The Bottom Line
Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
In all the time we have tinkered with computers, we cannot honestly say we recall ever using a product from PNY. There is a fleeting memory of some DDR2, but the more we think about it, it seems we were admiring someone else's kit, as the XLR8 logo back then was scripted on the heat spreaders, and for some reason struck us.
However, PNY makes a ton of products we have seen many others buy throughout the years, but as far as any personal anecdotes as to use of their gear, we are coming up empty. It is a rare occurrence when we are looking at a company and what they have sent, with unbiased eyes!
Digging deep into our filing cabinet of memories, we seem to recall that PNY, in the early days, offered RAM with bare PCBs, and if they were covered with a heat spreader, they were relatively tame. This concept carried on through DDR1 and DDR2, even with their top-tier offerings, but when they released the Anarchy series, they delivered DDR3 with more attractive heat spreaders. Splashes of color, a sticker inset into a shape that looks a lot like bird wings extended outward. Again, this carried over to DDR4, where the Anarchy series continued, but now PNY has delivered the most aggressive looking XLR8 RAM we have ever seen!
With the rest of the manufacturers out there moving to 32GB of density in two sticks as basic kits now, and PNY followed suit. We plan to put this PNY XLR8 kit through the wringer and see how it stacks up! For those, like us, who have somehow not had the chance to try PNY gear, stick around and see what we find. No matter the outcome, we can all gain some perspective on what PNY and the XLR8 line of DDR4 are all about!
In the chart we found on the PNY product page, we see what PNY has to say about the kit we have in hand. Widely known as PNY XLR8, our kit is the MD32GK2D4320016XR model, to be exact. It is a two-stick kit of DDR4, each stick housing 16GB worth of ICs on the PCB for this dual-channel kit. Speed tops out at 3200MHz via the XMP 2.0 profile, utilizing 16-18-18-36 2T timings, requiring 1.35V to do so. The list of speed compatibility shows us nothing more than all of the dividers that can be used from 2133MHz to 3200MHz.
The last thing on the chart indicates that you need Windows 10 or older operating systems, so essentially, anything running a Windows OS should be excellent, although we are not sure how an OS plays into the RAM functionality. What is not shown in the chart is that the warranty for the XLR8 memory is a lifetime warranty.
Looking at the PNY consumer memory tab, we find that you can get the XLR8 in 16GB or 32GB kits, like the one we have, but you also can buy a 2666MHz kit of these. However, they come with only two 8GB sticks in those kits.
Pricing is fair compared to everything else we see online in a 32GB, 3200MHz kit of DDR4. At the bottom of the barrel, pricing starts at $114.99 in this market, and with the $129.99 of the PNY XLR8 that we have, its only $15 over the baseline. Comparatively, we see kits like the Vengeance LPX, TridentZ, and T-Force offerings at this price point. We do know what to expect from those lines of DDR4, so at least we have an idea of what to expect for the money.
Also, with much or our testing lately, we have seen many more 32GB kits that have performed admirably, so PNY has a bit of a hill to climb to compete toe to toe.
Packaging and PNY XLR8
Our PNY XLR8 showed up to our door in this clear plastic packaging that snugly held the RAM in place. Across the top of it, we find the XLR8 name, and to the right of it is the type, speed, density, latency, and voltage. Between the sticks are the speeds this kit can run, and at the bottom is PNY's name.
On the back of the cardboard insert, we see the PNY name to the left of the bar code, which contains the model number. The list of features and specifications are next, the same as what we showed earlier in the review. We then run into the lifetime warranty information, how to get support, and where to contact PNY.
From what we know of the XLR8 line in the past, these are the most aggressive looking heat spreaders we have seen on them. We are not sure of the design's concept, but to us, it looks like eagle wings with the trailing feathers at the top. We like the contrast of matte black with the bold red in the center of the top edge, as well as the accents in the stickers.
Flipping either of the sticks over, on the left end of the stick, you will find the product sticker. The part number refers to the individual stick and not the kit, but we do see the density, speed, full timings, and voltage of the XMP 2.0 profile. Otherwise, both sides of these sticks are identical.
Looking at the top of the XLR8 sticks, we see that the black heat spreader is split down the middle and adhered to the ICs and PCBs. The red accent is a separate component that clips over the top, which also aids in ensuring the heat spreader does not open up over time.
