Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
TEAM is a memory company that has kept us pretty busy over the years. With hands-on kits like the Vulcan, DARK ROG, DARK PRO, Night Hawk, and Night Hawk RGB, special edition Xcalibur RGB, we have seen many varying speeds and heat spreader designs. One thing we noticed along the way is that no matter the speed chosen or the aesthetics, TEAM has been offering great value for the performance that is delivered. That is not to say other manufacturers do not provide the same, but they are in the top five on our list, as to who you should look to when it comes to replacing or buying new DDR4.
In the list of previous kits we have examined, it started with a couple of sticks from the DARK lineup at TEAM, before our latest kits arrival, there were three in total. While we had our hands-on the DARK ROG and DARK PRO, we seem to have missed out on the vanilla DARK kits. However, it is the DARK series that gets the latest addition, and like the rest, are RGB-less, which should appeal to a bunch of the RGB haters out there! On top of that, we also have in our hands a kit which is elusive in the real-world, as we could not find them listed at the usual spots, but, we were given all of the information to deliver to our readers, so you can see the potential of more high-speed memory kits, especially on the AMD side of things, of which these new DARK sticks are designed to work with!
The DARK Z Alpha kit is the newest in the game for TEAM, and we have put them under the gun to do what they can, and see how well they stack up. While we have expectations as to how these should perform on the Intel side of the fence, their neighbors, AMD, well, we have not had many kits to test there at higher speeds so far. It should be interesting to see how this all goes down as we put the T-Force DARK Z Alpha 4000MHz kit through its paces and see for ourselves just how well they can do for the average users out there!
The specifications for the DARK Z Alpha are pretty basic, but we can see a few things of interest. Yes, they are 288-pin unbuffered and non-ECC as much of what we test is, but as you can see below that, you can get these in two by 8GB kits or two by 16GB kits. Speeds range from 3200MHz with 16-18-18 timings, through 3600MHz with 18-22-22 timings, and the 4000MHz kit we have with 18-22-22 timings as well. Voltage for the use of XMP and DOCP is 1.35V across the board. Dimensionally the sticks stand 43.5mm tall, and while the length and width are listed, they are much less critical. The heat spreaders on the sides of the sticks are made from aluminum, and at this time, we found links for red, gray, and black variants within the DARK Z Alpha lineup. The warranty is listed as lifetime, which typically means they will support customers past the EOL mark, where limited lifetime usually means for the run of the product, and not after.
There is but one issue with the kit we have in hand, and we cannot find it yet on this side of the pond! There are 3200 and 3600MHz kits out in the wild, just not the 4000MHz kits. However, sifting through sites for price comparisons, the most affordable kit of 4000MHz RAM with 16GB of density to match what we have, pricing starts at $111 and work their way up to near $500! While we saw no actual retail listing to confirm the MSRP, we are told that we should expect the DARK Z Alpha that we have in our hands to be $99 flat! Compared to the lower-priced kits, aesthetically and by feature set, you are still getting a great deal with the cost, but we still have to see just how well they perform!
Packaging and TEAM T-Force DARK Z Alpha
The T-Force DARK Z Alpha comes in a clamshell package, with the "clean" side of the RAM on full display, resting on a cardboard insert to add additional style and offers a place to put any textual information. With the name of the kit ran across the top, and the RAM in the middle, leaves us with the "Compatible with AMD" sticker at the bottom-left, and the product sticker at the right, displaying density, speed, timings, voltage, and the part number for the 16GB kit.
On the back of the packaging, TEAM explains the TF logo, what the colors mean, and what the wings stand for, which falls just below Lifetime Warranty notation at the top-right. The lower section of the cardboard insert offers a list of seven features listed on the left, while company information, the model number, and a QR-code are provided at the right.
Along with the memory, there is some literature where images show how to install it and another section on warranty details, and we also get a case badge. As to the T-Force DARK Z Alpha sticks, TEAM starts with black PCBs, and as you can see, we got them with black aluminum heat spreaders. The spreaders are highly stylized with fins at the top, many angles and indentations used, two round dots at either end, with a chrome TF logo in the middle and the DARK Z Alpha name painted on them in the lower-right corner of the spreaders.
