The race has been on in the extreme overclocking world. Over the last few months, our inbox has been been hit with regular updates as companies go tit-for-tat pushing their modules to new heights of speed and earning new world records while they’re at it. One of those companies is Ballistix who recently pushed their Elite DDR4-3600 kit to an incredible 5725 MHz. We were able to get a sample of that exact kit in to take for a look for ourselves. This is our review of the Ballistix Elite DDR4-3600 memory modules.
- Current Price: $37.99 (Single 4GB stick, Ballistix Webstore) - $349.99 (32GB 4x8GB kit, NewEgg)
- Memory Technology: DDR4
- Memory Density: 4-8GB
- Speed: 2666, 3000, 3200, 3600 MT/s (tested)
- CAS Latency: 16-18-18-38
- Voltage: 1.35V
- Target System: High-end desktops
- Design Elements: Black anodized heat spreader with aggressive militaristic styling
- Benefits of Elite Modules: Some of the fastest speeds and bandwidths available, exclusive Ballistix M.O.D. utility allows for real time temperature monitoring, Intel® XMP profiles, limited lifetime warranty
If you’ve been around the PC building scene for a while, Ballistix should be a familiar name. The name has been around for years and has officially spiraled off into its own brand; or, should we say, sub-brand, of Micron, one of the few memory manufacturers operating in the world today. So in that way, buying a kit of Ballistix is a bit like going directly to the spring instead of bottled water from a vending machine. To my consumer mind, knowing I’m going right to the source makes me feel more confident. Maybe there’s nothing to it, maybe there is. Either way, getting this kit in hand is immediately impressive.
The first thing I noticed upon opening them up was just how substantial the heatspreaders are. They’re not overly tall, coming in at only 40mm, but the aluminum has a good amount of weight to it thanks to the thick, ridged upper portion. They’re a uniform matte black with light grey lettering and have exposed screws to give them a militaristic appearance. That also means no RGB, which makes sense. These sticks are about pure performance, so instead of a plastic LED diffuser, you get a much better heatsink.
The kit we were sent runs at an overclock frequency of 3600 MHz, making it one of the faster we’ve had in for testing. It also features fairly tight timings, shipping with a 16-18-18-38 configuration. At the time of this writing, that appears to be some of the best you’ll find for a 4x8GB/3600MHz kit and should result in quality performance for high-end PCs. Enabling this speed is very easy but don’t forget to make a stop into your BIOS to enable the built-in XMP profile. Like all factory overclocked DRAM, if you don’t turn on the overclock, you’ll have paid for performance you’ll never see.
When it comes to pricing, the current price at NewEgg of $349 is $49 more than the lowest price same-spec kit from the competition and more than $150 less than the most expensive kit. After $349, the next kit jumps to $389, so the Elites fall on the low-middle end of the spectrum.
Test System: Intel Core i7-8700K at 4.7GHz, ASUS Z370 Maximum X Core motherboard, 32GB DDR4 3600MHz Ballistix Elite, WD Gold 10TB Mass Storage, NVidia GTX 2080 Ti (SLI), Corsair HX1050 - 1050 Watt PSU, Noctua DH-14 Dual-spire/Dual-fan CPU cooler, Fractal Define R6 Case.
In order to test our memory, we run through a series of benchmarks in order to tease out performance highlights and shortcomings. The tests include PCMark 8’s Conventional and Express tests, AIDA64, wPrime, and SuperPi. With the exception of AIDA64, these tests also account for the the CPU which is why we’re keeping a consistent scenario for testing. In each of the tests, DRAM performance is a key factor in the scores rendered. We also do in-game benchmark testing, though we’ll save that for discussion following the presented charts.
The kit we’re testing today is clocked higher than all but the T-Force kit we previously reviewed, though it has tighter timings. We expect good things from the Ballistix Elite.
Our first benchmark is AIDA64. AIDA64 is a good test for us because it provides direct read, write, and copy tests. The Ballistix Elite sticks performed very well here and beat out all of the other kits in transfer speed. This is a direct result of the increased speed and tight CAS latency timings.
PCMark 8 is a whole system assessment that runs your PC through a simulation of relatively low intensity tasks. As a result, it emphasizes memory speed over memory capacity (after a certain point). The Elite kit again did very well, earning a slight lead in the conventional test and taking second place in Express.
SuperPi is a processing intensive task that challenges a system to calculate out a specific amount of digits of Pi. Here, we’re pushing 32 million digits so memory frequency has a larger impact. The higher speed of the Ballistix modules allowed it to pull ahead and even has a few second lead on the similar-speed XCalibur kit from T-Force.
Finally, we have wPrime. This benchmark tasks your system with the production of square roots and is again based upon the whole system but largely dependent on system memory. Interestingly, the Elites were not the fastest kit in the 1024M test, again coming in second. In the smaller 32M test, they did win out by a very slight margin.
As a kit currently promoted for its overclocking prowess, I had to try my hand at getting some extra speed out of them. I always share in memory reviews that I don’t fancy myself a memory overclocker but know enough to get started. By increasing the voltage to 1.45V, I was able to maintain a stable 3866MHz clock speed; however, I was unable to pull any extra performance from them. My relative lack of experience with memory overclocking makes me uncomfortable playing with timings, so I didn’t venture down that path and contented myself with the 3866MHz overclock.
Gaming Performance and Conclusions
As of this writing, my main gaming PC is equipped with 32GB of DDR4-3200. I’ve long maintained that DRAM speed, while important, is a game of diminishing returns for gamers when compared against the added cost. Swapping into the Ballistix Elites, I was able to get about a 3-5 FPS improvement in many games but it varies and depends on factors beyond just your RAM. If you’re building a new PC or are already planning on upgrading capacity, going for the highest speed you can afford without skimping on other parts makes sense. But, if you’re already running overclocked RAM, it’s worth weighing the performance improvement versus other ways you could re-invest in your PC gaming experience.
The Ballistic Elites are a great kit. No doubt about it. They’re some of the best performing modules we’ve ever tested thanks to their high clock speed and tight timings. They’re also one of the few memory kits that’s not adding a few RGB LEDs and calling it a day. The Ballistix Elite kit, from the heavy duty heatsink, to the high-end configuration of its modules, is a kit enthusiasts not sold on the RGB craze will surely enjoy.
- High speed
- Tight timings
- Decent pricing for the timing/speed combination
- Look great & make for a good alternative for non-RGB gamers
- Great performance
- Still on the high end of the cost spectrum
The product described in this review was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.