OCZ Blade DDR3 PC3-16000 6GB Kit Page: 1
Introduction
 
OCZ have been dipping there fingers into many different pies lately venturing into territories not normally associated with a premium memory manufacturer. Power Supply Units, D.I.Y notebooks, cooling products as well as being a leader in SSD technology are just some of the products OCZ currently offer. So then it remains to be seen if OCZ still have what it takes to make Ultra high Performance memory or have they dropped the ball and fallen behind in the highly competitive, top end performance memory market?
 
OCZ aim to answer this question with the extreme bandwidth, low latency 'Blade' series, in this case the OCZ DDR3 PC3-16000 Blade Series Low Voltage Triple Channel 6GB kit. This set of memory is specifically designed for use on Intel i7 X58 setups (although they also make Blade kits specific to older chipsets) which runs at an extremely low latency of 7-8-7 and a blistering speed of 2000MHz! Perhaps best of all, the voltage required to run at this speed is no different from lesser 'high-end' kits at 1.65v. This makes the Blade kit the fastest kit currently available in a mass produced state on what is the standard accepted Vdimm of most performance DDR3 kits on the market today. However, because of this kits ultra fast speed, each kit is speed binned using the latest technology to ensure every single kit out of OCZ's doors meets your stringent standards. All you need to reach the advertised frequency is a CPU and motherboard capable of attaining this ultra bandwidth.
 
The new blade kit also has a new set of clothing in the form of some sleek black heat spreaders which form an interesting design I will investigate further overleaf. Sadly, there is no included memory fan cooler which is dissappointing considering the price, especially when you consider there are cheaper kits which include this accessory. It remains to be seen though if any extra cooling is needed to keep the Blade kits temperatures in check, something I will look at in terms of memory stability in the testing procedure later on in the review.
 
Here's what OCZ have to say about their flagship product:
 
The Blade Series Triple Channel Memory kit is the latest maximum-performance RAM designed specifically for the Intel® Core™ i7 processor / Intel® X58 Express Chipset. At DDR3-2000, CL 7-8-7, the Blade Series harnesses industry-leading speeds at the low voltage required to safely run Core i7’s triple channel mode. With the ideal combination of all the factors that formulate the ultimate memory solution— density, speed, latency, and an effective new cooling design—the Blade Series is guaranteed to please enthusiasts looking to take the hottest Intel platform to new heights.

Whether seeking maximum frame rates in the latest PC titles or yearning for the highest benchmark record, the Blade Series was developed for gamers and overclockers looking to make the most of their high-performance systems.
 
 
Specification
 
The following specification was taken directly from the OCZ product page:
 
Bandwidth: 2000MHz DDR3
Latency: CL 7-8-7-20
Availability:  6GB (3x2048) Triple Channel Optimised Kits
Buffered/Unbuffered: Unbuffered
Vdimm: 1.65 Volts
Socket: 240 Pin DIMM
Cooling: Pure Aluminum Heatsink
Warranty: OCZ Lifetime Warranty
 
So with extra tight timings, unheard of at it's rated speed of 2000MHz, fresh new heatsinks all running with a conservative 1.65v, it seems OCZ certainly still have the minerals to produce some  class leading memory. Let's see if they can present it as such...


OCZ Blade DDR3 PC3-16000 6GB Kit Page: 2
Packaging & Appearance
 
The packaging of the OCZ Blade kit is understated yet better than most manufacturers have managed to muster. The front of the outer box is a glossy black and grey affair with a telling slogan: 'The best performing DDR3 Memory on the market. Period'. That remains to be seen however if the packaging is anything to go by, there are certainly encouraging signs. The rear of the box goes on to describe the quality assurance of the package as well as customer support.
 
front back
 
The modules are presented in blister style packing that protect from both static and scratches to the product. Along with the individually packed modules is an instruction leaflet explaining how to install the modules in the correct manner while avoiding anti-static discharge.
 
open leafelt
 
Here we see the three modules free from the blister packs in all of their glory. The heat sinks seem to be aluminium but also feel much heavier than that alloy. Swathed in a brushed black effect, the memory sticks certainly look very appealing with the chrome effect log emblazoned on the front of the modules. 
 
triple ram three
 
The memory heat sink on the modules comes in two parts (pre-built) and screwed together very tightly, so much so I could not release these screws to get a sneak peek of the integrated chips beneath. The top side of the cooler is curved in design with fins uppermost that should dissipate heat very well. The rear of the modules is flat black and here is where you will find those pesky screws should you wish to replace the stock heat sink although I cannot think why you would want to as the stock heat sink should be more than capable of cooling the memory down.
 
top bottom
 
A small stick is affixed to the front of the modules displaying the specification of the kit along with the serial number. In this case the specifications are of the top end kit - CAS7-8-7 @1.65v 2000MHz PC3-16000.
 
spec angle
 
With the memory profile now visible you can see just how unique this cooler is with the curved metal covering the front of the memory stick formed into fins that wrap around the product. This curvature obviously adds width to the Blades form but not so much so that each module cannot be placed side by side, even if you choose to run this kit in a 12GB configuration.
 
side top most
 
So then, a very attractive and well presented 6GB kit. I do like the matching black heat sink and black PCB which oozes class and even though the metal 'fingers' are gold as standard in every kit, there's something about black and gold that just screams quality. I would be interested to know just how well the heat sinks keep the kit cool as other manufacturers seem to prefer adding a separate cooler, not only to keep the memory cool but to enhance the longevity of the product. Nevertheless, nobody can deny that this kit is a lush piece of equipment that will satisfy the design freaks out there and as a bonus, because black goes with everything, should match anybodies motherboard be it black, blue or red.
 
