Crucial revamped their whole DDR4 line-up under just one brand – Ballistix. We reviewed the ‘Gaming‘ subdivision which became our sweet spot recommendation since it offers so many options and features. Now it’s time to have a look at their top tier enthusiast grade kits – the ‘MAX’ series.
As in the Gaming line-up, you can have these with RGB or without. Alas, the main key feature here is the minimum guaranteed speeds. They start at 4000 MHz and go all the way to 4400 !
First about Crucial
Crucial is a global brand of Micron Technology, Inc., one of the largest memory and flash storage manufacturers in the world also ranked among the Top 5 Semiconductor producing companies in the world.
They make computer memory upgrades (DRAM) and solid state drives (SSDs), and offer more than 250,000 upgrades for over 50,000 systems.
Prices and Availability
At the time of writing, the only available variant is the exact kit we are reviewing, which is 16GB DDR4 clocked at 4000 MHz. Amazon asks for it $200, the same as team Group’s Night Hawks. Also in this price range it has some strong competition starting with HyperX’s Predator line-up which is cheaper and even has the same specs with a tighter timing. Finally the new TOUGHRAM series from Thermaltake has a a very attractive price at just $140 but with a higher timing value.
Presentation and Specification
*Courtesy of their website.*
Crucial® Ballistix® MAX gaming memory is designed for extreme overclocking and engineered for the latest AMD and Intel platforms. A high-quality black extruded aluminum heat spreader provides maximum heat dissipation, while an on-DIMM sensor allows for real-time temperature monitoring. RGB modules have 16 RGB LEDs in 8 zones that can be controlled with software. Remove the lightbar for further 3D-print customization. With hundreds of awards, multiple e-sport championships, and numerous overclocking world records under its belt, Crucial Ballistix MAX memory sets the standard for performance.
Extreme Domination – Designed for extreme overclocking enthusiasts to get that extra edge in game, or to blow away world-record speeds.
Ultimate Mod – Create your own custom light bar with a 3D printer and provided 3D files. Control light pattern and brightness via software utilities.
Engineered Design – High-quality aluminum heat spreaders provide max heat dissipation while precision temp sensors monitor thermals as you push performance thresholds.
Precision Parts – As the manufacturer of memory components, we do more than bin parts. We optimize performance at the die level.
The MAX series can be had in a various of combinations so it’s up to you what you need, but as long as it is in black. To point out that only the non-RGB kits have the maximum speed of 4400 MHz out of the box.
Visual Inspection, Installation and RGB
As we saw in the former top tier ELITE series from Crucial, the new MAX line-up uses the same hard packaging, but now in blue, to visually distinct them from the normal line-up. Also this offers extra protection to the memory modules. The front has this diagonal flap which offers you a glimpse of the hardware inside while the specs are highly visible in the upper right corner
On the back we have a quick intro description of the kit, a warranty tag in the upper right corner and then on the bottom corner there is a tag with the full product code.
Open the gates and voila, here is the Crucial Ballistix MAX RGB nicely displayed.
Really like the fact that they maintained the minimalist and small footprint heat-sink design while still having support for RGB. At just 39 cm tall, these are perfect for SFF builds.
Here they are compared to the popular LPX series from Corsair which are 31 mm tall.
Zooming in, we discover the product code and the exact specs regarding frequency and timings, more precisely 8GB DDR4 per stick, clocked at 4000 MHz with a latency of CL18 (18-19-19-39).
This time around they introduces a quick release for the RGB LED lightbar. Just remove these two plastic pins and then the top comes off.
We have two rows of eight LEDs each with the full RGB spectrum.
Here is a top view so when these will light up, we will have a uninterrupted diffusion of light.
Time to install them. Here they are compared to the previous ones we reviewed, the Ballsitix Gaming, but these ones have the red heatsink and are clocked at 3200 MHz CL16.
Now let’s explore the RGB rave. The Crucial proprietary software works really well and it’s easy to use. You can download it from their website. In the first tab you can see the in-depth timing specs and as well the part numbers.
Next is the LED RGB control tab. Very intuitive and straightforward to interact with. You can change parameters like patterns, brightens levels, individual LED zones, colors etc.
The final tab shows us the real time operation temperature for each memory module.
Now behold the Crucial Ballistix MAX RGB in action !
