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Mushkin Ascent 2x2GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Kit Review

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3oh6

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<center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/mushkin/mushkin_logo-1.png" alt="Mushkin Logo">


<b>Mushkin Ascent 2x2GB PC3-12800 Review</b></center>



<b>Price:</b> $372.81 <a href="http://www.mushkin.com/doc/products/memory_detail.asp?id=669"> @ Mushkin Inc.</a>
<b>Manufacturer:</b> <a href="http://www.mushkin.com/"> Mushkin Inc.</a>
<b>Manufacturer's Part Number:</b> 996625
<b>Warranty:</b>Limited Lifetime Warranty



<p style="text-align: justify;">Summer is in full swing here in North America and the temperature outside isn't the only thing starting to really heat up. The battle for DDR3 market share is also becoming a more hotly debated contest with every passing day. The most sought after memory kits out there appear to be 2x2GB PC3-12800 DDR3 modules for their performance and "reasonable" price. So here at Hardware Canucks, we figured, why not fan those flames and bring in another hot ticket item from one of the favorites in the industry and a first timer here; Mushkin Inc..

The fun isn't going to stop with the memory, however, because these modules come from the brand new family of products from Mushkin that are looking to really push the envelope of memory cooling. The recently introduced Ascent line of Mushkin memory is absolutely cutting edge with a one of a kind heat sink that is really quite an inventive use of heat pipe technology. Heat pipes, as we are all aware, are everywhere and on almost every computer hardware component these days. From motherboards to video cards to complete prototype cases, heat pipe technology has advanced computer cooling solutions to new heights. Today, the Ascent series is building off that technology and has implemented the eVCI or enhanced Vapor Chamber Interface for a new step in memory cooling.

Mushkin has been in the industry for almost 15 years now and are synonymous with enthusiasts for their "Enhanced" line of memory products but provides customers with top quality power supplies as well. The other aspect of the Mushkin business profile is customer service and the community has recognized this effort constantly praising not only the Mushkin products but those that service and support them. To top it all off, Mushkin is one of the very few manufacturers that actually sell their own products directly to customers. Being able to buy directly from the manufacturer is something not very common in this industry and a huge benefit to the consumer. Unabated access to the company who made the product is how it should be and Mushkin makes this happen for its customers. With the introductions out of the way, let's take a look at this exciting new line of memory from Mushkin and see what the Ascent is all about.

</p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/mushkin/996625/index-1.jpg"></center>
 
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3oh6

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Package & Memory Overview

<b>Package & Memory Overview:</b>
<p style="text-align: justify;">We begin this section with a quick look at the Mushkin packaging and then we will move on to the modules themselves. We have to warn you in advance, these modules are beefy looking and in this reviewers opinion, absolutely gorgeous. There is no bias here, we all just think that these modules are just so tough looking. Simply picking up the package makes them feel powerful because of the sheer weight alone.</p><center>
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Mushkin has gone with the standard plastic clamshell/cardboard insert for the packaging of the Ascent memory and at first we were a bit hesitant in seeing this. The problem is that heavy modules sometimes have the tendency to come loose from their mount in this type of package and during transport, being free as a bird in a clamshell is not that safe. Unlike other manufacturers who use the same package, the Mushkin clamshell is very secure and the memory is quite snug inside. There are no signs of this clamshell wanting to open like a jack-in-the-box despite the beefy nature of the Ascent heat sinks. We wanted to complain about the package but when it works well, there is nothing negative we can say.</p><center>
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Moving onto the memory itself, we can see that they are obviously black which is half the reason these modules look like they could take out a biker gang on their own. In addition to the Mushkin branded sticker on one side of the memory outlining the specifications and model number, the Mushkin logo is also presented directly on the heat sink in the top left corner of each side. The heat sinks appear to be held into place by a pair of clips and the important thing here is how far down the clips actually come on the memory. If the heat sink were not there, these clips would almost touch the bottom of the ICs. This is extremely important because what this should provide is a solid and even contact across the entire length of the ICs underneath.</p><center>
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">In the photos above we can again see the complete coverage by the heat sink clips which will ensure that no lifting of the heat sinks at the bottom of the modules will occur. Adjusting our focus to the top of the heat sinks we get an idea of the thickness of these modules. The four fins are spaced evenly apart providing more surface area to dissipate heat. This surface area is again increased with the ribs running along the sides from the bottom to almost the top of the memory. The ribs also played a cosmetic role in the design process we would imagine. In the second photo above, we have shown a couple angles where we can see what appears to be a split in the heat sink right in the middle of the module. This indicates that the heat sinks can pull completely apart and are a two piece design. We of course will be trying to get 'into' the modules a little bit later on to see the all important ICs underneath.</p><center>
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">From a top down view of the Ascent heat sinks, the modules look really fat but as we will see in the installation section, this doesn't interfere in anyway once mounted in the DIMM slots. The last photo is about as good a shot of the technology behind the Ascent name and the unique cooling it offers without taking the heat sinks off as we will get. We can see the flattened heat pipe looking copper layer in between the outer shell and the ICs that are mounted to the PCB. The thermal material that plays the role of transferring heat to the vapor chambers appears to be a thin thermal pad similar to what Crucial and Buffalo offer on their Ballistix and FireStix lines of memory. It is hard to get a good idea exactly what the thermal material is made of until it comes off the modules which we will attempt to see shortly in the Specifications section, so let's go there now.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Specifications

