G.Skill TridentX DDR3-2666 Memory Review

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You’ve seen this strong RAM from G.Skill in use before, in our reviews of Intel’s i7 3770K and ASUS’ Maximus V GENE. Now we’ll look at the sticks themselves and find out just what they’re capable of.

Specifications & Product Tour

The specifications for this kit are astronomical, the like we haven’t seen since the last ultra-high speed kit G.Skill sent for review (a DDR3-2400 Pi kit). This kit is even faster than that, guaranteed to run at DDR3-2666 (assuming a capable integrated memory controller, or IMC). Timings aren’t the tightest but to get this kind of MHz, slight timing sacrifices must be made.

Model Number F3-266611D-8GTXD
Series TridentX
System DESKTOP
System Type DDR3
Main Board INTEL
M/B Chipset Z77
Capacity 8GB (4GBx2)
Multi-Channel Kit Dual Channel kit
Tested Speed DDR3-2666 MHz (PC3-21300)
Tested Latency 11-13-13-35 2N
Tested Voltage 1.65V
Registered/Unbuffered Unbuffered
Error Checking Non-ECC
Type 240-pin DIMM
SPD Speed 1600 MHz
SPD Voltage 1.5V
Warranty Lifetime
Fan lncluded No
Features Intel XMP (Extreme Momery Profile)Ready
Removable Top Fin

As usual, G.Skill’s highly rated sticks come in the most nondescript box you can find. If you get a boring-looking box from G.Skill, it is virtually guaranteed that there is some good RAM in there. They come in these boxes because of the included dual fan assembly.

TridentX Nondescript Box

TridentX Nondescript Box

Product Sticker

Product Sticker

Ooo...Fans!

Ooo...Fans!

The fan assembly is the standard G.Skill dual fan assembly. My biggest gripe with these is not noise (they’re quiet) or even design (they work as intended). It’s that they don’t have a motherboard fan header on them. Who wants to run an extra, unsightly MOLEX cable when you could just plug these low-amperage fans into – and control them with – your motherboard?

Fan Assembly

Fan Assembly

Fan Assembly

Fan Assembly

Fan Specs

Fan Specs

Now on to G.Skill’s newly designed TridentX memory, which is quite nice looking actually. The heat spreaders are for more than just looks and do pull the heat away from the memory well. These sticks are begging to be run at higher-than-normal volts, so you’ll need them to do their job well.

G.Skill TridentX DDR3-2666 Kit

G.Skill TridentX DDR3-2666 Kit

G.Skill Trident....X?

G.Skill Trident....X?

G.Skill TridentX DDR3-2666 Kit

G.Skill TridentX DDR3-2666 Kit

G.Skill TridentX DDR3-2666 Kit

G.Skill TridentX DDR3-2666 Kit

G.Skill TridentX DDR3-2666 Kit

G.Skill TridentX DDR3-2666 Kit

Both people with tight motherboards (restricting use of large CPU coolers) and extreme overclockers that like to use dry ice or liquid nitrogen on their memory will be happy with this feature – a removable top fin!

TridentX Removable Top Fin

TridentX Removable Top Fin

The kit is doing well in the aesthetics department for sure, but do they perform as well as they look?

Test System

Our test system today consists of Intel’s new Ivy Bridge memory-clocking monster, the i7 3770K. To actually use that IMC to its full  potential you need a good motherboard and we’ll be using the ASUS Maximus V GENE to fill that spot. For comparison, we benched a RipjawsX DDR3-2133 kit rated at tighter timings of 9-11-9-28.

CPU Intel i7 3770K
Motherboard ASUS Maximus V GENE
RAM G.Skill RipjawsX 8GB DDR3-2133 / 9-11-9-28
G.Skill TridentX 8GB DDR3-2666 / 11-13-13-35
GPU AMD HD 6970
OS Windows 7 Professional x64

The TridentX kit matches the red and black ASUS ROG color scheme perfectly.

