Crucial Ballistix Tracer 2GB PC2-8500

Author
Aron Schatz
Posted
May 20, 2007
Views
41709
Crucial steps up to provide a low cost but high performing kit. The Tracer series is their high-end RAM and this particular kit performs excellently.

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Intro:

Logo


When you think of memory, Crucial is a brand that is recognized as stable and trustworthy. It was some time ago that Crucial (and Micron) never provided overclocking RAM and never warranted pushing their modules passed their recommended values. Even back then, people used Crucial modules to push their systems to the limits. Today, Crucial is one of the many memory makers that back overclocking memory as a standard. RAM has come a long way since those early years. Now there are lights and heat spreaders on most memory. The real meat is the speed and timings and that is what we are looking at for the Crucial Ballistix Tracer 2GB PC2-8500 Kit.

DDR2:

How about a quick refresher for DDR for the younger generation...

There was not always a memory type known as DDR2 or even DDR. Before DDR, SDR (that is Single Data Rate, not Synchronous Dynamic RAM) ruled the roost. As CPUs became faster and faster, memory did not scale as effectively. Even today, memory is a horrible bottleneck in modern computers. The technical people at the time recognized this and DDR was born by transferring information on the rising and falling edge of the clock cycle. This minor (but technically not that easy) changed enabled memory to double its speed overnight. SDR memory running at 100MHz has a transfer rate of 800MBps and DDR running at 100MHz has a rate of 1.6GBps.

DDR2 also does something similar, the memory is still running at the same speed, the I/O clock is doubled to twice the speed. The bandwidth will increase to 3.2GBps. These modifications allow our current computer systems to run as fast as they do. The next generation memory is really right around the corner, but DDR2 is very mature. Remember that these numbers are all theoretical and real world values lag behind the theoretical.

Packaging:

Box


Crucial has always packaged their RAM in simple boxes that protect the modules from touching each other during shipping. I have received dozens of modules from Crucial and none of them arrived damaged.

Parts


The modules themselves are individual wrapped for protection against static electricity.

Modules:

Mem 1


Unlike the regular Ballistix line, the Tracer series is black and a bit bulkier due to the extra LEDs that are added. The LEDs are actually useful and display that the RAM is working. Most other indicators are useless to me. The PCB is the signature black and there are even LEDs that light the socket up.

Mem 2


The RAM actually looks great compared to the overly flashes RAM I have seen in the past. Since the lights on the top actually perform a function, I will say that it is a good feature to have when diagnosing problems with a computer.

No light


As shown, the LEDs are on the top of each module. There are two banks of eight LEDs. Each LED will display either red or green and will show RAM activity as well.

The modules are rated for DDR2-1066 which is PC2-8500. Remember that standards really only go as high as DDR2-533. This RAM is double of that speed. Needless to say that a standard can include de facto standards and that is what we are looking at now. The modules require 2.2V to operate at DDR2-1066 operation, but they did boot fine at DDR2-800 at the standard 1.8V. This is good because it allows you to go in and change the voltage to the higher rating. The standard DDR2 voltage is 1.8V after all.

Lead Free


The modules contain EPP which is a new version of the SPD. There is nothing to get excited about because most EPP motherboards are Nvidia and it is not something that most people that will be buying this type of RAM will be concerned about. They will be setting their own settings anyway. The other nice thing about this RAM is that it is lead free which is always a good thing. Most computer part manufactures are producing lead free components now.

SPD


The modules contain SPD values for two speeds. The DDR2-800 SPD values are for new installs and will allow the modules to run at a lower voltage. The modules are rated to run at the second SPD value of DDR2-1066. The timings are 5-5-5-15.

533MHz


Here is the RAM running at the rated spec. Pretty fast already...
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Stability:

Remember that stability is very important to me and should be for everyone. Knowing that the RAM can run at a certain spec forever is important. Any uncertainty is not what I want. The first thing I did was made sure that the system POSTs with the new RAM and then went into the BIOS to set the correct timings and voltage. My Asus P5B Deluxe can only deliver 2.25V instead of the required 2.2V so I will be overvolting the memory to start. My stability regiment includes three passes of Memtest86+ followed by Prime95 testing for at least six hours. This really ensures that the modules are working up to speed. You can stop if Memtest86+ sees any errors, but it is not enough for the program to say that there are none. The modules may still not be stable when pushed. I was able to pass Memtest86+ on certain timings and then fail with Prime95. It just goes to show you that multiple testing is better than a single thing.

Testing:

Like the previous Kingston kit I tested, I had to overclock my CPU to get the memory running at the rated speed. Since I had to run out of spec on one component, benchmarking is useless as the baseline is gone. I already know that my Core 2 E6400 can hit 3.2GHz with no problem, so I have a good chance to test this memory in regards to overclock-ability.

The RAM did well at its rated speed. Mind you, I am running the RAM at 2.25V due to my motherboard not being able to provide only 2.2V of power. I will be changing my motherboard this week to a P5N32-E SLI with a Core 2 E6420 and hope to provide better review with this new system. I will also be only testing things in Linux starting next week as that will be the only operating system I will be running. I did do some synthetic tests and the results are on par for memory of this speed. Most memory performs nearly the same as others in the same category.

Light 1


So how about those lights? Like I mentioned before, this RAM has two rows of LEDs that show you activity on the modules. This effect is very interesting to watch. I will include a second shot of the lights to prove that the LEDs do change. And if your computer is idle, the lights slow down and then speed up if there is much activity. These modules are awesome for diagnosing computer problems.

Light 2


Overclocking:

OC


This picture shows the maximum overclock I could sustain stably. The timings remained at 5-5-5-15 and the voltage was 2.25V. My memory divider was set at 3/2 of my FSB. This rated speed would be DDR2-1152 which translates into PC2-9216. I think that is a pretty impressive overclock considering that the modules are running over-spec already. What I find interesting is that most people will need to run their systems at an overclocked spec just to run these modules at their rated speed. That alone makes these modules worth it.

Conclusion:

There are many important parts to a system and RAM is a very important part. It is a part that is important not to skimp on. Remember that the major bottleneck in every system is data flow. Increasing memory speed will increase your overall system performance since CPUs can handle it. The Crucial Ballistix Tracer PC2-8500 is a great kit. It is so great that it is only around $250 at Newegg. This is an awesome price for this kit. Feel free to search for the best prices.

I would like to thank Kelly at Crucial for the chance to review this kit.

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