We got acquainted with a set of DDR4-3200 Thermaltake ToughRAM RGB memory modules at the end of the year before last. The acquaintance was short – as one would expect, peer-to-peer 8 GB sticks built on SK Hynix chips were primarily focused on making beautiful, and not on some outstanding overclocking results, etc. The second reason for them the appearance in the Thermaltake range is simply an extension of the range in itself.
The company is actively engaged in coolers and cases, including those with backlighting, so it is not useless to offer the buyer also backlit memory modules. Moreover, even modules are not necessary – for example, the company has already been producing liquid cooling systems, designed not only for the processor, but also memory, with some success. And “just water blocks”, both individually and together with four memory modules, appeared even earlier.
In general, it is clear that memory itself is secondary here. First of all – cooling (no matter how much it really is needed – since there is demand, there will be supply) and backlighting. So at that time it was not only about some extreme situations, but the standard capabilities of the company’s modules were quite modest: only 8 GB and frequencies of 3000, 3200 and 3600 MHz. In principle, such an approach could not win the hearts of enthusiasts, as well as make the company a serious player in the memory module market. But in terms of sales, it was fully justified. There are buyers, and there are enough of them to continue working in this area. And even continue to develop it – which is what Thermaltake did.
Thermaltake ToughRAM RGB DDR4-3600 16Gb (RG26D408GX2-3600C18A)
The main family itself has grown in frequencies up to 4600 MHz, and white ones have been added to the modules with black heatsinks. There are also two “special” kits for 3600 MHz – Racing Red with red radiators and Metallic Gold – respectively, with gold. Naturally, in all cases we are talking only about a different color of the coating of standard aluminum radiators, but back to the beginning – the appearance was initially put at the forefront here.
As for the form, but the content, it has hardly changed – the basis is again DDR4-2666 SK Hynix. Unless the H5AN8G8NCJR-VJC changed to H5AN8G8NCJR-VKC, but such chips in Thermaltake modules were already encountered two years ago, and, in any case, the Hynix CRJ series has never been loved by enthusiasts. However, frequencies of the order of 3600 MHz and a little more are given to this memory without problems, and no one promised much more. This is what the company is currently using for its kits with 4000+ frequencies – an interesting question, but we do not know the answer to it yet. So let’s move on to the next hero – whom we can get to know right now.
Thermaltake ToughRAM XG RGB DDR4-3600 16Gb (R016D408GX2-3600C18A)
These kits with a slightly different design are also available in 3600, 4000, 4400 and 4600 MHz versions, but for now we will have to limit ourselves to the younger kit. Inside which…
Find 10 differences, as they say. Well, or at least one 🙂 In fact, there is one quantitative thing here: if in all ToughRAM RGB modifications the backlight consists of 10 addressable LEDs, then in ToughRAM XG RGB there are already 16. And the design is slightly different – although it appears only visually: in fact even the height of the modules coincides up to a millimeter, so that they are completely interchangeable (and taking into account the same element base – completely completely). In general, the aesthetic component continues to evolve – and if someone does not like one of the appearance options, then the company is ready to offer more than one alternative directly from its warehouse. But inside it will be the same – up to manufacturing errors.
What exactly? And we decided to check this, armed with an Intel Core i9-11900K processor and an Asus ROG Maximus XIII Hero board on the Intel Z590 chipset. Note right away that both sets behaved in the same way (which is natural), so in what follows we will consider them the same. Moreover, most likely, everything can be extended to other DDR4-3600 Thermaltake kits – we will be very surprised if it turns out that they are now at least somewhat different.
By default, the memory runs at 2666 MHz with fairly conservative timings. If desired, you can twist them a little, but in general, this mode of operation is not “basic”. But this value of the “base” frequency is not bad in any case: the market still offers a huge number of “overclocking” modules, by default running only at 2133 MHz. It is clear that further you can do the settings (otherwise, and why buy it) – but the manufacturers are already a little tired of such savings on matches. Now, in general, no one bothers to pass JEDEC certification even at 3200 MHz – the nominal maximum for memory controllers of processors on the market. But everyone wants to save money, so against this background, 2666, we repeat, is already good.
In the simplest case, the “official” mode from the manufacturer’s point of view is triggered by loading an XMP profile. Many “very high-frequency” modules have problems with this, but not in this case – 3600 1.35 V for Hynix CRJ is simple. Timings are even slightly better than in JEDEC mode, but nothing more. But we didn’t manage to improve them. However, the goal was not set – we decided to try to increase the frequency.
Immediately swung at 4000 MHz. Surprisingly, the system cheerfully ate it – and even Windows booted. However, when I tried to run any test, my memory crashed with a terrible thud. Increasing the voltage within reasonable limits did not help. Games with timings – they could. Only now, the benefits of them are already limited. The fact is that in Rocket Lake, the memory controller can operate in two modes: 1: 1 with the memory frequency (Gear 1) and 1: 2 (Gear 2). The second theoretically reduces the power consumption of the controller and allows you to achieve higher memory frequencies – but in practice, its performance is no longer something that does not grow, but may decrease. The scheme, which has spoiled a lot of blood for Ryzen users (at least for those of them who are still trying to tune and overclock something), has now come to Intel platforms. And it is unlikely to leave in the foreseeable future.
Therefore, we decided to “probe” this threshold, moving in small steps. Leaving the controller operating mode in Auto, set the frequency to 3733 MHz. Everything worked fine – but the latencies increased dramatically: somewhere up to the “average” DDR4-2933 level.
Manual fixation of the 1: 1 mode worked – everything returned to normal. Including the parrots in the AIDA64 tests, and all of them. For ease of perception, we have collected them all in a small table.
But the 3800 did not work in 1: 1 mode. As expected, since many have already hit the ceiling at the level of 3600-3700 MHz (regardless of the memory used). In general, officially, only the new Core i9s are required to work with at least DDR4-3200 in Gear 1 – all Core i5 and i7 specifications are limited in this case by the memory frequency of 2933 MHz (standard and for older Comet Lake). Fortunately, they do not know about this – and at such frequencies in Gear 2 they do not try to switch. The upper “ceiling” is already technical, not official – so it is unlikely to disappear somewhere in the foreseeable future. Maybe it will get higher, but hardly within the LGA1200.
As a result, a rather amusing situation develops on the market – in terms of memory overclocking, for the first time in many years, there is parity between AMD and Intel platforms. Firstly, it is already supported by all chipsets (well, almost all – Intel H510 remained deprived, but it is not a pity), so this way of increasing performance has lost all its former “elite”. Secondly, he also lost a fair part of the meaning too. The dual-mode memory controllers Ryzen and modern Cores lead to the fact that sometimes it is better to stop. Or really seriously raise the memory frequency – up to 4500+ MHz, which not all modules are capable of, to put it mildly.
And it is not always easy to predict how this will affect long-term operation, and not on one-time experiments. But the once popular (in narrow circles) memory modules with frequencies of the order of 4000 MHz are no longer fish or meat in modern conditions. There is no point in chasing such modes of operation on purpose, since a decrease in the frequency will lead to an increase in performance (albeit small, but this is generally typical for memory). So it’s better to save money by limiting ourselves to the current frequency range of 3.2-3.8 GHz. Or not to save too much – but invest not in megahertz, but in capacity – yes, or at least in appearance. A couple of years ago, Thermaltake relied on beautiful modules. Now we can say that we were right, as if they knew something in advance.