The interesting thing about reviewing hardware is that there is a huge range of tests and number crunching involved. So many numbers and crunchings… I find myself making words up! Then there is the process of translating those numbers into something coherent that the average reader wants to consume. So when I was asked to take a look at the Ballistix Tactical 16GB DDR3 1866MHz kit I knew one thing was certain, this review needed to be delicious..… consumable… appealing to the palate? Enough with the food metaphors.
The point is that I’m going to take some time to talk numbers but the focus of this review will be on what makes Ballistix Tactical stand out as a good choice for gaming RAM. Specifically, this review is for people currently using a motherboard that only supports DDR3 because you know, not all of us have the cheat code for unlimited resources… or however it is all the cool kids always have the latest PC parts. Since DDR4 only became available for AMD users with Ryzen, there are a lot of us.
For the purposes of this review, I ran the Ballistix through a series of benchmarks: PCMark 8’s Conventional and Express tests, AIDA64, wPrime, and SuperPi. Some of these measure other elements of the system my results can’t be compared to those in Chris’ review of the Ballistic Elite kit. I will be comparing them against my prior HyperX Fury Red 8GB chip which was also clocked at 1866MHz. The only difference between the two kits (apart from capacity) is that the Ballistix Tactical features a CAS latency of 9 whereas my HyperX featured a latency of 10.
Ballistix took an interesting approach to their Tactical Series, giving it a distinct look. It has a utilitarian feel; a simple rectangular design with the Ballistix logo printed in black stands in stark contrast to the yellow background on the heatsink. I have to admit that yellow isn’t my first choice in color, and I was a bit worried about it clashing with my red and white theme, but with the metallic grill mounted on top masking the yellow when installed, it left my color theme mostly intact. Note that I’m Canadian, so the red and white color scheme is in the blood!
It’s a simple design that seems to favor function of fashion. For some builders I am sure this would be a make it or break it issue but with minimal exposure visually due to the aforementioned top, I didn’t find it to be an issue. The build quality seemed sturdy and solid. Initially I was concerned that the heat spreaders would feel flimsy but after some rigorous tough tests including but not limited to letting my 8 year old hold the ram, I can confirm that there is some serious durability here. In the category of quality production, Ballistix knows what they are doing.
Test system: Asus M5A99FX Pro motherboard, AMD FX 8350 Eight Core CPU at 4GHz, BallistixTactical DDR3 16GB at 1866MHz, AMD Radeon R9 390 8GB GPU, Thermaltake ToughPower 750 Watt 80 Plus Gold power supply.
We ran both sets of RAM through the same series of rigorous benchmark tests. Please note that the benchmarks performed in AIDA64 tested the read/write/copy speeds and latency in nanoseconds and that the size difference of the kits did not impact the results. Clearly a larger kit will mean faster multitasking as well as program execution for high end photo and video editing software suites, but for our tests focuses on the the numbers. And crunchings. Can’t forget about the crunchings.
At first glance, the numbers reported for both sets are very comparable. This isn’t really surprising as they carry many of the same specs. In some cases the Ballistix pulled ahead with faster write speeds and overall processing speeds. Note that we are dealing with extremely small variations as is the nature of these types of benchmarks but the numbers do tell us a story.
As mentioned above we wanted to focus the review on whether or not the Ballistix Tactical stands out as an option for gaming memory. One of the areas that is notable in the numbers in that of memory latency. One of the highlights from the Ballistix Tactical page is its boast of super low memory latency and the numbers definitely support this claim. As a result it does give Ballistix a slight edge over my existing RAM.
The next benchmark we ran was wPrime. As you can see, the Ballistix Tactical beat my set of Kingston HyperX Fury in both tests.
SuperPi is an interesting test as it pushes your system to calculate the digits of Pi as fast as possible. Here, we can see that in the same 32M test, once again, the Ballistix came in substantially faster.
A feature of the Tactical Kit that stood out is its support of XMP (Extreme Memory Profiles) for Intel based boards. Without spending a whole article explaining the ins and outs of XMP, it essentially allows you to fine tune the modules at a BIOS level to kick up the timings and clock speeds using existing profiles or customizing your own. If you're an Intel user, have a board that supports XMP, and want to squeeze every ounce of speed out of your gear, the Ballistix Tactical RAM will allow you to do that.
The final feature of note is the heat spreaders mounted to the top of the ram. The principle is that by attaching a heatsink to the chip, you can dissipate quickly and in turn keep the processing speeds more consistent. From our test experience, RAM at this speed doesn’t generally generate a lot of heat when gaming but if you are pushing your system to the max this may be a handy safety feature to have on the ram.
The Ballistix Tactical 16GB DD3 Kit is a solid entry to the gaming RAM business for users gated out of DDR4. As the numbers suggest, it’s comparable to other kits at the size and speed and does offer a slight edge with memory latency. The visual aesthetics are not my favorite, but its solid build quality and the inclusion of XMP do help it stand out as premium gaming ram. At the time of review the price point puts it in line with other RAM of this type, so ultimately personal preference, focus of the build, and aesthetics will be large deciding factors.