 Kit Page: 4
Sisoft Sandra

Sisoft Sandra is a synthetic benchmark utility capable of reporting and benchmarking a wide range of system components. For the Crucial Ballistix PC3-12800 kit we run both the Memory Bandwidth and Memory Latency benchmarks 3 times to ensure accuracy of results.
 
 Sisoft Sandra Memory Bandwidth
 
Sisoft Memory Bandwidth
 
Sisoft Memory Latency
 
 
Everest

Everest is in many ways similar to Sisoft Sandra. 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.
 
Everest Memory Read
 
Everest Memory Write
 
Everest Memory Latency


Crucial Ballistix PC3-12800 2GB DDR3 Kit Page: 5
ViMark

ViMark is the latest addition to the OC3D testing process and a relatively new benchmarking application in general. Designed to take the inaccuracies and guesswork out of measuring the time taken to encode video files, ViMark produces easily comparable and consistent results for encoding Windows Media, Quicktime, AVI and Gif files.
 
ViMark - Windows Media
 
ViMark - Apple Quicktime
 
ViMark - AVI
 
ViMark - GIF
 
 
7-Zip

7-Zip is an open source winzip-style file compression utility that has the ability to compress and decompress many file formats including it's own .7z compression scheme. 7-Zip also comes complete with its own benchmarking utility for gauging the compression and decompression speed of the system that it is installed on.
 
7-Zip Compression
 
7-Zip Decompression


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CineBench
 
Cinebench 10 is a benchmarking tool based on the powerful 3D software Cinema 4D. Consequently, the results of tests conducted using Cinebench carry significant weight when analysing a computer’s performance in everyday use.
 
Cinebench Rendering
 
Cinebench Rendering
 
Cinebench OpenGL
 
 
3DMark053DMark06
 
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 3 times with averages being calculated from each of the results.
 
3DMark05
 
3DMark06


Crucial Ballistix PC3-12800 2GB DDR3 Kit Page: 7
Quake4
 
Quake 4 is a game built on the Doom 3 engine. Benchmarking was performed using Quake4Bench and a custom timedemo recording along with 0xAA, 0xAF settings at a resolution of 1024x768. The benchmark was set to run a total of 6 times, with the highest and lowest scores being excluded, and an average calculated from the remaining 4 results.
 
Quake4
 
 
F.E.A.R
 
F.E.A.R. is a game based on the Lithtech Jupiter EX engine. It has volumetric lighting, soft shadows, parallax mapping and particle effects. Included in the game is a benchmark facility that taxes the entire PC system. This benchmark was run a total of 6 times, with the highest and lowest result being excluded and an average calculated from the remaining 4 results.
 
F.E.A.R
 
 
UT3
 
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 a total of 6 times using UTbench (Bots/DM-BioHazard) with the highest and lowest results being excluded, and an average being calculated from the remaining 4 results.
 
Unreal Tournament 3


Crucial Ballistix PC3-12800 2GB DDR3 Kit Page: 8
Conclusion
 
Crucial have always had a reputation for memory that works straight out of the box and the Ballistix PC3-12800 kit is certainly no different. Unlike a few of the DDR3 kits we've tested recently the Ballistix was 100% stable at stock speeds without the need to tweak any memory sub-timings or voltages, and I'm pleased to say that we managed to get through the whole review without pulling our hair out once!
 
It has to be said that the stock 8-8-8-24 timings of the kit are quite loose by the standards of many other DDR3 kits on the market. However this certainly seemed to give us a lot of headroom during tweaking with the modules managing extremely tight 6-6-6-12 timings at 2.1v. This is actually the tightest latency we've managed to get out of any DDR3 kit so far on OC3D  and should certainly raise a few eyebrows among the "DDR3 latency" critics.
 
Unfortunately, overclocking the modules didn't yield quite as impressive results with the modules topping out at DDR3-1820. While a bump of 110mhz over the stock speed certainly isn't anything to be sniffed at, it does fall slightly short of other PC3-12800 kits we've tested in the past that have almost managed to break DDR3-2000.
 
Back on the upside, the Crucial Ballistix PC3-12800 kit is available at many retailers for the highly respectable sum of £154. While this is still a fair bit higher than your average 2GB DDR2 kit, it's certainly more within the reach of the average overclocker.
 
Komplett - Overclock3D Recommended Retailer
 
 
The Good
• Memory rock solid at stock settings.
• Managed very tight 6-6-6-12 timings at DDR3-1600
• Packaging ensures safe arrival of your purchase.
 
The Mediocre
• Reasonable overclock to DDR3-1820.
 
The Bad
• Nothing to report.
 
 
Overclock3D Recommended Award
 
 
Thanks to Crucial for making this review possible. Discuss this review in our forums.