It's been some time since we first heard of the possibility of 4GB density sticks which would enable us to run 12GB triple channel, or indeed 8GB dual channel. Finally we could potentially take advantage of populating our boards with the 24GB they state they can handle.
Without question this is a huge leap forwards. Memory is one of those things that it's almost impossible to have too much of. Anyone who has spent ages running with a cheap 1GB setup will immediately be stunned at how much better a 2 or even 4GB upgrade is.
As X58 boards are triple channel most people run 6GB. Plenty for the average user but if you work at all with images you'll find the resolution available with modern cameras can quickly eat that all away if you load more than a couple in Photoshop or similar. The results are just that way with video editing too.
In short when it comes to RAM, the more the merrier. Like anyone we're huge fans of technology here at OC3D and so were gagging to test a kit and see if the latest models can be all that we come to expect from 6GB kits, but in high-density form.
Mushkin might not be as well known in the UK as they are in the US, but they have a reputation for producing high quality products. They kindly sent us a 12GB kit from their Blackline series, so let's take a look.
|Kit Type:||Triple Kit|
So far, so fairly average. 1600MHz is a nice surprise to find at this early stage of the technology, especially when it's paired to CAS9. Not bad for such a huge module size and hopefully indicative that this isn't an "early adopter" type kit, but actually one that delivers good performance too.
Let's get a closer look shall we.
The Kit Up Close
As always with memory the Mushkin comes in a standard blister pack. However it's nice to see that Mushkin have at least made the effort to make the background match the sticks. None more black indeed.
The reverse has exceptionally clear instructions on how to install the DIMMs. We take it for granted but if you're new to hardware switching it is nice to have instructions so readily to hand, rather than hidden deep within a pamphlet somewhere.
The sticks themselves are very nice looking with clear Mushkin Enhanced branding on a fairly simple black heatspreader. Although we often see heatspreaders with enormous tall loops and things off of them, here we have enough surface area to keep them cool, enough gaps to allow ventilation, and yet short enough not interfere with over-sized coolers.
Probably the most disappointing thing is the use of a green PCB. Normally I am not too fussy because once they are installed you can barely see the green. Here though with the large cutouts on the compact heatspreader there is a little too much green leftover for my liking. It's not like a black PCB will vastly increase costings because it's the second most popular colour.
Test Setup and Overclocking
Motherboard : ASUS Rampage III
CPU : Intel Core i7 930
RAM : 12GB Mushkin Enhanced Blackline
GPU : HD5870 1GB
PSU : Corsair HX850
OS : Windows 7 Ultimate 64
With the chips being so huge we expected to find quite a limit on our overclocking venture. Especially as they come out the box at 1600MHz already. However by slackening the timings a little we got it to run at 1904MHz, a very healthy increase indeed.
Although the tRCD and Command rate had to be slacked a little, we still managed to keep the all important CAS at 9. Very impressive indeed.
Everest Ultimate Edition
Remember us saying that more RAM is better? Well the stock Mushkin performs very well in our Everest RAM tests. We think the benefits of the Mushkin over the Corsair are based upon the highly refined DIMM chip, in the same way die shrinking has had such a huge benefit on CPUs, twice the RAM in the same space should make the difference we can see.
Once overclocked this kit flies with significant performance improvements to be had.
SiSoft Sandras memory bandwidth test gives a pretty definitive result with the Corsair and standard Mushkin neck and neck, but once the Mushkin is overclocked it strolls off into the distance quite comprehensively.
A similar benchmark, in terms of testing your entire system, to PC Mark Vantage, PassMark 7 clearly prefers more RAM with the 12GB Mushkin absolutely laying a spanking on the 6GB in the Memory Mark. The final PassMark rating is much closer, but there is no denying that the synthetics love more memory.
