Monday, February 20, 2012

G.SKILL Ripjaws X 8GB DDR3 1600 RAM

Rating: 4 out of 5
Pros: Inexpensive, works as expected, nice heat spreaders included.
Cons: One initial faulty module, heat spreaders may cause clearance issues with some CPU heatsink/fans.

Current System

AMD Athlon II X3 450 3.2GHz Processor
Antec 300 Case
ASUS DRW-24B1ST 24x DVD Burner
ASUS M4A87TD EVO AMD870 Motherboard
ASUS Radeon HD 6850 1GB Video Card
Corsair Builder Series CX600 PSU
G.SKILL Ripjaws X 8GB DDR3 1600 RAM
Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB Hard Drive
Samsung Spinpoint F4 EcoGreen 2TB Hard Drive
Samsung SyncMaster 2333T 23" LCD Widescreen Monitor

My last system had 4GB of RAM, and it had been sufficient for the majority of my computing needs. However, since I was building a new computer anyway I could see no reason not to increase the memory, especially since new games and software come out all the time requiring better and better hardware to function. I wanted to save as much of my budget as possible to spend on the video card though, so I decided 8GB of RAM would be the ideal amount for me. I made sure to pick up a configuration that gave me 2 sticks of RAM that were 4GB each, rather than 4 sticks of 2GB each. This way it left me with 2 free slots in my motherboard in case I decided to add more RAM in the future. The G.SKILL Ripjaws X 8GB DDR3 1600 RAM kit was among the cheaper of the highly rated kits I found for sale, and it happened to have an offer for free shipping so that pushed it to the top of my list.
It arrived in a nice blister pack that kept it in good shape during transit, but one of the two sticks in my dual channel kit was faulty when it arrived. G.SKILL allowed me to only return the faulty stick instead of the whole kit (so that I could continue using the other 4GB stick while waiting for the replacement), but they did not guarantee that the new stick would be from the same batch. This is important, as it meant there was a chance that the two sticks would not operate in dual channel mode, but I went ahead and sent back the single stick anyway because I did not want to wait another week to use my new computer.

You're going to get a faulty piece once in a while regardless of what product or manufacturer you go with, that's just a fact of life. I can't hold it against G.SKILL too much because it happened to be my turn, but I'm still going to knock one star off of my otherwise perfect rating of the product because of it. At least the RMA (return merchandise authorization) process was fairly quick, easy and painless -- I just shipped the faulty module back to them in the original package, and a week or so later I received my replacement. I plugged it in beside the first one, they operated in dual channel mode just fine and I haven't had a single problem with them.

Memory sticks are really easy to install, they really only fit in one place and only in one direction. There is a clip on each end of the RAM slot that you must pull back and then you slide the memory stick into place. There's a notch about a third of the way across the bottom that you align with to the notch in the motherboard slot to ensure that the RAM is installed the right direction. DDR and DDR2 sticks also have this notch, but its location is different so that you can't install the wrong type of memory. It's fairly idiot proof, just make sure that you're grounded with something like an anti-static wrist strap or mat because RAM is very vulnerable to static charge.
This kit consists of two 4096 MB modules of unbuffered, PC3-12800, non-ECC DDR3 RAM. This means a maximum bandwidth of 800MHz (DDR3-1600) and a peak transfer rate of 12,800 MB/s. It has 9-9-9-24 timings and uses 1.5V of power. It does include a heat spreader on each stick to help keep them cool, and it's a fairly attractive red piece of aluminum with fins jutting from the top. I like the heat spreaders, as they allow my memory to run cooler and improve the life of the modules. They don't add much to the width of the sticks, but they do add about a half of an inch to the height (1.58" total height). This is something to keep in mind for possible clearance issues depending on your motherboard and CPU heatsink/fan.
While this kit is compatible with Intel P55 & AMD Phenom II/Llano platforms, it is Intel XMP (Extended Memory Profile) certified and designed for 2nd generation Intel Core processors and Z68 & P67 motherboards. G.SKILL strongly recommends that you use the voltage and timing specs of the kit instead of selecting auto or default for the memory settings in your system BIOS if using an AMD platform. This is to help ensure system stability. I tried using the automatic configuration to start with but it only set my memory to 667MHz. Manually setting the timings worked correctly and set the memory speed to 800MHz like it was supposed to though, so it's probably a good idea to follow their advice.
I received Windows Experience Index memory subscore of 7.3 while using the G.SKILL Ripjaws X 8GB DDR3 1600 RAM. This kit cost me $75 when I purchased it in March of 2011, and it can be found for about $47 at the time of this writing. The kit is backed up by a limited lifetime warranty.

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