TridentX Kit Ready to Rock

TridentX Kit Ready to Rock

You’ll notice I didn’t use the included fans. The first reason is there isn’t a MOLEX connector sticking out of the benching station. The second is that the MVG doesn’t have room between the DIMM slots and GPU. Most importantly, to overclock these with more voltage, it is wise to use an actual fan (like the pictured Yate Loon High) to cool them. The included fan is fine for looks and for normal use, but when it comes to actually pushing voltages, you’ll need something stronger.

Stability at Rated Speed

Before performance testing, it’s always good to look at stability, especially in a kit rated for such high speeds. Ultra-X has generously supplied their RAM stress tester, the R.S.T. Pro 3 PCI Express. There are only a couple of review sites that have one of these and we are proud to be one of them. It’s not your standard Memtest++ bootable CD. This is a standalone, bootable piece of hardware that plugs into a PCIe x1 slot and, man, does it ever beat on some RAM.

R.S.T. Pro 3 PCIe In Action

R.S.T. Pro 3 PCIe In Action

Several manufacturers use this to test their memory before it goes out the door to reduce RMAs. If it passes this test, it is stable and then some. Manufacturers generally run the full memory test for three passes. We’re overclockers though and tend to abuse sticks a little more than other people, so for our purposes five passes sounds good. Running this test on 8 GB of RAM ended up absolutely hammering the RAM for about three and a half hours with a load more that it will ever experience in every day use, so that should be sufficient to say whether or not it’s stable.

R.S.T. Pro 3 PCIe - Passed!

R.S.T. Pro 3 PCIe - Passed!

They passed with flying colors! If you prefer software testing, it was eight-threaded HyperPi 32M stable as well. As stressful as HyperPi is, it didn’t heat up the sticks nearly as much as the R.S.T. Pro 3.

HyperPi Stable

HyperPi Stable

At this point, we can deem these sticks stable and then some. This kit is rock solid at its rated speed and timings. The impressive part to me is that it took zero tweaking. Set the rated voltage of 1.65V, rated speed of DDR3-2666 and rated timings of 11-13-13-35 and you’re done! What’s even better is that it passed these stability tests with a 1T command rate.

Which brings us to our next topic…

Overclocking for 24/7 Use

Now, I usually don’t overclock for performance comparisons; but after seeing how easily it ran the rated speed and 1T command rate, I would have been remiss not to try stable overclocking. All that was necessary for this overclock was raising the memory multiplier. That’s it, no other changes from the settings above.

G.Skill TridentX Overclocked - DDR3-2800

G.Skill TridentX Overclocked - DDR3-2800

It doesn’t get much easier than that. Now, this was not HyperPi stable and I didn’t want to raise the voltage for 24/7 use. It was stable to run all benchmarks and Prime95 though, so results here are included in the performance graphs.

Performance

To test performance of this kit, we’ll run through our usual swath of 2D benchmarks. For pretty much all intents and purposes, 3D benching (except maybe 3DMark01 and 3DMark06, which are less GPU-dependent) and gaming aren’t going to benefit from this type of RAM. All DDR3-2133 and DDR3-2666 benchmarks were run three times each with the result average. Overclocked DDR3-2800 benchmarks were run once.

Note you can click the graphs below to make them larger, and thus more legible.

Synthetic Testing

First up is what will show the largest difference – synthetic memory tests.

AIDA64 Memory Benchmarks

AIDA64 Memory Benchmarks

This is where you’ll see the biggest differences, none as large as the latency. While this memory will definitely move (read, write and copy) your data faster, it will get around to that action significantly faster, with latency dropping almost 17% from the DDR3-2133 kit.

Compression, Video Conversion and Rendering

In the real world, RAM speed doesn’t make a huge difference. It does make one, consistent and repeatable; but it’s not huge.

7zip, x264, PoV Ray & Cinebench

7zip, x264, PoV Ray & Cinebench

Across these benchmarks, the difference between DDR3-2133 and DDR3-2666 doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, accounting for less than a one percent difference across all benchmarks. Most of the runs favored the DDR3-2666 kit. The difference would be more pronounced if you were coming from DDR3-1600.  Even moving to DDR3-2800 didn’t move things much farther.

