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Review: Crucial Ballistix Finned DDR3 with built-in temperature sensor

by Tarinder Sandhu on 29 July 2010, 08:28 3.5

Tags: Crucial Technology (NASDAQ:MU)

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How to differentiate the very essence of homogeneity

Stating the somewhat obvious, system memory is an integral part of any computer. Everyone needs it and many a manufacturer has tried its hand at producing the very best modules. The generic nature of memory - DDR3 is DDR3 after all - means that differentiating one company's 1,600MHz-rated sticks from another's is practically impossible.

Manufacturers understandably don't want to go down the no-future route of undercutting rivals' prices, so we've recently seen some stupidly-fast DDR3 RAM and packs that total a whopping 48GB. One needs to go to the very limits of current memory technology to offer genuine differentiation.

The fundamentals

Crucial appreciates that it isn't likely to have the world's fastest memory or, for that matter, retail 64GB kits anytime soon. Hoping to eke out a little niche sector for itself, the firm is looking to endow some middle-of-the-road DDR3 with a special sauce.

Arriving in blister pack that you need to fervently attack with a pair of sharp scissors, the Ballistix Finned DDR3 kit is comprised of two 2GB DDR3-1,600 modules that have pre-programmed 8-8-8-24-2T timings at 1.65V.

The 4GB pack is ideally suited for chipsets that run dual-channel DDR3 memory - Intel's P55 and AMD's 800-series come to mind. The modules' SPD EEPROM (chip), located just to the right of the contact notch, includes information that enables compliant motherboards, via an XMP profile, to enter the pre-programmed settings into the BIOS with the application of a few keystrokes. 

Crucial's special sauce

There's room on the EEPROM to enter further data - NVIDIA's now-defunct EPP co-existed with Intel's XMP, remember. Crucial adds to the SPD's usefulness by physically integrating a temperature sensor on the same chip. Reporting the temperature of the surrounding PCB rather than the memory chips, Crucial hopes that its special sauce is enough to lure the data-obsessed enthusiast.

Yet to appear at retail in the UK but currently available over the pond at Newegg for $109.99, which is the same price as non-temperature-sensing Ballistix modules of the same size and speed, the newer set represents reasonable value. Let's now see the sensor and software in action.