We just recently took a look at what was offered by Corsair to not only monitor temperatures, but the lighting effect reminded me of fond memories of using DDR and DDR2 Crucial Ballistix Tracer memory. Back in those days Crucial had some really great overhead in their ICs and tended to scale really well when overclocking them. Fact of the matter is that the D9 ICs could take a ton of voltage, but with that voltage comes the onset of serious heat levels that the heat spreaders weren't capable of eradicating on their own. In those days there were only a couple of reliable models of memory specific coolers, or it took you grabbing a spare fan and somehow hanging it to blow over the memory to try to help combat the heat. Today is a different time and place, and advances have been made.
What you are about to see is another three piece assembly of technology to cool, monitor, and see the temperature of the ICs in use. Funny thing is that with the guys we would expect to see blazing LED activity, this time Crucial took a different approach. While the fan will work with almost any memory, and do the same job of cooling the memory, with the right set of memory and a quick download of a new application you can now monitor this memory via Windows. I know it isn't the same as a quick glance at LEDs, but this setup does offer a log function to view the results after a gaming session or benchmark, something the Corsair setup didn't offer.
Today we are going to be looking at the Crucial Ballistic Active Cooling fan (or BLACTIVE), paired with a 4GB kit of memory with an I2C chip to monitor temperatures; in conjunction with the application you can download to monitor said temperatures to complete the trio. If Crucial is still what it was today, I plan to do a bit of overclocking to push the memory and see what the system can do with XMP settings as well as with a healthy overclock. Let's take a bit of time to go over the specifications and get right down to the images and testing.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The Ballistix Active Cooling Fan is what is going to do most of the work here in keeping the DDR3 temperatures at bay. Crucial is offering two 60mm clear fans surrounded in a completely black nickel plated frame. The frame has an elegant "sweeping curve" to the top, so it isn't just an ordinary looking box with fans in it. Adjustable height legs allow users to get the fan closer to modules that don't have spreaders as tall as the Ballistix modules that Crucial supplied. These spreaders are pretty tall, so the fan should cover most tall spreaders with the exception of those with additional coolers like the OCZ Reapers. The fans produce up to 15 CFM with a maximum sound level of 28 dB. These ratings are with 12V going through the fan via the 3-pin fan connector.
Now, not everyone has a thermometer to dedicate to the memory, and the finger test is only so accurate, so Crucial devised their own solution. The memory they supplied with the fan are a newly released design of heat spreaders with a bit of new technology implemented onto the PCB. To be specific, it is PC3-17000 with 9-10-9-24 timings and an I2C chip. With the use of an I2C chip, the modules are able to read a hex code and send that code through the system and then readable via software. This software translates a hex code and offers users a temperature for the hottest module in use. The setup is slightly different in how Crucial is presenting the information, and offers another take on how to bring such information to the end user abusing these products.
The memory modules are really fresh to the market and I can only locate them being sold in five locations. Of them, buying direct from Crucial is the best deal at $143.99. I'm sure as Crucial gets more of these modules the 4GB kit will turn up in more locations. As of right now Newegg.com only sells single 2GB sticks of this exact memory, but I expect the 4GB kit to be in stock very soon. The Ballistix Active Cooling Fan can be purchased from Newegg.com for $23.99, or while you are at Crucial getting the kit, you can add the fan there for $24.99. That leaves us one little bit of software. Crucial doesn't charge you for this. You can go to their site and download the Ballistix MOD Utility for free in 32 bit or 64 bit versions. As compared to the Corsair kit, the setup from Crucial is cheaper. This kit is a more refined version of the same concept. I say we open this kit up, get some images, and add in some abuse and see what this trio has to offer.
Crucial Ballistix BL2KIT25664FN2139 4GB PC3-17000
This new Ballistix with tall black heat spreaders is shipped in a clear packaging with a colored insert to match the yellow/orange stripe on the modules. The cut away window also gives you a peek at the 9-10-9-24 timings and 1.65V requirement of this 2133 MHz Memory.
On the back Crucial provides a mission statement of their high speed modules in three languages and offers the support address if you do run across any issues.
These new modules are based on a black PCB that not only houses the memory ICs, but also holds a I2C chip that can monitor and send temperatures from the modules that can be read via software. Surrounding the PCB and memory chips is an all new design of heat spreader that uses a tall, almost "toothed" effect to aide in removing heat.
Just for verification, I wanted to show off the model number and the specs of this kit. The main reason I haven't had Crucial DDR3 yet is that they wouldn't go over 1600 MHz. for a long time. That time is over; as you can see they have broken right past that barrier.
Flipping the modules over, most obviously they lack any striping. As they are installed into my P55A-UD7 they are oriented that I see the stripe and the plain sides face the CPU cooler.
The Crucial Ballistix Active Cooling Fan Packaging
The fan comes packaged in an all-black box with a cut out in the top, so you may view the black nickel top and clear blades of the fans. You will notice a bold "Ballistix" painted across the middle of the fan. While this fan is new, it doesn't have LEDs in the fans so that Tracer users can still see their lights through the fan blades while in use.
This end of the fans box has two charts of specifications under a couple of listed features in both English and French.
One of the longer side panels holds information on the benefits of why you should choose to buy an active memory cooling solution, even if you aren't going to run them past specified levels.
This end of the packaging contains the support and company information along with the part number and the name BLACTIVECOOL to denote the fan.
The other long side of the packaging has an image of the fan. You get an idea of the gentle curve of the top and the attractive outer coating.
