Crucial Ballistix Goes Low Profile and Low Voltage DDR3!

I started writing about DDR3 memory modules in May 2007 before the supporting motherboards came out, so it takes quite a bit to get me excited about memory after writing about it for nearly six years of doing so. In fact, buying a memory kit is one of the more boring aspects of building or upgrading a PC as they are all so similar.  Most consumers buy a memory kit based on price and how it looks after figuring out what speed memory they want to go with. Today, I'm looking at two 16GB (2x8GB) 1600MHz DDR3 memory kits from Crucial that are a little different from the dozens of other kits at this very popular memory speed. The kits that I'm about to show you both have low profile designs and run at just 1.35V! No other brand has a memory kit on the market that has both of these features, so it is interesting to see Crucial breaking the 'norm' and doing something different than all the other memory companies.

Crucial Ballistix DDR3 1600MHz Memory Kits

The two memory kits that we will be looking at today are the Crucial Ballistix Tactical LP (BLT2K8G3D1608ET3LX0) and the Crucial Ballistix Sport VLP (BLS2K8G3D1609ES2LX0). Both kits are similar, which is why I'm reviewing them together, but they are slightly different.

Crucial Ballistic Memory Module Specifications
Model Tatical LP Sport VLP
Part Number BLT2K8G3D1608ET3LX0 BLS2K8G3D1609ES2LX0
Memory Type DDR3 240-pin DDR3 240-pin
Memory Speed PC3-12800 PC3-12800
Memory Speed MHz 1600MHz 1600MHz
Memory Size 2 x 8192MB 2 x 8192MB
Total Memory Size 16GB 16GB
PCB Color Black Green
Heatspreader Color Yellow Black
Module Height 18.75mm 25.50mm
XMP Profiles Yes, XMP 1.3 Yes, XMP 1.3
Memory Timings 8-8-8-24 2T 9-9-9-24 1T
Voltage 1.35V 1.35V
ECC No No
Memory Buffer Unbuffered Unbuffered
Price $132.10 shipped $106.99 shipped

As you can see from the data table that I complied above, the main difference between the modules are the height, colors and memory timings. There is also a just over a $25 price difference between the two memory kits, so it will be interesting to see how they perform. The Crucial Ballistix Tatical LP memory kit has tighter timings, but the command rate is set to 2T in the XMP 1.3 profile. It will be interesting to see if that hurts performance!

Crucial Ballistix Tactical and Sport DDR3

The Crucial Ballistix Tactical LP series is aimed at gamers, power users, and performance enthusiasts. These modules feature a black PCB and an enhanced heatspreader design for improved thermal performance. The 16GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1600MHz memory kit also has lower latencies (8-8-8-24) than the Sport VLP series. They also feature Intel Extreme Memory Profile (XMP 1.3) which enables easy setup.

The Crucial Ballistix Sport VLP on the other hand is designed to provide mainstream users and general PC enthusiasts with an affordable, reliable, no-hassle gaming experience. The Crucial Ballistix Sport VLP series offers looser timings (9-9-9-24), but the voltage remains 1.35V for maximum memory stability and system compatibility. The PCB is now green on these modules, but not much of it will be shown after it is installed into the 240-pin DDR3 slot on the motherboard and clipped in.

Crucial Ballistix LP and VLP Heatspreader Height

Being a low profile design, these memory modules allow for extra clearance around your CPU coolers for better airflow. This is great news for those building a system and want to have the best airflow around the processor!

The Crucial Ballistic Sport VLP module stands just 18.75mm tall and the Crucial Ballistix Tatical LP is 25.50mm in height. A normal DDR3 memory module module with a heatspreader on it is around 32mm in height, so these are substantially lower. Super high-end performance memory like the Kingston HyperX T1 module stands 60.95mm tall, but the Corsair Dominator GTX module tops them all at 64.30mm tall!

Ballistix Tactical LP Heatspreader

The Crucial Ballistix Tatical LP memory kit has a heatspreader on it that is taller and looks more aggressive, but it is safe to assume that it's just for looks and doesn't have any major cooling benefit.

Crucial 1261A DDR3 PCB

Before we move on to testing, I wanted to point out that both memory kits use the same exact PCB despite them being different colors.  Both are marked 1261A on one side and on the other side is marked E85792 and CK 77-1 3. I looked up the manufacturer code and it looks like APCB Inc. is the maker of this PCB and then Crucial buys them and assembles the modules with Micron DDR3 memory IC's.  The memory chips appear to be the same, but our sources inside Crucial informed us that the Ballistix Tatical LP memory modules are using better binned chips that are tested to a higher standard.  This makes sense as they are running tighter CL8 timings, but we'll have to see how both overclock later on. 