<b>Specifications:</b>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Having just gone over a few photos of the Mushkin Ascent memory we are studying today, we are already fairly versed in the outlined specifications of these modules. You see, there isn't a whole lot to discuss when it comes to memory specifications that the sticker on the modules doesn't already explain completely. Fortunately for you, we won't have to listen to me babble on about the same specifications for a half a page because the Ascent eVCI heat sinks are going to provide more than enough discussion for us today. Let's first take a quick look at the specifications of the Mushkin Ascent 996625 PC3-12800s for those that missed it on the stickers in the last section, then we will focus the lens on the heat sinks and try to see what is underneath them.</p><center>
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">As mentioned, there really isn't a whole lot to the specification sheet for a kit of memory. Mushkin has gone very aggressive with their ratings on this memory going with 7-7-6-18 timings as opposed to the standard 7-7-7-20~22. This won't result in a world of difference in performance but every little bit helps. So with a quick look at the rated frequency and timings of this kit out of the way, let's move on to the rather beefy and impressive looking heat sinks.</p><center>
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Removal of the heat sinks was attempted but it was very clear early on that Mushkin wasn't messing around with their thermal adhesive. It was holding on with a death grip only matched to that of the Corsair memory, and that is a positive thing. This should indicate a great thermal bond between the ICs and the heat sinks vapor chamber but it also unfortunately means we won't be seeing the underside of the heat sinks. We will just have to settle for the graphics that are available from the Mushkin web site.</p><center>
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The idea behind these heat sinks is that the ICs dump the heat into the vapor chamber which evenly distributes the heat load and eliminates any hot spots. The vapor chamber then passes the heat on to the aluminum shell of the heatsink which dissipates it into the environment. The whole premise is quite interesting and we really would have liked to see more but with the risk for rendering the modules useless quite high, we will refrain. This also means we have no idea what ICs are being used on this memory so we will be flying blind when it comes to overclocking. Mushkin for obvious reasons has declined us the information we seek about the ICs but we can't blame them for this stance.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Memory Installation & Test Setup

