Ballistix is one of the most respected names in the memory world. For years, they’ve made identifying the right chip for your system easy and backed it up with reliable performance. As the demands of gamers rise, memory makers everyone are pushing to rise to the challenge, delivering blisteringly fast speeds with capacities to match any need. Today, we’re taking a look at top of the line DDR4 Elite series in a mega-sized 64GB kit clocked at an impressive 3200MHz.
First, let’s talk about kit size. We have a big one. The kit offers everything from single modules to complete quad stick kits in any multitude of capacities. With Ryzen, the conversion of the PC marketplace to DDR4 is virtually complete, which is why we’re focusing on that today, but a wide range of DDR3 and older kits are available across their different performance lines. Most gamers these days opt for a 16GB kit unless they’re doing other work, such as video editing or graphic arts. Simply put, few if any games out there currently use even that much RAM, usually far less giving you plenty of headroom for running extra programs in the background. Contrary to a pervasive myth, extra RAM doesn’t make your system faster unless you were running out of it in the first place.
So why would a gamer opt for more memory than any game would actually use? Heavy duty video editing is our primary reason, but that’s not all. Added RAM capacities allow you to create virtual hard disks, dubbed RAM Disks, from the unused memory. Think of these as ultra-fast solid state drives. Running games from these disks is possible - if you have the capacity for it. Other users opt for smaller RAM disks to use with applications like Chrome to save extra writes on their actual solid state drives, extending their lifespan. If you’re the kind of user who runs virtual machines, we’re guessing you already know the benefit of having lots of extra RAM.
The Ballistix Elite series is really the premier line of high performance gaming memory. There are both DDR3 and DDR4 versions available, though the expanded bandwidth of DDR4 offers obvious performance benefits. Speeds begin at 2666MHz and range all the way up to 3600MHz. The memory operates with 1.35 volts and, according to the marketing materials sent over, should run up to 40% more energy efficient than previous modules. Each stick also comes with an embedded thermal sensor to monitor the temperature of each in real time.
I’m a big fan of the heatspreaders. Compared to any other memory module I’ve used, these by far feel like the highest quality. The aluminum is dense and the units are overall heavier than others we’ve tried. We were not able to run comparative thermal tests (a limitation we hope to overcome soon), but found that they hovered at about 26C at idle and 31C under load. The matching black heatsink and PCB also means they will match in any number of system builds.
In order to test our memory, we run through a number of benchmarks. These include PCMark 8’s Conventional and Express tests, AIDA64, wPrime, and SuperPi. While these benchmarks (excepting AIDA64) also benchmark the CPU, RAM performance is a key factor in the scores being rendered. For our purposes, we have the obvious benefit of added capacity, but we were curious how the Ballistix Elite would stack up against the previous memory we had in our system, 16GB of G.Skill RipJaws V. Both kits feature the same 3200MHz clock rate and 16-18-18-38 CAS latency timings. Here’s how they did.
Test system: i7-7700k at 4.5GHz, MSI Z270 Gaming M7 Motherboard, 64GB Ballistix Elite DDR4-3200/16GB G.Skill RipJaws V DDR4-3200, GTX-1080Ti (SLI), 500GB Samsung 960 EVO, 3TB HDD, Corsair HX-1050 1050-watt PSU.
Our first test shows the two kits are pretty much head to head in transfer rate. The Ballistix Elite shows some impressive speeds and holds the edge in Memory Write and Copy. Cache reports are much tighter with the Elite topping the RipJaws V in L1 Cache but falling short in all but L3 Copy in what remains.
Conversely, latency reports show the Ballistix falling behind the RipJaws in memory speed while matching and surpassing it in cache speed. The RipJaws’ Memory Latency of 45.3 nanoseconds beat out the Elite which came in at 49.8ns. L1 and L2 latencies were tied at 0.9ns and 2.7ns respectively, while the Elite inched ahead in L3 with 10.1ns of latency compared to the G.Skill’s 10.4,
These reports are very, very close but repeatable. Though the numbers fluctuated mildly, the results were by and large the same.
Again, we’re seeing both kits perform very admirably. The Ballistix tailed the G.Skill in wPrime but definitely won out in SuperPi.
Next, we looked to PCMark 8’s accelerated and conventional benchmarks to get a feel for how our system would benefit from the upgrade to Ballistix in its simulations of real world tasks, from office work to gaming.
In this test, the Ballistix Elite is a clear winner in both categories. Under high duress in real world scenarios, the larger Ballistix kit is the better choice.
With all of that said, we did look at in-game performance but will save you the chart. The two sticks perform so similarly that the frame differential is within our margin of error. There simply isn’t an appreciable difference in in-game performance between our two kits, running at the same frequency with the same CAS timings. Hold your gasps. If you’re tight on pennies and looking for the cheapest option, that’s the most important thing to keep in mind.
So why would I still lean toward the Ballistix Elite over the G.Skill in a same-sized kit? First, because there is a difference, even if it’s slightly. More meaningfully, however, the Ballistix offers per-module temperature monitoring in a much more impressive heat sink. Furthermore, the Ballistix is lower profile, coming in at only 40mm high, making it a better fit for clearance under large CPU coolers. And, for what it’s worth, the customer service team is just fantastic.
Ballistix Elite DDR4 memory will incinerate anything modern games can throw at it. It’s responsiveness is fantastic, and Ryzen systems in particular will benefit from its high operating frequency. If you’re a gamer only, pick up 16GBs and score those extra frames. If you want to push your system to the next level and game from a RAM disk, you’ll need to step up. No matter which kit you go for, however, you’ll get chips that feel and perform like the premium products they are.
The product discussed on this article was provided for the purposes of review.