Crucial Ballistix Tracer Red 4GB PC2-6400 BL2KIT25664AR804

Author
Aron Schatz
Posted
March 18, 2008
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59908
Crucial Ballistix Tracer Red 4GB PC2-6400 BL2KIT25664AR804
Crucial has released a new series of modules in the Tracer line called Red. It offers another personalized touch and in the market today, this is a good move for Crucial. Red is a great color and these modules perform well.

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Intro:

Even though DDR3 is the new player in town and boards are starting to utilize only DDR3, DDR2 is the king of RAM at this point in time. AMD systems still use it exclusively and even the newest chipsets from Intel still support DDR2. Crucial understands this and we chatted about it during CES. At that point they showed me the special Tracer Red series that they were working on. Red is my absolute favorite color and these sticks are right up my ally. The BL2KIT25664AR804 is a 4GB kit and ASE Labs is the first US publication to receive and review these modules. They are so new that the US division of Crucial doesn't even sell them... yet.

Packaging:

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Crucial's standard brown box returns yet again. I was expecting something with a splash of red, but you just throw away these boxes anyway.

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As always, each module is individually wrapped in anti-static plastic and positioned in the box so they don't slam into each other in transit. Why change something that has been working for years?

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The anti-static plastic contains some information about the modules. Sadly, Crucial still doesn't provide enough information about the modules in the packaging or on a sticker on the sticks themselves. Venturing to the website is fine, but it is easy enough to put a sticker with all the needed timings and voltages.

Red:

Remember that the Tracer series from Crucial is very mature. I even reviewed the original set of »black modules last year. These new red modules mark a trend in computing that Crucial is good to follow. The fact of the matter is that people like personalization. I'm guilty of that myself. I know that these modules are hardly better than the normal Ballistix breed, but the fact that it is red and has lights adds something of value to people. Red is my favorite color and I would naturally gravitate to these in a computer I would build. I will say that these modules are no different than other Crucial products in that it runs at the rated specs. These modules just add a bit of personality and form. There is no functionality added since the original Tracer series. Remember that I did comment that the lights on the RAM assist in troubleshooting which is quite helpful.

Modules:

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The word for this review is red. Everything is red. The heatspreaders on the sticks are red. The PCB is red. Red is such a great color. It instills a sense of urgency and fire. ASE Labs originally had a red and black color scheme (but switched to blue on Version 3). Regardless, these modules look great and the silver accents just add more to the look.

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These modules are rated for use at a few timings and voltages. It contains EPP for use with Nvidia board, but I'm still against the use of lazy overclocking for true enthusiasts. Part of the fun is to get these modules as fast as possible. EPP is nice for people that want to run without fuss, just as SPD settings are used. JEDEC voltage (1.8V) provides these modules the ability to run at 5-5-5-15 at DDR2-800 which is PC2-6400. Increase the voltage to 2.2V drops the timings to 4-4-4-12. These are the specifications on the modules that Crucial provides and they are guidelines as the testing will show.

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The primary form feature on these sticks are the lights on the top. It completes the red look as you will see a bit later in the testing part of the review. Other than looking nice, it adds a bit of troubleshooting information so it is helpful as well.

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These heatspreaders are nicely bonded to the modules so there is no need for clips to clamp on and fall off. Don't try to remove these, why would you want to destroy such beautiful RAM?

My only Nvidia board decided to die after 7 months of use (Asus P5N32-E SLI) and is in for warranty repair. I could not test the EPP for these modules, but I don't bother with it anyway.
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Stability:

Let me reiterate again how ASE Labs determines stability. I shall do this for every RAM review that is done. At ASE Labs, RAM is only stable if it passes Memtest86+ and a plethora of memory intensive applications for a few hours like mprime and doing continuous compiling of specific programs. Just because the memory POSTs and runs doesn't mean that it is stable. Linux users may find memory errors by having errors in compiling (very common) to errors in tar as well as segfaults. Windows users can expect program faults and BSODs. Memory stability is very important. When we say that a specific specification of RAM is stable, we mean it!

How does the new Tracer Red series from Crucial handle itself? Excellently. In fact I was running these modules at the normal 1.8V (JEDEC) at the rated timings and speed with no problem. That means these modules can handle tight timings of 4-4-4-12 running at 800MHz (PC2-6400) with a voltage of 1.8V. That is a feather in the cap for Crucial. This doesn't mean that modules you get will be able to do the same, just make sure your board can handle 2.2V just in case.

Overclocking:

I decided to try my luck at 1.8V for as far as I could go. I had some interesting results with this memory. Unfortunately, this kit is 2x2GB which means that pathways are longer and these modules usually handle a bit worse that 1GB modules. This happened to be the case, I hit a wall at any voltage with timings of 4-4-4-12 at 830MHz. I decided to try a bit higher timings of 5-5-5-15 which allowed the RAM to go as high as 960MHz before becoming unstable at any voltage even up to 2.30V. The weird thing is that the modules were stable at this speed at 1.8V which is really something. 2GB modules are a new thing for me and I have another set I'm reviewing from Corsair this week. Hopefully some parallels can be drawn.

Testing:

I want to preface this section by saying how ASE Labs will be doing benchmarks from now on. There will be no synthetic benchmarks at ASE Labs. This means that for fair comparisons, an apples to apples system will need to be made. We will be using tools that anyone will be able to get so anybody can reproduce our results. Current memory tests include compilation of LAME and FFMPEG, encoding in each of those programs, and a round of mprime to round everything out. We will be adding testing as we see fit during future reviews. If you would like to see specific (real world stuff) programs, please send me an email.

By using real world testing, a deduction can be made about memory at the same specs; Unless a major problem occurs in a set of modules, there is no statistical difference between one set and another set of modules. It is more important to look at the stability and overclockability of the modules as well as the price.

Testing was done with a Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz on an Asus P5B Deluxe. The Tracer Red was running at the rated 4-4-4-12 at 800MHz and was tested against the Corsair 4GB kit running at the same timings and speed. This is a fair comparison. In a future article we will go over how more RAM can increase performance.

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What can I say except that memory is memory. These are apples to apples comparison of a component that is standard running at the same specs. There should be little difference. There is a difference between the speed of 2GB and 1GB modules and we will look at that in the future.

So how do these modules look?

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Awesome. The lights on the RAM respond to usage which is very neat. The modules are all glowing red as you can see from the base. The light from these sticks can light an entire case fairly well, but as accent lighting, it rocks. It makes your computer look like it's doing something.

Conclusion:

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Pricing and available will probably come soon from Crucial. I suspect that these modules will have a slight premium over their regular black counterparts. If red isn't your color or you don't need the flashiness, these modules aren't for you. Crucial's RAM has always been stable and well performing and the Red series is no different. Looking for RAM that will turn heads? Here it is. Now if we can just get some stock in the US. Hopefully we will see the Tracer Red return on new DDR3 modules.

I'd like to thank everyone at Crucial for making this review possible and I'm pleased to be the first US publication to review these modules. Red is my favorite color, after all.
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