When blistering-fast Samsung B-DIE performance and trend-setting style are not enough, Team Group goes and steps up their game by adding RGB lighting! Today we are reviewing some DDR4 memory which has already gained a strong footing in the market, just a few short months after launch. Team Group sent us their flagship RGB memory, the T-Force Xcalibur RGB. Released in 2018, this memory has disrupted the premium RGB DDR4 market by offering aggressive styling, faster speeds, and lower price points.
Specifications and Features
Founded in 1997, Team Group been a contender in the memory market since the days of DDR1. Today, Team Group’s T-Force brand offers the Xcalibur RGB series with a total of four different configurations. T-Force Xcalibur RGB offers full-color, variable, and synchronized lighting with a unique light diffuser. All of the memory in the Xcalibur RGB series are 16 GB kits composed of two 8 GB sticks. There are two frequency choices available, 4000 MHz and 3600 MHz, both of which operate at the same primary timings of CL18-20-20-44. Beyond the impressive raw performance numbers, their heatsink and RGB design are what makes Xcalibur RGB so unique. Team Group has given us the option of a general edition with an unobstructed light diffuser, or a special edition which has a printed pattern on the light diffuser. While both light bars are physically the same size and shape, they differ only in the special printed pattern which Team Group calls the “Special Totem”.
The flagship of this series is the 16 GB 4000 MHz @ $205.99, which comes with the special totem edition pattern on the light bar. The lower end of the product line is the 16 GB 3600 MHz @ 174.99, which comes the general light diffuser. Regardless of the edition, one certainty is that performance and style are not optional and are all but guaranteed on the Xcalibur RGB.
In the table below we examine the particular details of the memory being evaluated today.
|Team T-FORCE XCALIBUR RGB DDR4 3600|
|Capacity||16GB (2 x 8GB)|
|Speed Spec||PC4 28800|
|Rated Frequency||DDR4 1800MHz (3600MHz Effective)|
|Kit Type||Dual Channel|
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 has an XMP certified rating of 1800MHz (3600MHz Effective) with primary timings of CL18-20-20-44. The voltage for this XMP rating is a scant 1.35v.
For those interested, here is a closer look at the particular 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.
As the Thaiphoon Burner screenshot shows, this specific kit of memory is composed of Samsung B-DIE ICs. This memory uses a total of 8 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. Overclockers, gamers, and system-builders alike all flock to memory composed of Samsung B-DIE ICs. They have become the gold standard to which all other memory ICs are compared. Initially, the Samsung B-DIE ICs were sought after for their ability to operate at low, primary timings. However, with the advancement of memory PCBs, and as the IC technology matures, the industry has seen gradually-increasing frequencies to go along with low, primary timings.
Packaging and Product Tour
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 is to come.
Opening the box, we find the memory safely nestled in individual plastic clam-shell packaging. The individual sticks are tucked away nicely and are safe for shipping purposes. This type of packaging doesn’t give us that premium high-end feel, but with a full-color box its certainly a step above the typical, clamshell packaging.
Team Group’s T-Force Xcalibur memory modules differ from all other memory modules we have seen in one interesting way. The heat spreader does not have perpendicular edges, and the light bar is set at an angle. Perpendicular angles and symmetrical designs are the industry norm for modern DDR4 memory modules. Team Group is certainly making a statement with the Xcalibur’s subtly unconventional design.
The memory we are evaluating today is the special edition variety with a printed light bar diffuser.
We should take a moment to point out the other stunning physical characteristics, such as the integrated heat spreader. Team Group has equipped each Xcalibur memory module with a thick and beefy-feeling, aluminum heat spreader. The heat spreader, or heatsink, doesn’t just give the memory style points, it also helps to keep the memory run cool even in the most demanding circumstances. Starting with a brushed-aluminum base, the heat sink is then anodized and printed with white and shiny black graphics. With the edgy weapon-like design, we think the overall look is high-end and does not come across as flashy or cheap.
The memory is only offered in one color option, but we don’t feel that this hinders the product line in any way, as this memory is all about the RGB lighting. The all-black coloring blends in with the other system components and lets the RGB stand out.
When it comes to lighting, the T-Force Xcalibur RGB stands out with an oversized light bar to maximize lighting possibilities in your system. Underneath the light bar are six individually-selectable RGB LEDs. This means that each LED can be set to a specific color or pattern, independent of the other LEDs. The light diffuser does an excellent job of merging the 6 LEDs so that the hot spots are minimal. Other than the special printed totem design, the only light bar obstruction is a small piece of metal that, when unfolded, forms the TF logo.
