Mushkin might not be the first name you think of when you are looking for super performance, overclockable memory, but we are reviewing something today that just might change your mind about that. With an emphasis on high-quality IC’s and XMP 2.0 compliance, Mushkin offers a high-performance product without being overtly flashy about the design. We are going to put this memory through a gamut of overclocking and benchmarking tests to find out how well this memory performs and whether or not its suitable for computer enthusiasts.
Specifications and Features
Mushkin is often thought of as the underdog in the world of high-performance memory, but maybe they shouldn’t be. They are an American company founded in Denver, Colorado, who has been producing high-quality products since 1994.
Mushkin Enhanced MFG “has since become one of the nation’s most recognized Manufacturers of performance computer products worldwide and has well-established relationships with all of the top computer component companies in the world including Intel, AMD, NVIDIA, LSI, as well as top retail channels globally. Exceptional quality, enhanced performance, and unparalleled customer support are what make our products the best in the industry. With a strong team of over 25 years experience, we have focused around cutting edge technology including digital storage devices and a complete selection of memory upgrades for desktops, servers, and notebooks – we offer something for everyone; from business user to gamer.” – Mushkin
Although we have not seen many of their products in the high-end desktop for DDR4 arena, their DDR2 and DDR3 modules of the past have been the topic of great interest to overclockers and high-end computer builders alike. Today we will evaluate high-performance memory offering and evaluate how it stands up in the modern world of high-performance computing.
In the table below are the particular details of the memory being evaluated today.
|Mushkin Redline Ridgeback Specifications|
|Capacity||16 GB (2×8 GB)|
|Rated Frequency||DDR4 3466 (1733 MHz)|
|Kit Type||Dual Channel|
|Rated Timings||16-18-18-38 2T|
|Pricing||Product page (Pricing not available currently)|
When purchasing DDR4 memory, the main factors to consider, other than memory size or physical features, are the operating frequency and timings. The XMP is a memory profile stored inside the actual memory, which allows the user to easily apply the rated frequency and timings. This kit of memory has an XMP 2.0 profile of DDR4 3466 with timings of 16-18-18-38 2T. This is a particularly fast XMP profile which is suitable for high-performance computing and gaming.
For those interested, here is a closer look at the finer details of this kit of memory. Below is a screenshot of Thaiphoon Burner, which is a wonderful free tool that allows one to read the Serial Presence Detect (SPD) firmware of the DRAM. The SPD information is critical in determining how the stick will perform and how the computer will recognize it.
While it does show us a plethora of information, unfortunately, Thaiphoon Burner does now show the IC manufacturer. In order to determine the type of memory we are dealing with, the heatsink needs to be removed for a physical inspection. In the picture below the actual IC’s can be seen as the heatsink has been removed.
This specific kit of memory is composed of Samsung B-DIE IC’s with the modern style A2 PCB layout. Each stick utilizes 8x1GB ICs, all of which are located on only one side. As you might know, Samsung B-DIE has become synonymous with high frequency and tight timings. The now mythical Samsung B-DIE is also sought after by overclockers for its incredible overclocking headroom compared to DDR4 modules composed of different IC’s.
The packaging is often an overlooked element to a finished product, but it shouldn’t be. The packaging is simply a delivery mechanism to ship the product safely, but it also serves as a preview of what’s to come. We have all opened products with cheaply-made packaging, and whether you think about it or not, I believe that it has an effect on the first impression of the product.
The packaging of the Mushkin Redline Ridgeback is simple, but effective. Consisting of a simple blister pack with a printed paper insert, the memory is protected during shipping, but leaves the unboxing experience a little bit lacking. Mushkin ships this memory with their trademarked Ridgeback heatsink design.
While this memory does not have any RGB elements, it does not disappoint on style. The heat sink material is primarily red aluminum with a raised pattern of polished and ridged aluminum on the sides and top to give it some flair. The heatsink material feels a little bit thin and underwhelming, but we estimate they will manage the minimal heat well.
While there is only one color option available, there is a different heatsink option available with the same rated speed and timings. Mushkin offers this same memory with their trademarked frostbite heatsink.
Testing and Overclocking
The overall objective is to evaluate the memory under a variety of different conditions in an effort evaluate the real-world performance. To accomplish this task, we will turn to benchmark programs to examine the performance of the memory and overall system under various conditions. The approach is to first test the Intel XMP profile. Once we have established that the XMP profiles are working on the test system, then the real fun begins as we evaluate the memory from an overclocking perspective.
