Despite being an essential part of every desktop PC, memory is rarely the most exciting of components. With its Ballistix Tracer series Crucial aims to inject some welcome ‘bling’ into the proceedings whilst delivering some highly impressive DRAM for owners of Intel’s flagship X58 platform.
A few months ago memory prices were at a level where we thought 3GB kits were practically superfluous, as some stores were offering 6GB kits of 1333MHz DDR3 for just £60. Fast forward to today and that same 6GB kit is more than double that figure, with 1600MHz parts costing considerably more again. It therefore makes a lot of sense for the cost-conscious system builder to opt for 3GB of memory now and upgrade it to 6GB once memory prices stabilise.
With attractive blue heat spreaders, the Ballistix Tracer modules certainly look the part, but you only see the true extent of their aesthetic prowess once you have plugged them into your motherboard. Once powered, a strip of LEDs positioned along the top edge of the memory module illuminates, varying its intensity based on memory workload. The effect will look great for users with a windowed side panel on their case, but also serves as a useful troubleshooting tool, as improperly mounted modules do not light up.
Fortunately the Tracers are not just eye candy; they also boast an excellent specification. The 1600MHz clock speed should be enough for most enthusiasts, while the timings of 8-8-8-24 are tighter than mainstream alternatives. With the memory modules set up using the included XMP profile we were treated to some impressive results. Compared to kits running at 1333MHz and CAS 9, the memory kit scored 1105MB/s more in Sisoft Sandra and provided 1125MB/s more bandwidth in Everest. In PCMark Vantage our scores improved by 1.8 percent from the base line specification.
How much of an impact this will have on your real-world computing depends on the applications you regularly use. For normal every day use, the X58 arguably already has too much bandwidth. For those looking to extract the maximum possible performance from their PC, however, it can provide meaningful gains and also greatly raises your ceiling when overclocking.
As with most enthusiast DDR3 memory currently on the market, the Ballistix Tracer requires an operating voltage of 1.65V. This is the maximum Intel recommends when using a Core i7 processor; use significantly more than this and you run this risk of burning out your CPU’s memory controller. Potential buyers should therefore double-check that their board can provide this voltage (or close to this voltage), though you’ll be hard pressed to find a single X58 model without serious enthusiast-grade tweaking credentials.
As with the rest of Crucial’s DRAM products the Ballistix Tracer kit comes with a lifetime warranty. While this is par for the course when buying branded memory these days, it’s still reassuring to know that if the worst should happen you are fully covered.
All in all this is an excellent kit of memory, and at £90 is far more affordable than enthusiast-grade 6GB kits.
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