<b>Memory Installation & Test Setup:</b>
<p style="text-align: justify;">With standard size heat sinks on memory, we generally just take a couple quick photos of the modules in the testing motherboard. With the added width and height of the Mushkin Ascent heat sinks, however, we will take a few looks at the memory in a couple different setups to see what we might run into. In all honesty though, we don't expect any issues as current generation motherboards are so well laid out that large memory heat sinks are rarely an issue, even with large CPU coolers.</p><center>
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Starting off in the ASUS P5E3-Premium, we can see there are likely not going to be any issues with the larger heat sinks. As we have said, motherboards are better designed and large CPU coolers just don't interfere too much with memory slots anymore. We can, however, see that despite the memory fitting in slots side by side; they do have to bow out a little bit. This really isn't an issue and even in this configuration with another pair in the other two slots, there should be no problems with cooling thanks to the great design of the Ascent heat sinks.</p><center>
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Dropped into the 790i motherboard we will be using for testing, again, there are no clearance issues with the large Thermalright Ultra-120 in place on the CPU and when mounted in parallel slots, we have no problems arise. We will be running the memory in the black slots anyway as they are the preferred slots for memory clocking on reference 790i motherboards.</p><center><table><tr><td valign="middle">
</td><td valign="middle">
</td><td valign="middle">
</td><td valign="middle">
</td></tr></table></center><p style="text-align: justify;">We will be testing this memory in the EVGA 790i motherboard today but we already know that with a lack of EPP profiles, the memory is simply going to boot up at the default timings and frequency that the motherboard sets. So, we figured we should see how the XMP profiles work in the ASUS P5E3-Premium since it is sitting right here. From left to right we have a pair of CPU-Z screens showing that the board detects the XMP profiles and sets everything up automatically at the BIOS defaults. We can't say enough how much we like the XMP profiles with an XMP compatible motherboard. Getting up and running at spec is as simple as clearing the CMOS. The last two screen shots above are of Memset showing the secondary timings and it is nice to see Mushkin has gone relatively aggressive here. The one exception is tRD (Performance Level) which is set to 7. We would have liked to see a 6 but, we can take care of that manually as the board can handle it no problem. Time to see how our test platform is going to shake down...

</p><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/mushkin/996625/setup-1.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0px 5px 20px"><b>Test Platform:</b>
  • <b>Motherboard:</b> EVGA 790i Ultra-120 (BIOS P05)
  • <b>Processor:</b> Intel C2D E8400
  • <b>Processor Cooling:</b> Chilly1 Single Stage Phase Change
  • <b>Memory:</b> Mushkin Ascent 2x2GB PC3-12800 7-7-6-18
  • <b>Power Supply:</b> Silverstone Zeus 560W (ST56ZF)
  • <b>Video Card:</b> HIS HD3870X2 1GB
  • <b>Additional Fans:</b> 120mm 2050RPM/80.5CFM (AD1212MS-A73GL)
  • <b>Hard Drive:</b> 2 x Seagate 7200.9 80GB SATAII 8MB cache
  • <b>OS:</b> Windows Vista Ultimate x64 (with all updates) - For Benchmarks / Windows XP x64 - For Overclocking
<p style="text-align: justify;">As we can see, the testing of this memory will be done on an EVGA 790i Ultra-SLI motherboard that is the same as the NVIDIA reference design. This motherboard has been found to respond quite well to Mushkin Ascent 2x2GB kits as was found in the EVGA forums. We figured if end users were having success with the 790i then we might as well try for ourselves. It is a known fact that the 790i motherboards can sometimes play games with certain kits of memory so we had our fingers crossed as we set everything up.

Another item of note in the list above is the use of two different operating systems. We have used Windows XP Pro x64 for the overclocking of this memory because, well, Vista can sometimes be a major pain in the butt. Personally, I am not a fan of Vista and every chance I get not to use it I take. Memory overclocking can be hit and miss with some of the stability programs we use responding erratically at times. We do, however, switch to Vista Ultimate x64 for the benchmarking so we can run the latest Vantage titles from Futuremark. Let's now find out just how well this 4GB kit of memory runs on said NVIDIA 790i based motherboard.</p><center>
</center>
 
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3oh6

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Stability Testing & Overclocking

