Corsair Vengeance Quad-Channel Memory Review

Author: Chris Ledenican
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Monday, November 21st, 2011
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/Corsair_Vengeance_Memory/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Corsair Vengeance DDR3 memory modules are geared toward the enthusiast and overclocking communities. The reason the Vengeance memory modules can target these market segments is because they are selected for their high-performance and overclocking potential. In addition, all kits of Vengeance memory utilize an aluminum heat-spreader design that improves heat dissipation for overclocking and, if it matters, a sleek design that can be had in multiple colors.

The Vengeance memory kits examined today are designed for the new Sandy Bridge-E platform, as they utilize a quad-channel design. There is no real difference between dual, triple or even quad-channel memory kits, but since the host system can support a certain amount of channels there must be a certain amount of memory present for the system to run the appropriate amount of channels. That's the reason X58 motherboards required three modules to run in triple-channel mode and Sandy Bridge motherboards require two modules to run in dual-channel.

In our initial review of the SB-E platform, we observed a massive memory bandwidth increase in comparison to any other consumer based platform on the market. This allows SB-E to deliver amazing performance for data-intensive applications. However, how this translates into benefit for the average user has not yet been fully examined. So, in this review we intend to find out exactly how the increased memory bandwidth affects tasks such as gaming, video decoding and transferring files.

We'll be examining two kits of Corsair Vengeance memory; both are 16GB kits of DDR3 1600MHz memory rated at 1.5 volts, but each uses different settings and heatsink designs. The first is a standard Vengeance kit that utilizes a finned aluminum heat spreader design and has timings of 9-9-9-24. The second kit is the Vengeance LP (Low-Profile), which as the name suggests has a low-profile heat spreader that will allow the DIMMs to fit in tighter spaces. This kit also has slightly tighter timings of 8-8-8-24.

Both the Vengeance and Vengeance LP memory modules are currently available at retail and have a street price of $89 and $149, respectively. While the price of the LP kit we received is higher than the Vengeance kit, the difference in price is due to the tighter latencies and not the size of the heat spreader. So, any 16GB Vengeance kit with a CAS 8 rating is going to be around $149, while the CAS 9 models will retails around $89.

Corsair sent Neoseeker 64GB of memory in total, 32GB of standard Vengeance memory and 32GB of Vengeance LP memory. All the sets came in small rectangular packages that displayed an image of the memory on the front along with the memory type, size and model name. On the front panel is an image of the memory installed in a high-end ASUS ROG motherboard. Using an ROG motherboard really shows that these models are geared toward high-end gamers, as the ROG series includes the all of the enthusiast grade products in the ASUS arsenal.

The front of the packaging features an adjustable panel that prominently shows the Vengeance logo on the left side, while the right side displays actual size images of the memory modules along with a small cut-out that showcases either the Vengeance logo or product sticker. Turning the packaging around we see that the back includes a description of the Vengeance series memory, while the sides of the package simply list the memory model and capacity. Unlike many other manufacturers, Corsair doesn't include a long list of specifications on the outside, but the box informs the user of all the key features regarding the memory.

As quad-channel memory kits, the Corsair Vengeance memory modules are optimized for the Sandy Bridge-E platform but they can also be used in dual-channel mode in both AMD and Intel systems. Since this kit is part of the Vengeance LP series, they look significantly different than the Vengeance models that included a finned heat-spreader design. The low-profile design is going to be beneficial to anyone using the memory in conjunction with a large CPU heatsink, or in a small form factor case. Without the fins at the top of the heatspreader, the memory can more easily fit into virtually any system without clearance issues.

Vengeance memory modules are built with DRAM chips specially selected for their high-performance potential. The Vengeance LP modules we received utilize timings of 8-8-8-24 at 1600Mhz, however, they are also available at 9-9-9-24. The difference between CAS-8 and CAS-9 in the Vengeance series in terms of dollars is around $60, as the CAS-8 models are currently priced at $149 while the CAS-9 models are more affordable at $89. Other than the latencies, the memory actually has the same specifications; both are rated at 1600MHz, require 1.5 volts and have a limited lifetime warranty. The Vengeance memory modules also support Intel Extreme Memory Profile (XMP), which is an technology that automatically overclockes the memory when XMP is activated.

The second Vengeance memory modules we received are also part of a 16GB kit that runs at 1600MHz, but they use the slightly higher CAS-9 latency. In addition, this kit sports the more traditional Vengeance heat-spreader which features a honeycomb product sticker with the Vengeance logo on the front and the product sticker on the back. It also includes all black aluminum heat-spreaders with an extruded fin design at the top for more efficient thermal performance.

While both the memory kits we received for this review utilize a black heat-spreader, they can also be found in at least one other color. Currently the Corsair website shows the quad-channel Vengeance memory modules available in both red and black. A blue quad-channel kit could pop up down the road, but as of now just these two colors are available.

To test the Corsair DDR3 memory kits, I will be using an Intel X79 motherboard paired with Intel's Core i7 3960X CPU. The same platform will be used for upcoming products as well. Turbo Boost will be disabled during testing in order to ensure consistent benchmark results and reliable comparisons between the memory kits.