Below are the test system and resulting memory speeds that will be used to evaluate the memory and run the benchmarks.
|CPU||Intel i9 9900K@ 5.0 GHz (4.7 GHz Cache)|
|Cooler||Custom Water Loop|
|Motherboard||ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming 9|
|Graphics Card||ASRock Phantom Gaming X Radeon RX 580|
|Solid State Drive||Team Group L5 LITE 3D SSD|
|Power Supply||Seasonic 1200W Platinum PRIME|
|Operating System||Windows 10 x64|
|Memory Speeds Compared|
|Intel XMP ~ 3466 CL16-18-18-38 2T ~ 1.35 V|
|Test Case 1 ~ 3600 CL16-18-18-38 2T ~ 1.40 V|
|Test Case 2 ~ 3466 CL15-16-16-38 2T ~ 1.40 V|
|Test Case 3 ~ 3600 CL15-18-18-38 2T ~ 1.50 V|
We will examine the overclocking potential without excessive voltage. According to the XMP 2.0 certifications, the absolute maximum allowable voltage is 1.50 V VDDR. Thus, all overclocking endeavors will be conducted with less than 1.50 V.
Memory overclocking is all about pushing the frequency higher and lowering the timings. One hurdle for memory overclocking is the motherboard. The distance between the CPU and the memory modules has a direct relationship to the overclocking potential of the memory. Motherboards with a larger distance between the CPU and the memory will have greatly reduced overclocking potential compared to motherboards with a shorter distance. Therefore, motherboards with only two dual, in-line memory modules (DIMMs) will have a better likelihood of increased memory overclocking potential than motherboards with four DIMMs, because the distance is inherently shorter.
Below you can see the actual test system is a 4-DIMM motherboard (excluding the graphics card so as not to obstruct the image).
As is the case with all overclocking adventures, your results may vary, so proceed only if you assume all risk. To view and examine all of the various memory profiles, we use two primary tools which include AIDA64 and ASRock Timing Configurator. AIDA64 is a powerful system diagnostic and benchmarking tool, that can be purchased for a reasonable price. Next, we will be using the ASRock Timing Configurator, which is a free piece of software that allows users of all major motherboard brands to see the primary, secondary, and tertiary timings which have been applied in the bios.
Below is the XMP profile. This particular kit of memory comes with a built-in XMP profile of 3466 CL16-18-18-38 2T.
The improvements in XMP profile speeds is greatly attributed to modern manufacturing processes and memory PCB layouts, however, it might not be attainable on all motherboards. The profile is intended to be a one-click overclock, but it likely only applies to enthusiast grade motherboards. If you are building a computer based on a budget motherboard, don’t be surprised if you cannot achieve stability with this XMP.
Once the XMP profile has been successfully tested, we can dive into overclocking. The methodology is to set the maximum working voltage of 1.50 V and see what could be accomplished, then lower the voltage to find the stability point. The motherboard being used is the ASRock z390 Phantom Gaming 9, which is a motherboard suited for gaming memory speeds and not necessarily maximum overclock potential. The motherboard has four memory slots so we expect the overclocking potential to be less than that of motherboards with only two memory slots. This motherboard is being used to represent the standard test case for the average performance minded gamer or computer builder.
For the first test case, only the operating frequency was increased with no other settings adjusted. With an incredibly modest voltage increase from 1.35 V to 1.40 V, we were able to increase the frequency from 3466 MHz to a humble 3600 MHz. The goal of this test case is to increase frequency only and not timings. Below is the resulting first overclock test case.
For the second overclock test case, the same very small voltage increase of 1.35 V to 1.40 V was used. Contrary to the first test case, this time only the memory timings were decreased to provide an alternative example of what types of overclocks are possible. The operating frequency was held at the XMP 3466MHz, but the primary timings were decreased as far as possible while still maintaining relative stability. In this test case, we were able to decrease the primary timings from CL16-18-18 to CL15-17-17. Below is the resulting second overclock test case.
For the third, and final overclocking test case, the goal was to achieve the best overclock possible while still staying within the maximum allowable voltage of 1.50 V according to XMP 2.0 specifications. Finding the optimal overclock for a given criteria like voltage is not an exact science and requires a high degree of knowledge, patience, and the right combination of equipment. The resulting overclock was a fairly lackluster 3600 CL15-18-18. This overclock is a decidedly small increase in frequency from XMP, with marginally tighter (decreased) timings. Given the test equipment and the voltage constraint, this result is less than desirable.
Benchmark programs allow us to examine the performance gain or loss from making changes to the various computer components such as the CPU, GPU, or memory. In this case, the goal is to remove all variables and examine only the performance change from memory overclocks. To accomplish this, all benchmarks were run with the CPU held at a constant 5 GHz for every benchmark. We will investigate the overclock potential not just because it’s fun, but because it has real-world implications and can help with the productivity of daily tasks.
