G.Skill Trident Extreme Performance F3-16000CL9 DDR3 Kit Page: 1
Introduction
 
It's been ten years since G.Skill was born and in that time they have evolved into a leading manufacturer of memory components. While they are most commonly known for their high performance memory kits, such as the Trident kit we have review today, they are rapidly gaining a foothold in the SSD market with drives such as the Falcon we reviewed previously which to date is the fastest SSD we have had the pleasure of testing. So then, can G.Skill back this impressive feat up with a high performance product they are famed for?
 
I've sampled quite a few triple channel kits designed for use with Intel's Core i7 CPU and none have failed to impress. Some have been mediocre, some amazing but none have been disappointing, so G.Skill had better not break that run of good fortune now! Also, with so many kits claiming extreme performance, G.Skill have some stiff competition so it remains to be seen if the G.Skill Trident kit can hold it's own against it's competitors.
 
Running at a stock speed of 2000MHz you would think that this was G.Skill's premier product but they actually do a faster memory kit, the 'Perfect Storm' which runs at a stupidly high speed of 2133MHz! We will try and get a sample of that kit for review in the near future but for now we'll investigate whether the the kit I have in my hands is just a speed binned kit or not but at 2000MHz, the G.Skill Trident triple channel kit is certainly not going to be slow out of the blocks.
 
Here's what they had to say:
 
We are here to provide superior memory products, with satisfactory services in order to keep pace with our customers' growing needs, and help them by adding value to their purchases. We pledge we will continue to do so and enable both sides to obtain significant competitive advantages in the market segments.
Investing in human resources is just one of the reasons why G. SKILL is able to provide such high levels of efficient and cost effective services.
G. SKILL is managed as a family, providing a dynamic, challenging and harmonious working environment for all employees. With the open-minded management, each individual with potential talent can be fully developed.
With this clear goal of providing satisfactory services for customers, our R&D department is constantly developing the fastest and best performing products; our marketing and sales departments ensure all the information needed is available and presented in a clear and understandable format.
 
 Specifications
 
The following specification was taken directly from the G.Skill website. 
 
 Product nameGSkill [TRIDENT] F3-16000CL9T-3GBTD
Main Board
Intel
System
 Desktop
Type
 DDR3
M/B Chipset
Intel X58
CAS Latency9-9-9-24
SpeedDDR3-2000 (PC3 16000)
Test Voltage
1.65v
Registered/Unbufferd
Unbuffered
Error CheckingNone - ECC
Type240-pin DIMM
WarrantyLifetime
 
Nothing too much out of the ordinary here. With a relatively slow speed of CAS9, the G.Skill will be hard pushed to be the fastest kit on test but G.Skill will dispute, this is not the fastest kit they supply while other kits have the same speed as their flagship model. Worthy of note though is G.Skill's lifetime warranty should you run into difficulties throughout your time using the kit.
 
Let's take a look at the Trident modules...


G.Skill Trident Extreme Performance F3-16000CL9 DDR3 Kit Page: 2
Packaging & Appearance
 
The package is presented in blister style packaging but rather than have the edges heat sealed, the product can be opened using the two knobs at the top of the pack instead of having to demolish the packaging to get to the ram inside. The back card is holographic in design and apart from the product title which lays claim to being extreme performance ram designed for Nehalem, no other information is available. It isn't until we flip the package over that G.Skill give an inkling of the DDR3's performance, specifically the heatsinks cooling properties with a thermal image of their heat dissipation. A small sticker in the bottom quarter of the pack gives the prospective buyer the information they will be looking for with timings, voltage and frequency displayed.
 
trident back
 
The modules themselves are heavy in comparison but that's no bad things as anyone who has seen the movie 'Snatch' will tell you 'Heavy is good. Heavy is reliable!' - who am I to argue. The reason for this weight is the mass of thick set fins each heatsinks has. Couple this with the Matt black surface and it becomes clear G.Skill have done their homework regarding heat dissipation. A sticker reaches across the front of the ram stick displaying the company and Trident logos, which will match any number of black/red themed set-ups very nicely. My only concern is the use of a green PCB for the sticks themselves which just looks odd considering the effort G.Skill have put into designing the heatsinks and spoils the overall aesthetics. 
 
3 memory
 
The timings of the GSkill Trident are akin to most other kits which run at 2000MHz being 9-9-9-24. While CAS9 may seem a little slack, previous reviews have shown that latency is not the be all and end all of DDR3 performance. More important is the frequency of the modules and as these sticks run at a blistering 2000MHz you are going to be hard pushed to find a faster kit at the same price point. Because Intel CPU's are prone to suffer irreversible damage at anything over 1.65v, this is the maximum voltage GSkill recommend however if you are feeling brave this can be increased a few notches and we will see later in the review if this makes a difference to the speed of the kit.
 
rear trident emblem
 
The modules are just short of being double the height of the PCB and as such care should be taken to ensure these modules will fit in your motherboard should you make use of an oversized CPU cooler. The modules can be taken apart using 2 screws which are hidden beneath the SPD and warranty VOID sticker, however I found that, even with my best efforts, the modules refused to budge and not wanting to risk damaging the integrated chips I thought better of forcing the issue.
 
memory top mem side
 
While I appreciate that memory these days can run very hot, heatsinks are becoming so extravagant that the price of DDR3 kits are being artificially increased to off-set this extra manufacturing cost. No doubt the heatsinks will increase the lifespan of memory by keeping them cooler but I have yet to notice any significant increase in overclocks or stability by using them. However, with memory prices as inflated as they are, it's no bad thing to protect your investment with the extra cooling these heatsinks supply. They also look the business which is always a plus point for anyone wishing to show the ram off through a case window.
 
perspective timings
 
Apart from the Green PCB, GSkill have created a DDR3 kit that looks very menacing.  The fins give the impression that the modules could easily be at home on a medieval battlefield as much as an i7 setup. The blood red logo only adds to this and one can only imagine what this kit would look like in a motherboard with a complementing colour scheme such as Foxconn's Bloodrage or EVGA's Classified.
 