As we do, we fired up Thaiphoon Burner and had a look at what sort of ICs we have under the hood. We find that we are running Hynix ICs, but some of the model numbers are blanked out. We see that these are H5AN8G8N??R-UHC, but we are guessing these are AFR-UHC chips.
While we don't have any red accents in our AMD system, you can see just how well the red pops against the sea of black. We do not mind the design and styling of this kit in the slightest, although you do need to keep in mind that they are 43.5mm tall.
While we do not advise that gamers run out and buy 64GB worth of RAM, we do like the look of these sticks placed next to each other, and with a four-DIMM motherboard, all slots populated would look best. We also like that even though PNY used large product stickers, they placed it on the proper side as not to detract from the appeal of the overall design.
Test System Details
To obtain the AMD CPU-Z screenshots, you will see directly following this image, and this is the system we used to do it, as well as in attaining the results seen in the following pages. Thanks go out to Corsair, ASUS, and GIGABYTE for supporting this venture. For detailed specifications of the system, those can be found below.
With our AMD system running the PNY XLR8, we enabled DOCP, and it results in what you see in the screenshot. The kit is running at 3200MHz with the stated 16-18-18-36, and the command rate changed to 1 for us. There is nothing out of the ordinary to discuss.
Even though we tried to lower the timing, we tried all things that resulted in various POST codes or failures in testing. The lowest stable timings are what you get with DOCP on our system. We also tried to overclock the speed of the XLR8 kit and came up empty again. We were able to see 3266MHz in Windows, but could not pass testing. Anything beyond that is not worth trying.
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 the XMP profile delivered us to what we were shown we would get; 3200MHz of speed with 16-18-18-38 2T timings, using 1.35VDIMM to run. Our VCCIO was set at 1.20V and the VCCSA at 1.35V, done automatically by our ASRock motherboard.
Our Intel setup reacted to the Hynix ICs differently, and while the secondary timings would not move a single tick, we were able to get CAS14 stable with 1.45VDIMM applied.
Sadly, no matter what we tried, if we raised the RAM speed, our XLR8 sticks would not allow the system to boot, as we could not pass the POST stage.
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
In the AIDA64 read test, we see that the PNY XLR8 is beaten by only one 3200MHz kit, which is the Ballistix, but only by a margin of four MB/s! The kit may not be flexible, but what it does do, it does well!
Write performance is the best at the given speed and density, sixty-two MB/s over the Ballistix in this chart.
The copy performance is also top of the heap in 3200MHz kits for the XLR8 and is nearly 100 MB/s faster than the Crucials this time. Leading two of these three tests is a good result.
Our AMD system latency blends in with the other similar kits with the 80ns we saw in AIDA64. However, of the 32GB 3200MHz kits in the chart, the PNY XLR8 delivered the lowest latency.
Calculating Pi can be an experience similar to watching paint dry, but the reality of running it is that it will separate fine-tuned DDR4 from all the rest. In this instance, the PNY XLR8 memory delivered a 4.2-second advantage over the next comparable set of 3200MHz RAM in the chart.
Our set of PNY XLR8 loved the Physics test in 3DMark Fire Strike. Taking a second-place finish, forty-two points behind a much faster set is a terrific result, as it just slides past the Crucial Ballistix score by fifteen points.
In PCMark 10, when looking at the overall score, we find that the PNY XLR8 kit is still running head to head with the Crucial Ballistix, losing by a single point, we may as well say they tied in this benchmark.
If file compression takes up much of your day, the PNY XLR8 is the kit to have. We took another two-plus seconds off the overall time with the XLR8 kit, landing it well into the lead, and is almost three seconds faster for every 8GB of data compared to the Ballistix.
Cinebench R15 tells us a slightly different story, leaving the PNY XLR8 near the bottom of the chart. However, keep in mind that we are dealing with a spread of three to four points from first to last. Overall, it could be better, but this one score is not a deal killer in itself.
Use of Handbrake is something a lot more are doing these days with all of the videos out in the wild these days, and with just over 4GB of data to transcode, the XLR8 RAM came in third place overall. Considering the slight loss to the Ballistixs to the tune of nearly seven seconds, we have no complaints about the results.
When using the XMP profile, the XLR8 kit delivered the best read performance across all of the 3200MHx kits, over 200 MB/s faster than the next kit in line. Dropping the CAS timing to 14 did increase performance, where we see a boost in the performance of 259 MB/s.
While the PNY kit just so slightly slides into the lead of the 3200MHz kits when it comes to write bandwidth, as the 47972 MB/s score is only nineteen MB/s faster than the set of Crucial Ballistix. Lowering the timing to CAS14 does give us a 119MB/s upgrade.
