Modern games and applications are consuming more system memory than ever before. In recent years we’ve seen an increase from 8GB to 16GB and now even 32 GB is required in some titles for optimal game performance. Today we’re looking at a new 2 x 32 GB DDR4 offering from Team Group. The T-Force Vulcan Z is a budget-conscious product line targeted towards gaming enthusiasts. It was recently expanded to include a density option of 32 GB in a single stick. Team Group is known for delivering excellent price/performance, so join us as we see if this memory meets the status quo.
Specifications and Features
The Vulcan Z product line is enormous consisting of no less than 72 different part numbers. Although the number of SKUs is impressive, you might not be able to find exactly what you’re looking for. That’s because the Vulcan Z series is tailored for mid-range gaming computers, and not supreme performance ones.
Regardless of the XMP rating or kit density, all of the modules come in either grey or red color. Furthermore, all XMP options are available as a single module or kit of two sticks. The density for a single module ranges from 4 GB all the way up to 32 GB. At the bottom end of the lineup is the humble 2666 CL18. At the very top is the ever-popular 3600 CL18. If it’s high-speed memory you’re after, Team Group offers at least one memory series with XMP ratings up to 4500 Mhz. For a full Vulcan Z product line breakdown, see the product catalog.
When it comes to the heat sink and overall design, the Vulcan Z is quite simple. There are no flashy RGB lights or big extravagant heat sinks, instead, they’ve outfitted the module with a stylish low-profile heat spreader. The heat sink is composed of aluminum and mounted to the PCB with advanced thermally conductive tape. The height is a mere 32 mm, so there won’t be any conflicts with large air coolers.
In the table below are the specifications of our test kit:
|T-Force Vulcan Z Specifications|
|Capacity||64 GB (2 x 32 GB)|
|Speed Spec||PC4 25600|
|Rated Frequency||3200 MHz (MT/s)|
IC Identification and PCB Design
Below is a screenshot of Thaiphoon Burner, a free tool that allows users 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 out of the box.
As the screenshot shows, this specific kit of memory is composed of Micron ICs arranged a dual-rank configuration. This refers to the fact that there are ICs located on both sides of the PCB. In the case of our 32 GB module, there are 8 on each side for a total of 16 x 2 GB ICs.
DDR4 PCBs are broken down into three major layout designs, two of which are common and widely used. The older design, called A0, has the ICs spaced out evenly on the PCB and can limit the maximum frequency achievable. The newer A2 design places the ICs closer together and closer to the PCB connection edge. The A2-style PCB has become the new unofficial industry standard because it allows for higher frequencies and generally better compatibility. As a result, motherboard manufacturers are now routing memory traces to coincide with the IC placement on A2-style PCBs.
Our review sample memory utilizes the modern A2-style PCB layout. For testing today we will use the ASRock X570 Taichi, which has been specifically optimized for A2-style memory PCBs, so we should have the optimal configuration for testing today.
Packaging and Product Tour
As we’ve pointed out above, the Vulcan Z is an economical offering. As expected, the packaging is simplistic and sparse. The memory is shipped in a folding plastic blister-pack. There is a high-quality printed insert that displays an artistic graphic and branding on the front side. On the backside are a few bullet points that highlight the noteworthy features. The packaging is basic but effective and keeps the memory safe during its travels.
Meet the Vulcan Z
The Vulcan Z comes with a stylized stamped aluminum heat sink. It’s quite thin at just 2 mm, but for Micron ICs it’s more than adequate. The modest fin and angular design give the heat sink more surface area for cooling and at the same time offer a unique style. The overall footprint is very small and compact. Where space is limited, the Vulcan Z would be an excellent choice.
There is a T-Force logo as well as the Vulcan Z product logo emblazoned on one side of the heat spreader. On the other side is a product details sticker which displays the part number and rated XMP information. The T-Force logo has also been added to the top side of the memory as well.
Testing and Overclocking
If and when the XMP profile has been established to be stable, we will evaluate the memory from a performance perspective. We want to see what this memory can do, but without hurting it. Therefore, we will stick to what could be classified as 24/7 stable daily memory voltages. 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 no more than 1.50 V.
Below is the test system and resulting memory speeds that will be used to evaluate the memory and run the various benchmarks.
|CPU||AMD RYZEN 7 3900X @ 4.3 GHz|
|Cooler||Corsair H115i RGB PRO XT|
|Motherboard||ASRock X570 TAICHI AM4|
|Graphics Card||EVGA RTX 2080 Ti Kingpin Edition|
|Solid State Drive||T-Foce CARDEA Liquid 1 TB|
|Power Supply||Seasonic Prime SSR-1200PD 1200 W|
|Operating System||Windows 10 x64 V1909|
|Memory Speeds Compared|
|XMP Profile 1~ 3200 MHz CL16-18-18-38 + XMP Sub Timings @ 1.35 V|
|Test Case 1 ~ 3600 MHz CL18-20-20-42 + XMP Sub Timings @ 1.35 V|
|Test Case 2 ~ 3600 Mhz CL18-20-18-36 + Tight Sub Timings @ 1.45 V|
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 the AMD Ryzen Master utility. AIDA64 is a powerful system diagnostic and benchmarking tool that can be purchased for a reasonable price.