Now that we have a good understanding about these two memory kits we can get on to testing them on our Intel Z77 test system!

The Test System

The Test System

Before we look at the numbers, let's take a brief look at the test system that was used. All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. We went with an Intel Core i7-3770K Ivy Bridge processor and a Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H motherboard for testing since they are the latest and greatest available.

Our CyberPowerPC Zeus Thunder 2500SE Features:

Intel Z77 Test Platform:

Intel Z77 DDR3 Test System

The Intel Z77 platform that we used to test the Crucial Ballistix Tactical LP and Spory VLP memory kits was running the Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H motherboard with BIOS F6 that came out on 4/26/2012. The processor was an Intel Core i7-3770K that was overclocked from 3.50GHz to 4.50GHz. This 1GHz overclocked was achieved by changing the CPU multiplier from x35.0 to x45.0 and raising the CPU Voltage to 1.250V.

Intel X79 Test Settings

Let's get on to the testing!

Intel XMP Profiles on the Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H

xmp-profile1

As we mentioned in the introduction, Crucial Ballistix 16GB 1600MHz DDR3 memory kit comes with two Intel XMP 1.3 profiles pre-programmed for your convenience. The first profile is at 1600MHz with 1.35V and the second is at 1600MHz with 1.50V. This is due to the fact that not all boards support such low memory voltages (1.35V), so by having both voltage settings in a profile you can easily set the memory up in your motherboard. We are using the Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H motherboard for testing and as you can see the board properly detected two memory profiles. It should be noted that if you boot up for the first time with optimized defaults the memory will be running the JEDEC standard - 1333MHz with loose timings.  This is to ensure the board boots. 

Crucial DDR3 XMP Profile 2

While the frequency and voltages on the Crucial Ballistix Tatical LP and Sport VLP memory kits share the same XMP profiles, the advanced timings are very different.

Crucial Sport VLP Memory Timings

If you look at the advanced timing settings, you'll discover that the XMP memory profile also set the timings on the Crucial Ballistix Sport VLP 16GB memory kit to 9-9-9-24 with a command rate of 1T.  The XMP settings also adjusts the advanced timing controls, which is nice as pretty much no one understands what all those settings do.

Crucial Ballistix Tatical LP XMP Timings

The Crucial Ballistix Tactical LP 16GB memory kit features tighter standard timings of 8-8-8-24, but the command rate now defaults to 2T. Notice that other advanced timings like the tRC, tWTP and tWL are all one value tighter. 

Intel XMP memory profiles save a ton of time and get you up and running in a matter of seconds on boards like the Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H!

Memory Bandwidth and Latency Benchmarking

SiSoftware Sandra 2013a:

Sandra needs no introduction as it is the most popular memory performance benchmark available!

Crucial Ballistix Sport VLP 16GB (2x8GB) Memory Kit at 1600MHz CL9 w/ 1T:

Sandra Sport Results

Crucial Ballistix Tatical LP 16GB (2x8GB) Memory Kit at 1600MHz CL8 w/ 2T:

sandra-2T

Crucial Ballistix Tatical LP 16GB (2x8GB) Memory Kit at 1600MHz CL8 w/ 1T:

sandra-1T

 

Benchmark Results: The Sandra memory bandwidth benchmark shows that the less expensive Crucial Sport VLP memory kit had better memory bandwidth that the Crucial Tatical VLP memory kit by just a very small amount.  The Crucial Ballistix might have tighter CL8 timings, but the 2T command rate really hurts performance. We lowered the command rate manually to 1T and the kit was stable and performance went from 21.44GB/s to 21.57GB/s by just changing the one setting!

 

AIDA64 Extreme Edition 2.80 Beta:

AIDA64 Extreme Edition 2.80 software is an excellent benchmarking tool for looking at memory performance on any desktop PC.

Crucial Ballistix Sport VLP 16GB (2x8GB) Memory Kit at 1600MHz CL9 w/ 1T:

aida64-sport

Crucial Ballistix Tatical LP 16GB (2x8GB) Memory Kit at 1600MHz CL8 w/ 2T:

aida64

Crucial Ballistix Tatical LP 16GB (2x8GB) Memory Kit at 1600MHz CL8 w/ 1T:

aida64-1T

 

 Benchmark Results: Running AIDA64 Extreme Edition we found the read and write memory bandwidth scores to 18662MB/s and 19567MB/s on the Ballistix Sport VLP kit and 19001MB/s read and 19590 write on the Ballistix Tatical sport kit when both were running 1T command rates. The difference between the two memory kits with automatic XMP profile 1 settings was a wash. 