Test Setup: 16GB Corsair Vengeance (9-9-9-24)

Test Setup: 16GB Corsair Vengeance LP (8-8-8-24)

Benchmarks used

Overclocked Settings:

Since both of the tested memory kits have a default clock speed of 1600MHz and are both part of the Vengeance series, we were expecting the overclocking results to be similar. In reality the overclocking results were quite different, with the CAS-9 models overclocking above 1900MHz while the CAS-8 kit scaled up to 2133MHz quite easily. To ensure both kits were stable with the higher clock speeds, we had to set the memory voltage at 1.65V and adjust the timings until we could successfully run through our series of benchmarks.

The Vengeance LP kit was able to overclock to 2133MHz, with the latencies adjusted to 11-10-10-28. The other kit also did quite well when it came to overclocking, but at 1971MHz with timings of 10-11-10-28 they just weren't able to clear the 2000MHz bump. As stated before, the voltage was increased to 1.65V to maintain stability, but even with the increased voltage the memory modules stayed cool to the touch at all times. We are quite pleased our overclocking results as the frequency of the Vengeance LP and Vengeance memory modules saw an increase for 25% and 19% respectively.

As of this review we have not found a version of CPU-Z that properly displays the quad-channel memory speeds and timings. When an update becomes available to allow the program to display the proper information we will update the review with an image of our overclocked results. It is also important to note that when the Vengeance kit was overclocked to 1971MHz the bclock needed to be adjusted, while the LP kit was able to stay at the reference bclock. This is going to alter our overclocked results slightly because the results of the 1971MHz modules will be affected by the overclocked processor as well as the memory.

Sandra, by SiSoftware, is a tool capable of benchmarking about every component found inside a computer. The memory bandwidth benchmark will be ran as well as the memory latency test.

In our synthetic benchmarking both Corsair Vengeance kits scored high marks. When the kits were tested at 1600MHz they achieved a bandwidth rating of 37GB/sec, while the overclocked frequencies pushed the bandwidth above 40GB/sec. Similar results were seen through the rest of the testing, and at least when it comes to synthetic benchmarking the overclocked frequencies have a noticeable impact on performance.

HandBrake is an open-source application used to transcode media files to other formats. It is multi-threaded so it exploits the power of modern quad-cores really well.

The results in HandBrake were quite exceptional. For the most part this is due to the SB-E architecture, but as you can see the Vengeance memory did extremely well. With a CAS-8 latency, the Vengeance LP kit was able to shave a second off of the transcoding but on the other hand overclocking the clock speeds didn't show any tangible performance increases. The Vengeance kit shows the best perfomance, but this is due in part to the fact that it required an increase in bclock to achieve the highest overclock, meaning a processor overclock is helping out as well as the memory.

Using WinRAR, I will compress our custom 100MB, 500MB and 1000MB files using the best compression setting in the ZIP format and time how long it takes to do so.

WinRAR showed consistent performance across the board, and while overclocking did reduce the total transfer time slightly, the differences were minimal.

Far Cry 2 is yet another first person shooter, but this one has been developed by Ubisoft. The story takes place in Africa, where the ultimate goal is to get rid of an arms dealer.

DiRT 3 is the third installment in the DiRT series and like it's predecessor incorporates DX11 features such as tessellation, accelerated high definition ambient occlusion and Full Floating point high dynamic range lighting. This makes it a perfect game to test the latest DX11 hardware.

Similar to what we saw when comparing the HandBrake results, our gaming benchmarks showed that regardless of the timings and clock speeds the results are going to be similar. The kit that showed the largest increase in performance was the Vengeance modules that were set at 1971MHz, but again this is more due to the processor also having a slight overclock as opposed to mainly the memory.

The truth about quad-channel memory is that like the triple-channel memory sub-system of Nehalem, Sandy Bridge-E is not starved of memory bandwidth. Essentially this means that even while the overall synthetic testing of quad-channel memory is mind-blowing, the results will not necessarily translate into better performance in real-world applications. Currently there is just not the need for this type of memory outside of large-scale workstations. However, even while the quad-channel memory architecture of the SB-E processor might not fully benefit all users, it is still important to use high-quality memory to achieve the highest performance possible.

This isn’t to knock Corsair, and in fact both of the Vengeance memory kits were actually rock solid. They both performed well across the board when overclocked above 1900MHz, and have an attractive design. It's just that the quad-channel architecture itself is not necessarily as important as the timings and overall quality of the memory.

Of the two, the fastest kit was of course the Vengeance LP, which was able to perform slightly better due to the tighter CAS 8 latency. In our testing, the LP kit scored better across the board, and the only test where it didn’t scale better with the improved latencies was DiRT 3. So for anyone looking for bleeding edge performance, it is worthwhile to spend the extra scratch and get memory that is going to give the best results without tweaking.

The CAS 9 Vengeance memory modules also held up quite well under scrutiny, and while the performance wasn’t quite as good as the CAS 8 modules, the MSRP is dramatically lower. A 16GB kit of Vengeance memory with CAS 8 latency costs around $50 to $60 USD more than the CAS 9 offerings, so if you have the cash on hand it is a good option, but otherwise the kits with lower timings still offer similar performance at a considerably lower price.

All in all, you can’t go wrong with either Vengeance kit as they both offer exceptional performance, high overclocking headroom, are highly efficient, and look quite slick to boot. If you’re looking for a new quad-channel kit for your high-end SB-E system, the Corsair Vengeance memory modules come highly recommended.

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