<b>Stability Testing & Overclocking:</b>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Our stability testing methods for memory have been discussed at length in the past, so we are going to simply rely on the explanation from previous reviews. Here is a run-down of what we consider to be stable.</p><b>Stability Testing Methodology:</b><p style="text-align: justify;">Memory stability, what constitutes stable? What is not considered stable? These questions get hotly debated in enthusiast forums all over the internet like little brush fires on the fringe of an inferno that play havoc with forest fire crews. Everyone has their own opinion about stability, especially when it comes to memory stability. For some, stable means they can do whatever it is on their computer without it crashing, blue-screening, or restarting; whether that means gaming or just surfing the internet. To this user, stable means simply using the computer as they normally would.</p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/mushkin/996625/setup-3.jpg" alt="" border="0"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">Of course, that is not what we would call stable and we do a lot more thorough testing before labeling a memory frequency/timing stable. One of the toughest types of programs on a system has been found to be distributed computing projects such as [email protected], [email protected], World Community Grid, and more. Running 24/7 crunching for one of these great causes is a sure way to find holes in a system if there is truly some instability, unfortunately it takes a considerable amount of time to use them for stability testing so we use the list of programs below to all but guarantee the system to be 24/7 distributed computing stable:</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Our stability testing is most definitely up there as far as the toughest in the industry and this is because we want to make sure we are testing for the 24/7 crowd. If you are just looking for benchmarking stability then you will have to find that somewhere else, especially with this being a 4GB kit of memory. Benchmarking is generally reserved for 2x1GB kits as they are a lot easier on the memory controller and clock much higher on average. We are almost ready for the overclocking but before we get to that, we need to make sure this kit can even run the specified timings/frequency that Mushkin has outlined. This is also a great way to test compatibility on the motherboard we are using for this review, the EVGA 790i Ultra-SLI.


<b>Specification Stability Testing:</b>
<p style="text-align: justify;">As was just mentioned, before we start overclocking this beautiful looking kit of Mushkin Ascent memory, we want to see if it even runs the rated frequency and timings at the outlined voltage. Some readers may be wondering why that is even something we have to question but with the different chipsets available and the difficulty that brings for memory manufacturers, the stories of incompatible memory run rampant in computer forums all over the internet. The specification stability testing was added some time ago in light of this situation.</p>
Click for full size screenshot...
<center><a href="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/mushkin/996625/stable_spec-1.png" target="_blank">
</a></center><p style="text-align: justify;">We are off to a great start because not only was this memory ready to roll out of the gate at the rated timings and frequency, but it was also quite willing to run at the lowest specified voltage by Mushkin. We simply entered the BIOS and set the primary timings to 7-7-6-18 and the voltage to 1.875v (which equates to 1.86 actual volts). All other voltages were set to the lowest possible with the exception of the SPP voltage which was running at 1.40v as we saw in the screenshot. The simple fact that we can run this kit fully stable at 1.86v should provide us with some overhead because of the voltage we have to play with going up to a specified 1.95v. Let's now see what we can make this memory due above and beyond what it is specified for.</p>

<b>Stability Overclocking:</b><p style="text-align: justify;">The approach we take when overclocking is to tackle the three main timing groups that we find with DDR3 modules at the frequencies this kit can run. The stability testing has been outlined above and we will search for our maximum frequencies at CL6, CL7, and CL8. The secondary timings will be determined during testing based on how the memory responds and what it likes, let's see how high the Ascent modules are able to climb on our NVIDIA 790i platform.</p><center>
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Now this is how a kit of memory is suppose to overclock...and a 2x2GB kit none the less. Needless to say, we were quite impressed with what we managed to squeeze out of this memory on the EVGA 790i Ultra-SLI and these results explain why. The first hurdle was to see if DDR3-1600 was possible at CL6 and it certainly was. We had to increase voltage a slight bit over the rated voltage of 1.95v but we were able to really tighten down the timings and get the rated frequency stable at a full timing set below what these Mushkin Ascent modules are spec'd out for.

Moving up to the next common timing set of 7-7-7 provided a very nice boost in frequency but required quite a bit looser secondary timings. This may result in an actual decrease in performance as the 790i chipsets performance in memory intensive tasks really favors tight secondary timings and can actually offset higher frequencies if the secondary timings are too loose. Of course that only goes so far as raw megahertz will eventually win out.

