From what I can remember, the first set of memory heat spreaders were designed for RDRAM (or RIMM) memory modules. For this type of RAM the uses of heat spreaders were twofold. The first reason being, that the RIMM ran hotter than the usual SDRAM, necessitating the use of heat spreaders for heat control. The second reason was that the frequency of the RDRAM coincided with a few household electronic devices, such as cordless phones, which could and would act up in the vicinity of the RDRAM; this lead to its second reasoning, to help eliminate any "noise" that emanated from the RAM itself. Today the usage is more for heat dissipation than any sort of interference and of course heat spreaders look way cooler than stock RAM with no spreaders.
Xigmatek, while being known for their very impressive CPU cooler line-up, has decided to break the mold and have branched into memory cooling as well. Xigmatek has made two variations of their new endeavor, one of which is a standard basic style heat spreader, while another, bit more ambitious version includes one, solo H.D.T heat pipe that actually runs across the IC's (actual memory chips). Xigmatek passed along for me to review the first style of the more basic heat spreader concept, with the Cuirassier-N002. The second H.D.T. design is called the Dragoon-N442, which I hope to receive and review as well.
The Cuirassiers from Xigmatek follow their line of naming, as the word "cuirassier", pronounced kwir-a-'sir and literally means a mounted soldier who wears a cuirass, which is essentially a breast plate of armor. The Cuirassier-N002 is sort of a breast plate for your RAM, which is then "mounted" to the motherboard, making the name fitting for the concept. At this point I have only two concerns with this line of naming. For one, usually armor is heavy, and for two, armor is to protect, not to vent, making the wearing of armor hot to the user. Enough with my pre-conceived notions of the product, it's time now to take some snapshots get down to testing.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
Xigmatek has designed the Cuirassier-N002's from extruded aluminum and it looks to be anodized black, with a white Xigmatek logo painted on either side of the spreaders. At the top of each side of the spreaders is a 5-fin, aluminum array to allow a fan to help dissipate the heat. Most pre-applied spreaders come with a foam based tape or a stringy tape that won't allow any sort of reapplication of the spreaders without a lot of work involved, while the Cuirassiers come with L37-5, silicone rubber, to transfer the heat from the IC's to the spreaders. Putting one of my early concerns to rest, the Cuirassier-N002's only weigh in at 75g per completed spreader.
Availability at this time is still non-existent, as Xigmatek has not yet taken this product to retailers in the U.S. market. After a few emails with Xigmatek, I was not given a release date, though. Keep your eyes peeled at Newegg if these are something you would want to purchase as they are expected to hit the market very soon.
With these same correspondences, Xigmatek tells me that the Cuirassier-N002's are going to be released at a projected retail of around $16.99 USD. Taking a look over at Newegg to compare against what else is on the market, the Cuirassiers fall just about in the middle of all the pricing I looked at. There are cheaper alternatives, but they lack the looks and the more expensive ones have external fins that stand really tall and may hinder which cases they will fit in correctly, dependant on your CPU cooler clearance. This price is fair in my opinion, as just about anyone can spare a twenty dollar bill to spruce up the looks of their RAM while adding better cooling potential as well.
Xigmatek has chosen to go with a clear plastic, snap together, blister pack to protect the Cuirassiers for shipping and shelving purposes. The theme with shields placed behind the product is carried over as well from the CPU coolers. This displays the Cuirassiers very well and allows them to easily be seen by the buyer. You definitely know exactly what you get here.
The rear of the packaging is a terrific use of space. The top shows a six step "how-to" on applying the Cuirassiers to any dual sided RAM. In the middle, Xigmatek adds both the features and the specifications to the back as well. The very bottom houses all of Xigmatek's proper information if you were to have an issue with your product.
The Xigmatek Cuirassier-N002
Here we have both Cuirassiers from opposite sides. Both are topped with a ten fin array for additional cooling, each half containing five if those. The Cuirassiers can be separated easily by removing the three Phillip's head screws and gently lifting off one half.
After removal of the three screws, this is what you are left with. The extruded aluminum is molded on both sides to accept the depth needed to nestle IC's in both halves. I would imagine with some modification these could be used for single sided memory, but as you can tell, the Cuirassiers are not designed out of the box to work with less than double sided memory. You can also tell, once split, how each half has a different stagger to the aluminum fins allowing them to slide between each other when reassembled.
Xigmatek used a pressed on approach to the fins. This allows them to be adjusted as well, if you do have any mishaps, or even possibly drop it. The fins can be easily re-bent and adjusted back into proper alignment, if needed.
Looking at half of the fins from the top, you can see there is also a toothed design cut into the fins. This allows both halves again to nestle right into each other and create a good sized, in surface area, fin arrangement.
Just to get another look at the way these are designed. This angle shows the depth of the "shelf" for the IC's and the silicone to be "clamped" into place for each side. If you were going to try these on single sided memory you would need to fill this gap somehow. Now you can really see why Xigmatek says these are for double-sided memory only.
Accessories and Documentation
Aside from the screws that come in the RAM coolers themselves, Xigmatek ships four of these, 120 X 20 X 0.3mm, silicone, thermal conductive "pads". Each side of the L37-5 silicone is shipped with a plastic coating applied to either side of them. When applying, it matters none which side is which, but the blue side is thinner and easier to remove than the thicker clear side. The silicone is quite stretchy once the plastic is removed, so be careful not to tear it. Even after a bit of tugging and pulling, the L37-5 does naturally want to return to its original shape and dimensions.