Looks however are not everything so it's time to put this kit to the test....


G.Skill Trident Extreme Performance F3-16000CL9 DDR3 Kit Page: 3
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

GSkill Trident CL9 2000MHz 9-9-9-24 3x2GB kit (CPU @2711MHz)

OCZ Blade Series CL7 2000MHz 7-8-7-20 3x2GB kit (CPU @ 2711Mhz)
Corsair Dominator GT CL7 1866MHz 7-8-7-20 3x2GB kit
Crucial Ballistix Tracer CL8 1600MHZ 8-8-8-24 3x2GB kit
Mushkin XP CL7 1600MHz 7-8-7-20 3x2GB kit
Patriot Viper CL8 1600MHz 8-8-8-24 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
 
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 G.Skill Trident kit to all the other memory kits we have tested to date for the X58 i7 platform. Consideration needs to be given to the fact that the CPU was mildly overclocked to 2717MHz (see below), 51MHz above stock speed to attain the 2000MHz stock speed when viewing the results overleaf.
 
 
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:

CPU 
 
SPD 
 
Overclocking DDR3 that is already running at an Ultra high speed was never going to be easy as most manufacturers will have already determined what the fastest attainable bandwidth and latency is. Therefore I didn't hold out much hope of the G.Skill kit clocking much higher than the levels already set.
 
 OC
 
As you can see from the shot above, all I could manage was a miserly 26MHz over stock. While I didn't fully determine stability it passed SuperPI and 3DMark06 at this speed. However when the bandwidth was pushed any higher sporadic BSOD began to appear. Lowering the latency had an even worse effect with anything lower than CAS 9 resulting in the Gigabyte motherboard failing to POST, even lowering the bandwidth down to 1866MHz and raising the Vdimm to 1.7v had no effect and the setup still refused to come to life. While I am disappointed with the overclocking experience of the GSkill Trident kit, one has to remember that when a kit is preset to it's absolute limit, anything extra is a bonus. Sadly this is one area where I would not expect the GSkill to thrill the end user.
 
Returning the settings back to the advertised 2000MHz with a latency of CAS9-9-9-24 @ 1.65v I began to run our suite of memory benchmarks.
 
Let's see how I got on...


G.Skill Trident Extreme Performance F3-16000CL9 DDR3 Kit Page: 4


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
 
The G.Skill Trident kit performed exactly as expected falling just short of the OCZ Blade but thanks to the increased bandwidth, beat the Corsair kit in all of the synthetic memory benchmarks. Interestingly, Everest and Sandra were at odds when running the latency tests with Everest showing the Corsair kit faster than the GSkill (CAS 8 vs CAS 9) whereas Sandra had them equal.
 
Let's move on to the 3D benchmarks...


G.Skill Trident Extreme Performance F3-16000CL9 DDR3 Kit Page: 5
 
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
 
Again, we see that the OCZ kit is faster overall, closely followed by the G.Skill Trident. One has to consider the price difference between the two kits though and whether the faster slightly faster OCZ kit is worth that extra cash. At the premium end I would guess that money is no object but for the enthusiast who wants speed and value, then the G.Skill kit maybe the kit of choice.

Let's head over to the conclusion...


G.Skill Trident Extreme Performance F3-16000CL9 DDR3 Kit Page: 6
Conclusion
 
The G.Skill Trident kit does, to coin a phrase, 'exactly what it says on the tin'. At 2000MHz, nobody can dispute the fact that it is certainly and extreme performance kit. It excelled in all of the benchmarks we ran only failing to beat our current no.1 kit, the OCZ Blade. However, here's the kicker; it does this at more than half the price! Sure, some might claim that for the best you have to pay top Dollar and for the most part that is true. But one should also consider that there is a point of diminishing returns. Put both of these contrasting comments and what do you get? The G.Skill Trident. The kit hit's the sweet spot where performance versus cost is concerned.
 
The kit is is very cheap as far as extreme performance kits go and it wasn't too long ago that enthusiasts were being asked to stump up the thick end of £300 for a 6GB kit of this calibre. A few months on and kits such as the G.Skill Trident are on the brink of dropping below the £100 mark for the kit I reviewed today can be bought for £118 which is an absolute bargain all things considered.
 
I was disappointed in the overclocking department as these sticks were as stubborn as anything I have tried. No amount of coaxing would get any benefit over stock despite my best efforts. Were this an average, run-of-the-mill memory kit I would have expected at least a little flexibility but it just goes to show that G.Skill have maximised the potential of this kit.
 
While the timings are slack, this did not have too much of an effect on the benchmarks I ran today and while this kit is not the flagship product from G.Skill, I think I have shown it to be the kit where the wise money would go if you are looking for cost versus performance. In short, G.Skill have thrown down the gauntlet to other manufacturers to lower the price of high end DDR3 kits by producing what is in effect one of the fastest 6GB kits on the market for a mid range price. So if you are not looking to pay the premium prices that tight latency demands, you could do a lot worse then lay down your hard earned for 6GB kit of G.Skill's Trident memory.
 
The Good
- Price
- Gorgeous heatsinks
- Stock performance
- Lifetime warranty
 
The Mediocre
- Green PCB
 
The Bad
- Overclocking headroom - there is none.
 
 
 
Thanks to G.Skill for providing the 6GB Trident kit for todays review. Discuss in our forums.