Why the big difference between the AIDA64 and Sandra memory bandwidth scores? AIDA64 uses single-threaded memory bandwidth tests, so it will only use a single thread to move data to/from the memory modules. While Sandra uses multiple threads, so it's a multi-threaded memory bandwidth benchmark.

 

MaxxMEM2 v1.99:

MaxxMEM is another memory benchmark that is starting to become more popular these days.

Crucial Ballistix Sport VLP 16GB (2x8GB) Memory Kit at 1600MHz CL9 w/ 1T:

maxmemm-sport

Crucial Ballistix Tatical LP 16GB (2x8GB) Memory Kit at 1600MHz CL8 w/ 2T:

tactial-maxmem-2T

Crucial Ballistix Tatical LP 16GB (2x8GB) Memory Kit at 1600MHz CL8 w/ 1T:

tactial-maxmem-1T

 

Benchmark Results: The latest version of MaxxMEM showed minor differences between the memory kits, but it is measurable.

Futuremark 3DMark11

3DMark 11

Futuremark 3DMark 11 Benchmark

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world’s most popular benchmark for measuring the 3D graphics performance of gaming PCs. 3DMark 11 uses a native DirectX 11 engine designed to make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11, including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.

Futuremark 3DMark 11 Benchmark

We ran Futuremark 3DMark11 with the default performance presets on the EVGA GeForce GTX 680 Superclocked video card to see how our hardware will run.

Crucial Ballistix Sport VLP 16GB (2x8GB) Memory Kit at 1600MHz CL9 w/ 1T:

3dmark11-sport

Crucial Ballistix Tatical LP 16GB (2x8GB) Memory Kit at 1600MHz CL8 w/ 2T:

3dmark-2T

Crucial Ballistix Tatical LP 16GB (2x8GB) Memory Kit at 1600MHz CL8 w/ 1T:

3dmark-1T


Results:
The overall 3DMark score was 9727 3DMarks on the Crucial Ballistix Sport VLP memory kit and P10234 on the Crucial Ballistix Tatical LP. When the command rate was manually set to 1T the score improved to P10280, so the command rate setting did help overall performance a bit!

Overclocking Results & Final Thoughts

Overclocking:

No memory review would be complete without overclocking, but no matter how hard I tried I was unable to reach any higher with the Crucial Ballistix Sport VLP and Tatical LP memory kit with the stock timings. I tried to overclock the memory kits with the 1800 MHz divider and found that we were unable to run at this clock speed.

1800-oc

When I loosened the timings I was able to get the memory to run at 1800MHz, but it was with 9-12-12-33 1T timings. The performance was a bit better, but nothing to write home about.

Crucial Ballistix Tactical and Sport DDR3

 

Final Thoughts and Conclusions:

At the end of the day Crucial has come out with a pair of Ballistix memory kits unlike anything else on the market and they perform really well.  If you are looking for something that is both low voltage and low profile, both the Ballistix Sport VLP and Ballistix Tatical VLP are pretty much your only choice. It is great to see that a memory company was able to develop some memory kits like this as I do feel there is a desire to own such a kit.

The performance between the two memory kits is fairly minor with the Ballistix Tactical LP memory kit being able to perform better thanks to the tighter timings. I tried to run the Crucial Ballistix Sport VLP memory kit at CL8 timings, but the kit would not post with such settings at 1.35V. I also tried to overclock both kits with their respective timings and was unable to reach 1800Mhz with them. I was able to loosen timings and overclock them to 1800MHz, but it would have been nice to keep the stock timings and push them a bit higher.

When it comes to pricing the Crucial Ballistix Tactical LP 16GB 1600MHz kit runs $132.10 shipped and the Crucial Ballistix Sport VLP 16GB 1600MHz kit runs $106.99 shipped. If you have an extra $25 to spend the Crucial Ballistix Tatical LP looks a bit more aggressive, has a better looking black PCB, tighter timings and performs slightly better. The only downside to the kit is the taller heatspreaders, but they aren't tall compared to 99% of the modules on the market today.

sport-vlp-height

The picture above shows the Crucial Ballistix Sport VLP memory kit sitting on a Corsair Dominator GTX memory module and I think that picture says it all. These modules are tiny and will improve airflow in your PC case. They also won't interfere with your CPU cooling solution, so they are ideal for pretty much any build. All Crucial memory modules are backed by a lifetime warranty, so you don't have to worry about anything should one fail down the road. This is a product that I can easily recommend for anyone looking for a low profile, low voltage memory kit at 1600MHz. Keep your fingers crossed that Crucial will be releasing faster memory kits like this in the future!

GIGABYTE GA-X79-UD7 Legit Reviews Recommended Award

Legit Bottom Line: The Crucial Ballistix Sport VLP and Tatical LP memory kits are low power and low profile, but they have solid performance and serve a purpose!