As you can see the shipping container that Ballistix is using for their new Elite addition has been nicely upgraded. Without putting down the ‘old style’ that our previous Elite’s came housed in, this new Elite shipping container is darn near perfect. Not only can you open the flap and see the actual sticks of RAM, but the first impression that this box provides is also excellent. This double flap box simply exudes elegance… and unlike say Apple it also comes with all the information you need to make an informed decision. Quite honestly, this is how all premium sets of RAM should come housed in.
The one thing that may be disappointing is the accessories included… or more precise the lack of accessories. To be even more precise, there are no accessories included. All that you will find in this upgraded box is the RAM sticks themselves. Nothing more, nothing less.
Some will find this disappointing as usually when you spend this amount of money for RAM you get something. A case badge, a sticker… something. We personally think it actually shows a level of maturity as those cheap little stickers and goo-gaws needlessly add to the price and we are not ‘into’ covering our PC case with stickers. You may feel differently, but we think this is an example of Ballistix’s commitment to value and is great foreshadowing for the RAM itself.
Moving on. Let’s start with the large and angry elephant in the room. Ballistix may have spent a lot of time and effort in upgrading the shipping container but they have not spent any time ‘refreshing’ the aesthetics of the new DDR4-3600 Elite models. To be blunt, they come clad in the exact same black heat spreader/heat sinks, they have the same styling… and basically, look exactly like earlier (read slower) Elite models. This means no new color options, no new styling… and certainly nothing as ‘radical’ as LEDs or motherboard manufacture color coordination.
This does put the new Elite at a distinct disadvantage compared to the Sport and Tactical series – where the Sport has color options and/or motherboard manufacturer branding, and the Tactical has the Tracer RGB series. Basically, the new Elite follows firmly in the footsteps of its predecessors… so if black will not work with your custom build the Elite may actually not be the optimal choice.
That is the downside, the upside is that the Elite series always had some of the most elegant looking sticks of RAM going. Sure, they never speak to your inner-child with ‘wings’ or ‘claws’ but for high end builds where elegance is key it is hard to beat the Elite. As you can see, they really do look stunning when installed… even on an open testbed that is ‘dusty’.
Furthermore, it is hard to argue with change just for the sake of change… as the ‘old school’ Elite heat spreader is easily one of the best on the market. Not only does it have mass thanks to a huge chunk of metal on the top of each stick, it is actually more accurate to call these chunks of armor-thick metal cladding heat sinks and not heat spreaders like most RAM come equipped with.
This is because they not only have mass but actively transfer heat away from the RAM ICs. If you look closely at each side of the Elite 3600 DIMM you will notice the ‘sides’ are not solid chunks of metal (like on most RAM sticks). Instead, there are small gaps where air can flow into and around the RAM ICS. Yes, in theory this means that one side will be cooler than the other, but the reality is (when used in a case with good airflow) these ventilation slits act as a ‘chimney’ which will cause air to be sucked up the other side, hit the top topper chunk of metal (also cooling it) and then flow out the edges of the DIMM. On top of this design feature, is a long cooling strip of metal on each side that will also act as a cooling fin (like in a CPU fin array). This additional fin increases surface area well beyond what typical RAM heat spreaders can offer, and with only a modicum of airflow keeps the RAM ICs directly underneath cool. This is why Ballistix’s engineers did not really want to mess with such a winning combination… even if it is a little dated in the aesthetics department.
It is also why the Ballistix Elite series can handle voltages and temperatures that can actually damage more mundane RAM sticks. Yes, RAM is very robust and durable, but when pushing past the boundaries of sanity there does come a point where heat will start playing a critical role in the success or failure of an overclock’s long term stability. It will also play a role in hole long the RAM IC’s last before ‘burning out’.
The only downside is they are going to be taller than the typical set of RAM. To specific the Elite DDR4-3600 (just as with all the other Elite DDR4 models) are 40.75mm(ish) tall. This is still low profile enough to not matter much when dealing with most large CPU cooling solutions, but they are noticeably taller than say Corsairs ‘LPX’ type models (on the right in the above the picture). Conversely, they are not that much taller than G.Skill Flare X type models (on the left in the above picture)… and look much more elegant. Basically, if you need low profile RAM, this is not the series for you. If you need RAM that can shrug of heat fast this is the series for you.
Of course, the RAM IC’s themselves play an even bigger role in how fast and hard you can push a set of RAM. So it should come as no surprise that Ballistix is using highly, highly binned Micron D9VPP RAM ICs. In a very interesting twist, as we will go over in the overclocking section in greater detail, Ballistix Elite line does not ‘top out’ at a ‘mere’ DDR4-3600 frequency speed. What this means is why these are highly binned ICs… they are not binned so tightly that there will be zero overclocking headroom. This is something to keep in mind as many other companies DDR4-3600 model is their ‘middle top’ model and the ICs used are the ones that ‘failed’ to make it at DDR4-38xx or DDR4-4000 frequencies. Put simply Ballistic is being highly conservative with their DDR4-3600 factory rating on this new model. With a bit of TLC you can push them even harder, higher, and faster without breaking a sweat.
Equally important is that these IC’s can not only handle extremely high frequencies and voltages, but also are equally happy at lower frequencies and 1.2v. Yes, these ICs not only allow a ton of headroom but are extremely user-friendly. They really are ‘plug and play’ sticks which will allow a motherboard to boot up the first time, every time… even if the XMP profile is not activated. This too is something that few other uber frequency models can boast of the offering.
Overall the Ballistix Elite may not have gotten a make-over… but it is hard to argue with success. Great ease of use, good (enough) looks, excellent cooling, even better overclocking potential, that is a lot to like and very little to dislike. Now let’s crank them up and see what they can do on the overclocking front!