On the other side of the sticks, we find that the heat spreaders are the same, but with two omissions. Rather than the TF chrome logo, we see the product sticker, and the name of the kit does not appear on this side. As to that sticker, it carries the individual stick part number, the density of said stick along with its type and speed. The timings and voltage follow, and we also see they are made in Taiwan, and there are serial numbers present, should you need to contact TEAM for any issues.
The top edge of the spreaders reminds us of the G.Skill Ripjaws designs, but rather than a flat or lowered center section, in the DARK Z Alpha, the center is raised. Painting T-Force in the middle of the sticks identifies them as definitely not G.Skill, and we do like the aesthetic appeal of these non- LED bearing sticks.
Opting for software to tell us what is under the hood, Thaiphoon Burner tells us this kit was made week 41 of 2019, and that we have A2 revision, 8-layer PCBs. What most care about is the IC, and on the right, it shows us that TEAM went to Hynix for the chips, more specifically, the H5AN8G8NAFR-UHC that we last saw in some Apacer Panther Rage sticks.
When building test rigs, we try to mute the colors so that the product being tested can stand out, but on the X570, the DARK z Alpha blends right into the mix of black, gray, and white that the build contains. From this view, we can see a lot of the styling, but while the TF logo is muted, the bright white T-Force on the top and the DARK Z Alpha on the sides pop out and are easily recognized as to what they are.
In our Intel build, we find a lot of similarities in the way it blends in with the build, but this time the TF logo is plainly visible, and we even have part of Nick Shih's autograph is reflected in it. With the gap between them on AMD, or stacked next to each other on this Intel system, we like the look of the kit, and we can see where these could be a massive hit for those looking for DDR4 without any sort of lighting.
Test System Details
To obtain the following CPU-Z images as well as the performance seen in the charts, we are using this AMD system to do so. For this system, we were helped by ASUS, Corsair, and GIGABYTE. Shout outs go to them for supporting us!
After clearing CMOS and getting into the BIOS to set DOCP, we can see that the T-Force DRAK Z Alpha does indeed run as intended. Our C8H motherboard automatically changes the VDIMM to 1.35 while still keeping the SOC voltage at 1.08V while delivering the 4000MHz at 18-22-22-42 1T rated speed and timings shown on the packaging.
After running the DOCP benches, we then move to attempt to lower the timings. In this attempt, we did not get far, but for a 4000MHz kit of DDR4, we are pleased to see that we could get them down to 16-21-21-42 1T with full stability at 1T command rate. At this time, we did bump the VDIMM to 1.45 and the SOC to 1.18V.
Using the same voltages as we used for the low-timings benches, we opted to reset the DOCP timings and look for maximum speed. While we did get to 4400MHz in Windows, it was not stable enough for testing, so we opted to run them at 4333MHz with full stability. Still, pretty impressive for as little as we had to do to get here.
Chad's AMD DDR4 Dual-Channel Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASUS Crosshair VIII HERO Wi-Fi - Buy from Amazon
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X - Buy from Amazon
- Cooler: Corsair H150i PRO - Buy from Amazon
- Video Card: GIGABYTE GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER Gaming OC 8GB - Buy from Amazon
- Storage: Corsair Force MP500 480GB NVMe - Buy from Amazon
- Case: Thermaltake Core P5 TG - Buy from Amazon
- Power Supply: Corsair RM750x 750-watt - Buy from Amazon
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bit - Buy from Amazon
To obtain the following CPU-Z images as well as the performance seen in the charts, we are using this Intel system to do so. For this system, we were helped by Corsair, and are using the same card from GIGABYTE seen in the AMD rig. Shout outs go to them for supporting us here as well!
Enabling XMP on the Intel system delivers us 4000MHz of speed with 18-22-22-42 timings, but this time it defaults to the 2T command rate. As for the voltages, our X299 OCF motherboard swapped the VDIMM to 1.35V as expected, but also took the VCCIO and VCCSA to 1.35V for this kit, based on the speed. 1.20V on both VCCIO and VCCSA seemed to work with stability for us, but we left it as-is for testing purposes.
