For power users building looking to put together HEDT rigs, memory is often king, particularly those video editors or content creators. Sure, you need lots of processor threads, but for editing high definition video content, running lots of Virtual Machines, or 3d modeling, RAM quickly becomes the limiting factor.
Crucial by Micron have thrown over its Ballistix 32GB Sport 2666 32GB quad channel RAM kit (8GB x 4 sticks) for us to take a look at, and in fact kindly rushed this RAM over for both our X399 and ThreadRipper 1950X review and also our review Intel’s X299 with a I9-7900X processor (which is the hardware we’re testing this on). With that said, this isn’t a sponsored review and all opinions our own, but full disclosure is very important to us here at RedGamingTech.
The Crucial Ballistix 32GB Sport 2666Mhz may not be the fastest RAM available, but for those putting together a system which benefits from a lot of memory, and given RAM prices are at a premium, even in HEDT systems (or a Coffee Lake or Ryzen based setup) there’s still an excellent market for this RAM. As we’ll discuss later on, the memory is is rather overclockable too, increasing its appeal considerably.
The RAM comes in in three distinctive sets of colors, red, white and grey; we opted to grab the RED set of Crucial Ballistix Sports (after all, we are RedGamingTech… it seemed, logical?). There are four DIMMS squeezed inside the fairly unassuming packaging, which has a clear plastic front allowing you to see the contents. Top left is the sticker giving you a brief overview of the specs of the RAM, while the rear contains very little of note.
The memory design is quite simple, but I do find it rather pretty. Its low profile shall be welcome if you’re going to be using all the RAM slots in your board, particularly true with boards which pack connections such as fan headers closer to the RAM than you’d like. There’s a simple black PCB, with a red heat spreader (or whatever your color of choice is) firmly mounted to the PCB. Both sides are adorned with the “Ballistix by Micron” branding, and on a single side there’s a brief overview RAM specs in case you forget timings, voltages or speeds.
There’s no LEDS aboard, or anything ‘fancy’ such as heat fins. Its quite the minimalist design, and great new for those who enjoy building their rig with a theme in mind. Providing you choose the appropriate color, you’ll have no real issues with the Crucial Ballistic Sports RAM sticks fitting into your rig.
These are also available in dual channel too (along with different RAM sizes), and we suspect they’d be very nice on a cramped micro-atx type of motherboard.
Specs and Performance
This particular kit runs at 2666 MTs and with memory timings of 16-18-18, respectively and requires runs on 1.2v. As one would imagine, they also offer full support XMP 2.0 and going into a motherboards bios of Skylake-X (or other platforms) is a simple case of simply clicking the appropriate option and rebooting the system to set it. We also were able to do similar with our ThreadRipper X399 Pro Carbon motherboard from MSI too, and within just a click or two we were operating at the appropriate speeds and booted to Windows.
But, to do this would be almost unfair to the memory. What we have here is a case where the RAM is very overclockable – especially if you’re willing to play around with voltages a little. We were pretty limited with our time testing overclocking, unfortunately – but we did manage to squeeze the clock speed up to 3000 MHZ at the default voltage of 1.2V, but it wasn’t fully stable and would crash during fairly often during AIDA64 and rarely during cinebench R15. Bumping this to 1.4v did seem to fix this issue (we didn’t get any crashes during several runs of AIDA64), but we were on a deadline to send the X299 motherboard and processor back to MSI, so couldn’t run enough tests to ensure full stability. We did run a few tests though, so we’ll add those benchmarks in for sake of completeness. We also tested the RAM once again on the 1950X ThreadRipper at 3000MHZ and the higher voltage, and it also seemed stable, but we are omitting those results otherwise we then have ThreadRipper versus Skylake-X performance indicators, which makes the charts considerably more complicated to read and produce.
We did however finish all of our benchmarks at the slightly slower 2800MHZ which was totally stable on the X299 platform (once again, at the default of 1.2V). Considering the rated speed – and the thin, low profile heat-spreader, this is a pretty damn nice surprise. Furthermore, the Crucial Ballistix Sport memory remained cool to the touch during operation, even when we pushed 1.4 volts through it.
As you can imagine, this drastically increases memory bandwidth and performance. For those who want faster guaranteed speeds, Crucial do offer memory kits at considerably higher frequencies, including DDR4-3466.
We’ve tested the Crucial Ballistix RAM in 3 different test systems – the first is a Ryzen 7 1700X rig, with an ASUS X370 Pro motherboard. The next was an MSI 299 Gaming M7 ACK motherboard with two different processors; an Intel I7 7820X and an I9 7900X. Finally back to AMD, with an MSI X399 Gaming Pro Carbon powered by the ThreadRipper top dog, the 16 core 1950X. The only motherboard we’d issues with was the X370 board, which sometimes the RAM would be a little inconsistent with all 4 sticks in at higher speed. We managed to eventually tweak things to run, but only at 2400MHz. We suspect we could possibly have gotten higher speeds, but started to run out of time for the review.
The X299 and X399 platforms were both quite happy to accept the RAM sticks – with the AMD platform as happy as Intel’s both in RAM timings and clock speeds. We managed to overclock the RAM to the same speeds on both platforms too – and was as simple as setting the RAM clocks in BIOS. No voltage tweaking was required and of course, was as stable as a rock.
Overall and final thoughts
It is an unfortunate fact that we’re currently at a peak in memory prices, so for those needing systems with a lot of RAM, it’s an expensive buy, especially if you’re also wishing to get faster clocked RAM to boot. Fortunately, memory prices in the tail end of 2018 might stabilise – at least if the additional memory fabs come online can help alleviate the shortages as planned.
But this leaves us with conclusions for this RAM kit, and we’re pleased to say that the 32GB quad set of Crucial Ballistix Sports 2666 is a great set of RAM, because the price difference between it and slower DDR4 2400 Quad Channel kits is negligible, but the real value lies in the excellent overclockability of the RAM and minimalistic design.
Given the RAM’s rather low and slim profile, lack of LEDS and fairly simple design, for those focused on color matching every last component inside your rig – well, the ballistix sports line might well be for you.
For those who just want to plonk your cash down on a bargain, we’ve no reason to give this kit a hearty recommendation. Its sitting on the cheaper end of the RAM spectrum, with a good number of kits costing a lot more cash for 3000MHz, and fortunately, this clocks to that with perhaps a light tweak of voltage and setting of the clocks in BIOS.
We didn’t have issues with stability for either – it was rock solid, and while that might not sound like a big deal on its own (after all, I am essentially telling you that the product you’ve paid for works), but its reassuring to know that the RAM is stable and works on different boards (helpful for those who are frequently bitten by the upgrade bug, especially given Ryzen 2000 and the updated ThreadRipper, plus Coffee Lake-S Refresh later this year). This is also combined with the peace of mind that you’ve got a limited lifetime warranty from Crucial.
I grant you – this isn’t the best performing RAM you could purchase for your system, there are faster kits available from crucial and their numerous competitors – but then, you’ll be paying more for those beefed up specs.
The Crucial Ballistix Sport 32GB 2666 is excellent RAM, that looks the part, overclocks great and well… what more do you need to know?