Memory With a Dashboard?

Corsair 3200XL Xpert

Over the years Corsair has become one of the leading memory manufacturers and has won over the hearts (and computers) of enthusiasts everywhere. With their groundbreaking XMS series and super low latency modules they have captured the market and refuse to give up their hold. Recently the market has become saturated with identically specified modules, so something must be done that sets a company?s memory above the rest. Hence Corsair leads the way again with their Xpert series of memory. Today we take a look at this extremely innovative (and blingin?), memory series.

Legit Reviews had the chance to review a single 512 MB module, unlike the typical TwinX 1 GB matched sets that are more common on the market currently, so expect differences from other reviews of the Xpert series as we are going single channel on a socket 754 test system.

At first look we are faced with the customary black aluminum heatsink that Corsair has begun to implement on their higher end memory modules. Rather then a heatspreader which has shown to not be very efficient, a heatsink generally is more helpful then harmful. The heatsink has a nice Xpert label on one side as well as a specification label on the other side. Each side of the aluminum heatsink has the Viking ship embossed into it for added appeal. This stick runs at hefty DDR400 speeds (400 mhz) at 2-2-2-5 timings and should yield excellent scores. As you may see, the module is quite a bit taller then other memory sticks, the reason behind this is the added circuitry required to interface with the Xpert module, which you will see soon.

Corsair 3200XL Xpert

The Xpert display is what puts this ram into a different category then the rest of what is on the market. With a 10 digit led display readout, LED bar activity lights, and Corsair sail logos on either end, you can?t go wrong. This display can display a variety of things, of which we will get into a little bit later.

What about the performance?

Performance wise, the modules seem identical to the normal Corsair XMS 3200XL Pro series, running at DDR400 and with 2-2-2-5 timings. These modules are using Samsung TCCD chips, so other than the heavily modified PCB the Xpert modules should be identical.

The Xpert module and the memory interface use a 34 pin design that can only interface one way, although as you can see in the image above, the module can be attached either at the front or back, allowing flexibility depending on your system. The memory and the module hold together very well and users do not need to worry about the module falling off at an inopportune time.

Corsair 3200XL Xpert

Key Features

The Software

When our Xpert module arrived it came with a software CD, which is something that we have never seen shipped with memory.  Below is an image of our package contents.

Corsair Xpert Software

The software is yet another piece of the puzzle that can make or break the memory. The software allows for monitoring the memory through the operating system, as well as providing information about the module and customizable messages. Upon inserting the CD you are faced with the Dashboard Installer. The installer menu gives you various options, such as installing the Dashboard program, reading the memory module, updating the Dashboard software, installing the Everest benchmarking utility, reading your user license, and exiting. For the purpose of the review we are simply installing.

Corsair Xpert Software

The install is no different then installing any other program, but as soon as it is installed we can start looking at the program. The opening screen greets you with information about the module. The model name, the speed, and timings all show up. If you have an Xpert module then the bottom half of the screen will appear, if you are using a non-Xpert module then the bottom half is deactivated. At the bottom we can see the frequency, the temperature, the voltage, and the activity ranking of each LED bar. The Dashboard also notes the minimum, maximum, and average of the recorded values while the computer is turned on. A brief comparison between the bios and the software indicated few discrepencies. The voltage of our overclocked memory was listed as 2.94 in the Corsair Dashboard, while listed as 2.89 in our monitoring utility. The .05 difference is tiny to say the least, but should be more accurate due to the memory's onboard monitoring. While overclocking it gives a better idea of what the actual voltage is that is going to the memory, rather then a set voltage and pre-load voltage ratings. The Dashboard's ability to give real-time temperatures also allows us to make sure our memory doesn't start burning up, and with the recorded high/average/low we can check the temperature later if we are playing a game. Rather then relying on a large number of different programs to give accurate memory information, we can get all our information from the Dashboard, saving time and resources.

Corsair Xpert Software

Let?s take a look at the options we have. Going to file->options brings up the next menu, which gives us various options, such as how often we want the Dashboard to update values and what we want our temperature to display as, Celsius or Fahrenheit.

Corsair Xpert Software

Clicking on the DIMM tab brings up a host of other options, and is where we can add or remove messages that are displayed on the module itself. Default messages are the Corsair welcome message, the part number, and the frequency, voltage, and temperature. You can set how long you want messages to be displayed, how quickly you want it to shift, and how long you want to leave between messages. Decimal options allow you to adjust how many digits you want behind the decimal point, and reversing the display readout allows you to flip the orientation.

Corsair Xpert Software

To add our own custom message to be displayed on the module, all we need to do is click add. That brings up new options, such as what type of message it is, what our custom message is, and how long it should be displayed and how long it blanks. Below is an image of our module showing the memory module temperature on the display. As you can tell the display shows text, memory usage bars, and blue Corsair logos on both sides. We mad a small movie clip of our display in action that can be downloaded and viewed here.

Corsair Xpert Software

Now that we know what this module is capable of producing visually, lets see what kinds of numbers it cranks out!

Testing The Memory

All testing was done with the following system:

Testing was done on Windows XP Home with recent drivers. All tests were run at least 3 times with results averaged together to ensure reliability. The memory was running at 21C during all testing according to the display.

