Sometimes, only low-profile computer memory upgrades will do. For example, while miniaturisation has become a way of life for many component manufacturers, those creating CPU coolers have taken a rather different approach.

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Modest skimpy affairs only a few years ago, many modern CPU coolers are towering edifices, reaching for the sky and apparently unbothered about consuming large quantities of space in the process. 

Alas, memory slots are often the first thing to be partly covered and rendered inaccessible by these overgrown CPU coolers. A number of PCs we’ve seen recently have had the memory chips crammed in under the cooler itself. This isn’t great for allowing uninterrupted airflow, and increased headroom would allow the components to remain cooler for longer. Those people building small form factor computers, where space is at a premium in any case, will also find the lower memory chips a useful option. 

It’s through trying to address these two needs that memory-chip manufacturer Crucial is leading the rush to bring out the lowest (and yet still powerful) chips yet. And the Ballistix Tactical LP – or low profile – modules are very low indeed. 

When nestling in a socket, these Crucial Ballistix Tactical LP chips rise only 20mm into the air. Even fairly typical alternatives can add an extra 5mm or more to this height, with some going far in excess of that – Crucial claims, with justification, that its chips are between 15 and 35% lower than those of the opposition. 

To us that difference may seem small, but in a heat-packed case, where enough air blockage could lead to a baked PC, the extra headroom is crucial.

But Crucial hasn’t just produced memory that’s low in height. The specification for these bright yellow Crucial Ballistix Tactical LP chips is rather impressive too. 

They consume less power, and require 1.35V as standard rather than the more typical 1.5V. The timing set of 8-8-8-24 is a capable starting point, and the physically smaller PCB means that that bit extra performance can be eked out of the Ballistix. 

We started off testing the Crucial Ballistix Tactical LP chips at their default 1600MHz speed and timings, and compared them to memory from Corsair, the Vengeance Performance. The latter will set you back around £12 less for 16GB.   

Crucial Ballistix Tactical LP: Performance

The Crucial Ballistix Tactical LP memory chips were modestly faster than the Corsair components in all of our tests. In the old PC World benchmark suite of WorldBench 6, for instance, the Crucial chips were gave a one-point higher score with 207 points.

In Stalker: Call of Pripyat, they edged out Corsair by 3.1fps, notching up 207.7 to 204.6fps. In Geekbench 2, the Corsair memory averaged 15,548 points, but the Crucial chips finished slightly ahead on 15,573 points. 

PCMark 7 saw the Crucial Ballistix Tactical LP setup give a score of 6413 points, finishing ahead by 31 points, while in the Super Pi memory benchmark, the Crucial completed the most demanding test in a time of 7 minutes and 55 seconds – just one second faster than the Corsair.

So, in default settings, the Crucial RAM is fast, but not a dramatic improvement over some of the competition. However, the great advantage of these Crucial chips is that they’re very overclockable. 

With our standard Asus P8Z77-V – an easily customisable motherboard that aids overclocking – we were able to push the chips up from 1600MHz to 1866MHz without having to change any of the timings. This yielded instant benefits, adding another point to the WorldBench score, and giving us an extra 1.3fps in Stalker

Geekbench’s nominal point score went up by 265 points, a 1.7% higher result, while PCMark 7 saw a 46 point increase, representing a 0.7% benefit.

Super Pi shaved a whole 9 seconds from the overall time, giving a 1.9% faster process. 

By fiddling around with the timings, we were able to push the memory to a whopping 2133MHz. The PC wasn’t as stable with this new memory speed. Nor were there vast improvements across the board. Aliens vs Predator, for instance, saw a mere 0.2fps added to the frame rate when going from 1600MHz to 2133MHz. 

We were rewarded with yet another WorldBench point, making 209 points in all, while other achievements included an extra 184 points in the Geekbench score (2.9% higher score, ref. 1600MHz) and another 5 seconds trimmed from the Super Pi tests (3% faster, ref. 1600MHz).

Crucial Ballistix Tactical LP: Specs

  • 16GB reviewed (8GB and 32GB chips available)
  • 1600MHz
  • DDR3 PC3-12800
  • 240-pin
  • 8-8-8-24 timing
  • unbuffered
  • non-ECC
  • 1.35V
  • Low Profile
  • 133 x 8 x 25mm
  • 16GB reviewed (8GB and 32GB chips available)
  • 1600MHz
  • DDR3 PC3-12800
  • 240-pin
  • 8-8-8-24 timing
  • unbuffered
  • non-ECC
  • 1.35V
  • Low Profile
  • 133 x 8 x 25mm

OUR VERDICT

The low height of Crucial’s Ballistix LP chips is very practical, making them a good choice for small form-factor PCs and, at the other end of the scale, for gaming PCs equipped with oversized CPU coolers. There is some overclocking potential, with the usual commensurate risks of creating an unpredictable and unstable computer.

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