Technically speaking, Intel’s latest CPU architecture Haswell still only officially supports memory up to DDR3 1600 MHz. Anything above that is considered running beyond specifications in some way. Don’t worry though, , it’s not really considered overclocking. There are plenty of choices at 1866 MHz, and the products aren’t running out of spec at all.
Today we’re looking at a DDR3 1866 kit from Crucial, in their Ballistix Sport XT lineup. This 16GB kit is designed to run at 1866 MHz with 10-10-10-30 timings at 1.5v. We’re going to find out whether it’s worth it to run Haswell CPUs at 1866 MHz and beyond, and what kind of scaling to expect in artificial and real world benchmarks.
Ballistix Sport XT BLS2K8G3D18ADS3
The Ballistix Sport XT kit comes in a crush rivet clamshell package, a huge improvement over the fully sealed type they used a year or so back. Like all Crucial memory, it comes with a full lifetime warranty. In addition to this 16GB (2x 8GB) kit, it is available in many other configurations. Single modules are available in 4GB or 8GB modules, and in 1600 MHz or 1866 MHz. Kits are put together based on those modules, and can be found at Crucial.com and other etailers.
What sets the Ballistix Sport XT apart from other Ballistix Sport models is the heatsink being used. The Ballistix Sport XT is 45mm high at the middle. This isn’t the tallest DIMM we’ve tested (and we have a doozy from Kingston in the works) but is taller than the normal Ballistix Sport which is standard 30mm and the Ballistix Sport VLP which is the shortest memory you can get right now at 25mm. This height may cause an issue with large CPU coolers, but the better designed ones will accommodate it.
With this taller heatsink, you should be able to increase the voltage to 1.65v without having to worry about additional heat. We’ll do just that when we get to overclocking.
The main goal of a large heatsink like this, as always, is looks. The Ballistix Sport XT looks sharp installed on any motherboard, especially one that uses blue heatsinks. The Ballistix Sport XT is actually more of a cyan, but looks great nonetheless. My only gripe is that a plain green PCB is used. With so much effort placed on looks, they should have used a black PCB, or even blue would have looked amazing.
Ballistix Sport XT 1866 Performance
We’ll quickly go over performance to see what 1866 MHz gets you. First we’ll look at some artificial benchmark results, to test the memory bandwith and latency speeds specificially. Our test system is an Intel Core i7 4770K used on an Intel DZ87KLT-75K motherboard. Unless IGP performance is being tested, the GPU is a Radeon 7870.
Bandwidth and latency scale perfectly with DDR clock speed and timings in these artificial tests. What about real world performance though? For that, we’ll use PCMark 8′s Creative test. This should be pretty memory intense, and if there is a major advantage to using significantly faster memory, it should show up here:
What about gaming though? For that, we ran some Metro Last Light benchmarks using a Radeon 7870. Settings were 1080p with “Medium” preset and “Normal” motion blur and tessellation.
We see a slight increase right at 1866, but run straight into diminishing returns at that point. Of course this is just one game, but it does show us that absolute peak performance isn’t met until you hit 1866 MHz.
Next we’ll look at integrated graphics performance, which should receive a real benefit from increased memory speed. DDR3 is already extremely slow for graphics, and every little increase should help. We will be using a less intensive game than Metro Last Light though, and turn to Batman Arkham City instead. Settings used here were 720p with the “Low” quality preset, no AA and no DX11 features.
In this case, performance increases steadily as memory bandwidth goes up. In fact, it could even go up from there if we tested higher than 2666 MHz. In this case, Arkham City runs very smooth at 720p, and in fact these settings will probably look much better than the same game being played at 20-30 FPS on an XBOX 360 or Playstation 3.
Crucial Ballistix Sport XT Overclocking
Our standard memory overclocking method is to increase the voltage to 1.65v if it isn’t there already – this is as high as you would want to go with an Intel system. From there, we tinker with latency settings at default speed, and clock settings with loosened latency timings. After that, we try to combine the two to find the best overclocking settings possible.
Unfortunately, our Ballistix Sport XT kit was having none of it. Even at 1866 MHz, we couldn’t lower the CAS setting to 9 at all. And using CAS 12, the memory speed wouldn’t budge from its 1866 default setting. Mileage always varies with overclocking, but in our case, we are stuck at stock speed.
Ballistix Sport XT Price Comparison
Looking at other dual channel 16GB kits with similar specs (1866 MHz, CAS10) on PCPartPicker, and taking out the single lowest and highest priced kits, the average price is $160.69, which means the Ballistix Sport XT at $149.99 is below average in price. The Ballistix XT is currently the third cheapest kit available with these specs at the moment. G.Skill has a pair of kits that are cheaper, including a “Sniper Gaming” kit for $130.50 and an “Ares” kit for an amazing $119. Taking out the lowest and highest priced kit, the average price is $160.69, which means the Ballistix Sport XT is below average in price.
As with most DDR3 memory kits we review, it mostly comes down to subjective things like looks, physical configuration, etc. 1866 CAS 10 memory will all perform the same if functioning properly, and overclocking is hit and miss. If you like the way the Crucial Ballistix Sport XT looks, and can get it for a good price, then it is easy to recommend. One thing to consider is reliability, and for that we have to look at customer reviews.
At Newegg, all 1866 MHz Ballistix Sport XT products have full 5 star feedback scores. However, each product only has a few reviews. We mentioned two kits from G.Skill that are cheaper than the Ballistix Sport XT but have similar specs. These have a lot more feedback from buyers, and some have run into DOA hardware issues. These will of course be covered by warranty.
It’s impossible to compare feedback with such a small sample size for the Crucial products though, so keep that in mind.
In the end, I can’t see any reason not to recommend this kit if it matches the looks and heatsink size you are going for. I rarely have luck with overclocking Crucial memory though, so if you intend to run it far beyond spec, that is something to consider. Looking at how little real world performance is gained from overclocking though, that should be a moot point for most. If you are gaming on an IGP, you will want to opt for at least 1866 MHz memory, and get the fastest kit you can afford.