Mushkin Blackline 12GB Kit Review
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.