Benchmarking

This is where you’ll see the most pertinent differences people such as those on our benchmarking team will be looking for (SuperPi primarily).

SuperPi & WPrime

SuperPi & WPrime

WPrime doesn’t care one bit what RAM you use and that is borne out in testing. SuperPi shows its preference for faster RAM throughout, stepping up with each speed increase. If the timings were tighter, the difference would be even more palpable but it’s faster even with the loosened timings.

Overclocking

This is where things get interesting. When you feed this kit some voltage, it will show you what it’s capable of. Overclockers will just love this kit. Note you must have a strong IMC to take full advantage of it. Most Ivy Bridge chips have a capable IMC, but the occasional chip doesn’t.

First up, let’s see if you can tighten those timings at all. I went with an arbitrary voltage of 1.725V.

Tightened Latencies

Tightened Latencies

This kit tightened nicely, coming up with timings of 10-13-12-28 and 1T command rate. You need more voltage to tighten tRCD (the second timing), but the rest went down with only this small bump.

Next I chose just a little bump in vDIMM – to 1.67V, dropped the command rate to 2T and saw how fast the kit would run SuperPi 1M.

SuperPi 1M @ DDR3-2900 - 1.67vDIMM

SuperPi 1M @ DDR3-2900 - 1.67vDIMM

Wow, with just that little bump in voltage, they accomplished a very strong DDR3-2900 SuperPi 1M run!

Of course, never content to just stop at a round figure, maximum frequency was the next goal. I went higher this time, with 1.75V.

Maximum Validation - DDR3-2945.8

Maximum Validation - DDR3-2945.8

The kit’s (or the IMC’s, I’m not sure) maximum validated frequency ended up being DDR3-2945, very impressive by any measure!

Disclaimer – Running voltages like these run the risk of damaging your IMC and/or your RAM. If you choose to run these voltages, you do so at your own risk!

Final Thoughts & Conclusion

This kit is awesome. It is perfectly stable at its very highly rated speed, overclocks like mad and does so with stylish looks to boot. The only reason I couldn’t go higher or tighter seems to be the voltages I’m willing to push. There will be a stopping point of course; but I don’t think we’ve seen the ceiling for this kit.

Now, those who want a ‘normal’ system may find a good DDR3-1866 or DDR3-2133 kit with reasonably tight timings to be sufficient. You can see in the benchmarks your average computer user isn’t going to get a huge leap in performance with such powerful RAM.

No, this kit is tailor-made for overclockers, tweakers and benchmarkers – and it impresses; very much so. There’s a reason G.Skill is the most popular memory brand at HWBot and kits like this just add to that popularity.

So, what will this set you back? $199.99 at Newegg, which really isn’t bad. Frankly I thought they’d come at a higher premium. Again, Joe Stock System isn’t going to need these and would be perfectly fine with a slower kit. You could even save $100 and get their DDR3-2400 kit rated with slightly lower timings. What you’re paying for is the binning process and the rare chips within a kit that will run at blazing DDR3-2666 speeds, guaranteed for life (did I mention the lifetime warranty?). If you will use memory like this because you want the fastest RAM or you are a competitive benchmarker and need every second you can get or just because you like tweaking a superb set of RAM, this is the kit for you.

Click the Approved stamp for an explanation of what it means.

– Jeremy Vaughan (hokiealumnus)

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Discussion
  1. PolRoger
    Are the Samsung based (30nm) ic usually single sided when they are used for the smaller capacity 4gb dimms and double sided in 8gb dimms? Aren't Hynix ic >30nm and make for double sided sticks in the 4gb dimm size?


    At least TridentX 2400 based on Samsung are mixed from what I saw on forums. 2400 8GB are on single and double sided modules. This kit is most popular so it's easier to check what others are posting. Not many users are buying 2600+ because of high price so it's also much harder to check what is inside.

    Except 8GB kits, all other should be double sided.

