Mushkin 6GB (3x2GB) XP series DDR3 PC3-12800 1600MHz Kit Page: 1
Introduction

Hailing from the base of the Rocky Mountains in Denver, Colorado, USA, Mushkin have long been known as producers of high performance memory for the worldwide enthusiast market. Including products such as memory upgrades for both desktop and servers as well as notebooks, Mushkin have something to offer every user be it a gamer or an I.T Professional. Supplying Apple and NASA you can be assured of the quality produced from the Mushkin labs.

Today we will be looking at the XP (Extreme Performance) line of memory, specifically the low latency triple DDR3 kit which weighs in at the 1600MHz level. With low timings of 7-8-7-20 this is the lowest latency kit we have tested to date so it will be interesting to see what effect this has on our standard set of memory benchmarks.

Mushkin have 8 different kits in their DDR3 triple kit line up. Starting with 3x1GB 1333MHz all the way up to the range topping 3x1GB 2000MHz kit but today we have the mid range kit of 3x2GB 1600MHz to test.

Here's what Mushkin had to say about their kit:

Award winning, competition proven

Looking for performance? When you choose Mushkin, you're picking a winner. Our products win independent awards one after another and have been the essential ingredient in enthusiasts' systems for over 10 years.

Mushkin products are built from carefully selected components and must meet our unmatched rigid quality control. Our dedication to performance means that every product produced is ready for another winner to get exceptional performance and value.


Specification

The specification below was taken directly from the Mushkin website:

Frequency: 1600MHz
Latency: 7-8-7-20
Parity: Unbuffered
Voltage: 1.65V
Pins: 240
Module: 256x64
Chip: 128x8

Unlike other kits we have tested at the 1600MHz mark, the Mushkin kit arrives with lower latencies. How this affects performance in comparison we will see in our round of Memory benchmarks.

Let's take a look at how Mushkin have presented their product...


Mushkin 6GB (3x2GB) XP series DDR3 PC3-12800 1600MHz Kit Page: 2
Packaging & Appearance

The Mushkin packaging is basic by todays standards. It is presented in a blister style package that will afford the DDR3 the very minimum of protection against knocks and scrapes but this style of packaging does protect well against static, the biggest killer of memory. The rear of the package gives the end user basic installation and troubleshooting tips but it appears to be generic rather than specific to this kit. No where on the package is there any mention of what kit you have bought or its voltage and timings required. Only the DDR3 sticks themselves have a sticker displaying the specification which is something to bear in mind should you install the kit first before checking.
 
Front rear
 
The sticks themselves are clad in an attractive black aluminium heatsink with the Mushkin logo towards one end. Sadly the PCB is green but fortunately this matches the green logo of Mushkin so they are forgiven on this occasion.

 Kit 1 Kit 2
 
The sticks are identical on each side save for a specification sticker which displays the part number (all three sticks carry the same), the timings (7-8-7-20) and the voltage required to run at this speed (1.65v).

Stick front Stick rear
 
The business end of the heatsink features a loop over effect, traditional to Muskin performance ram and appeared to be effective as the sinks barely got warm to the touch even after a couple of hours testing. Holding the heatsinks together are two bare metal clasps that straddle both sides of the heatsink. Removing this clasp is very easy but unless the stick is carefully peeled away it might tear it. Removing the heatsinks would invalidate the warranty so don't try this at home kids!

Stick top Ram side
 
With the heatsinks removed we can see that the method of attachment is thermal tape. This method is perhaps the most effective as it allows for varying heights of the integrated chips. The IC's themselves are Elpida chips which are not exactly renown for being amazing overclockers with tight timings but are very durable chips that stand the test of time.

IC's Elpida
 
After replacing the heatsinks I began to overclock the Mushkin kit as far as our test rig would allow. Let's see how I got on...


Mushkin 6GB (3x2GB) XP series DDR3 PC3-12800 1600MHz 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
Mushkin 6GB (3x2GB) XP series DDR3 PC3-12800 1600MHz Kit 7-8-7-20
Patriot 6GB DDR3 PC3-12800 1600MHz Viper Series Low Latency Kit 8-8-8-24
Corsair 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 Mushkin 1600MHz 6GB Patriot kit to the1600MHz 6GB Patriot Viper and Corsair Dominator kit.

