In today’s modern computers, large amounts of RAM are becoming ubiquitous. Due to the cheap price of system RAM, as well as the desktop PC’s ever-growing need for memory, the vast majority of PCs available for purchase at retail outlets are equipped with at least 4GB of RAM. A quick check of Best Buy’s website indicates 90% of the desktop systems they are currently selling are equipped with 4GB or more of RAM. More than a third of the systems they’re selling come equipped with 6GB or more. Particularly when multitasking, RAM becomes an essential ingredient to a pleasant and responsive computing experience, so adding more RAM to a system is a quick and cheap way to help ensure performance remains as high as possible and enjoyment remains at a maximum.
According to the September 2011 Steam hardware survey, 4GB of RAM is currently the most popular configuration among gaming PCs. This may be sufficient for a light home user who primarily uses the computer for surfing Facebook or playing casual games. However, many power users and enthusiasts find 4GB to be insufficient once the PC is under heavy use. In my personal system, for example, RAM usage hits 4GB very quickly when I am engaging in the task of ripping, copying, and encoding blu ray disc files. In professional settings as well, RAM becomes a scarce resource whenever multiple virtual machines or productivity applications are open simultaneously. My own primary desktop system is currently using 3.53GB of RAM with only a typical assortment of applications open: Photoshop, Windows Media Player, Excel, and several Internet Explorer tabs. If I start Folding at Home (which I often leave running during computing sessions like this) RAM usage spikes to 4.45GB. So, regardless of the speed of the memory, we continue to recommend at least 6GB for any enthusiast PC, especially in light of the relatively low cost of memory such as the Corsiar Vengeance we reviewed today.
In our last memory review, we took a look at a high performance 8GB 2000MHz Crucial Ballistix dual channel memory kit that came with a $119.99 price tag. Corsair certainly designed the Vengeance 1600 C9 kit to address a different segment of the enthusiast hardware market. Priced at a MSRP of $84.99 but available for $51.99 from from Amazon or Newegg, this kit is designed to fit into a much smaller budget while still delivering aggressive looks and decent performance.
The Vengeance kit certainly looks nice, especially when combined with one of Asus’ appropriately colored motherboards. Additionally, the memory has some overclocking headroom. We feel overclocking enthusiasts who purchase an enthusiast-aimed memory kit for their rig would appreciate the ability to tweak the RAM up to the next 1866MHz divider or, at least, be able to squeeze the timings of this kit for additional performance. So, we were pleased to be able to either reduce the command rate to 1T at stock voltage or increase the memory speed to 1866MHz, albeit at significantly slower timings.
Corsair indicates they wouldn’t be surprised if a Vengeance kit like this reached speeds as high as 2000MHz, depending on which chips they used in a particular lot. Our sample is able to reach 1866MHz at 10-10-9-24 2T timings at 1.65v. While these aren’t the fastest speed in the world, every overclocker appreciates being able to extract better performance out of their hardware, so we were satisfied with these results.
In terms of stock speed performance, this kit performed as it should. Synthetic tests like AIDA64 and Sandra and our x264HD video encoding test revealed this RAM performs similarly to our baseline 1600MHz C9 4GB kit. However, the Vengeance were clearly outclassed by the Ballistix kit in synthetic benchmarks as well as our Folding @ Home and Crysis 2 high resolution tests. Additionally, our Starcraft 2 tests showed a measurable difference between a kit that runs at 1T and the Vengeance, which runs at 2T.
In our Crysis 2 test, the Vengeance was nearly 10% slower than the Ballistix kit at 1920×1080 resolution. While this difference isn’t extraordinary, for a high end gaming rig that costs more than $1000, a nearly 10% increase in performance for a 5% increase in the overall price of the system is likely a worthwhile investment.
While high performance memory may not result in increased performance in every benchmark and under every use scenario, there are cases where added memory bandwidth produces noticeable performance improvements. Our high resolution Crysis 2 test and our Folding @ Home benchmark consistently showed a measurable difference in performance when comparing the Vengeance to another 1600MHz kit with tighter timings as well as to the Ballistix, which run at a significantly faster memory speed.
Whether the performance difference between the Vengeance and a higher performance memory kit is worth the price is an individual decision. However, as mentioned before, a $50 increase in memory cost is only approximately 5% of the overall cost of a $1000 gaming PC. You could also say that higher end memory costs twice the price, but only offers up to a 10% performance difference in certain scenarios and that the extra $68 saved would be better put towards something more critical. So, it really is up to you to see if the performance potential is a worthwhile investment when looking at the overall cost impact.
Ultimately, the Corsair Vengeance 8GB 1600 CL9 memory kit offers good looks at a good price, and is supported by Corsair’s lifetime warranty and reputation for reliability and motherboard compatibility. At stock speeds, these modules are average performers. However, with a little tweaking, better performance can be obtained.
Legit bottom line: For enthusiasts on a budget who want 8GB of good looking, decent performing memory, the Corsair Vengeance an attractive option.