Corsair Dominator CMP4GX3M2C1600C7: 4GB of Domination



Get 4 GB of memory for the low price of $5000.00, sounds like a bargain doesn’t it?  When I was installing Compaq ProLiant 6500 Pentium II Xeon rack servers at the country’s largest beer brewer back in late 1998 that was the going discount rate for 4GB of ECC protected buffered EDO DIMM memory.  Fast forward to today where you can get a budget 4GB (2x2GB) kit of DDR3 PC-1333 memory for as low as $37.99.  Times sure have changed with memory pricing.  Twelve years later and not only can you get 4GB of memory for 1/10th the cost of 1998 but you can get top of the line 4GB kits between $100.00 and $250.00 depending on how extreme you want to be.  For this review we will be looking at a $69.99 high-end 4GB DDR3 1600MHz memory kit from Corsair. The Corsair Dominator with DHX Pro Connector, 4GB (2x2GB PC3-12800 ) Dual Channel DDR3 Memory Kit model CMP4GX3M2C1600C7.  It comes with stock frequency and timings of 1333Mhz 9-9-9-24 and has a XMP profile of 1600Mhz at 7-8-7-20. 
  
Corsair Dominator PC3-12800

Back in 2002 Corsair realized that budget DRAM was great for some people but not good enough for the enthusiast that pushes their PCs to the limit.  This segment wants more, much more, so Corsair jumped in and high end enthusiast’s memory was born.  That focus on the enthusiasts market continues today with the Corsair Dominator series.   Corsair makes four main lines of memory, the budget XMS series, the mid tier Vengeance series, the enthusiasts Dominator series, and the ultimate performance Dominator GT series.  When you move into Dominator territory you are serious about your memory and you are looking for every possible option to squeeze that last bit of performance out of your memory.

Corsair Dominator PC3-12800

When talking about RAM there are a few questions I typically get from my gamer buddies such as how much RAM should I get and what brands should I consider.  When I mention Corsair in my short list the next question is commonly “what is the difference between the Vengeance and the Dominator series?”.  I cannot really blame them because If you go to Corsairs site (www.corsair.com) is isn't abundantly clear what the difference is beyond price and the different heat spreaders for memory kits with the same frequency and timings.  

I personally have used Corsair memory for years so I try to explain the difference between highly screened IC's, tighter timings, stability at high frequencies, and tolerance for higher voltages.  This is a great point in the conversation for me to see if they are still following the conversation or if they have a blank stare on their face.  Blank stare means I tell them save some money and check out the Vengeance series or even the XMS series to maximize their bang for the buck.  But if their head is nodding and they tell me they just got the latest unlocked K chip from Intel so they could really dial in that last bit of performance from the memory banks I point them to the Dominator lines.

The obvious visual difference between the Vengeance and the Dominator series is the heat spreaders.  For the Vengeance series it is the single piece comb with an attitude.  The Dominator series is a two piece affair that allows you to unbolt the top of the spreader and pull the fins off to add memory accessories such as taller fins with more surface area or even more extreme cooling options such as the recently announced Corsair Cooling Hydro Series H30 and Ice Series T30.  Another unique accessory for the Corsair Dominator series is the AirFlow Pro Dynamic Temperature and Activity Display that takes advantage of the DHX Pro port and provides LED status lights for your RAM along with a pair of 60mm cooling fans.  

Corsair Dominator PC3-12800

Currently this Corsair Dominator 4GB kit is selling for $81.99 which is a 41% premium over what a similar stock clocked Corsair Vengeance series is selling for at $47.99. What do you get for the extra $34.00 beyond the cool memory accessories and removable heat spreader?

Corsair Dominator CMP4GX3M2C1600C7 memory kit specs:

  • Warranty: Lifetime
  • Capacity: 4GB (2x 2GB modules)
  • Memory Configuration: Dual Channel
  • Memory Type: DDR3 SDRAM
  • Performance Profile: XMP
  • Heat Spreader: Black DHX+
  • SPD Voltage: 1.5v
  • Tested Voltage: 1.65v
  • Speed Rating: PC3-12800 (1600MHz)
  • SPD Speed: 1333Mhz
  • Tested Speed: 1600Mhz
  • SPD Latency: 9-9-9-24
  • Tested Latency: 7-8-7-20

Corsair Dominator PC3-12800 Packaging

Corsair takes the time to make their packaging look sharp by putting the modules and their plastic cases inside a nice box with bold graphics. 