Corsair Xpert temperature

Sisoft Sandra 2005 SR1:

Sisoft Sandra 2005 is designed to test the theoretical power of a complete system and individual components. The numbers taken though are, again, purely theoretical and may not represent real world performance. Higher numbers represent better performance in memory bandwidth.

Corsair Xpert Sandra Scores

Results: Here we see that there is a difference between the two memory modules, although it is minimal and can be attributed to the different timings.

Everest Version 2.00.300 Beta:

Everst 2.0 is a professional system information, diagnostics and benchmarking program for Win32 platforms. It extracts details of all components of the PC. It also tests the actual read and write speeds of your memory giving a fairly accurate look of true memory performance

Corsair Xpert Everest Scores

Results: Again we see the Xpert module coming out on top, although the gap is very small and again can be attributed to the latencies.

Testing Part 2

ScienceMark 2.0 Final:

Science Mark 2.0 is an attempt to put the truth behind benchmarking. In an attempt to model real world demands and performance, ScienceMark 2.0 is a suite of high-performance benchmarks that realistically stress system performance without architectural bias. All of our testing was completed on the 32 Bit Final benchmark version that is dated March 21st 2005.

Corsair Xpert Sciencemark Scores

Results:

A score difference of 9 is insignificant and shows that the memory modules are very close together in performance.

Futuremark PCMark04 1.3.0:

PCMark04 is designed to test the whole system, but can be broken up to test individual parts, such as the memory. PCMark04 gives us a general score based on the performance of the components.

Corsair Xpert PCMark04 Scores

Results:

Yet again we see a very small difference between the Xpert and the LLPT that is insignificant.

Super PI Mod v1.4:

Super PI is a program a lot of enthusiasts use to benchmark overall system performance, as the program is capable of calculating pi up to 33.55 million digits on a timer. Many overclockers and enthusiasts are in a battle to get the lowest 1M Super Pi time possible.

Corsair Xpert SuperPi Scores

Results:

A 1.385 second difference at a calculation of 4 million digits is almost un-noticeable, and the .229 second difference at 1 million digits shows how similar the memory modules are.

Comanche 4:

Flight simulations are notorious for their CPU-dependence, and this makes the Comanche 4 benchmark potentially a better CPU/subsystem test than it is for 3D video cards. Comanche 4 uses DX8.1 pixel/vertex shaders and was run at 640x480 32-bit with no audio.

Corsair Xpert Sandra Scores

Results:

The difference is negligible with only a half a frame better rate for the Xpert memory.

Now that we have seen how this stacks up against some other Corsair memory it is time to see how well this memory overclocks and our conclusion.

Overcocking & Conclusion

Overclocking

As usual, we all want to get a little bit faster, drop that SuperPi time by a half a second, and hold a speed record, and to do this we must overclock. Overclocking is nothing new to enthusiasts, and is even becoming mainstream, and therefore is an important part of a review. With Samsung TCCD chips we should be able to get a fairly decent overclock, and for the purpose of the review we are going for stability rather then a quick screenshot.

Using a memory divider of 1:1 with the HTT(FSB) and a CPU multiplier of 11 we could reach 230mhz with minimal voltage increases. The CPU was given a 10% increase in voltage (to 1.64), and the memory was upped to 2.9 volts. Timings remained at 2-2-2-5.

Wanting more we decided to drop our CPU multiplier, as we suspected that the Clawhammer and its 1MB Cache were holding back the overclock. By dropping our CPU multiplier to 8.5 and loosening the memory timings to CL2-3-3-6 we were able to hit a stable 270 MHz HTT speed. This translates into approximately DDR540 speeds, very close to DDR 550, which generally has timings with a CL of 2.5 or 3. Temperatures at this level were very low, approximately 25 degrees Centigrade on the memory. With this overclock we had the ability to benchmark, and using Sandra we recorded very good increases in bandwidth. Without an overclock we recorded an unbuffered bandwidth of 1842 MB/s and a buffered bandwidth of 3108 MB/s. We recorded an increase of 291 MB/s unbuffered (16% increase) and 765 MB/s buffered (25% increase). These are impressive numbers and show how beneficial overclocking can be.

Corsair XMS Xpert

Conclusions:

Patrick Harris? Thoughts:

With the introduction of the Xpert modules Corsair has yet again captured the wallets of enthusiasts everywhere. By utilizing their X-treme Low Latency memory chips with the addition of the Xpert module they have melded performance and looks together. Although they are rated at only 400 MHz and DDR1, they still are very much alive. We also expect Corsair to have a DDR2 version out within a decent amount of time as well due to the demand of DDR2 for Intel systems. Being DDR400 they also are plug and play, unlike many faster modules which require overclocking and tweaking to reach their rated speeds. You may need to manually adjust timings to achieve the default latency due to Corsair programming the chips to ensure compatibility with all systems. The wonderful overclockability of these modules while maintaining decent timings also makes the Xpert series a great choice.

Corsair has shipped the single modules which can be found for around $130 USD while the dual channel 1GB kits sell from $255-300 USD

Legit Bottom Line:

If you want performance as well as a unique look, then look no further then the new X-treme Low Latency Corsair Xpert series of memory.