Slowly but surely since the introduction of DDR3 we've seen a reduction in price until it has become quite affordable. This is especially important with X58 based systems thanks to the need to purchase a triple-channel kit to get the most out of your system as opposed to the dual-channel nature of the other chipsets available.
The problem with a more affordable kit has usually been that, like so many things, you give up a certain amount of style to obtain the substance.
We here at OC3D never mind a lot of substance at the expense of a bit of style. Something that is ugly and does its job is prefereable to a useless bit of loveliness. Germaine Greer vs Lindsay Lohan. However, if at all possible we prefer some flair with our hardware. A little flash. Milla Jovovich if you will allow us to continue the analogy.
Mushkin have definitely increased their presence on this side of the pond in recent times, and we've been very blessed by being given the first look at a variant of their Ridgeback-cooled RAM.
Normally Mushkin memory comes in a fetching, if slightly commonplace, black heatsink. All fine and dandy and black goes with most things. But what if you fancy something different? What if you fancy something very flash, but that doesn't break the bank?
Enter the Redline Ridgeback 1600MHz 6GB kit.
Mushkin certainly produce an enormous variety of memory kits, and making your way through them can be a challenge. Thankfully we have a model number which makes finding the specifications easy. We're also handily providing them for you here. OC3D - Truly an all-round service.
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Bask in its Redness
The Ridgeback Redline comes in the standard RAM packaging we're all used to now. Certainy there is no doubt about its colour.
Redline is a very apt name. It's good to see with so many boards being the red and black combination that there is the option to go red on your memory rather than the standard black.
And here is the Ridgeback heatsink in all its glory. It's a very distinctive one and the Redline logo looks very cool. It has one trick up its sleeve which we'll get to on the next page.
Although DIMMs, but their very nature, don't give us much to talk about, these look so different, and so gorgeous, that it's tough not to just keep saying "look at them!".
The Little Secret
So what makes these Mushkin Redline Ridgebacks so special? Their size. Or rather, their smallness.
Here they are compared to the Corsair Dominator GT, and as you can see they are considerably smaller in height.
The benefit this has cannot be overstated. "Why?" I hear you ask. Because they fit underneath our heatsink of choice, the Noctua NH-D14. The sheer size of this means that your choice is normally limited between lower-end RAM, or a lower performing heatsink. Not so with the Mushkin.
With the Ridgeback being 1600MHz CAS6, we were hopeful that with some loosening of the timings we could get towards 2000MHz. A lot has to be tweaked to get such an incredibly low latency, so normally you lose out in the high MHz end of the spectrum to obtain the tight timings.
However, thanks to some slackening of the timings and some very overclock happy RAM, we easily hit the 2000MHz marker that makes overclocking the rest of the system so easy. 200x20 is the most comfortable overclock for everything and allows either 10x or 9x multiplier for the RAM, dependant upon your preference for timings or pure speed.
But if you consider that 2000MHz at CAS8 is about the speed of much pricier RAM than this, you can see that already this Mushkin kit is shaping up to be quite the bargain. On paper at least.
The only thing to note is that on our test Rampage III Extreme, the board doesn't read the Read to Precharge Time (tRTP) properly and so you have to manually set it to 8 to obtain the necessary stability to hit 2GHz.
We couldn't leave it quite there and managed to obtain, with some further slackening of the timings to 9, 2100MHz. Not amazingly stable, but if you're willing to overvolt your memory then it could easily do it. We always stick within recommended limits though, and so 2000MHz will be the speed used for our testing.
Intel Core i7 930 @ Stock and 4GHz for the overclock tests
6GB Mushkin Redline Ridgeback
ASUS Rampage 3 Extreme
Windows 7 Ultimate 64 Bit
Prolimatech Armageddon with Arctic MX-3
We're also comparing against the Corsair Dominator GT at both 1600MHz CAS8, and 2000MHz CAS8. Finally we're including our current favourite RAM the Kingston T1 Hyper X 2000MHz.
Everest Ultimate Edition
Our graphs are split into two main sections. The bottom two are the Mushkin Ridgeback at 1600 CAS6 vs the Corsair Dominator GT at 1600MHz CAS8. The top three are the Dominator @ 2000, Hyper X at 2000 and the Ridgeback at 2000, all at CAS8.
As you can see the Mushkin rocks and rolls in a big way. In the 1600MHz tests the much lower timings mean it performs exceptionally, and once the overclock is implemented it still romps ahead of the pack by quite some margin.
Sandra uses a different way of benchmarking memory than Everest and therefore might provide different results. It's this twin attack upon the process that allows us to give you a great feel for the product.
At stock the Ridgeback once again gives the Dominator GT a bit of a pounding. Once everything is overclocked at 2000MHz CAS8 the difference are, as you'd expect, negligable.
PC Mark Vantage
Aha. We have a slight variation in the order of things. In overall PC Mark Vantage it's clear that the tighter timings available to both 1600MHz kits are oddly more beneficial than the pure speed, of the Hyper and Dominator 2000MHz kits. The Mushkin when overclocked though absolutely rocks hard, decimating the competition. In such a tightly contested comparison you can definitely put a tick in the Colorado teams box.
3D Mark Vantage
We see the results of our earlier testing mirrored in 3D Mark Vantage, with the Ridgeback winning out at both the 1600MHz stock speed and the 2000MHz overclock. It's all, as you'd expect, much tighter, but still the Mushkin has enough in hand to stand astride the rostrum.
For our rendering tests we're using CineBench R11.5, and the freeware Ray-Tracer, POV-Ray. The graphs are so similar to each other it's almost spooky.
At 1600MHz, the Mushkin again spanks the Dominator GT, and when we move on to the 2000MHz testing it's finally beating into second place by the Kingston Hyper X. Once you take into account the small difference between the results, and that the other two kits are designed to run at 2000MHz, it shows how well the Mushkin is coping with the overclock.
Normality is restored for our final test with the Ridgeback being King of the 1600MHz bracket by quite a margin, and when overclocked managing to beat its pricier rivals.
Well it doesn't take a genius to work out the conclusion after that very comprehensive set of results.
Lookswise the Ridgeback is stunning decked out in its Firetruck Red. It really stands out from the crowd both on the shelf, and in your rig. It looked especially gorgeous within my Rampage III Extreme and was a lovely change from the black and similar monochrome heatsinks we find on RAM these days.
The height alone was almost enough to recommend it. So few high-performance RAM kits can fit underneath our NH-D14 CPU Cooler than to have a great looking one with a heatsink that performs clearly better than standard heatspreader was a joy.
Mushkin have really pulled out all the stops to get the timings down to the low CAS6 on this and it was reflected in the results. At 1600MHz the Corsair Dominator GT CAS8 Kit just couldn't keep pace whatsoever and the Muskin was edging close to the 2000MHz kits in some tests.
Overclocking though is where its star really shone brightly. Despite a little issue with our Asus board not picking the timings up correctly, a 10 second call to the engineer at Mushkin sorted that out and 2000MHz with a still tight CAS8 was a breeze.
Breeze is actually underselling it. It was a tornado. Although a couple of tests saw it run close, pretty much all our results showed the Mushkin Redline Ridgeback strolling off into the sunset whilst the others puffed and wheezed to the finish line.
So all in all we have a great looking, great performing 6GB kit that you can have, in your rig, for a mere £150. Can't do much better than that and therefore it's deserving of our Gold Award for combining excellent looks, excellent performance and great overclockability, for a great price.
Thanks to Mushkin for providing the Ridgeback kit for todays review. Discuss in our forums.