One of the best things to have happened in recent years is the switch from the beige box to black cases. That quickly became black or silver cases with lighting choices between blue, red or green.
Of course modders wont be limited by such small choices and so many cases have been sprayed in a plethora of colours, water loops have had various coloured dyes in them, but the reality is that the hardware itself hasn't adapted and is still mainly black or blue which does limit the overall theme of your rig.
If you want something that isn't so mainstream as a black and red system then your choices are either live with it, or spend an absolute fortune having custom heatsinks made and anodised.
Mushkin have hit the market with a bang in recent times and today we're taking a look at a variant of their Frostbyte cooler, dubbed the Radioactive.
If the heat-spreader is rather shocking, the underlying RAM thankfully follows sensible performance figures being 2000MHz @ 8-10-8-27. So often unique products are compromised by the knowledge you're a captive audience. If you want that colour you'll pay what it takes and take whatever performance it has. Mushkin has made sure you're not stuck with some 1333MHz kit just because you want a yellow spreader.
|Kit Type:||Triple Kit|
Alternative Heat-Spreader Sir?
When we reviewed the Blackline which also came with the Frostbyte heat-sink we found it did a fantastic job of keeping the kit cool whilst also having the huge benefit of not being some enormous lump of aluminium that interfered with the airflow in your case.
The Radioactive comes with exactly the same heat-spreader, just in a serious yellow colour that's surprisingly hard to photograph.
As you can see it alternately looks very yellow, or a pastel shade. The first picture on the page is probably the closest to how it looks "in hand".
In our test Gigabyte UD7 motherboard the combination of yellow and blue actually works well, as anyone who deals with complimentary colours knows. Being able to populate the slots without interfering with even the monster NH-D14 cooler is a huge plus in our books. Of course if you were water-cooled or used a less efficient cooler then this is less of problem, but we like to test with the best so for the time being the Noctua NH-D14 it remains. It's a rare kit that will fit without hindering the Noctua, but the Mushkin does it with aplomb.
Intel i7 950 @ Stock and 4GHz
6GB Mushkin Radioactive RAM
Corsair AX1200 PSU
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Out of the box the XMP gives a slight overclock to the BCLK, up from 133MHz to 143MHz for a 3.15GHz CPU speed.
Of course as good as that is, systems are always happier with the golden 200MHz BCLK. Firstly though we had to see how far the Radioactive would go and managed to get a minor speed increase up to 2072.4MHz effective.
Leaving the BCLK at 200MHz and tightening the timings we got the Radioactive from 8-10-8-27 down to 8-9-8-24. With the processor at 4GHz this will be our overclock settings.
For our testing the Radioactive is up against it's similarly Frostbyte-shod brethren the Blackline, although we have to remind you that the Blackline at stock is only 1333MHz so it will be comfortably slowest. However the overclocked version is one of the finest we've seen so for fairness we've kept the stock result in. We're also going against the popular peoples choice, the Corsair Dominator GT.
At stock things are pretty nip and tuck between the Radioactive and the Dominator. The slightly lower timings of the GT helping it just edge ahead.
With the added boost of lower timings and a reasonable CPU OC, the Radioactive tops the graph, just passing 25000 MB/s in the AIDA read test.
Sandra always uses a very different testing method which is almost solely reliant upon RAM speed rather than anything else and the results bear it out with all of our 2000MHz RAM/200MHz BCLK tests giving inseparable results.
If anyone doubted the CPU heavy nature of rendering then this nicely demonstrates it. Although RAM speed has some assistance we can see when comparing the Radioactive at stock to the Blackline at stock, a 667MHz difference in RAM speed, there is a small benefit, they still lag a long way behind the 4GHz CPU tests of the three overclocked runs.
The ever reliable POV-Ray backs up the results we saw above with the faster CPUs completely dominating. The strange thing though is how the Radioactive at stock is behind the Blackline at stock. Now stock Blackline is 133MHz BCLK whereas stock (XMP) Radioactive is 143MHz BCLK and so has a faster CPU and faster DIMMs. Curious.
When overclocked the tight timings of the Radioactive allow it to just about edge a lead but it's all very tight.
PC Mark Vantage
To borrow a line from Lewis Carroll, curiouser and curiouser. There is absolutely no denying that Mushkin in general are dominating our charts but the insane performance of the Blackline is backup up with it's comprehensive victory in PC Mark overall.
The Gaming scores follow fairly closely to what we'd expect with the various overclocks giving good performance, assisted by some improved drivers since we tested the Dominator GT and Blackline.
Memory scores though is really where things should pan out and certainly they do with the overclocked Radioactive happily at the top of the pile. At stock though it's some distance behind it's overclocked self and even behind the much slower Blackline. This strange result is even clearer with the final PC Mark score having it lagging in last place.
It seems as this is another product that is fairly average out of the box but set free when given a performance kick.
3D Mark Vantage
Once we're into gaming benchmarks things settle down hugely as we'd expect. The bigger overclock gives us the biggest score and the only time this changes is with the Dominator GT in which that version of the Catalyst drivers was clearly one that helped 3D Mark Vantage a lot as our GPU score bears out.
At the high-end the two Mushkin kits are almost inseparable.
So what can we take away from todays review of the Mushkin Radioactive?
Firstly it seems to follow a fairly popular trend we've been seeing lately in that although the stock, 'out of the box', product is fairly good, it takes a bit of an overclock to get the best out of it. Sure that sounds obvious but it's not just about an overclock making it faster, that's to be expected. It's rather than it feels restricted at stock and only starts to stretch its legs once you ramp everything up a bit. Like asking Usain Bolt to run down your hall.
Why this is a feature lately we don't know. Maybe it's manufacturers responding to Intels lead of producing 4.5GHz capable chips and then giving us 100MHz increments on a 3GHz speed every model rather than just releasing them with everything already on tap.
Regardless the Radioactive is ok at stock. Nothing special. Nothing bad. Just, alright. At stock for the retail of about £145 for this 6GB kit we'd recommend it if you particularly wanted yellow heat-spreaders. Otherwise the list of kits you can choose from is as long as you've got time to look through them.
Once overclocked properly with a 200BCLK and the timings reduced it really goes to town. It leads all of our graphs except the PC Mark Vantage one and that takes so long and works the whole system so hard that it only takes a 10 second hiccup in your rig during testing to have a huge drop in your final score.
As we said in the intro, normally more esoteric colour or design schemes are put on mediocre products knowing you're limited to those if you have a desire for a particular theme in your system.
Mushkin have gone the other route and given you the same quality product, but with a choice of a insanely yellow Frostbyte heat-sink should you desire such a colour in your system.
Good value, high performance and different looks give us reason enough to award a Silver Award to the Radioactive.
Thanks to Mushkin for providing the Radioactive for review. Discuss in our forums.