Corsair Dominator Box

Corsair Dominator Box Back
 

The Corsair Dominator memory is known for the patented DHX aluminum heat spreaders that as I noted are removable to either change the colors or add memory accessories.

Corsair Dominator in plastic case

This latest version of their Dominator series has the DHX Pro Port Connector which allows you to connect the optional AirFlow Pro cooling and memory activity meter display.  This accessory only works on Corsair memory with the Pro Port.

Dominator Pro Port


Test Bench for Corsair Dominator 4GB PC3-12800


Our test bench is running a Sandy  Bridge i5 2500k CPU at stock 3.3GHz with a fresh install of Windows 7 Professional SP1 running the latest Windows Updates and drivers.  Due to a problem with our nVidia GTX 570 I had to break out an old GTX 275 running the latest nVidia 275.33 drivers. 
Corsair Dominator Test Rig
 
The ASUS P8P67 motherboard has the latest 1608 bios, up to date peripheral drivers, and it was configured with turbo boost disabled and manually fixed memory speeds for each test.  There is a single SATA II WD 7200 RPM 500 GB drive, LG ODD, and OCZ 700 watt PSU and the stock Intel cooler.

Corsair Dominator installed in test rig

We have a 24” Dell monitor to test games at both 800x600 and the native 1920x1200 resolution.
Dell 24




Intel Sandy Bridge Test Bench

 Processor  Intel Core i5 2500K  Live Pricing 
 Motherboard  Asus P8P67 B3 Rev 3  Live Pricing
 Memory  Corsair Dominator 4GB 1600MHz  Live Pricing
 Hard Drive  WD Caviar Black 500 GB   Live Pricing
 Video Card  Nvidia GTX 275  
 CPU cooler  Intel Stock  
 Chassis  None - Custom Open Bench  
 Power Supply  OCZ ModXStream Pro 700W  Live Pricing 
 Monitor  Dell Ultra Sharp U2410 24" LCD  Live Pricing

Corsair Dominator PC3-12800 Overclocking Madness

When you are logged into your e-tailer of choice and considering the premium you are about to pay for some top of the line Dominator RAM, you want to know you can really push this memory.  I am happy to report that even this PC3-12800 memory can easily overclock past the tested 1600Mhz threshold.

To start with I chose not to adjust the BCLK on my unlocked i5 2500k so that any tests I ran would represent the pure gain from over clocking the memory.  Leaving the BCLK at 100 did potentially limit the upper end frequency but I was more than happy with my results.

Corsair Dominator Stock CPUZ

First I checked to see how tight of timings I could get just running at the rated 1600Mhz and found I could drop my CAS to 5 for a 5-7-8-19 but when I ran a few benchmarks it did not make that big of an improvement over the rated XMP profile of 7-8-7-20.

Corsair Dominator CPUz SPD

I started to push for higher frequency and was able to get a perfectly respectable 1867Mhz at 6-8-8-20 on a 1T CR.  This was a nice 17% increase over the rated XMP profile of 1600Mhz with decent timings.  I have found that really only increasing frequency and lowering CAS have much affect on performance with today's well made DRAM so this is where I focus.  I usually start off with all the other timing pretty lose until I get the CAS down and frequency up and stable.  Then I work on tightening down the rest.



Corsair Dominator Med. Over Clock


Knowing this was Dominator memory ,even though this wasn't the speediest of the Dominator line, I knew it had to at least perform as well as the Vengeance series tested here on Legit Reviews back in Feburary so I pushed further.  I kept to a maximum of 1.65v as I did not want to push my test rig out of spec. but I have read that some have gone as high a 1.7v on their DDR3.  This has the potential of harming your Sandy Bridge CPU so I left that to the extreme team.

The best I could get without touching the BCLK was 2132Mhz with 8-10-9-24 timings.  This is 33% higher than the rated speed of 1600Mhz. 

The Corsair Dominator 4GB kit over clocked to an amazing 532Mhz above the rated 1600Mhz!


Corsiar Dominator at 2132Mhz

What does a 1/3rd more frequency do for your game play and encoding, jump to the test page to find out!

Corsair Dominator PC3-12800 Testing


In order to test our sample memory I thought it would be prudent to test it against something to give you an idea of what you would be getting for the price premium this kit demands.   I dug through my pile of extra gear to see what I could find that would make sense for this review and the following was the closest matches for this particular kit.

