For years now, one thing was curiously missing from Crucial Technology?s lineup of RAM products ? high performance ?gaming? memory. While their competitors marketed high performance RAM with heat spreaders and aggressive timings to PC gamers and overclockers, Crucial kept to their core business ? providing high-quality, stable memory for ?regular? users and business machines.
That has changed this week with Crucial?s announcement of its new line of high-performance ?Ballistix? memory. Crucial?s launch of Ballistix coincided with the kickoff of a new Website devoted to the high-performance memory and the company?s other gaming-related products such as video cards.
Crucial’s Ballistix memory features low latencies and yellow heat spreaders.
Crucial?s announcement is significant for several reasons. With Crucial already being one of the ?big boys? in the computer memory marketplace, the news may be cause for concern for the other high-performance memory industry leaders. Crucial Technologies is a subsidiary of Micron, one of the few DRAM chip manufacturers in the world and the only company in America that actually manufactures their own chips. Crucial is also one of the highest ranked memory companies for customer service, loyalty and reputation. All those IT professionals that have trusted Crucial for their servers and workstations now have a product from Crucial made just for their gaming rig or overclocked PC. This announcement also gives credibility to the notion that gaming is one of the main factors that drive the PC industry.
This last point is both important and interesting because consumers ? especially those that would consider buying Ballistix memory ? spend a lot of money upgrading their systems for better gaming performance. Gaming enthusiasts will upgrade their processor, video card, RAM, motherboard, hard drive and more just to be able to play the newest games with high detail settings. And while home workstations and business machines can last for years with the same components ? Web surfing, spreadsheets, word processors, e-mail and photo viewing don?t take that much out of a computer ? new games with better graphics and heavier demands come out every month. In fact, most new games out now have performance settings that exceed the capabilities of even the most expensive and highest-performing components.
Geared for Gaming
This new product is not to say that Crucial?s ?regular? memory is not good enough for gaming machines. But their competitors have flourished on the fact that gamers and performance seekers look for certain factors that until now, Crucial did not offer.
According to the company, Ballistix was designed specifically for computer gamers and power users seeking maximum system performance and stability at a competitive price-point. The Ballistix line features both 184-pin DDR and the newer 240-pin DDR2 memory with advanced speed grades, low latencies, and integrated aluminum heat spreaders.
The performance boost comes from lowered latencies, which refer to the delay in the time it takes the processor to write or remove data from memory. The lower the latency measurement, the less time the processor spends waiting for data.
According to http://www.ocfaq.com/ there are four options available in most modern motherboard?s BIOS that determine memory latencies. Each value determines the number of clock cycles the memory has to complete an operation. One value is tRAS (Row Access Strobe) which measures the number of cycles the RAM can take to read the data from a block of memory. Another value is CAS (Column Address Strobe), which is the number of clock cycles between the read command being issued and when the data actually arrives at the data bus. Next is tRCD (RAS to CAS Delay) which is the space between a request for a block of data, and the actual reading operation. And finally tRP (RAS Precharge Delay) is the time allowed for the memory to close the open bank and be ready for a new request. Manufacturers may list the specifications in different orders, but for the most part, they are usually displayed as tRAS-tRCD-tRP-CAS.
Without getting too involved in the electrical engineering principals at work, it is safe to say that lower is better. Each number represents the number of times the RAM is allowed to perform a calculation. The more times it is allowed, the less likely a memory error will occur. Of course, fewer times means a quicker response. For a more in-depth discussion of the memory timings, visit OC Faq.
Crucial lists their latency numbers as CAS-tRP-tRCD-tRAS. Their Ballistix line includes the following modules in densities of 256MB and 512MB:
- Crucial Ballistix PC-3200 (DDR-400), CL2-2-2-6, currently priced at US$74.99 for 256MB, and US$138.99 for 512MB
- Crucial Ballistix PC-4000 (DDR-500), CL2.5-4-4-8, currently priced at US$77.99 for 256MB, and US$144.99 for 512MB
- Crucial Ballistix PC2-4200 (DDR2-533), CL3-3-3-10, currently priced at US$118.99 for 256MB, and US$228.99 for 512MB
- Crucial Ballistix PC2-5300 (DDR2-667), CL4-4-4-10, currently priced at US$124.99 for 256MB, and US$238.99 for 512MB
The timings and prices are on-par with what competitors like Corsair, Mushkin, and Kingston offer.
These aggressive timings benefit gaming and other intensive tasks out-of-the-box and they provide a platform for overclocking ? running PC components faster than they are rated for. With modern BIOSes allowing users to tweak their settings for maximum stability and performance, lower latencies don?t allow as much as an overclock as raised latencies. Overclockers try our different settings to achieve the sweet-spot for all of these factors and higher-quality, more stable RAM allows them to push the limits of their hardware.
Crucial Turns on the Heat
Crucial also offers its Ballistix memory in dual-packs ? matched pairs of memory modules intended for motherboards that support a dual-channel platform. While tests and benchmarks have shown that a matched pair is often not required to achieve dual-channel performance, Crucial?s competitors have been able to cash in by offering dual-packs to power-hungry consumers. The company is offering a four-percent discount for matched pairs of Ballistix memory.
“Crucial has long been known for providing stable, quality memory upgrades for the mainstream computer user,” said Fred Waddel, Crucial General Manager. “With the addition of Crucial’s Ballistix memory line, now computer enthusiasts can get the Crucial stability and quality they trust in a high-performance module.”
Every Crucial Ballistix module comes with a custom-designed aluminum heat spreader, dome decal case badge, decorative sticker, limited-lifetime warranty, multi-lingual user guide, Crucial’s award-winning customer support, free technical support, and free shipping (for a limited time) on qualified orders within the contiguous United States.
The new Website features the company?s popular Memory Advisor, one of the reasons its ?regular? memory has been so popular. The Memory Advisor is an online database that matches almost every computer, laptop and motherboard from every manufacturer with the proper Crucial memory module. Crucial offers over 110,000 upgrades for more than 20,000 different computers, notebooks, servers, and printers. They also guarantee that the memory you buy will be 100% compatible with your system or they give you your money back.
With Crucial?s recent announcement of ATI’s latest high-end video cards, the addition of the Ballistix lineup puts the company in an excellent position to compete in the lucrative gaming marketplace, as well as their traditional home and business markets. Brand loyalty is big in the computer industry and it will be interesting to see how these loyalties play out with the biggest of all the names entering the high-performance arena.