Knowing that many users will want to control the lighting later on, Team Group ships the memory with a pre-defined rainbow effect profile. The transition between colors is really quite seamless, and it indeed looks fluid. Combined with the diffuser and RGB algorithm, the states of transition are as good as we have ever seen. In the picture slideshow below, we have tried to capture all of the various lightning transitions.
In addition to the third-party software compatibility, Team Group offers their own standalone control software. The T-Force Blitz software gives you all of the control and synchronization capabilities that we have come to know and expect from RGB computer elements.
Software download: T-Force Blitz
In the video below you can see how the memory will look when you first put it in your system. It comes direct from the factory with a rainbow-like fade built in.
Testing and Overclocking
The overall objective is to evaluate the memory under a variety of different conditions in an effort to simulate daily life. 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.
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. However, later on in this review we will examine what happens if we push this memory to the extreme limits with more than 1.80 V.
Below is the test system and resulting memory speeds that will be used to evaluate the memory and run the benchmarks.
|CPU||RYZEN Threadripper 2990WX Overclocked to 4.0 GHz|
|Cooler||Alphacool Eisblock XPX CPU Block with custom water loop|
|Motherboard||ASRock X399M TAICHI sTR4|
|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 ~ 3600 18-20-20 @ 1.35 V|
|Test Case 1 ~ 3400 14-14-14 @ 1.45 V ~ With improved secondary timings|
|Test Case 2 ~ 3600 14-15-15 @ 1.50 V ~ With improved secondary timings|
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 Ryzen Timing Checker. AIDA64 is a powerful system diagnostic and benchmarking tool that can be purchased for a reasonable price. Next, we will be using the Ryzen Timing Checker, which is a free piece of software that allows users to see all of the major timings associated with DDR4 which have been applied in the BIOS.
Below is the XMP profile. This particular kit of memory comes with an XMP profile of 3600 MHz with timings of CL18-20-20.
The improvements in the XMP profile speeds are greatly attributed to modern manufacturing processes and memory PCB layouts; however, they 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.
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 with 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.
The motherboard being used is the ASRock X399M Taichi. This is a very reasonably-priced motherboard which has elite-level memory overclocking capabilities due to it only having four memory slots. Within the X399 chipset, this is the only motherboard that offers four DIMM slots, compared to the standard eight DIMM slots for all other motherboards for this socket. Similar to how two memory slots are better than four for overclocking, four memory slots are better than eight when it comes to quad channel memory. We are starting with the best case scenario for overclocking memory on this chipset.
Once the XMP profile has been successfully tested, we can dive into overclocking. The methodology is to set a maximum working voltage of 1.490 V, to see what could be accomplished and then lower the voltage to find the stability point.
Due to the fact that the Threadripper 2 integrated memory controller (IMC) cannot handle speeds above 3600 MHz, we cannot overclock the frequency of this memory. Instead, we will focus our efforts on the timings. In the first test case, we lower the frequency to 3400 MHz, which gives us the needed headroom to dramatically tighten the timings to CL14-14-14.
For the second and final overclocking test case, the goal is to achieve the best overclock possible while still staying within the maximum allowable voltage of 1.50 V. Finding the optimal overclock for a given criteria like voltage is not an exact science, and it requires a high degree of knowledge and patience as well as the right combination of equipment. However, the results can be quite impressive. The resulting overclock is a reduction in primary timings to CL14-15-15 with the stock frequency of 3600 MHz. Given the test equipment and the voltage constraint, this is an admirable overclock.
Ultimately, this memory proved to be the upper limit of what this platform, in general, can handle. While it might not seem like incredible memory overclocking was done, we will prove that timings alone can make a huge difference in the productivity and overall system performance. Starting out with the absolute highest possible rating for memory, and then overclocking them, is quite a tall order, but the results below show that we accomplished that feat.
First up, we used AIDA64 Cache and Memory Benchmark. The graph below shows that the overall memory read performance was increased by both of the memory overclocking test cases. However, for the write and copy tests, lowering the frequency (as in test case 2) showed an adverse effect in the overall performance.
Next up is Geekbench 4, 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 4 tells a similar story to AIDA64. Lowering the frequency to 3400 MHz in order to run very tight CL14-14-14 had an adverse effect on the system performance. However, in test case 3 we showed a nice improvement in performance across the board.