By nearly 300 MB/s, the PNY XLR8 passes the next competitor in copy performance. While the XMP results are strong enough, we were still able to draw out another 238 MB/s out of the kit, opting to run it at CAS14 instead of CAS16.
Like we found with AMD testing, latency is not the best in class, but in our opinion, latency does not always equal performance, as seen by the three previous charts. However, at the same time, the latency is slightly better than what we saw when testing the set of Ballistix RAM.
At 443.3 seconds to complete thirty-two million digits of pi is an impressive score for the XMP 2.0 profile, standing strong in second place overall! We were able to gain 1.1 seconds by reducing the CAS to 14 but still cannot surpass the faster Fury RAM at the top of the chart.
Unlike the surprising AMD results in 3DMark Fire Strike, the physics portion, on our Intel-based system, the XMP 2.0 results are weak. Dropping things to CAS14, we did move up the chart four places, but ever so slightly lost to the Ballistix by two measly points.
Five points behind the Ballistix are where the PNY XLR8 fits into the PCMark 10 overall scores. Lowering the CAS does take us past the Ballistix, but only by fourteen points, nothing to get overly excited about.
PNY XLR8 likes 7-zip compression, where it lands in sixth place overall, punching above its weight class, and is the fastest 3200MHz kit in the chart. Reducing the CAS timing does give us over 6.5 seconds of our life back for every 7.62GB of files we compress!
While the XLR8 places second in 3200MHz kits, just outpaced by the 16GB kit of XPower Turbine RAM, the PNY kit placed some five spots higher than the Ballistix we have been comparing it to all this time. Lowering the CAS timing does very little for us in Cinebench R15, as the score only improved by 0.05 points.
On this X299 based system, the PNY XLR8 shows well in this run of Handbrake! Overall, the fourth place is terrific, mixed in with kits faster than it, and outpaces the next set of 3200MHz RAM by over two seconds for every 4.19GB of video we transcode. If you do transcoding often, the CAS14 run does show there are yet another four-plus seconds to gain from the XLR8!
As we do, we will be as blunt as possible. While we did not know what to expect from PNY when it comes to DDR4 or the XLR8 line, in any form, we are torn. On the one hand, we have a kit of DDR4, which can run out of the box with DOCP or XMP profiles enabled, and deliver some of the best scores we have seen from a 32GB kit of 3200MHz RAM, pretty much across the board.
There were a couple of tests across both systems where we feel that PNY could have scoured better, but overall the kit is impressive for delivering us with what we were told we would get, along with the feeling we have some DDR4 worth its weight.
For those of you looking for a 3200MHz, 32GB kit of DDR4 without any sort of lighting added, the XLR8 we have tested is some of the best-performing memory out of the box that we have tested with the same speed, density, and primary timings.
There is the flip side to this, and while it is never guaranteed to get any sort of overclocking, it is rare what a kit won't budge at all one the AMD system, and even with the Intel testing, we see it would give much when it did allow us to change the settings. However, when we ponder kits like the Ballistic, the XPower Turbine, even the Vengeance, TridentZ, or anything made by TEAM, flexibility was there in almost all other kits. However, when you by the Hynix based kits from PNY, you are buying a kit that is already, essentially, at maximum capability.
Again, this is not a "bad thing," but compared to everything else we see, we will say we are disappointed in this regard. To be fair, we will have to remove a few points when considering the performance of this kit, as it does include overclocking for products such as RAM. At the same time, it won't be much, as the performance we did get from the DOCP and XMP profiles do help us not to be as harsh.
In what we saw from the PNY XLR8, you may not get to tinker as much as you can with other memory out there, but the charts do not lie. Trading blows with the Crucial Ballistix, and beating it in quite a few, considering it is $30 more for the Ballistix, the XLR8 kit looks even more impressive!
At just $129.99, we feel that the PNY XLR8 did their job well, and even with little room for the overclocker out there, if you are looking for plug-and-play performance without the need to do anything beyond setting the profile as active, on either AMD or Intel, these are the sticks you want! As this is our first time with any PNY product for review, we do have to give it to them for what they can do in our charts, and at a price, many can afford!
Some of the best performing DDR4 at 3200MHz just so happens to be from PNY. Our XLR8 kit may not have had much wiggle room, but the performance we got at the price it is available at is a combination that is hard to pass by!
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