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Ballistix Elite DDR4-3600 2x 8GB Kit Review: Expensive Elite

Performance is good, but not good enough to outshine this kit’s sky-high price.

(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

Our Verdict

It’s hard to get past the high $170 price. But big spenders can use the fact that Ballistix Elite is the performance winner within the narrow scope of today’s article to justify their extravagance.

For

  • Enhanced timings for improved performance
  • Visually-appealing multipiece heat spreaders for non-RGB builders

Against

  • Expensive
  • Mediocre overclocking capability

Ballistix Gaming puts Elite branding on its “best” modules, adorning them with fancy multi-piece screw-on heat spreaders and bumping performance with enhanced timings. That last bit is a little difficult for novices to understand, since CAS Latency is rated in clock cycles but measured in nanoseconds, and because the nanoseconds of a clock cycle decrease in direct proportion to a frequency increase. The quick and dirty way to understand it is that DDR4-3600 CAS 18 and DDR4-2400 CAS 12 have the same latency. Today’s kit (part number BLE2K8G4D36BEEAK) is rated at quicker DDR4-3600 CAS 16 timings. 

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The full set of primary timings here is 16-18-18-38, where those larger numbers are explained in the middle of our PC Memory explainer. But again, the short version is that the first number is most-important to performance, the second is typically the second most-important, and so forth. These enhanced timings require additional voltage to assure memory stability, so they’re programed into an Intel XMP (Extreme Memory Performance) overclocking profile

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Most consumer-level motherboards include XMP, but many OEM systems do not. And, some boards that support XMP don’t support DDR4-3600, particularly those with Intel’s H-series and B-series chipsets. Anyone not able to run XMP will find that these sticks are automatically configured using DDR4-2666 CAS 19 or CAS 20 timings, which is still faster than the old DDR4-2133 standard (greater bandwidth), but not quicker (similar response time). It’s important to know exactly what both your CPU and motherboard can support before ordering high-end DRAM.

With these caveats in mind, let’s see how elite this kit really is!

Comparison Hardware

We’re comparing Ballistix Gaming’s Elite DDR4-3600 kit against the two most-recent test candidates of the same capacity and data rate, T-Force Dark-Z and Geil Evo X II. It really doesn’t seem completely fair to compare memory with worse timings to today’s Elite kit, but they also cost less, and value will be one of our considerations. 

Ballistix EliteT-Force Dark-ZGeil EVO X II
Part NumberBLE2K8G4D36BEEAKTDZGD416G3600HC18JDC01GAEXSY416GB3600C18ADC
Capacity16 GB (2x 8GB)16 GB (2x 8GB)16 GB (2x 8GB)
Data RateDDR4-3600 (XMP)DDR4-3600 (XMP)DDR4-3600 (XMP)
Primary Timings16-18-18-38 (2T)18-22-22-42 (2T)18-20-20-40 (2T)
Voltage1.35V1.35 Volts1.35 Volts
WarrantyLifetimeLifetimeLifetime

For today’s test, MSI’s memory-mastering MEG X570 Ace is controlled by AMD’s  stellar Ryzen 7 3700X. Toshiba’s OCZ RD400 512GB and Gigabyte’s GeForce RTX 2070 Gaming OC 8G push any system bottlenecks back towards the CPU and DRAM. 

Overclocking

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The first potential problem for the Ballistix Elite is that a kit that cost less than half its price, Geil’s EVO X II, overclocks better. That overclocking test is at a high latency setting though, so let’s see how far down these can be squeezed for latency: 


Ballistix EliteT-Force Dark-ZGeil EVO X II
Part NumberBLE2K8G4D36BEEAKTDZGD416G3600HC18JDC01GAEXSY416GB3600C18ADC
DDR4-426618-19-19-38 (2T)20-21-21-42 (2T)19-19-19-38 (1T)
DDR4-360016-17-17-34 (1T)16-18-18-36 (2T)16-17-17-34 (1T)
DDR4-293313-14-14-28 (1T)13-15-15-30 (1T)13-14-14-28 (1T)

Even though the Evo X II is programmed with worse timings, manually configuring each kit to its lowest stable timings reveals that kit to have far greater room for improvement, to the point that it matches the best timings of the Ballistix Elite kit as both DDR4-3600 and DDR4-2933.

That said, since most users don’t manually tune their timings, each kit’s XMP performance takes priority.

Benchmark Results 

Sandra’s memory bandwidth benchmark is impacted by latency, and its latency benchmark is impacted by bandwidth, because it simply uses different packet sizes to change focus between these tests. With its tighter timings, Ballistix Elite excels at both. 

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In games, the Ballistix Elite’s superior XMP profile wins against lesser XMP profiles. The Evo X II kit achieved equal timings under manual configuration, and even took a slight performance lead against teh manually-optimized Ballistix Elite in both F1 and Ashes

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The Ballistix Elite is also king of the XMP configurations in 7-Zip file compression, though the Evo X II matches it when both are pushed to their tightest stable timings. 

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Value

The Ballistix Elite’s better-programmed timings gets it a victory when comparing XMP settings, and the Evo X II’s good performance when optimized is amazingly squashed by a rounding difference based upon just a few tenths of a second in Blender. It’s important to realize that most users will only load XMP defaults and thusly claim Ballistix Elite the winner. 

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Value, on the other hand, is a huge problem for Ballistix Gaming: Its kit costs nearly 2.5x that of the T-Force Dark-Z, and over twice that of the Evo X II. The best reason we can think of for any 16GB kit to cost $170 in today’s market is that the manufacturer simply hasn’t updated its prices since some time last winter.

It’s not as though you can’t find DDR4-3600 CAS 16 for under $100: Newegg recently listed a kit from a major gaming brand for only $99.99, and that kit comes with RGB and premium heat spreaders. And even though that kit’s 16-19-19-39 timings are worse than Ballistix Elite’s 16-18-18-38, we don’t know of anyone who would pay more than a few dollars to shave a cycle off tRCD and tRP. And, if that weren’t reason enough to call out the Ballistix Elite’s pricing, we also spotted a DDR4-3600 kit with superior 16-16-16-36 timings for only $135. That makes the $170 Ballistix Elite particularly tough to argue for.

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