Crucial Ballistix Elite DDR4-2666 16GB Memory Kit Review
As we stated in the introduction, Crucial is extremely conservative when it comes to specifications since they are basically more concerned with maintaining their reputation as a well established manufacturer of highly compatible and reliable memory rather than engaging in a specs war with the smaller manufacturers. Despite this, thanks to their symbiotic relationship with Micron, they still do end up with some top-notch memory ICs and they bin the very best of them for the Ballistix Elite series.
The end result of that chip binning was revealed in our overclocking results. From DDR4-2750 12-12-12-1T, to DDR4-2838 13-13-13-1T, to DDR4-2929 14-14-14-1T this memory kit surprised us at every level. At these timings not one of the Hynix MFR-based memory kits that we’ve reviewed comes close. However, we did hit a wall at DDR4-3000 15-15-15-1T. Loosening the timings and increasing the voltage did nothing to surmount it, which tells us that it’s probably a hard limit or maybe an artificial one caused my some secrets timings we haven’t yet figured out. Therefore, in the future, we have reason to be optimistic that there’s some untapped potential for those who place more value on high clock frequency above looser timings.
If you look at the benchmarks results, all the configurations achieved very comparable and impressive results. 76GB/s of read bandwidth anyone? Even though we go to significant lengths to keep the processor and Uncore clocks as identical as possible across the configurations – while at the same time not holding back the memory overclock – the 14-14-14-1T configuration had a 40Mhz CPU and 30Mhz Uncore core advantage which clearly skewed a few results in its favour.
Having said all of that, if all things were perfectly equal, with this memory kit any loosening of the timings doesn’t really result in a loss of performance because it is matched by a compensating increase in memory frequency. Basically, the timing/frequency scaling is pretty much perfect, so you really don’t have to make any difficult choices. This is a level of versatility that we have not seen with any other memory kit. By the way, if you’re willing to pay a premium for a quality DDR4 memory kit and you don’t also overclock the Uncore, you are basically throwing your money away. The performance gains simply aren’t going to materialize after a certain point, usually at about DDR4-2750 with a stock Uncore.
Now this $335 USD Ballistix Elite memory kit doesn’t exist in a vaccuum, so it is going head-to-head against several competitive products, many of which are less expensive. You have to consider that you can now find the previously flagship G.Skill Ripjaws4 DDR4-3000 16GB kit that we reviewed a few months ago for $299 USD, and the sleeper Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2666 16GB kit can be found for as low as $235 USD. Another kit worth discussing is Crucial’s own Ballistix Sport BLS4K4G4D240FSA, which runs at middling DDR4-2400 16-16-16 but retails for only $200 USD. That certainly looks promising, but are giving up the high grade binned ICs, awesome murdered-out heat spreaders, and real-time temperature monitoring. Not an easy choice for some.
When we started this review, we said that given its price tag, this memory kit better pretty special. And as it turns out, it is! Not only does it have awesome looking heat spreaders and real-time temperature monitoring capabilities, but it has a ton of untapped frequency and timings headroom. It might not be able to achieve stratospheric memory frequencies as easily as Hynix MFR-based kits, but if you are more interested in day-to-day performance than just showing off, you are going to be hard pressed to find anything better and versatile than this Crucial Ballistix Elite DDR4-2666 16GB memory kit.
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