How to Overclock RAM using Crucial Ballistix
3 August 2020
Memory. Every PC needs it. Now that DDR4 memory has been around for a few years, it’s stabilised in price and performance continues to improve. Once DDR4-4000 was a pipe dream but now it’s become almost common, with all manufacturers, including Crucial offering kits at speeds well above 4000 MHz. It’s time we revisit anno 2020 DDR4 RAM. If you’re looking for something that offers amazing performance, has very attractive pricing and looks drop dead gorgeous, then you simply must check out Crucial’s Ballistix range of overclockable RAM.
INTRODUCING CRUCIAL’S BALLISTIX RAM
Now is as good a time as any to upgrade your PC with 16GB or more of memory. Upgrading to Ballistix memory will make your system more responsive, lead to fewer page file accesses and provide you with the ability to multitask much more. Crucial offer PC memory across many speed tiers, with DDR4-3200 providing a good sweet spot for value and performance, though there’s a strong case that DDR4-3600 is the best way to go these days. Crucial offer Ballistix kits at speeds well over 4000 MHz. You can even go for 32GB sticks if you’re running a system that can make use of a lot of RAM. Don’t forget the Ballistix RGB kits too. They offer great performance and value, but look sensational and really demand to be shown off in a windowed case.
SPEED AND TIMINGS: WHAT EFFECT ON PERFORMANCE?
Obviously, the major performance metric of a kit is its rated speed, in MHz, where faster is better. A typical memory kit will feature a latency rating, such as 16-18-18-36. Specifically, these are tCL-tRCD-tRP-tRAS. They’re also known as the primary timings with the CL rating being the most important of these. In layman’s terms this is essentially the number of clock cycles that it takes for the RAM to output data that has been requested by the CPU. For the best performance, this means you’ll want CL, and for other reasons, the other timings to be lower. If you check out the Crucial Ballistix range, you’ll see various CL ratings, they’re usually higher with faster RAM with the very best kits featuring a combination of high speed and low CL, such as this Ballistix MAX DDR4-4400 kit with a CL of 18.
If you want the absolute best system performance, you’ll want the fastest RAM with the lowest CL you can afford, but the performance benefits diminish with the fastest and/or lowest latency RAM. If you are building a no-compromise system then you’ll want RAM that matches your build, but don’t feel as though you must splash out on mega fast RAM if you’re on more of a budget. A good sweet spot kit that offers high performance and great pricing would be something like this Crucial Ballistix kit, with a speed of DDR4-3200 and a CL of 16. You’ll gain a decent chunk of performance over an entry-level DDR4 kit without spending a whole lot more.
XMP stands for eXtreme Memory Profile. XMP was developed by Intel as a way to simplify applying the speeds and timings of a memory kit. It is set in the BIOS of your motherboard. It mostly works as described, but some chipsets or CPUs will not allow fast memory speeds, for example, Intel’s B460 chipset is limited to DDR4-2933 for i7 and higher CPUs and 2666 MHz for i5’s and lower.
Most AMD motherboards also support XMP, but some also support AMD’s flavour, called AMP. AMP is essentially the same thing, but Ryzen CPUs have a few configurable sub-timings that are specific to AMD. XMP/AMP tends to work very well, but once you get into the higher speed tiers, you may run into some compatibility issues. If you’re looking to buy a very high-speed kit, be prepared to do some manual tweaking to ensure it runs properly. Not all CPUs can run very high speeds such as DDR4-4500+.
MANUAL TWEAKING – THINGS TO CONSIDER
High-speed RAM may require a few BIOS tweaks in order to run properly, or in some cases, optimally. If you’re running Intel you’ll want to visit your BIOS and look at a pair of important voltages, these are VCCSA and VCCIO and they are related to the CPUs internal memory controller. If you set your RAM to run with its XMP profile enabled, the motherboard can significantly increase these voltages, but you should be aware that they can be set too high if left at auto. Up to around 1.20 to 1.25v for each should be ok for 24/7 use and most CPUs will not require that much unless you’re running very fast memory. Lower is better and going to 1.25V or higher is not ideal for long term use.
AMD’s Matisse Ryzen 3000 CPUs have an internal bus called Infinity Fabric. This is used for CPU component communication. AMD systems can run very fast RAM, but the Infinity Fabric (or the FCLK) typically hits a limit at about 1800-1900 MHz which equates to a memory clock of DDR4-3600 to 3800. Running memory faster than this leads to a latency penalty, offsetting the advantages of running above DDR4-4000. So, if you’re running a Ryzen 3000 system, a good quality 3600 MHz kit like this one will give you a great blend of performance, capacity and affordable price.
Most motherboards allow control over a myriad of memory timings. Lowering the primary timings can yield some free performance, but by all means feel free to have a play with the various timings. You wouldn’t be the first person to become addicted to memory tweaking!
IS 16GB ENOUGH?
A typical gaming PC will do fine with 16GB of RAM. If you have a certain budget, a gamer would be advised to spend it on 16GB of faster RAM rather than 32GB of slower RAM. At faster speeds the differences are minimal, but a 2x8GB kit at DDR4-3600 will outperform a 2x16GB kit at DDR4-2666. The benefits of more RAM come to the fore if you’re working with large data sets, multi-tasking or doing some specific RAM hogging things like running virtual machines.
FORGET SLOW RAM
There’s no reason to settle for slow 2133 MHz or 2400 MHz RAM anymore. Upgrading your RAM is one of the simplest upgrades you can make to your system. Moving to a higher speed tier can lead to significant FPS increases, though of course, there are diminishing returns once a certain RAM speed (e.g. 3200MHz) is met depending on the game. With the value on offer though, dropping just a few extra dollars on a faster set of Crucial memory will benefit your system’s performance, with more responsiveness, a minimized bottleneck and if you splash out on a set of Ballistix RGB, a system that’s beautiful to look at too!
Shop Crucial Ballistix RAM at Mwave.