First up is the XMP compatibility test. The goal here is to apply the XMP profile from the bios and change no other settings. As you can see below, we had no problem running our memory using the one-click XMP memory profile. In this case, the FCLK = 1800 MHz and UCLK = 1600 MHz.
When it comes to overclocking very little is known about the overhead potential for 32 GB modules. We kept an open mind and had zero expectations for what type of overclocking could be accomplished. The goal here was to find out the maximum stable frequency with the best possible primary timings. To make things easier on the memory, we left the sub-timings on auto and let the motherboard determine them for this first test.
Overclocking this particular breed of 2 x 32 GB proved to be harder than anticipated. We wanted to see what could be accomplished with no additional voltage. With the XMP rated voltage of 1.35 V, the maximum frequency we were able to accomplish was 3600 MHz. To do this, we needed to increase the timings from CL16-18-18-38 to CL18-20-20-42.
Below is the resulting first overclock test case with FCLK = 1800 MHz and UCLK = 1800 MHz.
Next, we wanted to see what could be accomplished with a maximum voltage of 1.50 V. We know from the first test that we won’t be making any more progress with the frequency, so we focused our attention on timings. We were able to slightly lower the primary timings, but the real magic happened in the secondary and tertiary timings. At 1.45 V, we ended up with 3600 Mhz CL18-20-18-36 and moderately tight sub timings.
Below is the resulting second overclock test case with FCLK = 1800 MHz and UCLK = 1800 MHz.
How did our memory overclocking impact the overall performance? In total, our overclocking endeavors had a noteworthy effect on performance. Across the board, all of our overclocking tests showed substantial improvement over the XMP profile. Our results below are interesting because overclocking the timings made a big impact here. AIDA64 traditionally favors frequency overclocking much more than increased timings efficiency, so we found the results encouraging.
Next, we used Geekbench 4 to test our memory profiles. 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.
Our Geekbench 4 results mirror AIDA64’s perfectly, which does not typically occur. Both of the overclock tests showed a noteworthy improvement, with the best result coming from the combined frequency and timing overclocking.
Lastly, we examined the performance using a few of the memory benchmark tests offered within the SiSoftware Sandra suite. The flagship product, known as Sandra, is a powerful suite of many different benchmarks used to evaluate computer performance of all major components, including the processor, graphics, memory, and disk.
Our results here show near-perfect scaling from our overclocking attempts. Looking at the memory bandwidth, we observed a respectable 17% improvement with a very modest 10 mV increase in the DRAM voltage.
In this next section, we will examine the XMP profile scores of a few kits of memory we have on hand. We used the same exact X570 test bench and operating system for all of the tests. Due to this fact, we are able to make some direct performance comparisons. For the purposes of continuity, we will examine only the XMP profile and exclude any overclocked comparisons.
First up is the AIDA64 Memory Benchmark. The graph above gives us a nice representation of the various XMP memory profiles and how they stack up against each other. As we might expect, the high-frequency XMP profiles take the lead here. Even with four times more memory than all other competitors, the Vulcan Z just didn’t stand a chance against higher frequencies in AIDA64.
We have come to appreciate Geekbench 4 for its ability to scale the result scores with memory speeds and timings. Here we observed an interesting attribute of Geekbench 4, its ability to use more memory and outpace the competition. The Vulcan Z came out as the top-performing kit even though the frequency and timings are substantially less efficient than some of the competitors. Looking at the Integer and Crypto scores, the Vulcan Z completely dominated the competition. While this may not give an accurate comparison of real-world usage, it does show how some productivity applications use more physical memory.
Overall we are quite pleased with the T-Force Vulcan Z. For a budget-oriented kit, they went the extra mile and included a basic heat sink. The design is simple but timeless. Composed of stamped and anodized aluminum, the heat sinks do a good job of dissipating heat and adding that all-important style element inside your case. Our review kit was grey and the color complimented our ASRock X570 Taichi exceptionally well.
Given the high-capacity nature of the modules, we didn’t know what to expect in terms of motherboard compatibility overclocking. However, we were pleasantly surprised the XMP profile worked flawlessly and was fully stable. With Micron ICs under the hood, we hoped for high frequency overclocking. Ultimately, we ended up with a frequency gain of 400 MHz, which required no additional voltage over the XMP rating of 1.35 V. It’s certainly not the gold-standard for overclocking, but it’s quite respectable especially considering the kit density. With a voltage increase to 1.45 V, we accomplished full stability with a moderately efficient custom timing profile.
You can find this kit on Newegg for just $209.99. The whole Vulcan Z product line is competitively priced, but this particular XMP strikes a nice balance between price and performance. With incredibly simple overclocking, we were able to upgrade this memory to the 3600 CL18 XMP rating completely free of charge, with no additional voltage required. The Vulcan Z’s value really becomes apparent when you consider that there are 16 GB kits running 3600 CL16 kits for nearly the same price. If you’re willing to enter the bios and edit the memory settings, then this kit would be an incredible value. When looking for a large capacity kit for your next RGB-less build, we’d recommend considering the T-Force Vulcan Z.
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David Miller – mllrkllr88