We will employ a run of synthetic and 3D benchmarks at their stock D.O.C.P value of 4000 MHz for 1.35v. After that, we tried a bunch of combinations in both directions. We managed to get 3600 MHz to work at CL16 timings (16-19-19-39) for 1.35v. Then 3200 MHz CL14 was the next target but it failed even at 1.4v.
Next let’s see the opposite spectrum regarding frequency. They MAX kit worked at 4400 MHz for CL19 timings but at 20-19-19-43 for 1.4v since we ran into some BIOS limitations – despite the fact we enter the first value for ’19’ it always overrides it with ’20’. Finally the next stable OC value was at 4200 MHz with the XMP/DOCP profiles active.
All of this will be compared with only two other kits since the platform has been upgraded and the previous RAM info charts can’t be reused nor the older kits are available. So we have another 16 GB DDR4 kit at 3200 MHz CL16 and 8 GB with the same 3200 MHz/CL16 combo.
– CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3700x AM4 – 8c/16t @ 4.0 GHz – 1.075v
– CPU Cooler: Asetek 645LT 92mm AIO
– Motherboard: ASUS ROG STRIX B450-i Gaming mITX @ BIOS 3004 AGESA 188.8.131.52
– Boot SSD: Samsung M.2 970 PRO 2TB TLC
– Video card(s): EVGA GTX 970 FTW+ ACX 2.0
– PSU: Corsair SF600 SFX Gold
– Case: Dan A4-SFX V4
– Case/AIO fans: Noctua NF-A9x14 HS-PWM chromax.black
– OS: Windows 10 Pro x64 Version 1909
– CPU-Z v1.88 – To verify the CPU’s and RAM’s statistics
– Aida64 Extreme v6.20 – Memory analysis and Benchmark suite
– Cinebench R15 – Popular CPU benchmark
– Cinebnech R20 – The new revised version optimized for the newer multi-core CPUs
– 3D/Game(s) – Witcher 3 v1.32 set at FHD, with everything at ULTRA quality settings, no V-Sync
– NVIDIA Drivers – 442.19
Testing, Results and Analysis
We start with the integrated memory benchmark from AIDA64 so we can inspect the overall read, write and copy bandwidth. Also we will compare the numbers with other kits. The results are pretty much what we would expect.
Basically the best results come from the 4200 MHz value and then closely followed by the 4400 Mhz OC point and the out of the box specs in 3rd place.
Next up we have a CPU intensive benchmark – Cinebench’s R15 – which is known to scale very well with better RAM. We see the same proportional increase as in the first test. Here things get way different.
Now the best performing value comes from the MAX kit in stock form, second place is taken by the 3600 MHz CL16 and then bronze podium is occupied by the the 4400 MHz CL19 value.
The hierarchy changes once more in Cinebench R20.
Stock form prevails once more but this time the competition kits at 3200 MHz take the lead over the MAX series in any OC combination.
Now for a gaming session. We know that the Witcher 3 is a highly optimized game when it comes to RAM but were are not seeing that great of a difference because of our GPU being a bit of a bottleneck. This will be remedied in the future when we upgrade to a more powerful GPU and the new B550 chipset as well, to further improve latency.
So far we have discovered that these new Crucial MAX kits have a lot of potential and are highly versatile. I mean 200 MHz for free as extra performance with stock XMP/DOCP profiles is really cool. Then pushing them to 4400 MHz reconfirms the main idea, just too bad that our test system interfered due to some BIOS limitations and small bottlenecks.
AMD recommends 3600 MHz CL16 kits since it syncs perfectly with the Infinity Fabric inside the chiplet design
currently present in most 3rd gen Ryzen CPUs but that doesn’t stop us to push this further and as we saw you will get some nice numbers with decent timings. Thus this new Crucial MAX DDR4 kits will deliver especially with the B550 chipsets around the corner.
The new Crucial MAX series is their top tier most performing DDR4 kits that they offer and it shows! It exposed the bottlenecks in our testing platform and they offer plenty of free performance since that’s what they were built for in the first place – overclocking and pushing the limits. All of these, in a surprisingly not that tall package and even the RGB option is present, make these an excellent choice for any build.
+ Highly versatile
+ Amazing performance out of the box
+ Low profile heatsink with RGB
+ Minimalist design
+ Lifetime warranty
– To OC them you need the latest chipsets or get lucky with your vendor’s BIOS.
– Strong price competition from other brands