The last timing set we looked at was 8-8-8 and again, the kit just takes off with a little bit of voltage. At 2.01v, the Mushkin Ascents elevated the stable operating frequency to a lofty 990MHz or DDR3-1980. This is just a short 10MHz away from the elusive 1000MHz mark but no matter how hard we tried, we couldn't quite get DDR3-2000 stable in Prime Blend. The one important aspect of this hefty overclock is the massive amount of SPP or north bridge voltage that is required to get full stability. Our 790i sample is modified to provide additional SPP voltage and the appropriate cooling to compensate. In the end, we required 1.67v on the north bridge to accomplish this stability which is a good pinch higher than is even selectable in the BIOS for this motherboard. You will want to keep this in mind when clocking your own kits of this wonderful memory. Below are the screenshots of the stable overclocks we just discussed complete with Memset for full disclosure of secondary timings.</p>
Click for full size screenshots...
<center><a href="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/mushkin/996625/oc-2.png" target="_blank">
</a> <a href="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/mushkin/996625/oc-3.png" target="_blank">
</a> <a href="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/mushkin/996625/oc-4.png" target="_blank">
</a></center><p style="text-align: justify;">We will now utilize these overclocks in the next few sections of benchmarking for a comparison of the various levels of performance of each.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Benchmark Methodology

<b>Benchmarking Methodology:</b><p style="text-align: justify;">Here we go with another round of benchmarks. The last 2x2GB DDR3 memory we had come through was a little disappointing on behalf of the motherboard issues we encountered. That won't be the case today as we clearly saw in the overclocking section. <img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/mushkin/996625/method-1.png" alt="Just a sample graph outlining where the results will be coming from in the up-coming benchmarks." style="float: right; margin: 4px 0px 4px 7px">We have a full slate of possible configurations to bench and compare and we intend to spread the spectrum. In the past we found that simply changing memory frequency on the 790i through un-linked memory left some rather un-desirable results. So today we will be running synced as much as possible.

As always, the grey bar in the graphs <b>(1)</b> will indicate the rated frequency and timings of the Mushkin Ascent 2x2GB kit of memory with the system at bone stock settings for the E8400 resulting in a 3GHz CPU. These <b>grey</b> results will be a result of us manually adjusting the main timings since there is no EPP profile to take care of that for us. The secondary timings will be left at the BIOS defaults. Essentially, this is what the basic user of this memory might have setup as all it takes is a couple minutes to do so with no in-depth adjustments being made or tested.

The middle blue results in the graphs, <b>(2)</b>, will portray the performance of the Mushkin Ascents at the same CPU frequency, FSB, and will both be run at 2T. These two settings are essentially the same as our overclocked maximums we found on the previous page. The 6-6-5 timing set is run synced on the 5:4 ratio while the 7-7-7 results were run un-linked to almost match the highest overclock of 910MHz with that timing set.

The last red result in the graphs <b>(3)</b> is used to identify the "hottest" overclock we had at 8-8-8. In our overclocking we were only able to get 990MHz stable but wanted to stay synced at the same FSB as the other two overclocked results so we are working at 1000MHz which isn't 24/7 stable but more than stable enough for the benchmarks we are going to be running today. The 10MHz difference isn't much and will provide results very similar to what our maximum overclock would churn out.

For all of the benchmarks, appropriate lengths are taken to ensure an equal comparison through methodical setup, installation, and testing. The following outlines our testing methodology:

a/ Windows is installed using a full format.
b/ NVIDIA chipset drivers and accessory hardware drivers (audio, network, GPU) are installed followed by a defragment and a reboot.
c/ Programs and games are then installed followed by another defragment.
d/ Windows updates are then completed installing all available updates followed by a defragment.
e/ Benchmarks are each ran three times after a clean reboot for every iteration of the benchmark unless otherwise stated, the results are then averaged.

