Crucial Ballistix DDR2 PC2-6400 Kit Review

Introduction

When 2GB kits started to become standard among gamers, Crucial ruled the roost with their high end PC4000 kit. Since then it has all moved on to low latency, high bandwidth DDR2 and Crucial is once again trying to dominate the market with their high performance modules. Today I have with me a mid range PC6400 kit from the Ballistix series. However, these modules are sporting the D9GMH chips which are touted as the new TCCD. This should mean high performance and some extreme overclocking, lets see how well they do.

A little about Crucial

The Crucial story starts with Micron Technology, Inc., one of the largest dynamic random access memory (DRAM) manufacturers in the world and the only one based in the U.S. Headquartered in Boise, Idaho, Micron manufactures DRAM chips and assembles them into high-quality memory modules for sale to original equipment manufacturers (“OEMs”) worldwide.

For nearly three decades, Micron has learned that when you make some of the very best memory in the world, lots of companies want it, from computer makers to wireless device manufacturers to printer producers. (And we’re really glad that they do!)

But then Micron asked, well, what about the end user? What about the everyday folks who want to upgrade their existing systems with OEM-quality memory — the home desktop user, the IT network guy, the student notebook user? Why don’t we offer our memory to the public, at factory-direct pricing?

So in 1996, Micron responded to a growing demand for high-quality memory upgrades among end users who wanted the best possible performance from their systems. Micron launched Crucial Technology in September of that year, and for the first time, end users had the opportunity to buy directly from the manufacturer the same memory modules bought by the world’s major OEMs for original installation in their systems.

Having a direct sales division focused on selling Micron’s DRAM to the public was apparently an idea whose time had come, and 10 successful years later, we have expanded our product line to include graphics cards, flash cards and readers, and USB flash drives.

NB. Crucial History taken from Crucial’s website

Crucial’s Take on the Ballstix PC6400 2gb Kit

The Ballistix line is specifically built for performance enthusiasts who want to push the performance envelope without worrying about data loss or corruption, mysterious intermittent errors and display problems, or worse — the dreaded BSOD! The Ballistix line of high-performance memory modules features advanced speed grades, low latencies, and integrated aluminum heat spreaders.

Specifications

  • Module Size: 2GB kit (1GBx2)
  • Package: Ballistix 240-pin DIMM
  • Feature: DDR2 PC2-6400
  • Configuration: 128Meg x 64
  • DIMM Type: UNBUFFERED
  • Error Checking: NON-ECC
  • Speed: DDR2-800
  • Voltage: 2.2V
  • Memory Timings: 4-4-4-12

Bits and Box

The Ballistix kit comes in an OEM style cardboard box with a simple Crucial sticker to differentiate it from any other box you may have lying around.

Popping open the box we get to see the modules themselves, albeit tucked inside some anti-static packaging which sports the specs of the modules. There is also a small instruction booklet that shows you how to install all the types of modules that Crucial sell, though to be honest, if you are buying this type of kit, you’re going to know how to do it.

Anti-Static Label

Antec Notebook Cooler S Packaging Rear

The Ballistix Sticks

The modules themseleves are looking slightly different at the moment. I say at the moment because Crucial are currently celebrating their 10 year anniversary and their Ballistix modules are complete with special heatspreaders. I am assured by Crucial that the performance of the heatspreaders is the same, so if you like the “New” look then get these modules fast as these heatspreaders won’t be used forever.

Crucial Ballistix DDR2 Module

Crucial Ballistix DDR2 Module Top Down

Oddly these modules don’t have the RAM’s specs listed on the heatspreads themselves.. This is a minor annoyance as it is always helpful not to have to install a product just to find out what it is.

Popping off the heatspreaders for a second (don’t do this yourself unless you are OK with voiding your warranty) you can see that they are made from aluminium as stated and that the underside is a nice smooth surface though not lapped like the ones you find on some heatsinks.

Naked Heatspreader

Taking a slightly closer look at the chips themselves we can see that these modules definately sport the famed D9GMH chips; a huge overclock could be on the cards here!

D9GMH Chips Up Close

Testing

To test these modules I ran through several benchmarking tests, some synthetic and some real world gaming tests. These tests were performed using the following components:

Core 2 Duo E6600
Asus P5W DH Deluxe
Sapphire x1900XT
Hiper TypeR 580w PSU
The case is a SLK3800B-UK

To make sure that the results are accurate and fair, all tests were run three times and the average was taken from the three results.