Currently I run a 16GB (4x4GB) Vengeance kit in my main rig so I grabbed two 4GB sticks and threw it into the pile for testing.  Not exactly apples to apples putting 8GB against 4GB but I thought it would show what you would get for a similar cost and double the capacity.  Also I needed to use two sticks since this is dual channel memory meaning the performance is maximized with two banks full.  Running only a single stick would have really limited the performance and bias the tests. 

The second kit I found was one I have had for awhile and is actually no longer even sold since OCZ exited the PC Memory business back in Febuary.  This kit is an OCZ 4GB (2x2GB) PC3-12800 at 8-8-8-24 kit.  But since it is a CL8 kit vs the Dominator's CL7 CAS it is still not totally apples to apples but close enough to give you a comparison. 

Pile of memory


Corsair Dominator Testing Methodology:

I ran each kit through the test with all the memory at a stock speed of 1333Mhz and the default timings to simulate what would happen if you threw it in to a motherboard that do not default to the XMP profile.  This would be a worst case scenario for someone that paid the extra cash for a Corsair Dominator kit and did nothing with it.

Second I ran all the kits at the rated speed of 1600Mhz and specified timings for all my tests.  This would be what would happen if you just slapped it in to a motherboard like mine that defaults to the XMP profile and did nothing else. 

Finally I re-ran all the tests with the Dominator memory kit at its maximum over clock to see the improvements that could be realized if you spent the time doing what this memory was made for and maximize your over clock.  

Games were tested real world with on-line play on the same servers and I attempted to play the same maps with each kit of memory to keep things as similar as possible.

SiSoft Sandra 2011:

I started off with Sandra 2011, the latest version, in order to get some basic statistics for all the kits. 

SiSoft Sandra Latency

SiSoft Sandra Bandwidth

It is clear that the over clocking really allows the Dominator kit to shine. I was surprised at how much of a gain the extra cycles and timing tweeks made to the performance.  If you need proof that it is worth the time to overclock your memory this makes a pretty clear case.

AIDA64 Extreme Edition (formerly Everest)

This is another common synthetic test run on PC memory to show performance statistics.

AIDA64 Test on Corsair Dominator

AIDA64 Corsair Latency

You can see that at 1600Mhz all this memory is fairly close in performance but when the Dominator ramps up it pulls away from the pack.  This is an 18% gain in latency and average 10% gain in reads, writes, and copy functions over the XMP profile.

Performance Test 7.0 

Next I ran the memory section of the latest version of Performance Test 7.0 from PassMark Software.  This test gives you an aggregated score based on multiple memory benchmarks called the Memory Mark. 

Memory Mark

You can see the bias this test gives for the extra 4GB of memory in the Vengeance kit but you can still see the 27.4 point bump in the score from the stock to the overclock on the Dominator kit.  

Hyper PI:

Then I did some bench marking with Hyper Pi v0.99b at both 1M and 8M settings.  If you are not familar with Hyper Pi it is the new front end of the old standard Super Pi, but improved with multi-threading support and an average time readout at the end of a cycle. Super PI is a computer program that calculates pi to a specified number of digits after the decimal point - up to a maximum of 32 million. It uses the Gauss–Legendre algorithm and is a Windows port of the program used by Yasumasa Kanada in 1995 to compute Pi to 232 digits.

Corsair Dominator Hyper Pi 1M

As you can see the OCZ kit and the Dominator kit run neck and neck but the over clock simply jumps ahead by almost half a second which is impressive in a test that only last a little over 12 seconds.

Hyper PI 8M

Hyper Pi at 8M had similar gains as the 1M test showing an improvement of over 6 seconds compared to stock speeds. 

Corsair Dominator PC3-12800 Real World Testing

Synthetic memory tests are great to see what your PC memory kit can do but what we really care about is the impact this high performance memory has on our daily activities.  We picked the two most common tasks that enthusiast use this type of memory for in an attempt to improve performance, gaming and media encoding.

Battlefield Bad Company 2:

This is currently one of my favorite games and being fairly new it can really push a system if you crank up the eye candy.  However to minimize other variables I turned off all the eye candy and used low settings when testing.  I used both the lowest resolution and the native of my 24" Dell monitor for this game (1024x768 and 1920x1200).  Using FRAPS bench mark test I captured 60 seconds of real world game play on line to the same server and tried to use the same map for each memory kit.  FRAPS then gave me the average in frames per second (FPS) that I recorded.