We have also listed the various benchmark versions as they change on a weekly basis and sometimes different versions can result in different outcomes. All benchmarks are ran a total of three times and averaged out with results posted to the same decimal point that the results are in. The one exception to this is the UT3 benching as the results can vary a fair amount from run to run so we do ten runs to help alleviate the variance a little bit.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Memory Benchmarks

<b>Memory Benchmarks:</b>

Everest Ultimate v4.50<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>Everest Ultimate is the most useful tool for any and all memory tweaking. Everest will reliably measure memory bandwidth of the system as well as latency. With this information, one can discover what is and is not improving bandwidth when tweaking or even just trying various timing and frequency combinations.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/mushkin/996625/bench-1.png"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">We start off with our look at memory bandwidth numbers for the various setups and we can immediately see a pattern forming. The last three results (blue and red) are going to be the primary focus of discussion since they are all ran at the same FSB and CPU frequency. The only differences are the memory timings and speed between them giving us a fairly direct comparison. We get an even climb in memory read speeds here in Everest going from the lowest to highest memory frequency. This is expected and shows that we shouldn't be dealing with any memory ratio issues that we saw in the last memory review we did on the 790i chipset where results were all over the place.</p>


ScienceMark v2.0<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>ScienceMark is an almost ancient benchmark utility at this point in time and hasn't seen an update in a long time. It is, however, still a favorite for accurately calculating bandwidth on even the newest chipsets.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/mushkin/996625/bench-2.png"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">Our ScienceMark bandwidth results come close to repeating Everest but the 900MHz and 1000MHz timing sets appear to be dead even, with 900MHz showing a slight advantage even. This was a little un-expected because we really had to fight with the 7-7-7 timing set in order to get it stable over 900MHz and the secondary timings are quite loose. Obviously, this doesn't have a huge effect on the bandwidth.</p>


Futuremark PCMark Vantage<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>The latest in a long line of system benchmarking utilities, PCMark Vantage has quite the heritage and following in the overclocking and benchmarking community. For this memory review, we will simply be utilizing the memory benchmark portion of the software.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/mushkin/996625/bench-3.png" alt="" border="0"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">The PC Mark Vantage memory suite provides similar results that we saw with Everest and a gradual climb in performance as the frequency rises. The score that PC Mark comes up with is based on a number of memory bandwidth and latency tests it conducts and further confirms that we have a heck of a fight on our hands with these timing sets. Let's see what the Everest latency test provides for these timing sets now.</p>


Everest Ultimate v4.50<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>Again, Everest Ultimate to the rescue in measuring memory latency. Like bandwidth, measuring latency can give us some insight into how the whole memory sub-system is performing.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/mushkin/996625/bench-3.png" alt="" border="0"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">What is intriguing with these results is that all three of the last timing sets are very close, but the CL7 timing set seems to fall a little bit behind. This is what we were kind of expecting as secondary timings appear to have more effect on latency than they do bandwidth, or at least Everest seems to think so. Let's now move on to some more benchmarks that revolve around system speed with a heavy influence from memory performance.</p>
 
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3oh6

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System Benchmarks

<b>System Benchmarks:</b>

Super Pi Mod v1.5<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>When running the 32M benchmark of SPi, we are calculating Pi to 32 million digits and timing the process. Obviously more CPU power helps in this intense calculation, but the memory sub-system also plays an important role, as does the operating system. SPi 32M has been a favorite amongst benchmarks for these very reasons and is admittedly the favorite benchmark of this reviewer.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/mushkin/996625/bench-5.png"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">The first of our 'system' benchmarks is SPi 32M which is heavily dependent not only on memory bandwidth, but latency as well. In the end, the results speak volumes about what is important in 32M performance. Higher bandwidth and in this case, higher memory frequency, wins out with a steady drop in times from 800MHz up to 1000MHz. At these timing sets, it appears frequency is king and timings aren't playing much of an effect. With a little more clocks on the 7-7-7 timing set, however, these results would be singing a different tune.</p>

WinRAR v7.1<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>The WinRAR benchmark is simply timed until the test reaches 500MBs of data. Compressing data with WinRAR is all about the memory and the results should reflect this. WinRAR is very sensitive to frequency and timings of memory and one of the highest influenced programs out there when it comes to memory performance.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/mushkin/996625/bench-6.png"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">Again, we see an almost perfectly even decline in times going from the lower frequency to the highest in the WinRAR benchmark. This may become a common theme because as we saw in bandwidth, the higher frequency timing set provided more bandwidth than the rest. This appears to be resulting in higher performance across the board, thus far.</p>

