Crucial Ballistix 2GB PC2-5300

Aron Schatz
December 4, 2006
DDR2 is very mature. It has been out for a couple of years and the timings have really come down to make DDR2 a prime choice for overclockers. How does Crucial's Ballistix stand up? Find out here...

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As I am sure most of you know Crucial is a name that you can trust. I have personally used Crucial and Micron memory since I have built computers back when I was much younger than I currently am. It was not until recently that Crucial began to offer chips that had overclocking potential in the brand lines. This started with the new Ballistix line of RAM. In the past, Crucial had a stance that their RAM was for stability and not for overclocking, even though many people used it for both. Crucial RAM is rock solid, if you run it at the rated specs. Remember that overclocking is a variable thing; we shall see how Crucial stands up with their 2GB kit of PC2-5300.


Remember that the jump from single data rate to double data rate memory effectively doubled the available memory bandwidth that the computer can use. DDR did this by not only transferring data on the rising edge of the clock tick, but also the falling edge. This simple (though, not as easy as it sounds) change allowed DDR to surpass SDR relatively quickly. DDR2 had a different birth. Remember that DDR2 is just like DDR. It still only has two transfers per clock tick. The difference is that DDR2 runs at twice the 'speed' of DDR. For DDR at 100MHz, the memory bandwidth would be 1.6GBps. For DDR2 at 100MHz, the I/0 clock is doubled to 200MHz and the bandwidth jumps to 3.2GBps. This does not work out in the real world due to the higher latency that DDR2 initially offered. AMD chips really noticed the difference in latencies while Intel chips wanted to have more memory bandwidth. This is the reason that Intel jumps on DDR2 and AMD lagged behind. DDR2 technology has finally come to terms with tighter latencies and DDR is effectively dead.



Crucial has always packaged their memory in a brown shipping box with individually wrapped RAM modules separated in the box. This keeps the memory safe during shipping.



The modules themselves are very nice. They have a gold color heat spreader attached to both sides of the RAM as well as the signature black PCB. The PCB is wasted due to the largeness of the heat spreaders. Since the RAM is perpendicular to any window in a case, having really fancy RAM is basically useless. I hope that overclockers are more concerned about speed than looks, regardless.


The RAM is rated for DDR2-667 which is PC2-5300. JEDEC only standards DDR2 RAM up to DDR2-533. Every other module is not to any standard and anything should be treated as such. The reason I say this is because these modules are running 2.2v! TWO POINT TWO VOLTS. The standard voltage for DDR2 is 1.8v. The problem with using RAM that requires this voltage is that many boards may not be able to handle it. I have seen many Intel produced boards that refuse to work with RAM that requires higher voltages than 1.8v. Be very careful when buying RAM that is over 1.8v. Make sure your board can pump its voltage up.


This does not change the fact that many boards that can even support the voltage will just not work correctly. The good thing about Crucial is that there are multiple SPD values for each speed setting. Hopefully, one of them can be used at a low enough voltage so you can set the voltage higher for the rated spec. You would really think that RAM running at 2.2v would have tight timings. This is not the case when looking at the SPD values. The SPD values are set for 5-3-3-15. The RAM is rated for 3-3-3-12. Allowing the RAM to run at relaxed timings also gave it the ability to boot up at 1.8v. The RAM was unstable at this voltage, though. Since I was able to get into the BIOS and change the voltage, this is not a big deal. Make sure that you set the RAM to run at the higher and tighter timings. AMD platforms will thank you.
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Let me go over about how I personally do stability testing. The first thing that I did was checked to make sure my system did its POST. I went into the BIOS and set the correct values for the timings and voltage. Remember that this RAM requires 2.2v and my Asus P5B Deluxe can only deliver 2.25v as the closest increment without going lower. I settled for that. To actually test the stability of the RAM at default timings, I fired up Memtest86+ and let it loop for three passes before I finally decided the system was ready for software work. This does not mean that the system was perfectly stable by any means. Memtest alone will not guaranty stability, but if there are errors, you know there is a problem. Further testing of the RAM is needed for stability. Upon booting into your operating system of choice (mine happens to be Win2k), you need to install a program that will perform many calculations and should require tons of RAM to use. Prime95 is a good example of this type of program. You can set the program to torture test your system and use the entire RAM in the system. Running this test for a few hours will ensure that the system is stabile enough. The system may have passed on Memtest, but at one time it did not pass Prime95. The program crashed. This means that the system was not stable. Running the memory at the default everything was perfectly stable.


Since the RAM is perfectly stable at default timings and voltage, all testing was done at the rated speed. Overclocking results are not tested, but these modules were overclocked to determine how far they can really go for people that want to overclock. The programs we used for testing were AIDA32, SuperPi, and Prime95. All tests were run for three times and then averaged. I purchased a set of Geil Platinum RAM about a year ago that runs at 4-4-4-12 at the default 1.8v. I will be testing the Ballistix against this. You should be surprised that the Geil beats the Crucial RAM in every test even with faster timing. The test setup consisted of an Asus P5B Deluxe (10/30/06 BIOS), a Core 2 Duo E6400 (2.13GHz), Windows 2000 SP4 with all the hotfixes, a Maxtor 300GB SATA drive, and a Plextor PX-760A DVD drive. Full specs are listed »at my systems page.


First up is AIDA32. This is an older program. Geil, even with its slower times, comes out on top. You will see this in the lower benchmarks and I will refrain from typing more meaningless text


This is Prime95.


This is SuperPi.


I decided to refrain from using more voltage since the memory was already running at a very high voltage. I immediately set the RAM to PC2-6400 (DDR2-800) and the system was unstable. I pumped the voltage a bit and was still unstable even at relaxed timings. I stepped back till the system was totally stable and this occurred at 100MHz over the rated at DDR2-767 (PC2-6136). This was done at the default voltage (but actually was running at 2.25v due to the limitations of my motherboard). The timings remained at 3-3-3-12 and I am still running the system at this for a week now. The RAM is excellent for stock and for overclockability.


Let me be very blunt with this conclusion. This RAM is excellent if your board can handle the 2.2v that the modules require. The kit of RAM costs about $300 which is pretty expensive. You are paying for the brand. The Geil that I tested this against that I bought was much cheaper. Like I said, if you want RAM that works, you get Crucial. The overclockability is something that is not guarantied, but is very nice to achieve. If you are building a system with no overclocking potential, stick with some value RAM. Overclockers should check this stuff out or even the faster models from Crucial if you want the brand name. If you want true value, you need to look elsewhere.

Thank you for reading and be sure to enter the current forum giveaway »in this thread.

I would like to thank Crucial for sending this memory for review.


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