Overclocking

I began the testing by overclocking the memory so that I could show what these modules were capabale of at stock speeds, with a modest overclock and when they are pushed to their limits.

NB. During all testing I had two 80mm fans rested on top of both modules to make sure that they stayed cool at all times. I would not recommend that anyone overclock and overvolt their memory as I have without adequate cooling.

I began by sticking the DRAM voltage at 2.0v and slowly raised the FSB while keeping an eye on the temperatures of the CPU; as raising the FSB raises the speed of the processor as well. At just over 900mhz (100mhz overclock) I began to have problems with benchmarking, so I raised the DRAM voltage to 2.1v and continued upwards; choosing 900mhz as my “Modest overclock” setting. I then continued upwards, hitting another wall at 960mhz. At this point altering the voltage had little to no effect, so I decided to loosen the timings slightly to 5-5-5-12 and leave the voltage at a slightly increased 2.15v. From here on up it was smooth sailing and I was able to take these modules well beyond my expectations; finally hitting a wall at 1071mhz. That is a full 271mhz overclock which represents a huge 34% speed increase placing these modules at 71mhz faster than the stock speeds of their more expensive counterparts, the PC8000 modules; with a price difference between the two of £40 ($80).

Needless to say, I was very impressed with these modules and as you will see from the following benchmarks, at both the modest overclock,and full overclock settings these modules perform extremely well. Combined with a Conroe CPU as they were in these tests, as an overclocker, you will be very happy indeed.

NB. It needs to be noted that I was able to benchmark with slight problems with stability at 1080mhz and was able to post at 1110mhz so there is probably room for these modules to go a little further.

Firstly I ran through the synthetic benchmarks, starting with Sisoft Sandra’s bandwidth tests and Everest’s read and write tests. These benchmarks are excellent choices for putting ram through their paces as they concentrate solely on the performance of the memory and are not affected by other components.

Sandra and Everest Results

As the graph shows just putting on the modest overclock you will see a healthy performance boost, but if you are a bit more ballsy and go the whole nine yards with your OC, you will see some excellent numbers indeed.

The next test that was run was SuperPI Mod v1.5. Although this benchmark is mainly affected by CPU speed, memory bandwidth can have a significant effect, and is often overlooked by those trying to improve their times.

Super PI Results

As you can see, as the overclock increases, the time it takes to calculate the 1 million PI digits decreases. Although this will be mainly down to the CPU speed increasing along with the memory, combining your speedy processor with an extreme kit like this will see you smash through your record in no time.

After Super PI it was onto a different type of benchmark altogether, 3DMark01. Although this test is usually used for testing graphics cards, back in the beginnings of the now well known FutureMark, their benchmarks were still quite dependant on a combination of a fast CPU and memory to give an excellent score; so the earlier 3DMark’s can still be used for testing this sort of hardware.

3DMark01 Results

As per the Super PI results the score increases drastically when applying the overclocks. However, also as before, the CPU will be playing a large part in the score increase.

The final tests that were run were some real world gaming benchmarks, in this case, FEAR and X3 Reunion’s performance tests; first FEAR:

FEAR Results

FEAR showed only very small gains from overclocking, but this is no surprise as this game is well noted as being far more graphically intensive than CPU or memory intensive. However, having faster memory – especially 2gb – will help with the well documented juddery effect that occurs when entering new, or large areas in the game.

X3 Reunion Results

X3 showed some nice performance gains from the overclock and still gave out some nice figures at the stock settings.

Cost

These modules cost £200 on most e-tailers and considering their price/performance compared to other modules of a similar cost, they are excellent value for money.

Conclusion

Crucial has delivered, pure and simple. These modules far outstrip rival kits reviewed here on XSReviews, such as the OCZ Special OPS modules, in terms of overclocking and performance. This is down to not only the extreme overclockability of this kit but also its low latency that makes for speedy operation at stock speeds and also allows for much more overclocking room as you are able to loosen the timings slightly without much of a perofrmance dip in the modules latency.

In short, this kit was a dream to work with, and whether you are the kind of person that is perfectly happy with stock speeds, or an overclocking nut, this kit will deliver everything you could want, and oh so much more.

ProsCons
Perform better than similar cost modulesNo specs on module information stickers
Low latency
10 year anniversary heat spreaders
Overclocks beyond stock speed of more epensive counterparts

XSR Value Award

I’d like to thank our sponsors Crucial for providing us with the modules.

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