The BLACTIVECOOL Fan, Hardware and Assembly
Once I take the fan assembly out of the box I noticed the brilliance of the black nickel coating applied to the entirety of the metal components of this fan. The clear blades of the 60mm fans offer good airflow while still allowing a look through them while spinning.
The fan assembly is made of two main pieces of steel that sandwich the fans. The fans are mounted securely to the bottom half, while bolts travel through both the steel and the fans in the middle. Both fans are wired together and then one wire continues away from the fans, sheathed, with a 3-pin connection for power.
Looking under the BLACKTIVECOOL fan, you can see this cooler was designed with strength in mind. Not only is the metal thick enough on its own to hold together and not create a vibration, but Crucial adds an "I" brace to the middle to make real sure the fan assembly is as solid as a rock.
Packed inside the box with the fan you will locate both the instructional sheet along with a white cardboard box containing the hardware.
In the box you will find both sides to the cooler, four thumb screws for securing the sides to the main fan section, and a 4-pin Molex adapter for power if you don't have an open fan header on the motherboard.
Something I haven't seen before on any cooler I have owned is that Crucial adds a layer of high density foam to help ease the stress induced on the locks for the memory that they clamp on to.
Even the outside of the legs are thought of, and Crucial has provided a plastic sticker to the outside of the cooler. This way if it happens to touch the VGA, it won't short out to the card. I have had boards where this gap is very close, and I had concerns of this. Crucial takes all the worry out of the memory cooling game with these two simple features.
The other feature I liked about this fan assembly is the adjustable legs. If you want to run this fan over Tracers it doesn't need to be as high as with the Ballistix I have here. Simply slide the leg up the side and shorten the assembly to the desired height for your memory. To clear the kit I was supplied, the top setting is needed for clearance.
One last look at the assembled cooler before I install it and bring on the testing!
Testing and the Ballistix MOD Utility
I wanted to get an installed image of the memory before I took things too far. As you can see, the colored stripe is oriented in the easiest viewable direction, and with one quick view people will know what you have under the hood.
Adding the BLACTIVECOOL Fan assembly is simple, just stretch the legs around the memory slot locks and gently release the pressure. Under power you can see there are no added LEDs to this kit, and you also see a finger print. I left the print as a reminder, you mist wipe the fan down after it is in place, as hard as I tried I left prints all over it.
After you download and install the appropriate 32 or 64 bit version of the Ballistix MOD Utility and install it, you are left with a desktop icon that opens this. The MOD Utility shows four main pages; SPD data, temperature, settings, and an about section so you may contact Crucial via the address if things don't work for you. I however had no issues getting this installed or running.
I cleared the CMOS and booted the Ballistix modules with the XMP settings, and from the first boot they were running at 2133 MHz, with 9-10-9 timings. This 34°C reading is showing the temperature of DIMM3, or the hotter of the two modules with a room ambient of 25°C. Of course, this is with the fan running. The logging feature is very simple and intuitive and offers the ability to go back and see exactly what the temperatures were.
Under the settings tab you can change the unit of temperature measurement, the rate at which the chart in the previous image updates, and the rate in which the log file will record. Don't forget when you are done to save your settings with the button at the bottom right corner.
In the about page, Crucial offers site information for the memory, a link to the forums, and even a way to check for updates to the software.
Just so I could say I was at 4 GHz on the processor I overclocked the memory to 2208 MHz with the stock timings and voltages required for 2133 MHz. Even with just a touch more speed added, you can see the temperatures with the fan are already increasing ever so slightly.
This is what results you would get without the BLACTIVECOOL Fan. With the same abuse of 32M SuperPi Mod 1.5, the memory runs over eleven degrees hotter and that isn't including what this dead zone of heat does to the surrounding motherboard when you are water cooling as I am.
This memory and fan have made a new home in my daily use PC, and not just any old products get kept and used in my rig. That in itself should be enough to convince you of this whole setups awesomeness. Let me break this down a bit and cover why. First, there is the very attractive Ballistix Active Cooling Fan. While it lacks the flash of LEDs, it offers a sleek coating of black nickel to lead itself to being an attractive addition to any system. Then of course there is the memory. It is also attractive with the all black look and the newly designed spreaders. The MOD Utility just takes it that one level over the top for me. I test hardware a lot, and while I am gaming or benching, this gives me the ability to log the temperatures to go back and look at later, something the Corsair system didn't offer.
Going deeper than the obvious reasons to choose this system is that this kit was plug and play with my motherboard. Simply booting with the XMP profile was sufficient to get into Windows, stable. I overclocked and tinkered with the memory a bit, and while the testing was done at around 2200 MHz speeds, with the same timings and voltages I was able to run 2290 MHz. Of course, your results may vary, but I think I could get more out of this memory if I had a bit more time to play with it. As you saw with the images of the temperatures in various conditions, the BLACTIVECOOL Fan does a great job of bringing memory that was quite warm to the touch at near 50 degrees, and with the fan active, I couldn't break 37 degrees with any voltage of speeds.
if you don't want to shell out for new memory, I strongly recommend the adjustable height and superb looks of the Crucial Ballistix Active Cooling Fan. Not only will it offer great results in memory cooling, but it will also kill the huge dead zone left when I went to water cooling. Keep in mind, this fan is only going to set you back $23.99 via Newegg.com, and it is worth every penny. Not only is this fan more attractive than Corsair's, it delivers less noise into the chassis. If the lack of speed has been keeping you from picking Crucial for DDR3, I am here to tell you the 1600 MHz cap is gone, and I found the new Ballistix with the I2C chip very fun to tinker with and overclock, while offering great stock speeds and timings for those who run stock.