DivX Converter v6<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>Moving from some of the more 'synthetic' benchmarks, we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a VOB to DivX encoding task. We will take a VOB rip of the vengeful anger in Falling Down, and convert it into DivX using the default 720P setting of the latest DivX converter v6.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/mushkin/996625/bench-7.png"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">Another real world test we like to run is a very common tasks home computers find themselves doing these days, converting DVDs to playable media content on the PC. As we can see from the results, the higher frequency memory continues to win outright, but the margin of victory is hardly something to write home about. The DivX conversion doesn't appear to use that much system memory so the results aren't that surprising. Perhaps we will look into some other programs for this sort of work going forward, just to see if memory plays a bigger role in any of them.</p>

Photoshop CS3<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>Adobe Photoshop CS3 is fully x64 compliant and ready and able to use every single CPU cycle our processor has available. Since digital photography is as popular as roller skates were in the 70's, we are going to be timing how long it takes to convert 100 RAW images from a Canon 20D into half size JPG files of maximum quality.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/mushkin/996625/bench-8.png"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">The last of the 'real world' testing we will conduct is in the popular design software, Photoshop CS3. Photoshop was not initially designed as a digital photo manipulator but it certainly has turned into one since the digital photography revolution of a few years back now. It just handles digital photos so well that it is hard to argue with its abilities. Much like the DivX conversion, we see a small advantage to higher memory clocks but the margins are very small. On a 2.1 minute batch job, we are only saving 7 seconds or so going from 800MHz at 6-6-5 to 1000MHz at 8-8-8. The sweet spot again seems to be the 7-7-7 timing set since it is running at slightly lower voltage than the other two.</p>
 
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3oh6

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3D/Gaming Benchmarks

<b>3D/Gaming Benchmarks:</b>

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>Like PCMark, 3DMark is now into the Vantage stage. The most popular 3D benchmark series of all time was updated this year and we have finally gotten around to getting use to 3Dmark Vantage so it has beat out the spot of 3DMark 06 as the default 3DMark benchmark in memory reviews. It should be interesting to see how memory affects this benchmark. For now, we will simply rely on the Performance benchmark defaults for testing.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/mushkin/996625/bench-9.png"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">Moving into the 3D world of gaming and benchmarks we start off with 3DMark Vantage and guess what? We see almost the exact same pattern that we have been seeing throughout testing. Higher memory clocks result in slightly higher scores but with marginal differences. At least we have confirmed one thing, when at 500FSB, adjusting memory ratios to provide us with 800MHz, 900MHz, or 1000MHz memory frequencies; we lose no performance due to strap changes or some weird ratio performance issues. This is a good thing providing us with a wide range of possibilities when running this memory on the 790i platform.</p>

Crysis<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>Like all other benchmarks, Crysis is benchmarked with all patches and updates done to it. We use the popular Crysis benchmark tool running the Sphere level time demo at 1680x1050 with detail levels set to High in DX9 and 64-bit. This level has all the elements of the Crysis environment that make the game so great so we chose to use it as the level to run our benchmarks on.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/mushkin/996625/bench-10.png"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">The Crysis results are a bit inconclusive but if there is one thing we can pull from them, it’s that the tighter timings may actually help with higher minimum frame rates. This is of course just one level that we tested on but it appears to scale opposite to what we have seen thus far. Average frame rates across the board are all but identical though which again could be contributed to the level we benchmarked and not the system settings.</p>

Unreal Tournament 3<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>As with the Crysis benchmarking, UT3 was also benchmarked using a custom time demo, this time using a bot match comprised of 12 bots for 180 seconds on the Shangri-La level. All details levels are set to 5 at 1680x1050 resolution. The program used for the benchmarking can be found here. The results are somewhat erratic as we mentioned earlier so 10 runs of the benchmark are down and averaged out.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/mushkin/996625/bench-11.png"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">In wrapping up our benchmarks we turn to the old favorite UT3 to again throw some odd numbers out there despite our attempt to even them out by running the benchmark 10 times. The average frame rates amongst the 4GHz setups seems to be dead on as do the minimums but the maxes have one that really stands out. This is a result of just random bot matches and the fact that UT3 really is all over the board from one run to the next.

