Recently we reviewed the Mushkin Redline 16GB DDR4-2800 memory kit. Today, we take a look at another Mushkin memory kit, this time from the Blackline family. This memory series is designed for gamers, one of the more demanding computer users. Even though at first the DDR4-2400 specification doesn’t look like anything special, I am certain we can overclock a bit if the Blackline is anything like the Redline kit we reviewed previously.
Specifications and Features
Blackline memory has more relaxed settings and uses the JEDEC standard voltage for DDR4 of 1.2V. We can see in the specification table that the reviewed memory kit has quite standard settings, even though we could not count it as an enthusiast and gamer product. It’s actually a refresh of the Blackline memory series which is now equipped with brand new Ridgeback G2 heatsinks.
Below you can read more detailed specifications of the Mushkin Blackline 2x8GB DDR4-2400 memory kit. The same as with the Redline, I can’t tell what memory chip version is under the heatsinks. I’m just assuming it’s SK Hynix and its well known manufacturer. I can tell that by looking at how the memory is scaling with voltage and timings.
Above is a screenshot from Thaiphoon Burner software, which is really helpful when looking for the most detailed data about your RAM. Depending on the platform, it will also let you create additional memory profiles or edit existing ones.
Below is a screenshot from the ASUS Mem TweakIt application, which shows memory timings after enabling the XMP profile. Based on my testing, Mushkin Blackline works without any issues at XMP settings on Z170-based motherboards.
Mushkin Blackline, the same as all other memory series from this manufacturer, are covered by a lifetime warranty. Mushkin cares about quality and stability of its memory so all modules are also hand-tested.
Mushkin is also proud that their memory modules are built and hand tested in the U.S.A.
The Mushkin Blackline kit arrived in a standard retail package which is a plastic, transparent clam-shell. The front side shows the memory modules and product name. On the back there is a short installation manual and couple of words from Mushkin starting from “BLACKLINE IS THE NEW BLACK.” To read it all, take a look at the photos below. Mushkin is confident about the high-quality of its Blackline memory series.
The same as Redline series, the Blackline also had a makeover – new Ridgeback G2 heatsinks. These are asymmetric in that one side is slightly taller as you can see on the photos below. Heatsinks are made of aluminum and were painted black.
The same as with Redline series, I’m wondering why Mushkin keeps releasing new gamer and enthusiast memory series on a standard green PCB. There is nothing wrong with green PCB if we are considering stability or overclocking capability, but it could look better with a matching PCB. Outside of that, the Blackline memory modules look quite fresh and it’s hard to find any other brand which has a similar design.
Above you can see some more product photos. Quite interesting heatsinks which look even better in black than red.
Stability at Rated Speed
Stability at declared settings has been tested using AIDA64 diagnostic software and also various other applications like the ones used during performance tests. Mushkin Blackline is perfectly stable at XMP settings. There were also no issues with XMP profiles on two motherboards based on the Z170 chipset. All was working as expected.
Below is a screenshot from AIDA64 stability test after six hours of full load:
Since we know that our memory is stable and we are not counting on any unexpected issues then let’s start the performance stage.
Test setup is exactly the same as in my previous memory reviews. It includes Intel Core i7 6700K processor and ASUS Maximus VIII Hero motherboard. It’s a strong, but quite popular, setup with nothing unusual. I will only add that for comparison reasons, processor and cache frequency have been set to 4.2GHz.
Synthetic Memory Bandwidth and Calculation Tests
First test is always AIDA64, which tests memory bandwidth in a multi-threaded environment. This is what you can expect from any modern computer.
The reviewed Mushkin Blackline 16GB DDR4-2400 memory kit has the lowest frequency in our comparison. Most gamers and enthusiasts choose higher frequency memory like the kits used in our previous reviews, hence the Blackline falling below previous kits tested. Intel Skylake likes high frequency memory and the difference between the Blackline and next in line memory kit is quite big. The Blackline offers nearly 4GB/s lower read and write bandwidth than the DDR4-2666 memory kits.
In MaxxMen Preview, we again see lower performance in a single-threaded benchmark. In this case it’s not as wide a disparity, but we can clearly see it.