Next, we will examine the performance using a few of the memory benchmark tests offered within the SiSoftware Sandra suite of benchmarks. The flagship product, known as Sandra, is a powerful suite of many different benchmarks to evaluate computer performance of all major components including the processor, graphics, memory, and disk.
Both of the memory tests we ran in the SiSoftware Sandra suite followed the same trend that has developed previously. Test case one showed decreased performance, while test case two showed a moderate gain in memory performance.
The next benchmarks we will examine are ones centered around 3D rendering and games. The Futuremark 3D Mark suite of benchmarks is a real-time, graphical-rendering benchmark which 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.
This is where the story starts to get interesting. Up until this point, we have seen that test case 1 yielded relatively no performance gain and even hurt the performance in some tests. However, with UL Benchmarks, the use of tight timings showed considerable gain for both test cases.
A while ago, we did a review of the new Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB memory. Due to the fact that we tested that Corsair memory on the same exact X399 test bench, with the same exact operating system, we are able to make some direct comparisons of the performance. Looking only at the XMP, and excluding any overclocking results, we are able to compare the relative performance of the T-Force Xcalibur RGB and the Dominator Platinum RGB.
In the graph below we observe that the T-Force Xcalibur RGB was faster in two of the three memory tests within the AIDA64 memory benchmark.
Similarly, if we compare the performance of other benchmarks, we see that the T-Force Xcalibur RGB came out ahead of the Dominator Platinum RGB in two of the three benchmarks compared.
As most benchmarks and real-world tests will show, DDR4 frequency is often the most important factor when it comes to overall system performance. Other than for competitive benchmarking purposes, making the memory run tighter often has very little effect on the overall system performance. On the other hand, making the memory run at the highest possible frequency often has a noteworthy effect on system performance.
Many people within the competitive overclock community run very tight timings with high frequency in order to increase benchmark performance. Here we take a look at what can be accomplished by taking overclocking to an extreme level. With potentially destructive voltages of 1.80+ V, the memory modules come alive and allows truly astonishingly tight primary, secondary, and tertiary timings.
To evaluate the system performance, we turn to Geekbench 3. As mentioned above, 3600 MHz is the working IMC limit of this platform, so we will only be adjusting the timings of the memory. Furthermore, we examined the practical limit of how low each individual timing could be set in order to achieve benchmark stability.
Please note, this is not at all stable for daily use and requires that the physical memory be limited so that the OS can only use around 3 GB of the available 32 GB. Below is the result of over 20 hours of research into figuring out which timings help performance and which timings have the biggest effect.
With considerable risk of damaging the memory, you might be asking yourself if it’s worth it? In the graph below, we depict the results of our Geekbench 3 tests. Across the board, we saw at least a 25% gain in performance with up to 36% for some tests. In terms of competitive overclocking, this is truly an astronomical performance gain from simply memory timings alone. For daily tasks and even moderately competitive benchmarking, however, the risk may not be worth the reward.
The Team Group T-Force Xcalibur RGB is a success for multiple reasons. The use of all black heat spreaders, with the addition of simple graphics, make them universally appealing. The extra-wide, 120 degree light bar on top does a fantastic job of adding a nice lighting element to the system. When it comes to performance, the XMP rating of 3600 MHz with CL18-20-20 proved to be a powerhouse of efficiency for the Threadripper 2, X399 platform.
Being composed of high-quality Samsung, B-DIE memory ICs, we had high expectations for the overclocking potential. We were not able to overclock the memory frequency due to Threadripper 2 memory controller limitations. However, we did make considerable headway by overclocking the timings with admirable results. The XMP rating of 3600 MHz is the slowest in Team Group’s, T-Force Xcalibur RGB lineup. That being said, it was the absolute maximum rating which would work in our X399 test bench. The memory comes with such a high XMP rating, to be used in a quad-channel configuration, that overclocking was simply not needed to achieve close to maximum efficiency.
With trend-setting style, high XMP rating, and noteworthy overclocking potential we would expect the memory to be priced in the upper echelons. While we don’t have pricing for the special totem edition as tested, the standard light-bar version is available for just $174.99. Grab two kits for quad-channel and the total will be a mere $349.98. In our tests Team Group’s T-Force Xcalibur RGB beat Corsair’s Dominator Platinum RGB in two-thirds of the benchmarks compared. The Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB (4x 8GB) is priced at $519.99. The potential to save $170.01 and have better-performing memory makes Team Group’s T-Force Xcalibur RGB an obvious choice for gamers, system builders, and overclockers alike.
David Miller – mllrkllr88