Corsair Dominator BFBC2

Interesting that while the stock Dominator kit was not the best in the synthetic memory tests it had the best FPS in real world gaming.   You can clearly see the over clock helped my FPS even at 1920x1200 by nice 11.3 FPS if that could only help my aiming skills a little more. :)

Team Fortress 2:

Another one of my favorite first person shooter games that has been out for a few years is Team Fortress 2.  This version has decent graphics but does not tax the system like BFBC2 does.  I would call it a medium load game on the system.  Again I turned off all eye candy and simply played with both 800x600 and 1920x1200 resolutions and utilized FRAPS to give me averaged FPS readings.  I played on line to the same server and tried to play the same map when I did my FPS capture.

Dominator TF2

The resolution had much more impact to the FPS on this game but again you can see the 30 FPS gain from stock when you over clock this memory.

Counter Strike:Source:

This game has been around for ages and the graphics tell you so.  It is still a fun shooter that I used to spend days playing back when on line FPS first were hitting the scene.  There are still tournaments today that have this as one of the games that teams can test their skill.  Same as the other two, FRAPS and resolutions of 800x600 and 1920 x 1200.  I played on line on the same server with the same map for all kits.

Dominator Counter Strike

It appears that the extra 4GB in that Corsair Vengeance kit made a big difference at 800 x 600.  This was such a difference I ran the test a few times thinking something was messed up with my testing but each time I had similar results.  This game is much less constrained by the video system as any modern video card can easily play this Direct X 9 game with all the eye candy maxed out.   At 1920 x 1200 you can see the kits at 1600Mhz are all fairly close again, but at 2132Mhz the Corsair Dominator kit jumps way up gaining an additional 12 FPS.

Adobe Premier Pro CS5:

This is the latest version of Adobe's award winning video editing suit that is used for everything from home movies to full post production for featured films.  In order to test these memory kits impact on media encoding I loaded a previously recorded 450MB AVI movie and exported it as 720p MPEG2 movie while using a stop watch to record the time it took Premier to transcode and save the new file.  


Dominator Premier

The overclocking knocked 7 seconds off the time it took to transcode that video from the stock settings.  That might not seem like much but if you are batch rendering a multi gigabyte movie those gains start to add up.

Corsair Dominator CMP4GX3M2C1600C7 Conclusion

Corsair Dominator PC3-12800

The Corsair Dominator PC3-12800 kit came to dominate and based on the amount of overclocking you can achieve I would say it did just that.  While I knew this memory would be a good performer I was surprised that I was able to push this memory to 2132Mhz and keep the timings fairly tight.  Not bad for our test system that was made up of the ASUS P8P67 motherboard and an Intel Core i5-2500K processor. From what I know about the PCS Chips branded memory ICs used on this specific kit these usually hit a wall around 2200MHz, so I was happy with how far I could push the kit.  

To put this in perspective we saw performance numbers that would likely rival the Corsair Dominator GT CMT4GX3M2A2133C9PC3-17000 kit that operates at 2133MHz and costs considerbly more at $124.99 from Pricegrabber.  However, to be fair if this testing is any example, I am sure that kit can also perform well beyond the tested stock specs since it should have even faster rated IC's than this kit contains.  

The kit that we are reviewing here today runs $69.99 shipped without any rebates. DDR3 1600MHz memory kits that are 2 x 2GB in capacity range from $37.99 to $84.99, so this kit is a bit pricier than other PC3-12800 kits on the market. When buying a kit of memory like this from a well known company like Corsair you can usually rest assured that you'll be getting plenty of extra overclocking headroom and have the ability to add memory accessories like the CMXAF2 cooling fan or AirFlow Pro temperature monitoring and activity LED light bar that other brands don't offer. 

I would say that if you are skilled at overclocking memory and you want to get a lot of performance for a reasonable price, this kit strikes a great balance.  All Corsair DDR3 memory kits are backed my a limited lifetime warranty as well, so this is one of the few items in life that you can buy and never have to worry about having to pay to replace! 

Legit Bottom Line: The Corsair Dominator CMP4GX3M2C1600C7 memory kit was found to have plenty of overclocking headroom, but is priced higher than most DDR3 1600MHz kits on the market today.

Corsair Dominator angle