Benchmarks Part Two
3D Mark Vantage
Of course we all know that games never take as much advantage of hardware as applications do. A large part of this is because companies tend to develop for the very memory-limited consoles first and then port to PCs, but there is an obvious need to ensure that you maximise sales. Having "1GHz P3 and 256MB RAM" on the side of the box is more likely to generate sales to the average punter than a quad-core 6GB system.
For once 3D Mark Vantage backs this up with the CPU Mark responding nicely to the extra RAM speed from our overclock, but the rest of the tests are so near to each other as makes no difference.
PC Mark Vantage
On the previous page we saw how well PassMark responded to having more RAM to play with, and the Mushkin puts up a great showing in PC Mark Vantage too. The difference between the 6GB Corsair and the 12GB Mushkin isn't as pronounced, but it's definitely there.
wPrime definitely follows the "speed is king" Mantra. At stock speeds the Mushkin is positively tortoise-like in this particular test, although as it has performed so well in all our other tests it's clearly a wPrime thing. Once overclocked however the result tumbles, taking 2 minutes less time to complete the 1024M run than the stock Mushkin did.
There was a time when 1GB of RAM was plenty. With the advent of Windows XP 1GB was ok, but 2GB was nice and this roughly carried on through the rightfully maligned Windows Vista. Now Windows 7 is upon us and easily the best OS Microsoft have ever produced, 2GB is alright and 4GB is nice.
But it's not just about the underlying OS. Applications, by virtue of their almost yearly updates, can take advantage of improvements in the average home system much faster than Operating Systems tend to do. So although 4GB is fine to run your OS and the average program, if you're a heavy video or photo editor, or run some immense databases and similar, then it's nearly impossible to have too much memory.
We now have processors that can handle multiple threads easily and multi-tasking is a part of everyday life. If you've got Office running, with Winamp or similar to provide some music as you work, and your virus-killer and firewall protecting you whilst your IM client keeps you in the loop, it is very easy to see how you can gradually chip away at your system memory.
That is really where the Mushkin comes in. Sure if you're a "load Firefox, check email, close PC" type then this isn't the kit for you. Priced at around £400 it's difficult to justify the extra expense. Whereas in the case of reviewing for OC3D, or just playing around for fun, I've often got Photoshop open with quite a lot of multi-layer images loaded. It's phenomenally easy to hit the limits of a 6GB system and the Mushkin with 12GB of memory makes a noticeable difference under these circumstances.
There isn't much not to like about it to be honest. It's got bags of performance considering how early it is in the 4GB density stick lifespan. It should be some time before we see "out the box" 2000MHz 12GB kits, but starting at 1600MHz and CAS9 is plenty of performance as is. Even better it overclocked surprisingly well. Anyone who has done much overclocking will tell you that the more hardware you're trying to increase the performance of, the higher the likely-hood of one part of it being not quite up to snuff and so limiting your clocking.
With the Mushkin we found 1900MHz came up easily and although, due to the 1.65v limitations, we couldn't quite make it to the magic 2000MHz mark, the performance available at 1900MHz was exceptional. It dominated our graphs in testing and provided that extra zip you notice when doing general desktop fiddling about.
About the only downsides are that the kit looks so nice, but is so pricey, we'd love to have seen a black PCB to go along with the Blackline moniker. After all if you've got 12GB you want to show it off a little. The other one is, as always with leaps in technology, price.
UK pricing is unavailable at the time of writing but we've found a few prices on-line that equate to about £400. If you didn't mind having 6 sticks instead of 3 it's possible to get 12GB at the same timings as 2x6GB kits for about a hundred pounds less. Naturally not all boards like 6 sticks, you double the likely-hood of one of them being dodgy and so either not working at all or limiting your overclock, and remove any future expansion possibilities.
If the idea of 12GB of RAM tickles your fancy then we can heartily recommend the Mushkin. It's from a well established company. It looks the part. It does the job and has a surprising amount of overclocking headroom. Very nice indeed.
Thanks to Mushkin for providing the Enhanced Blackline 12GB kit for review. Discuss in our forums.