As a result of all of this testing, it would appear that the 7-7-7 timing set is the best bang for the buck since it performs almost as well as the 8-8-8 timing set and better than 6-6-5 but with slightly less voltage. Obviously every kit of this memory isn't going to clock identical to ours so when you get yours, be sure to do some testing and find the sweet spot that provides comparable performance with the least amount of voltage going to the memory and chipset.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Conclusion

<b>Conclusion:</b><p style="text-align: justify;">It is that time again, time to sum up what can only be called a very exciting review. Keep in mind, this is coming from a guy who pretty much eats, breathes and sleeps memory; so for it to be considered exciting is definitely saying something. The second 2x2GB kit of DDR3 has been put through its paces here at HWC and unlike the first, this Mushkin Ascent memory thoroughly impressed. In all fairness, this is mostly due to the change in venue and the fact that the 790i chipset loves this memory. Clearly the overclocking backs this claim up because getting this kit so close to DDR3-2000 stable is something special in itself.</p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/mushkin/996625/conclusion-1.jpg" alt="" border="0"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">The other impressive aspect of these modules is the use of the new Ascent eVCI heat sinks that make this memory a really special kit. Mushkin has definitely raised the bar with the introduction of these heat sinks and we are certainly going to see more impressive modules churned out of the big M sporting these beefy and technologically advanced heat sinks. There are already PC3-16000 kits in the works as we speak with a bit of a twist to them but we'll save that surprise for later. Honestly though, it is hard to pick anything out from this kit that shows up as a bogey on the score card. Perhaps the price if we really had to get into it but at this point in time, Mushkin has managed to position this kit nicely staying below $400 making it competitive with all other PC3-12800 options out there.

In fact, these modules impressed us so much that we don't even mind the fact that we weren't able to disassemble them in order to get a better look at the heat sinks. A superior thermal adhesive is clearly being used which really is the icing on the cake. Performance at stock is good, overclocking headroom on our kit was great, versatility in timing sets is impressive, and the heat sinks that make these modules feel like a dumbbell in your hand put it over the top.

One last item we wanted to touch on was the Mushkin support, particularly Greg from the Mushkin forums who also spends time in some of the enthusiast forums around the internet. This man single handedly helps dozens of end users on a daily basis and does so in such a fashion that it is simply a treat to watch him work. Without question, the Mushkin Ascent series is climbing its way to the top, especially with reference 790i motherboards and backed by a dedicated support staff ready to help anywhere they can find you. All it takes is a quick trip to the EVGA 790i forums and you will see what we mean. If you are in the market for a solid 2x2GB kit of memory, it is time to put the Mushkin Ascent 2x2GB PC3-12800 7-7-6 modules right near the top of the list.</p>
<b>Pros:</b>
  • Tight timings at stock and XMP profiles that are very well setup
  • Plenty of overclocking headroom from our sample tested
  • Versatile being able to run at CL6, CL7, & CL8 with ease
  • eVCI heat sinks that push the envelope in memory cooling
  • Top notch accessible support from staff that know what they are doing

<b>Cons:</b>
  • 2x2GB kits of good DDR3 still fetch a hefty price tag
  • These modules look so good side by side in a motherboard, you will want two kits

<center><table><tr><td valign="bottom"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/dam_good.jpg" alt="How can we not give it the Dam good with numbers like we saw?" /></td><td valign="bottom"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/dam_innovative.png" alt="The eVCI heat sinks set this kit apart from the competition." /></td></tr></table></center>

We like to hear feedback here at Hardware Canucks so feel free to bring up any questions or comments in the http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/foru...shkin-ascent-2x2gb-ddr3-pc3-12800-review.html
 
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