    I believe that all new Hynix IC are also 30nm but I'm not 100% sure. Probably all that I saw were double sided sticks. I have 2 hynix 2x4GB kits at home now and both are double sided. My TridentX/Samsung 2400 2x4GB are single sided.

    PolRoger
    Testing a new kit on my 3570K/Giga z77x-ud5h combo... at first it was kind of a "PIA" with out much success until I finally tried the 2666 multi and then everything seemed to jibe and start working. :shrug:

    default 1.65v dram:


    Nice sticks, what is it ?
    Testing a new kit on my 3570K/Giga z77x-ud5h combo... at first it was kind of a "PIA" with out much success until I finally tried the 2666 multi and then everything seemed to jibe and start working. :shrug:

    default 1.65v dram:
    Are the Samsung based (30nm) ic usually single sided when they are used for the smaller capacity 4gb dimms and double sided in 8gb dimms? Aren't Hynix ic >30nm and make for double sided sticks in the 4gb dimm size?
    Not 100%, but I think they were double-sided. I didn't get a picture at that angle and am awaiting their return (let IMOG borrow them for benching). There have been talk of both Hynix and Samsung ICs in this kit. Which one mine had I can't know for certain, but my gut says Hynix.

    On agreement with G.Skill, I don't take their heat spreaders off to check what IC was used, this is just based on discussion I've seen regarding this kit.
    Hi Hokie,

    Do you have any idea or guess as to which type of ic was or might have been used on this kit? Were your samples double or single sided?
    Thanks Cuda.

    Great news ConundrumIV! Glad to hear you're able to run the sticks where they should be. Sorry about your random boot problems; feel free to start a thread in Intel CPUs if you want to try and flesh it out. :)
    I swapped the i7 3770K out of my P8Z77 WS and installed on the Maximus V which is the board I could not get to run at rated speeds. Low and behold, it's the chip. RAM overclocks like a champ now, so as you guys mentioned the chip is most definitely to blame. I have another i5 coming tomorrow and will try this RAM on it, if I cannot get to run at spec the two i5s are going to be replaced with i7s. The i5 I have right now is Costa Rica. Funny thing is the Costa Rica chips used to be the good ones in the Sandy Bridge flavor. Its to bad because for whatever reason for me the i5 seemed like a stronger more stable chip in everyday usage than the i7 ivy. Been having a lot of random boot problems on the 3770K which I do not have on the i5. These Ivy Bridge chips are seemingly turning out to be a bit temperamental over the SB's. I also hope Intel addresses the less than desirable thermal transfer issues with the
    Thank you both very much for this invaluable information as well as the warm welcome. You have saved me much time in more trial and error as well as I respect very much the fact that you both so willingly share your experience and expertise without hesitation. I am very glad to Join Overclo9ckers and look forward to many more great conversations. Hope to be able to contribute at some point and make the difference you both have with sharing your knowledge. Thanks for being so friendly and welcoming. Your info is very much appreciated and valued. = )
    Hi ConundrumIV, welcome to OCF! dumo is quite right, POST code 23 generally means the IMC just doesn't want to go any farther. Around Ivy's release, poor dumo saw it so often his avatar at XS is a POST code indicator showing 23. :p

    I don't know if you've tried it, but there is a beta BIOS 0078 that is supposed to be the best memory clocker so far. I grabbed it and uploaded it to our server, so you can download it right here. It won't work miracles though; if your IMC just isn't capable, chances are it won't make much of a difference.

    From what I've seen and what dumo has experienced, 3770K's stand a greater chance of having a strong enough IMC to run this RAM at its rated speed (and beyond). It's not a guarantee by any stretch, Intel only rates up to DDR3-2133. If you don't feel like trying to exchange your chip, there are other avenues to explore too...if you can't get the frequency you want, play with timings. The right timings can make a slower kit very close to as fast as a faster kit. :thup:
    So far from (15) retail 3570Ks test on air, only (6) good enough for 2800+ 4X4, higher with subzero cooling. The ones that can't go mostly costarica and L151XXX batches.

    As far as 3770K, I test 3 retails and 1 max out @ 2666 air the others can go 2800+