After reviewing several quad-channel 16 GB DDR3 kits, we are switching things up and reviewing a 16 GB dual channel kit from Crucial – the Ballistix Tactical Dual Channel Kit. If you are on a dual channel platform, there really is no reason to choose two modules over four – the performance will be the same regardless. What a dual channel kit like this does is keep the possibility of upgrades open, and perhaps keep temperatures down.
Crucial’s Ballistix Tactical modules sit in the middle of their performance range of desktop memory products. It lacks features like integrated temperature monitors and LED lights. Most significantly for me, it lacks the huge heatsinks that offer little value other than looks, and can often get in the way of larger heatsinks like the Noctua NH-D14 or Phanteks PH-TC14PE.
Although it’s not a ‘high end’ kit, the specs are solid. This kit runs at DDR3-1600, and has low latency timings of 8-8-8-24 with a low voltage of 1.5v. We’ll find out later if there is any room left for overclocking.
Crucial Ballistix Tactical – Packaging
Crucial have significantly improved their packaging since we first started reviewing their DDR3 modules. Gone are those annoying blister packs that you have to cut around with a good pair of scissors.
Instead, they use ‘crush rivet’ packaging, which is more convenient than scissors of course, but not really resealable. I would have preferred snaps to allow resealing, but this is better than it had been.
As you can see, the bright yellow modules stand out beautifully on our matte black model board, the Gigabyte Z68XP-UD4. In fact, you could build a theme around this, with a matching case (such as the NZXT Phantom 410 Gunmetal) and CPU cooler like a black Phanteks cooler. That would be drool-worthy!
Best of all, the heatsinks are completely out of the way of any CPU cooler I can think of. If these dimms are too tall to accommodate a cooler, blame the cooler in this case, not the modules.
Crucial Ballistix Tactical Overclocking
With a rated speed of 1600 MT/s and low latencies with low voltage, the Ballistix Tactical seems like it should have room for overclocking. What we normally do is bring the voltage up to 1.65v if it’s not there already (this is as high as you’ll want to take your Intel CPU under normal daily use) and see if we can improve the frequency and/or latency speeds.
The Ballistix Elite is already set to 8-8-8-24, so you can probably guess that any lower would be too much to ask. That is the case here, as CAS 7 would not boot under any circumstance, even with higher voltages. That is fine – these timings are very tight to begin with.
We have actually had little success with overclocking Crucial memory in the past. But with this kit, we were able to have it running at 1866 MHz with slightly loosened timings of 8-9-8-26, with the voltage at 1.5v. Not bad! They would not go any higher than this, however. Keep in mind that overclocking results will always vary, and this is not a guarantee that the next kit will achieve the same results.
Crucial Ballistix Tactical Performance
To get an overview of how memory modules perform in contrast to each other, we try to run them in a ‘best case scenario’. This will ‘exaggerate’ performance differences a bit, but if there is any performance to be found, this is where we’ll find it. We use SiSoft Sandra to determine the maximum bandwidth and latency of each kit, and put it through a PCMark 7 test, running on a Core i7 Extreme 3960X system. The latter test will give us some idea of how the kits perform differently in a more real world scenario, since PCMark 7 uses actual programs that we use every day.
In this case, we will simply compare this kit to the Crucial Ballistix Elite we reviewed a while back. Both kits were installed in dual channel mode, since there would be no point in comparing dual channel to quad channel in this review.
As you can see, it sits right where you’d expect in terms of performance – right below the Crucial Ballistix Elite.
This is probably one of the less exciting reviews we’ve published in a while, but in some ways, that’s a good thing. What you get with the Crucial Ballistix Tactical is exactly what you’d expect. Solid performance, excellent warranty, nice looking units that are out of the way of any heatsinks you might want to install on your CPU. There are no bells, no whistles, just solid performance. I would recommend the Crucial Ballistix Tactical if the price is right for you.