I’m always on the lookout for extremely overclockable components, in part because they’re needed for testing the capabilities of other hardware that comes through our lab. No wonder, then, that I began my search for the best DDR4 before Intel's X99 platform even launched. When a company promised us the absolute fastest (in data rate) RAM available way back in October, I instantly agreed to use it. When competitors claimed they might be able to match or beat that product, I told them they should send theirs too. And when they circled back, saying they could probably match our best-in-class kit with a lower price, I was thrilled to put forth the value message. By early November, memory makers were all-in, and I was still writing about motherboards.
We saw the “similar but cheaper” argument produce strong value in our recent Kingston DDR4-3000 review. But that kit wasn’t able to exceed our previous data rate limit. Now it’s time to see if Corsair can do one better with a kit the company believed would out-overclock our original DDR3-3000 sample.
My biggest question was why Corsair would label one of its top quad-channel kits at a slower DDR4-2800 data rate? Could this be a way around customer complaints about motherboards that aren’t stable at 125MHz BCLK? That’s the base clock we need to reach DDR4-3000 on any platform that adheres to Intel’s DDR4-2666 limit, and most of our boards have failed to support a 125MHz BCLK in conjunction with a high 24x data rate multiplier.
Platforms aren’t Corsair’s business, so a workaround for motherboard-related memory complaints seems like an adequate rationale for the lower specified data rate. The company even equips the modules with a DDR4-3000 XMP. But underselling isn’t usually good for selling prices, and that means Corsair needs to rely on reviewers to spread its message.
But Why 2800?
Calling this stuff DDR4-2800 presents a completely different problem, primarily because motherboards that adhere to Intel’s DDR4-2666 limit must overclock the CPU to use it. Getting there from DDR4-2666 requires a 5% CPU overclock. Bonus for Corsair if its RAM gets an artificial 5% benchmark lead from the overclocked CPU, right?
But that’s not how our sample motherboard sees things. It thinks a 127.3MHz x 22 data rate is the way to go, and that might also be a great performance option. But we test things apples-to-apples, and the fixed 4GHz CPU clock of our previous DDR4 reviews would put an end to that mischief. Fortunately, this same motherboard has a workaround: Asus supports Intel’s forbidden 28x data-rate multiplier.