First up, we used AIDA64 Cache and Memory Benchmark. Specifically speaking,
“Memory bandwidth benchmarks (Memory Read, Memory Write, Memory Copy) measure the maximum achievable memory data transfer bandwidth. The code behind these benchmark methods are written in Assembly and they are extremely optimized for every popular AMD, Intel, and VIA processor core variants by utilizing the appropriate x86/x64, x87, MMX, MMX+, 3DNow!, SSE, SSE2, SSE4.1, AVX, AVX2, and AVX-512 instruction set extension.” – AIDA64
In the graph below, it is clearly visible that each of the four different memory speeds compared had a noticeable improvement in the benchmark result. As the frequency goes up, the resulting score has a nearly linear progression of performance. The decreased timings of test case 2 did show a gain over XMP, however, the gain was marginal. Comparing test cases 1 and 2, it’s clear that given the voltage constraint of 1.40 V, test case 1 (frequency) shows more performance gain.
Next up is Geekbench 3, and it has proven itself to be an excellent tool for determining the real world performance of the system being tested. This type of benchmark is purely 2D calculation based and there is no graphical processing element so it’s a great analytical tool to evaluate memory performance.
“Geekbench 3 features new tests designed to simulate real-world scenarios. This helps make Geekbench an invaluable tool to determine how your current computer (or your next computer) will handle your tasks and applications.” – Geekbench
Below are the Geekbench 3 test results, it can be observed that the overclock test cases show a noticeable improvement in performance in the memory tests. The overall system tests such as multi-core and single core show very small gains in performance. The small gains in performance are expected as the first two tests are primarily CPU based and only mildly influenced by memory. The latency score shows that in each sequential test case there was a linear progression of increased performance with test case 3 showing almost 4.5% gain.
The next benchmark is PassMark’s Performance Test suite, specifically memory test. This benchmark program was designed to give an overall system performance score which can be used to determine the subjective performance of any memory overclocking beyond XMP. While this benchmark has many aspects centered on assessing performance, we will focus our attention on the memory benchmark portions and exclude any irrelevant test results such as the 3D render ones.
As you can see in the graph below the overclocking test cases showed marginal improvement in benchmark performance. For the read test, our maximum overclock with 1.50 V showed an insubstantial 1% gain in performance over XMP speeds. For the write test, it’s interesting to note that test case 2 beat test case 3, which is certainly an unexpected result given the pre-conceived notion that memory overclocking leads to performance gains. Multiple tests were conducted and the write test showed every time that test case 3 performed worse than test case 2, which is an unexpected result.
The next benchmarks we will examine are ones centered around 3D rendering and games. The UL Benchmarks 3DMark suite is a real-time graphical rendering benchmark that also contains an element of memory and CPU testing. For each of the benchmarks from Fire Strike to Time Spy, we will only examine the CPU/memory testing portion and disregard the graphical test elements.
In the graph below, we observe that the performance increase from memory overclocking is small. It is very interesting that overclock test case two actually performs worse in both benchmarks. The difference is negligible, however, it is clear that the 3DMark benchmark suite prefers high frequency to tight timings and timings can actually have a detrimental effect.
Our overall experience with Mushkin’s Redline Ridgeback was underwhelming. Despite the IC’s being Samsung B-DIE, our test sample showed very little overclocking headroom. The best case performance gain was about 1% which leads us to conclude that this memory is not suited for overclocking. While they might not be the top choice for overclockers, they would certainly be a good choice for gaming systems where overall performance is required.
The overall fit and finish of this memory are acceptable. They have a nice pattern design on both sides, and despite there being no RGB LED’s, they are actually quite good attractive to look at. We think the overall look could be improved by a black PCB and thicker aluminum heatsinks, but they are adequate for cooling so it’s purely down to subjective ascetics.
While we do not have pricing for this kit of memory at the moment, the 3000 MHz kit of the same Mushkin Redline Ridgeback is selling for $109.99. Based on this, we can infer that the 3466 MHz kit will also sell in the budget category, but likely priced a bit higher. The XMP 2.0 specification means they are highly compatible with a vast majority of motherboards.
With a certified speed of 3466 MHz and CL16-18-18, they are quite fast and in our opinion easily qualify for the performance category of DDR4. Color options are limited to red, which might be a limiting factor when attempting to color match other components. The lifetime warranty, attractive design, and high-performance XMP 2.0 rating would make this an excellent choice for gamers, computer enthusiasts, and system builders alike. Overclockers Approved!
David Miller – mllrkllr88