G.Skill TridentX F3-2666C11Q-16GTXD 4x4 GB 2666 MHz C11
I don't need to say much about G.Skill as they are one of the most well established brands when it comes to enthusiast hardware. I've personally bought many sets of theirs over the years and each one has always met or exceeded my expectations. If you take a look at any motherboard QVL list, you'll more than likely find G.Skill on that list every time. I know I have. That small thing of having their memory kits with the board makers while building a product ensures that their modules work with nearly any motherboard on the market.
Here's what G.SKILL has to say about themselves:
<th scope="row">SPEED RATING:</th>
<td>DDR3-2666 (PC3-21300) </td>
<th scope="row">RATED TIMINGS:</th>
<td>16GB (4 GB x4) </td>
<th scope="row">TESTED VOLTAGE:</th>
<th scope="row">PCB TYPE:</th>
<th scope="row">ERROR CHECKING:</th>
<th scope="row">FORM FACTOR:</th>
<td>240-pin DIMM </td>
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The box of the G.Skill F3-2666C11Q-16GTXD kit is very basic, and the plain brown cardboard container really fails to amaze. I think G.Skill knows you'll just toss the box aside, so there is not much point in it being fancy, and the simple packaging has to help them keep costs on these high-end kits pretty low. One side of the box has G.Skill's contact info and a few stickers: one for each individual module and one for the kit itself.
Upon opening the box, I found a fan on top! Placing a fan on top of any memory running at over 2400 MHz is highly recommended, and nearly every such kit comes with one. I removed the fan and a piece of paper from the box and found the sticks to be hiding underneath of a cardboard divider.
I found four memory sticks wrapped in individual foam sleeves, the fan, a case badge, and a manual for the fan. The case badge is a nice freebie.
A Closer Look
Removed from the protective sleeves, the G.Skill F3-2666C11Q-16GTXD kit makes quite the impression. Each DIMM stick has a lot of heft due to the cooling. One side has the DIMM sticker on its right end; it matches the sticker placed on the outside of the box. These labels go a long way in helping you put the kit back together if you, like me, happen to have a few kits strewn about. On the label are the part number, the primary timings of the stick, and some serial numbers stuff. There is also a holographic G.skill logo to prevent counterfeiting.
The side of the DIMM with the label is obscured by said label, but you get a very different look after flipping the stick over, since the other side has both stylized G.skill and TridentX logos.
If you look carefully, you can see that each stick is made with a high-end 8-layer PCB. They are proven to help memory clock higher than a 6-layer PCB. Opposite to that are the gold "GC" letters I've seen so often.
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The end of the connector on the DIMM has the heatsink recess just far enough for it to fit into any 240-pin DDR3 slot properly. The top has a bunch of stretched-out spikes, and they are sharp, I might add. I literally poked myself hard enough to draw blood while trying to insert the DIMMs into my test board, but that makes sense, since the F3-2666C11Q-16GTXD kit is a TridentX kit, and such a name should carry some weight! If you look at the profile of the DIMM, you can see that it is shaped like a trident and tridents are pokey underwater weapons, are they not? Interesting. Tridents are weapons for water, and many overclocked systems are watercooled! Now the name REALLY makes sense. Although I don't see any signs of Poseidon...
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The included fan is small and feels a bit cheap. It's made out of a simple single piece of metal that has been cut and folded into shape. The fans attach to the frame using four screws each, with a single 4-pin Molex-type plug coming out to provide the fan with power. Each fan is rated to pull 0.8W for a total of 1.6W combined, or so I assume. When power is supplied, the fans light up blue, which seems out of place with a red and black kit.
Water-Cooled System Install
Installation of the G.Skill F3-2666C11Q-16GTXD kit into a system cooled with an AIO watercooler is very simple. Simply slide all four sticks into a slot. Be careful not to forget that these are pokey weapons of the Maritimes! The middle of the stick has a flat part you can push down on to make sure the DIMM is secure.