Let's take a look at our test setup that I will be using to test the kit out today...


OCZ Blade DDR3 PC3-16000 6GB 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

OCZ Blade Series CL7 2000MHz 7-8-7-20 3x2GB kit (CPU @ 2717Mhz)
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 OCZ Blade 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 mildy 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:

stock cpu stock mem
 
SPD 
 
With the kit already running at a mind boggling 2000MHz it was hard to imagine that the kit could possibly be pushed any further. However...
 
pi
 
Yup you're reading that right! A massive 2128MHz was achieved by simply dropping the latency a notch to CAS8. This equals the previous best kit we reviewed, the Dominator GT and while both kits reached this scorching speed, the OCZ needed slightly less Vdimm to get there with a small jump from stock voltage to 1.68v. I tried getting the memory to go higher by slackening the timings further but it seems that either the motherboard just doesn't like anything above this speed (QPI limit?) or the memory has reached it's limit. No amount of voltage tweaks or setting adjustments could surpass this speed so with that in mind I returning the settings back to their stock values and then ran our suite of memory benchmarks to see how the modules compare.
 
Let's see how I got on...


OCZ Blade DDR3 PC3-16000 6GB 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
 
From the results above, it's plain to see which is the superior kit. In almost every test run, the OCZ Blade easily beat all of the other kits on test. A whopping 33GB/s bandwidth should be enough for even the hungriest of applications and when coupled to some very good latency timings, should prove this kit to be the no1 choice for memory performance.
 
Let's move on to the 3D benchmarks...


OCZ Blade DDR3 PC3-16000 6GB 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
 
While reading the results above, consideration should be given to the fact the OCZ Blade kit was run with the CPU ever so slightly overclocked from a stock 2666MHz to 2717MHz. While this is hardly a dramatic increase, it is an increase nonetheless and should therefore be assessed while viewing the benchmarks results.
 
That said, the lead the OCZ kit has over the other kits on test is plain to see with the Blade 'Dominating' it's nearest opposition throughout the testing.

Let's head over to the conclusion...


OCZ Blade DDR3 PC3-16000 6GB Kit Page: 6
Conclusion
 
The OCZ Blade kit is without doubt the fastest kit we have tested to date. No sooner had I reviewed the excellent Dominator GT's last week, do OCZ slam dunk them into the history books with a phenomenal, extreme performance 6GB DDR3 kit.
 
At stock, this kit out performs anything we have tested thus far across all the benchmarks. Sure, we had to nudge the CPU up a few notches to allow us to reach the stock 2000MHz setting but it was plain to see from the benchmarks that even without this minor CPU overclock, the Blade kit simply wiped the floor with the competition. As it is clocked very high at stock I was shocked to find that I could still grab a few extra MHz (128 to be precise) with only a slight drop in latency.
 
The kit certainly looks the business with understated yet functional black heat sinks. We have had the pleasure of testing two of these kits at OC3D, one kit arrived with a matching black PCB and the other having a slightly less appealing green PCB. That said when the kits are in the memory sockets you are not going to notice thanks to the heat sinks covering all of the PCB anyway. The packaging was very good, with the three kits packed in blister style packs and then a further card box displaying all the features and niceties we all like to see. There is also a handy little leaflet inside which contains info on the modules themselves as well as warranty and customer support information.
 
Perhaps the biggest, and I do mean that literally, downfall of the OCZ Blade kit is the extortionate price tag. £345 is a very high price to pay for a 6GB kit. Some E-tailors even have this kit around the £600 mark, such is the high demand for such high performing kits! While most may baulk at the price, it was not so long ago that top end DDR2 kits cost this much, and were down 2GB too so all things considered, this is not such a bad price though still out of average Joe's budget I feel. Clearly this top of the range memory kit is not targeted to the masses, it's market is someone who wants the best. With some extreme i7 motherboards now costing in excess of £400 and selling by the bucket load it should really come as no surprise that kits such as the OCZ Blade will also sell well to the high end enthusiast. It's an age old adage but you get what you pay for. Sadly, this is true with the OCZ Blade kit and while the increase in performance may not seem to be worth the extra money, as with all top of the range items, you will always get diminishing returns the higher up the scale of performance products you go.
 
In short, the OCZ kit offers performance few other kits can hope to match, certainly at stock speed and although the price tag is high, if you want the best you are simply going to have to stump up the cash. I word of warning though, you will need a very good CPU memory controller to allow this kit to perform at it's optimum speed. Performance wise, whichever your preference, be it bandwidth or latency, you have a kit full of win/win with the OCZ Blade CAS7 6GB kit which holds true to it's promise of  'The best performing DDR3 memory on the market'. For that reason alone it deserves our prestigious Performance award.
 
The Good
- Fastest stock kit on the market
- Sexy heat sinks
- Amazing performance
 
The Mediocre
- A ram cooler would be a nice addition
- Hit and miss on Green/Black PCB
- Price will be out of reach for most
 
The Bad
- Nothing
 
 
Thanks to OCZ for providing the Blade kit for review. Discuss in our forums.