A closer look of the back of the cardboard insert from the packaging shows a simple six step procedure to installing the Cuirassiers to your memory of choice. The hardest part of the installation, from my experience with them, was getting the corners of the plastic to separate from the silicone. Once this is done, the installation is a breeze. Even installing them with a temperature probe mounted was no problem. I really cannot see any issues with the way they line up or assemble together.
Memory and Preparation
This is the RAM I chose to test with. They are an older set of DDR2, PC2 6400, Geil Esoteria memory, a 2 X 1GB kit. The reasoning behind this choice? They are guaranteed to 2.5V and also during regular use one of the spreaders fell off, making my job of removing a set half as hard to accomplish.
Here we have a shot of said Esoteria spreaders with the timing and voltage information on the sticker to the right.
This is how the bare IC testing was done. You can see I used an Acu-rite thermometer with a temperature diode at the end. This was taped, directly contacting the right innermost IC, using simple blue painters tape.
Installation of the Cuirassiers
The first step in installation is to remove the silicone from its plastic protection and lay it on the IC's. For this section of the testing, I took a sharp hobby knife and removed all the blue tape from the IC's, prior to laying down the silicone. The remaining tape is there to secure the wire and temperature diode next to the IC.
By lying a spreader on the silicone in the previous image, flipping over the memory and repeating the same procedure, all that is left is to screw the halves together. This is a completed image of the tested memory.
There are two things I want to point out here. First is that you can tell when the Cuirassiers are installed, they are only as long at the spread of the IC's on the PCB; meaning they don't go completely to the end of the PCB, allowing for better clearance in motherboards. The second reason was to show how well the Cuirassiers make contact with the IC's themselves.
Due to the proximity of my DIMM slots on my Foxconn X38A motherboard being so close, I wouldn't have been able to run these if I had to use a 1-2 or 3-4 DIMM arrangement for dual channel. This board uses a 1-3 and 2-4 configuration, so it wasn't an issue in my instance.
Here is a final look at the Cuirassiers in all their splendid glory. I find the look is unique and the black sides would make them virtually disappear when placed on a black motherboard. With cable management and "stealthing" parts in the case these days, the Cuirassiers are one good way to "plate" your, not so pretty, plain PCB memory.
With CPU-Z you can see what I am working with and basing this testing on. This is a 2GB kit and was tested in dual channel mode. For the initial test at 1.9V, the RAM was set to timings of 4-4-4-12 and run at 800MHz. the second round of testing was done at 2.1V and the RAM was overclocked to 1000MHz with timings of 5-5-5-15. Lastly, for the 2.5V testing, the RAM was pushed even farther to 1100MHz with timings of 5-5-5-18, all of which used a 2T command rate. Testing was accomplished by using Memtest 86+, version 2.01, in bootable format.
Each test for all results was run for four complete passes and the temperature was averaged out from the highest reading, which usually occurs during test #6. Tests were done with bare IC's and no fan, then again with a fan on all three settings.
This was also the procedure for testing with the Cuirassiers in place. I used a 120mm, ISGC Fan 12 that I actually set on top of the passive cooler of my 2600XT. This fan supplies 58 CFM as well making it a good lower CFM choice to use. This orientation made the air blow down towards the motherboard for fan testing results. My theory was to replicate a Dominator or OCZ style, aftermarket, memory cooling solution.
These are the testing results for no fan being used to cool the RAM, other than what circulation the NZXT Zero2 comes with stock. As you can see, with no fan being used the Cuirassiers actually retain a bit more heat than if the bare IC's are just exposed to the environment. Not really a big surprise to me, I would assume anything wrapped in a jacket would be a bit warmer under normal conditions.
These are the results for testing done with the fan in place. At 1.9V, again there isn't much difference between bare or with the Cuirassiers. Testing at 2.1V starts to show the Cuirassiers pulling ahead in temperatures ever so slightly. Finally at 2.5V testing, the Cuirassiers pull almost a full degree margin over the bare IC testing. This leads me to believe that with the more heat you produce, the more efficient these coolers are when paired with a capable fan cooling solution.
From what I can gather in the testing of the Cuirassiers in my test bed set-up, these are definitely a benefit to the DDR1 world. With voltages being pushed well past 3.0V on some of my own DDR1, I would have loved a set of these to try to get every last MHz out of my RAM. With DDR2 at extreme overclocking levels, the Cuirassiers still have a place to do some work, show some benefits and look really good. With DDR3, my thoughts are this; If you aren't going to very extreme levels, I can't really see much benefit other that appeal of the design to add to a system that needs that little bit extra. The voltage for DDR3, being so low, it just doesn't seem to fall in the sweet spot of the Cuirassiers cooling zone.
As I have mentioned, Xigmatek also makes the Dragoons as well. These are a H.D.T. model of the Cuirassiers I tested today. I would really like to see if a copper pipe running across the IC's to an external arrangement of fins, has a better margin to cooling. I'm not saying the Cuirassiers don't do what they are intended to do; they do actually show cooling benefits, even if small, and do look really good once on the motherboard.
For the average Joe looking to spice up his rig and cover some value RAM with a clean and flashy "plating", these may be the heat spreaders for you. For the extremists in a few of us, with DDR1 or DDR2, the Cuirassiers do prove they have a purpose other than good looks. Personally, I really liked the overall look, design and ease of installation. With an asking price of around $16.99 plus shipping, I can't say that they aren't worth the price based on looks alone, as almost all of us have spent more to spruce up our rigs with parts that aren't even regularly seen.
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