Now, clip the fan into place. I, as you can see, don't have a graphics card installed yet, and for good reason. There might not be a lot of clearance on some motherboards, and although it may seem to be tight, most motherboards will not run into the issue of the fan and installed expansion cards hitting each other. However, that's not always the case, so it's best to fit the fan before installing your VGA.
Air-Cooled System Install
My memory testbench is now based around the ASUS Maximus V Extreme motherboard I reviewed a short time ago. These DIMMS need airflow, but the close proximity of the uppermost PCIe slot to the DIMM slots just wouldn't allow the fan to fit. Air cooling it is then. Unfortunately, the DIMM's 53.51mm height poses a problem with the CPU cooler's fan in the proper position.
Like a mermaid come ashore, these TridentX sticks can shed their fins! Simply use a properly-sized screwdriver to remove the screws at both ends and you can slide the top red heatsink right off. It might be a good idea to put these back into the box in case you need them later! ;)
Their lowered height of 39.56mm allows me to put the CPU fan in place. I left the other two fins in place because the fan only hangs over two of the DIMMs, although I installed them after the fan was in place. As you can see above, removing this heatsink is quick and easy, which allows for an installation in a situation where other memory sticks with tall heatsinks won't fit. Yes, I'm talking to you, Dominator Platinums!
This functionality is something that sets these sticks apart from other high-end enthusiast DIMMs, since they nearly always have very large heatsinks. What amazes me more is that heat is actually transferred from the main DIMM heatsink to the upper portion quite effectively, even after re-installation. All those ridges and valleys that hold the fin in place also add surface area for the DIMM to transfer heat with.
Memory Performance Results
<th colspan="2">Test System</th>
<td>Intel Core i7-3770K <br />
4.6 GHz(OC), 8 MB Cache</td>
<td>16 GB DDR3 (4 x 4 GB) G.Skill TridentX 2666 MHz C11</td>
<td>Cooler Master TPC-812</td>
<td>ASUS Maximus V Extreme<br />
Intel Z77 Express, BIOS ver. 0021</td>
<th scope="row">Video Card:</th>
<td>ASUS DirectCUII HD 7970 3 GB @ 1050/1500</td>
<td>OCZ Nocti 60GB mSATA 3 Gb/s</td>
<th scope="row">Power Supply:</th>
<td>Antec P280<br /></td>
<td>Windows 7 64-bit SP1, ATI Catalyst 13.2 Beta 5 </td>
I am using a fairly decent CPU overclock for all testing because greater CPU overlocks allow for greater memory performance increases to be properly utilized. I have picked many different benchmarks that show these differences, but not all workloads are going to see the same gains as these hand-picked benchmarks show. To show the increases, I started with two different memory kits, one from Samsung and one from Patriot. The Samsung kit is a 1600 MHz kit that features normal JEDEC timings for that speed; it is rated at 11-11-11-28-1T. The second kit is a much older high-performance kit that was meant to be used with P55 chipsets but missed out on full support with a SandyBridge CPU, since those CPUs didn't support the Patriot kit's 2000 MHz XMP speed with 9-10-9-27-3T timings natively. IvyBridge differs from SandyBridge in many ways, but one of the most important changes for gamers and overclockers is the addition of many more memory dividers, such as 2000 MHz, which makes this old kit useful again with IvyBridge. It wasn't matched to any of SandyBridge's default multipliers. I have spent several months testing these kits with various boards and both have worked great. I also test using a single ASUS DirectCUII HD 7970 3 GB video card at an overclocked speed of 1050 MHz for the core and 1500 MHz for the memory. This helps eliminate any sort of GPU bottleneck that might be introduced while, at the same time, showing to be sensitive to memory performance changes. Whether this is due to extra CPU or memory load is not known, or relevant. Let's take a look at what performance increases the G.Skill kit offers:
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Booting up the DIMMs on my ASUS Maximus V Extreme took place without a hitch, but the board ignored SPD timings for the XMP profile, with secondary timings. This is the case with any kit I install into this board, so I manually adjust settings to match what I find in the kit's XMP profile, which resulted in 2666 MHz with a 1.65V voltage setting. I did notice that these DIMMs seem to get 1.65V with just the JEDEC profile enabled while most other DIMMS will boot with 1.5V; or 1.35V for low-powered DIMMs like the Samsung sticks I use. Above, you can see a screenshot of MemTweakIt: a tool that is included with the ASUS Maximus V Extreme. This tool shows the timings that are in use, and you'll see that secondary timings are quite tight in comparison to the Corsair kit I reviewed last.
