Crucial Ballistix Smart Tracer Memory Module
By Gabriel Torres on February 8, 2011
Crucial has just released a 2 GB DDR3-1600 (PC3-12800) memory module. Let’s see what makes the Ballistix Smart Tracer memory module so special.
In most cases, reviewing standard memory modules make no sense anymore, as you won’t see any statistically significant performance difference between them and, even when you do, an increase in memory performance is not necessarily reflected on the overall system performance. This is the main reason we stopped reviewing memory modules. The exception is, of course, if you are an overclocker: in this case you will probably want memory modules that officially support higher clock rates in order to push your system to the limit.
From some time now, manufacturers have being creating “premium” memory modules with activity LEDs or even complete displays where you can write things on for users that can’t stand having plain memory modules in their systems. The Crucial Ballistix Smart Tracer is one of these products.
It is a 2 GB DDR3-1600 (PC3-12800) memory module with 8-8-8-25 timings requiring 1.65 V, with 10 bicolor LEDs on its top edge and eight bicolor LEDs on its bottom edge. Each module is sold with two color options for the LEDs: blue and orange, or red and green. This way you can better match the color of the rest of the lightning system you have on your PC.
Like competing products, the LEDs can be used to monitor memory activity. What makes the Crucial Ballistix Smart Tracer a different animal is that you can manually configure how and when the LEDs will turn on, through a program called MOD (Memory Overview Display).
In the pictures below, you see the memory modules and their LEDs.
As mentioned, the LEDs are configured through a program called MOD (Memory Overview Display), which must be downloaded at http://www.crucial.com/bmod. In Figure 4, we show the main screen of this program, “SPD Data,” which shows all basic information about the memory modules installed.
The second screen, “Temperature,” allows you to monitor the temperature of the memory modules (see Figure 5). The presence of thermal sensors is great, as not many memory modules have this feature. The program not only shows the numeric value of the temperature, but displays a color bar with colors from blue to red to indicate if your modules are cold or hot. It also draws a chart of temperature over time, which can be logged to a file as well.
The next screen, “Lights,” is the one most users will use. Here you can configure the LEDs of the memory modules. You can choose the color you want the LEDs to be (in Figure 6 we chose green – we reviewed a green/red kit), the blinking pattern (there are four patterns available, called Stereo, Lava, Inside out, and Streamer), and the brightness of the LEDs.
And finally we have the last screen, “Settings,” where you can change the temperature unit, the frequency the charts and log files will be updated, and what to do when the memory temperature reaches a certain level. This is a very interesting feature, as you can configure the memory modules to change their colors (e.g. blinking in red) when they are too hot. You can also configure the program to show the memory temperature on the desktop.
Let’s now see the memory modules in action.
To show how the Crucial Ballistix Smart Tracer really works, we shot a video showing the several patterns that can be configured. As mentioned, we used a kit with green/red LEDs. One of the patterns available allows the modules to display the memory activity, and that is what happening when the LEDs seem to be “dead” in our video.
The main specifications for the Crucial Ballistix Smart Tracer memory module include:
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.
The Crucial Ballistix Smart Tracer memory modules are neat if you have a case with a transparent window and like a computer with a nightclub feeling. The ability to manually configure the blinking patterns and the LED color makes these modules different from competing products. The feature we liked the most was the ability to configure the modules to automatically change the color of their LEDs when the memory temperature reaches a certain level.
The only negative side that we can see is the price: they are USD 10 (33%) more expensive than regular Crucial Ballistix DDR3-1600 2 GB modules. However, paying USD 20 extra to have two of these modules inside your case are well worth it – if you like a lot of blinking lights, of course.