Crucial Ballistix Elite 4000MHz Review

👤by Matthew Hodgson Comments 📅10-09-19
As far as performance is concerned, the Ballistix Elite ticks many boxes, but our graphs unfortunately don’t paint the full picture and we’ll go on to explain why.
Firstly, you will notice that our AIDA64 memory tests show the kit in a distinctly positive light, achieving strong results in all of the throughput tests. However the 18-19-19-39 timings, compared to tighter offerings further down the frequency scale, do hinder it somewhat in the latency tests. Everything is ‘as expected’ so far, but then if we move onto the Cinebench or gaming tests some disparity arrives.

To explain this, we first need to briefly go over two major AMD Ryzen 3000-series clock domains. Communication between cores and dies - notably the CCD and IOD - is over Infinity Fabric, while memory and the IOD communicate at DRAM speeds. Infinity Fabric is synced to the underlying DRAM clock in a 1:1 ratio, i.e. a 3000MHz RAM kit (or more precisely a 3000 MT/s kit) would operate at 1500MHz, and Infinity Fabric would also run at 1500MHz.

To ensure stability within the system AMD have set a ceiling limit of 1866MHz for the Infinity Fabric, an effective DRAM frequency of 3722MHz. If this is exceeded then the Infinity Fabric operating frequency steps down via a 1:2 ratio.

Now, with that out of the way, we can expect the AMD Ryzen 3800X in our test rig to be running a 1000MHz IF and 2000MHz(x2) on the memory, for a 4000MHz effective DDR frequency. This has a knock-on effect to the processor’s performance compared to a kit running at, or close to, the CPUs ‘sweet spot’ of 3600-3733MHz memory.

Of course, something that can be done to remedy the situation is to drop the DRAM frequency to 3600MHz, re-engaging that 1:1 frequency but then why wouldn’t you just save some money and buy Crucial’s 3600MHz kit with tighter timings straight out of the box? Within the motherboard BIOS is the option to manually engage the 1:1 ratio but that brings with it stability concerns and there's no guarantees that your processor would run happily at 2000MHz - after all, AMD have put the Infinity Fabric frequency ceiling in place for a reason.

There’s no RGB lighting to worry about, throughput thanks to the 4000MHz frequency will definitely have its benefits in specific scenarios, but giving up on gaming performance by hampering the CPU isn’t ideal.

At £220 in the UK and $240 in the US, the Ballistix Elite is a bit above where we expected to see it. Similar kits, equipped with a substantial heatsink and with identical DRAM timings, can be found for nearly £50 less.

Crucial’s Ballistix Elite 4000MHz kit is blazing fast and looks great but they’re currently far too expensive for us to recommend.

+ Lovely aesthetics
+ Hefty heatsinks on each module
+ Backed by lifetime warranty
+ Good throughput thanks to 4000MT/s speeds

- Costly
- Doesn’t compliment AMD Ryzen 3000-series CPUs well

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