 
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:
 
stock cpu stock memory

SPD
 
Overclocking the ram was a relatively steady affair as the Mushkin seemed happy to exceed its stock values and would happily run lower latencies than specification @ 7-7-7-20 instead of the stock 7-8-7-20. I didn't manage to get the timings any lower than this and didn't try lowering the frequency as that would negate buying 1600MHz memory in the first place.

I had better success in raising the frequency despite my initial disappoint of the kit not pushing any higher with the stock latencies. Even dropping the latencies to 8-8-8-24 resulted in a very mild overclock topping out at 1712MHz. Dropping the Latency to CAS9 gave a small increase again to 1800MHz so we decided to go for broke and slackened the timings right back to 10-10-10-27 and this is where the memory seemed to come alive, breaking 2100MHz! Any higher and we encountered various forms of instability and not wanting to corrupt yet another Vista install I decided 2100MHz was plenty to show the Mushkins performance possibilities. No doubt with higher voltages, the timings could be tightened but with the risk of damaging the modules and the memory controller.
 
7-7-7- 2100 
 
Returning the settings back to stock I set about seeing how the Mushkin XP series triple kit performed against our recently reviewed 1600MHz kits by Corsair and Patriot. Let's see how it went...


Mushkin 6GB (3x2GB) XP series DDR3 PC3-12800 1600MHz 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 Mushkin had the highest read speeds in both Everest and Sandra tests but also had the lowest write speeds. The Mushkin however proved the best performer in our SuperPI tests, being the quickest out of the three kits on test overall.

Let's see how we got on with the run of 3D Benchmarks...


Mushkin 6GB (3x2GB) XP series DDR3 PC3-12800 1600MHz 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

The Mushkin kit increased scores and frames per second across the board out scoring both the Patriot and Corsair kits by a significant margin. 3DMark 05 showed the highest increase with over 1500 points difference. 3D05 is however becoming dated by todays standards and can throw up some curious results that differ greatly from run to run. There is no doubting though that over the whole 3D benchmarking process, the Mushkin is clearly the best kit for gaming.

Let's head over to the conclusion...


Mushkin 6GB (3x2GB) XP series DDR3 PC3-12800 1600MHz Kit Page: 6
Conclusion

I was secretly excited when I heard that a Mushkin kit had arrived at OC3D towers as I adored my old 'Redline' kit in DDR2 Standard which overclocked amazingly. This kit, while not screaming 'overclock the nuts off me', goes about its business without even raising an eyebrow. Overclocks didn't seem to bother it, it even reacted and was stable as a rock or it didn't play ball at all. Managing the fastest frequency we have tested thus far with an astonishing 2100MHz (albeit at CAS10) I am quietly confident that this kit is going to take some beating.

The packaging of the product could be better. A lot of DDR3 kits on sale at present are packaging their products in an extra box and while this does add to the cost of the kit I do feel that it affords the DDR3 much more protection and as a result could prevent a lot of RMA's due to damaged in transit kits. I would also liked to have seen some information on the kit I have just bought too which the Mushkin kit does not provide. Sure, you should be well aware of what you have bought but it wouldn't hurt to have some specifics on the packaging would it?

At present, there is very little information on the DDR3 kit's pricing but I would expect to pay around the £150 price point for it to be competitive in todays market. DDR3 Prices are dropping fast (about time too!) and there are a lot of manufacturers who have already released their kits. The Mushkin XP series, in the format we have reviewed today is not currently available for sale at present but will be shipped out of Colorado in the near future so keep an eye out for it. If you want tight timings or blistering frequencies then the Mushkin gives you the option of both, I only hope the price does equate to it's performance.

The Good
- Overclocked frequencies
- Excellent stock performance
- Efficient heatspreaders

The Mediocre
- Tired Green PCB's
- Packaging could be better

The Bad
- Nothing



Thanks to Muskin for providing the 6GB (3x2GB) XP series DDR3 PC3-12800 1600MHz Kit for todays review.

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