There is not much else for me to say at this point. I booted into my pre-installed OS and managed to complete all testing without much fanfare - as expected. On the next couple of pages, you'll find both system-oriented and 3D-oriented benchmark results for the kits. As is now the norm for me, I'll let the numbers do the talking.
System Performance Results
SiSoft Sandra 2011
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3D Performance Results
3DMark Ice Storm
3DMark Cloud Gate
3DMark Fire Strike
F1 2010 Bench
Shogun 2 CPU Bench
Sniper Elite V2 Bench
Timing and Frequency Scaling
I also test modules for voltage requirements at different CAS settings and speeds to show how well a manufacturer has binned their modules and how well they've optimized them for the best possible performance. Would tighter timings and a lower speed make this module perform better? Can we increase or decrease voltage to get more performance? When overclocking, there are many different considerations that must be taken and this test helps with a few of those choices. For this test, I start with the default timings and a lowered voltage of 1.35 V before figuring out the maximum speed I can get. I then go through the procedure with each working CAS Latency setting and each voltage interval. Different sticks are rated for different voltages, so the range I use depends on the stock voltage and how high each voltage takes me.
Clock and CAS scaling was actually rather boring. CAS 7 would not boot at all, nor would anything lower. Neither would CAS 12, so that left me with four CAS settings to play with. The DIMMs didn't really start scaling until I cracked 1.5 V, and they seemed to scale the best with 1.65 V, but anything over 1.68 V introduced stability issues. Errors were seemingly confined to one DIMM of the four. This is part of what happens when buying kits with multiple DIMMs - they are always held back by the weakest stick. If you are interested in getting more out of a kit, binning each stick of the set individually might be possible.
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With all four DIMMs of the kit, I managed to reach a maximum overclock of 2751 MHz. This was achieved with both default timings and default voltage. Corsair Dominator Platinum modules, on the other hand, required 1.75V for stability at 2750. I was able to boot 2800 MHz at 1.65 V both by divider and by BCLK; however, 3D stability was not possible. This seems to be a CPU-imposed limit, so finding the actual maximum frequency these sticks support is not possible with the hardware I have on hand. I was also able to drop the voltage down to 1.575 V at the stock speed of 2666 MHz, so there is definitely some headroom available to this kit. I have seen users posting 3000 MHz+, although these users typically use WindowsXP, not Windows7 or Windows8. I don't know why these users prefer XP, but those traveling down the road of extreme computing are sure to discover its benefits.
With the sticks cooperating so well with overclocking while hitting a limit imposed by my CPU, I took it upon myself to tightening timings. Primary timings would not adjust any lower. However, a couple critical tertiary timings I changed hugely boosted performance. I include MemTweakIt screenshots in my memory reviews to show differences in both secondary and tertiary timings, and this is one instance where showing these differences is very important. The ASUS Maximus V Extreme has a setting called Latency Boundry that will adjust all the tertiary timings for you.
This setting features values from "1-14", with "14" being the loosest and "1" the fastest. Manually adjusting the value down to a setting of "5" was possible with the G.Skill F3-2666C11Q-16GTXD kit, but to get true stability, I had to bump it up to "6". In contrast, the Corsair Dominator Platinum sticks would only bench at a setting of "8" and required "9" for full stability. Not many stock tertiary timings changed, but the effect is to the tune of 4000 MB/s on memory copy performance, which is profound. Below are, to illustrate those differences, two screenshots taken with MemTweakIt.