Moving forward to the next benchmark I wasn’t expecting anything exceptional. Lower frequency memory isn’t the best for HyperPi 32M. However overall time isn’t bad. It’s clearly not memory designed for overclockers, so I think we can move to the benchmarks based on a daily usage and rendering to get a better indicator of real-life performance.
Rendering and Tests Based on Daily Usage
Cinebench R15 is a benchmark that tests rendering performance. We will focus on tests based on processor calculations and related to that performance of other components.
As you see in rendering, Mushkin Blackline performs well. There is barely any difference between lower and higher frequency memory. After a couple of runs I haven’t noticed any performance drops, which is a good sign and it confirms memory stability.
Let’s check how memory affects 3D benchmarks like 3DMark.
In 3DMark we can barely see any difference between memory kits. It is better is to invest in higher memory capacity rather than higher frequency memory for most users, the exception being overclockers.
PCMark 8 resulted in similar performance as 3DMark. We see a little variance in the results but nothing that will affect daily work.
The general performance of the Mushkin Blackline 16GB DDR4-2400 memory kit is good, but target users are clearly not enthusiasts and overclockers. All who are using computers for work or gaming will be satisfied though.
I’m just not sure if on the current market with new Intel chipsets and already low prices that there is place for low frequency memory kits designed for gamers and enthusiasts. I guess that the sales department could answer this question!
If you need higher performance then there is always chance to overclock the memory. Let’s take a look how Mushkin Blackline is overclocking.
Overclocking is never guaranteed, so the presented results may vary from results on other memory kits. I am not recommending overclocking if you do not know what are you doing. High voltages may damage hardware and it will not be covered by warranty.
Mushkin Blackline is based on similar memory IC as the Redline memory series. Both kits overclocked nearly the same, with the Redline kit coming out slightly ahead. Below are a couple of settings that were stable during longer tests. DDR4-2666 15-15-15 was possible at 1.25V, which isn’t a bad result but could be better. It’s still not much above standard voltage, while timings remain the same as in XMP profile. The only exception in timings is Command Rate 1N which should help a bit in general performance.
Next step is DDR4-2800, which worked at the same main timings and voltage, but I had to relax sub timings. Still not far from XMP profile and was stable.
Reaching for more I was able to set DDR4-3000 at 15-15-15 main timings, but the memory already required about 1.35V (1.344V in software). It’s still a good result as most higher memory series are working at these settings.
I wasn’t able to stabilize the Blackline above DDR4-3200 regardless of timings and voltage. It’s about the same result as on previously reviewed Redlines. However Blackline worked on more relaxed timings of 16-16-16 with reasonable voltage of 1.35V.
Overall we can’t complain. From a DDR4-2400 memory kit, we can overclock to fully stable DDR4-3200 which is a great improvement. With such high overclocking potential, I think that Mushkin could focus on higher frequency memory kits. Pretty nice surprise to all who were expecting only basic overclocking potential.
Mushkin Blackline 16GB DDR4-2400 reminds me of our previously reviewed Mushkin Redline memory in almost every area. It looks good, but could have black PCB, and it performs well but could be clocked higher. Blackline memory is also perfectly stable and overclocks as high as Redline.
Mushkin Blackline is a memory series designed for gamers and for these users it is a good option. However I don’t think it will be interesting for more demanding users and overclockers even though its overclocking potential is high.
Since the Intel Skylake premiere, there is nothing unusual in DDR4-3000+ memory kits. DDR4 prices are low enough that anyone can afford higher frequency memory so I’m not sure if there is a place for DDR4-2400 memory kits in a gamer/enthusiast market. Of course there are users who will save on RAM as it’s not improving general performance in some cases, but if we include that difference with the price of a new PC, there is barely any difference.
Since I mentioned price, the Mushkin Blackline 16GB kit is available on the Newegg for about $85. It’s an inexpensive memory kit so will be popular among those trying to build cheaper gaming computers. Mushkin Blackline 16GB DDR4-2400 is a solid and inexpensive option. However enthusiasts and overclockers should take a look at higher end Mushkin memory kits for even better performance.