Since the VCCIO and VCCSA were already jacked up to where we feel should be max for daily use, we went back to the BIOS and adjusted only the VDIMM to the 1.45V cap we use. In doing so, we see the same timings reached when trying to lower them here as we did on the AMD system. 16-21-21-42 seems to be the bottom of this kit, even when opting for the 2T command rate.
Overclocking for maximum speed is somewhat hampered on the Intel system. While the BIOS could use some love for the newer memory coming out, we tried all sorts of dividers and bus speeds, all to find that the best we could get with the DARK Z Alpha was the 4133MHz we see in this screenshot.
Chad's Intel DDR4 Dual-Channel Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASRock X299 OCF
- CPU: Intel Core i7 7740X - Buy from Amazon
- Cooler: LEPA NEOllusion - Buy from Amazon
- Video Card: ZOTAC GeForce GTX 970 AMP! Extreme Core
- Storage: Samsung XP941 256GB
- Case: Thermaltake Core P3 - Buy from Amazon
- Power Supply: Corsair RM750 - Buy from Amazon
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bit - Buy from Amazon
Read performance in AIDA 64 is impressive. Roughly 500MB/s faster than any other kit in the chart comparing DOCP to DOCP runs. Lowering the timings took a slight loss to the DOCP run, but at 4333MHz, we gained only 220 MB/s, which is less than expected. Even so, it is hard to deny the DARK Z Alpha with chart-topping results!
The next box in AIDA 64 covers write results, and in this section, we can see that the Vengeance LPX is slightly better. However, when it came to overclocking this RAM, we do see improvements. Lowered timings do not offer much, roughly 340 MB/s boost. However, at 4333MHz, we got over 800 MB/s advantage over DOCP.
Copy performance shows the DARK Z Alpha in a similar light to the write results, behind the Vengeance LPX. What is impressive is the jumps we go with our attempt to clock this kit! Lowering the timings, we see a 2950 MB/s boost in the results, and raw speed at 4333MHz delivers an increase to the tune of 5300 MB/s.
When it comes to latency, the DARK Z Alpha is not that great out of the box, where we saw 81.4 nanoseconds, but slightly better than the LPX. Reducing the timings helps a bit, taking us into the high 70s, and raw speed increase gets us to 75.8 ns.
Using DOCP out of the box, when it comes to Super Pi, they falter with a next to a last-place finish, some ten seconds slower than the LPX. Dropping the timings a bit was a huge benefit, removing thirteen seconds from the DOCP run. Overall, speed delivered the best results, but sadly, they are no better than the Xcalibur kit, which ran at only 3600MHz!
Fire Strike physics is a weird beast, as anything slightly out of tune will wreak havoc on the results, and is reflected in our chart. While the DOCP run delivered a second-place result, and sort of overclocking to the DARK Z Alpha results in worse scores.
PCMark 10 did not like the DARK Z Alpha at all, as using the DOCP profile netted us the last place result! While overclocking does help a bit, it is sad that a 3000MHz kit tops the chart, and our 4333MHz test and lowered latency test both fall way short of that mark!
7-Zip also shows the DARK Z Alpha in a poor light. Next to last out of the box is nothing to write home about, and clocking the kit does help, but again delivers average results.
Sticking with the trend of the last few benchmarks, Cinebench R15 also did not appreciate the TEAM memory. Second to last again, and while lowering the timings helped some, higher speed delivered the worst results in the chart.
Handbrake is also a deal killer, in our opinion! Next to last for the fourth time in a row now is not impressive, to say the least. However, this is a test where clocking the RAM can and does help a ton, but still, get beat by the TOUGHRAM at 3600MHz.
While we expected better results for our XMP run at read performance, we ended up with mediocre numbers. Lowering the timings delivers an advantage of over 2000 MB/s, while the overall increase in speed to 4133MHz is worth only 150 MB/s more.