OVERCLOCKED (with Latency Boundry setting of 6)
As you can see, all that has changed is tRRDR, tWWDR, tWWDD, and tWWSR. These settings can be adjusted for added performance while also running the stock XMP profile. That in and of itself is one of the big things making these sticks so great, since the G.Skill F3-2666C11Q-16GTXD kit manages to beat out the Corsair kit once these timing have been adjusted - even with looser primary timings.
You'll find a bunch of benchmarks that illustrate the overclocked performance boost on the following pages. They are, again, broken into System Performance and 3D Performance sections. This section includes the XMP results of the F3-2666C11Q-16GTXD kit, its overclocked numbers, and a reference JEDEC 1600 MHz set of numbers. Keep in mind that this is not the maximum these sticks can reach, since I found no need to increase the voltage to reach these clocks. In fact, I could have probably lowered the voltage a bit had I taken more time to test. As you can see, I've covered a lot of ground here, so there was only so much time left in my weekly schedule. As always, I'll let the numbers do the talking.
Overclocked System Performance
AIDA64 OC Performance
CineBench R11.529 OC
HandBrake Encoding OC
PCMark 7 OC
SiSoft Sandra 2011 OC
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Overclocked 3D Performance
3DMark Ice Storm OC
3DMark Cloud Gate OC
3DMark Fire Strike OC
F1 2010 Bench OC
Shogun 2 CPU Bench OC
Sniper Elite V2 Bench OC
Value & Conclusion
<table width="100%" cellpadding="5" cellspacing="0" id="result">
<td>If you follow my posts on the forums, you'll find that I consider myself one of Corsair's biggest fans, but those feelings were thrown completely out of whack when I received this kit from G.Skill. The G.Skill F3-2666C11Q-16GTXD kit managed to completely amaze me with its quality and clocking ability, and I fell in love after checking its price. You cannot find a 4x 4GB 2666 MHz kit for less right now unless it's been put on sale. This kit manages to overcome any performance deficiencies with flexibility and great overhead. At stock, I managed to beat out my trusty Corsair Dominator Platinum kit with a little bit of tweaking. Overclocked, the G.Skill F3-2666C11Q-16GTXD kit managed to go just as high without a boost in voltage. That is just outright fantastic.<br />
Although many question the usefulness of high-performance RAM, it is something I will never second guess. When it comes to real overclocking, memory can be a big factor in getting the most performance out of your system, even if those gains are sometimes pretty meager, especially when considering price/performance.<br />
As I have posted in the forums recently, it's like running an F1 car on pump gas - sure, it will still be quick, but you are definitely not making the most of what you have. The G.Skill F3-2666C11Q-16GTXD kit allowed me to get the most and then some out of my system.<br /><br />
If you are looking for a high-end kit to complete your new build, look no further. The G.Skill F3-2666C11Q-16GTXD kit has what you need and will NOT disappoint. It is fairly pricey, but so is any other 16 GB 2666 MHz kit. Got a kit and need some help setting it up? Hit me up on the forums!</td></tr>
Thank you for this awesome awesome review, Dave!
Awesome review as always! Looks like some awesome memory.............if you have a Red and Black build :cry:
Yo - nice - but I think iīll stick to my Corsair Platinumīs
I think they look kinda gaudy. But since I don't use cases with side windows, it wouldn't really matter.
Great review Dave! I like how you went more in depth compared to other reviews of memory. Keep up the great work and keep going with these awesome RAM reviews.
Great review, looks like a solid kit.
dave u make love those rams, it will be my next step thanks a lot
Awesome review and good ram:toast:
I did test 2X4GB and so far it can do 3000 air.
Not all 2666 or even 2800 kits can scale up this high and completed 32m run.
I need your IMC! :p
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