Memory, something that is one of the more important pieces to a computer. It is one of the few things you need to actually start building your computer. But more importantly, it is one of the best general performance boosters that you can get for PCs. Adding more memory can, to a certain point, make your computer run smoother, or increase the speed of certain memory limited applications.
Over the past few years it has started gaining popularity as an overclocking tool, with the standards of PC133, PC2700 and others being superseded by higher speed RAM. With the release of the Pentium IV C series and its associated 800MHz FSB, higher than PC3200 RAM became very popular. The 2.4GHz version of the processor was an overclockers delight as it could easily reach 250MHz FSB without problems. This lead to the release of high speed RAM so that you could overclock this system, while keeping memory speed in synch.
Crucial/Micron have not been known as a overclockers memory company, rather they are some of the most stable and inexpensive 'name brand' RAM you can get. They are trying to add to that reputation the ability to provide some of the best overclockers RAM. With this new foray they have given this series a name, Ballistix. So lets see what this memory can do.
Crucial Ballistix PC3200 C2
Crucial was kind enough to send us their high end DDR memory, in the PC3200 C2 1GB matched set. What do they give you in the way of a package, is there a lot included or is it a plain box. Lets look at a few pictures to see.
We can see something interesting from these pictures. First, Crucial has decided to ship the memory in two boxes instead of one box that is a matched pair inside the packaging. This probably will not be a problem at all, as its more for the customers peace of mind in having two sticks of memory packaged together which are guaranteed to work. Secondly, Crucial has decided to go with the motto, simplicity is best. This means the external package has nothing that is really eye catching, nor does the inside do much to allay this. An interesting addition, and something that points toward their target market is the Ballistix case sticker in each package.
The memory itself has a part number of which points it to a 512MB stick of PC3200 with timings of 2-3-2-6, slower than some of the other new PC3200 memory that is out there with CAS 2 settings. The heatsinks that are on the RAM are nice and copper colored, and did get warm in our testing, though nothing more than slightly warm at 3v. Overall the RAM itself looks the same as most other overclockers RAM, but its what's on the inside that counts right isn't it. Lets see how this RAM overclocks on our test PIV 2.4C system.
So how well does this PC3200 RAM overclock? Lets look at the results.
We see that the Crucial memory certainly does overclock fairly well, as it can make it to 261MHz or almost PC4200 speeds. At this level we had the voltage on the RAM at 3v, with the timings set to their most relaxed at 3-4-4-8. Overall a 30% improvement in clock speed for this stick of RAM. Remember though that your results may vary as this is a sampling of only one set of memory.
Intel Pentium IV 2.4C - 200MHz FSB (at various FSB's and CPU Speeds)
MSI 845PE Max2
||1GB Corsair XMS TwinX PC4000 Kit (2*512MB)
|Hard Drives :
40GB Maxtor 6E040L0, 40GB Maxtor 6l040J2, 2*80GB Maxtor 6Y080M0 SATA Hard Drives
||ATi AiW 9600Pro 128MB
||Windows XP Pro SP2/ Direct X 9.0c
||Catalyst 4.10 beta
||CoolerGuys Windtunnel IV
||Sea Sonic SS-400FB
|Direct X Benchmarks:
||Unreal Tournament 2003 (HardOCP software 2.1 - CPU Test)
||Jedi Knight II Jedi Outcast (time demo)
||TMPGEnc Plus 220.127.116.11
||Sciencemark 2.0 Beta Build Nov. 17, 2002
You will notice that no sound card was present for our tests, as UT and Jedi Knight get a boost from removing the card, and this is a test of the RAM not CPU load. Our only synthetic benchmark was Sciencemark, which was used to measure bandwidth and latency of the memory, though as it is synthetic take its results with a grain of salt.
UT2003 was run at a resolution of 640*480, and Jedi Knight II was run at 1024*768 with high settings. Terragen was run at the settings I have made for the test. XMpeg 5.03 was run using the SSE2 optimizations and we used the video that I have been using for quite a while, from "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy". TMPGEnc was using the same video as XMpeg but with it encoded as HuffYUV video.
First we will take a little look at our synthetic benchmark, Sciencemark. This program is made to test quite a few different parts of the system, but we will only use the memory bandwidth/latency test for this review. So lets see the results for the RAM that we tested.
What can we see in this test. The Crucial memory, which is rated for tighter timings, takes the lead in the latency test by 14 CPU cycles, which is a decent amount considering that the Corsair memory is tweaked quite a bit just to reach the timings it has in the test. In bandwidth we see that the Crucial memory at 200MHz can come very close to the bandwidth that the Corsair memory has at 250MHz. Overclocking the memory does increase bandwidth but also increases latency which can be a problem with programs that do a lot of small reads from memory.
Now that we have some idea of what the performance graph should look like, lets get on with the real benchmarks. First we will take a look at two games, first being UT2003. We all know that UT2003 is a very graphically intense game, and the guys at HardOCP created a test for both video cards and for CPU performance. So lets see the results at 640*480.
We can see that results are pretty similar, with the Crucial memory being about 2% faster at stock speeds, with tighter timings, than the Corsair RAM. When overclocked we again see the Crucial memory is only 2% faster than the Corsair memory. Overclocking the memory provides a 18% increase in performance, which isn't as high as the actual increase in clock speed showing the effect that latency has on this game. How though does the RAM fair in a very bandwidth hungry game, in the Quake III engined based game Jedi Knight II.
We see that lowering the timings helps the Crucial be 3% faster than the PC4000 memory. When overclocked the difference between the two sticks of RAM is 2%, with the Corsair having lower timings but the Crucial has a 11MHz faster FSB. Overclocking the RAM gives you only an 13% increase in frame rate, for the 30% increase in clock speed, though according to the bandwidth results the increase should only be 7%.