Write performance is some of the worst we have gotten using the XMP profile on any of the memory in the chart! Changing the timings or increasing speed helps, but not enough to impress us.
The copy performance is very similar to what we just saw with write performance, lackluster at best! Down near the bottom is the XMP run, and while clocking the sticks does help, they get beat by many of the kits, and only one of them is faster, the rest are considerably slower.
Latency is much better than we saw with the AMD system, and the DARK Z Alpha comes in right in the middle with the XMP run. Latency can be improved quite a bit with overclocking, taking this kit much closer to the top of the chart this round.
Seventeen seconds from the lead, the TEAM kit is lacking in performance for Super Pi as well. Not a single kit higher on the chart is faster than the DARK Z Alpha, and no matter which way we opted to try to clock the kit, we ended with very similar results.
The results for 3DMark Fire Strike are quite surprising! We had no thoughts of the DARK Z Alpha doing this well from what we saw in all of the other tests, but it pulls off a first-place finish right out of the box, only enabling XMP. However, counterproductive to the results, overclocking in this test was worth a considerable loss in points.
PCMark 10 has our XMP run third from the bottom of the chart, which is disappointing again. Lowering the timings helped with points, and trying 4133MHz offered a few more, but still further down the list than it should be considering what we are dealing with.
7-Zip hammers this kit as well, leaving TEAM at the bottom of the chart, again! We were able to reduce the run by twenty-four seconds with overclocking, but they are still nearly forty seconds out of the lead!
Cinebench results for the XMP run are near the bottom of the chart, as we have come to expect now. While the points difference is small from best to worse, overclocking the TEAM DDR4 shows some merit in the results shown in green.
At this point, we are out of synonyms for poor results as we see the DARK Z Alpha at the bottom of another chart. However, if you like to clock the memory, it has its advantages with an eighteen-second reduction opting for lower timings, and another thirteen seconds on top of that if opting for 4133MHz of speed.
With what TEAM has delivered, we found many things we appreciate when it comes to DDR4. It comes from a company in which we have found their products to be quite good in the past, and left us with expectations of what we assumed this RAM could do. We have no issues with the aesthetics either! We got a blacked-out kit of memory using brushed black aluminum heat spreaders, which are highly stylized. We like that the T-Force name is painted on the top edges, we like that the DARK Z Alpha is painted on the viewable side, and the reflective chrome logo in the center is the cherry on top. However, once past the visual appeal, it seems that TEAM was not looking to make this memory anything special beyond the bragging rights of the 4000MHz speed offered in the T-Force DARK Z Alpha kit we have in our hands!
In our AMD test system, things started well with a few results we could get behind, but once we passed AIDA 64, only 3DMark Fire Strike shows this kit in a good light, the other six tests were not impressive. On the Intel rig, things got even worse for the DARK Z Alpha! This time around, there is only one test, 3DMark Fire Strike that seemed to play well with this kit, the other nine benches shows this ran to be sub-par. While visual appeal is a huge factor, for us, the bottom line is performance, as we will gladly take something ugly that kills it in our charts. What we have here is the opposite. We have something attractive to look at, there is a complete lack of illumination, but once beyond that, we honestly have little good to say about it.
At this moment, we still cannot locate this kit on this side of the pond. We do see the slower speed version on offer, but as to the 4000MHz DARK Z Alpha we have, there are no legit listings to reference. While not always right, in this instance, you get what you pay for! With the lowest pricing for a 16GB kit of 4000MHz memory at $99, something had to give to make this happen. While we have no issues in the past with Hynix ICs being a deal killer like this, it is possible they ICs are just poor quality, to begin with, and TEAM did the best they could with what they had. However, if it were our money, we would be looking to G.Skill, Patriot, Crucial, or another TEAM kit. As cool as they look, and as well as they were a perfect visual fit for both of our test systems, after seeing the results, it is hard to advise you go out and spend the money to get beat by a 3000MHz kit!
The Bottom Line
The DARK Z Alpha are brilliant aesthetically, and the lack of LEDs will make many happy. Even though this is the most affordable 16GB 4000MHz kit out right now, it tanks in its performance and left us disappointed.