The latest memory kit to arrive for review purposes is part of Muskin’s Blackline Ridgeback range. The sample we received opts for a 16GB capacity, 2400MHz speed and timings of 15-15-15-35. This is achieved with a very respectable voltage rating of 1.2V and showcases the modules’ efficiency. Mushkin is a pioneering memory manufacturer formed in 1994 and continues to release new DIMMs sporting unique designs at a very competitive price point. Unlike their competitors, Mushkin assembles and hand tests each memory kit in the USA while strictly monitoring their production line.
This results in exceptional reliability and minimizes the potential for customer returns. The company also selects low latency modules to find a suitable balance between raw frequency and operating latency. On another note, every Mushkin memory kit is backed with a lifetime warranty and approachable customer service team. Given their reputation in the industry, I expect the memory kit to perform admirably at stock values and have some good overclocking headroom. Let’s see how it compares to other dual channel alternatives!
Packaging and Accessories
The product comes in a traditional blister pack, and adopts the slogan, “Gamers take notice, rivals take notes.” I quite like the background design which looks rather striking and adds a dash of colour.
On the rear, there’s a very detailed installation guide containing extremely clear diagrams. Inserting the modules into position is a very simple process, but it’s always good to include instructions for newcomers without any previous system building experience.
A Closer Look
The DIMMs convey a professional look via the neutral colour scheme and should suit a wide range of system builds. Additionally, the angled heat spreaders provide a distinctive appearance without straying too far from the sophisticated, understated design. I’m also really keen on the silver accents, which adds some visual flair. Sadly, the green PCB spoils the black theme somewhat and ruins the overall level of synergy. Although once the modules are installed, you shouldn’t notice the green PCB from a distance. Thankfully, there are some SKUs which already have the same heat spreader design and black PCB to complement it perfectly. Overall, Mushkin has done a commendable job in the product’s aesthetics and ensured it appeals to the core gaming demographic.
Motherboard Installation Pictures
Once installed in our X99 testing motherboard, the memory looks superb and contrasts with the DIMM slots rather nicely. There’s also an attractive reflection emanating from the silver highlights. The memory kit complements motherboards like the MSI Z170A PRO GAMING CARBON as both products exhibit a similar shade of black. While this isn’t pictured, it’s probably the perfect combination and well worth pairing together.
Test System and Procedure
Before we delve into any testing we would like to take this opportunity to review our test system.
Test System (Intel X99 DDR4)
- Motherboard – Asus Rampage V Extreme X99
- Processor – Intel Core i7 5960X at Stock With Turbo Enabled
- RAM – Varies By Review
- Graphics Card – Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 980Ti
- CPU Cooler – Thermaltake Water 3.0 AIO unit with Gelid GC-Extreme thermal paste
- Power Supply – Be Quiet Power Zone 1000W
- Main Storage Drive – Crucial MX100 256GB SSD over SATA III interface
- Chassis – Lian Li T80 Test Bench
- Operating System – Windows 8.1 64 Bit
In our RAM reviews, we keep things relatively simple. We put the RAM kit that is being tested into our test system and we benchmark it at its primary XMP profile using a variety of benchmarks and tests. Once complete we then overclock the kit to see how far we can push it in raw frequency terms, then benchmark it again using the same combination of tests with a CPU-Z validation of the overclock.
- Cinebench R15 Multithreaded Test
- AIDA64 Engineer Edition Memory Bandwidth and Latency Test
- SiSoft Sandra Tech Support (Engineer) Memory Bandwidth Test
- WPrime 32M Calculation Test
- 3DMark Fire Strike Physics Test
During the overclocking procedure, I managed to increase the memory’s frequency to 2780MHz with a small voltage boost to 1.35V. Notice, this was achieved using the tight stock timings of 15-15-15-35, and 2T command rate. Initially, I did try to loosen the timings and reach a higher memory speed with 17-17-17-38, but this had zero impact on stability. As a result, once the maximum frequency was discovered, I optimized the timings to find the lowest possible CAS rating. As you can see from the overclocking results, an increase of 470MHz is superb for a value-orientated kit.
At stock values, the memory manages an excellent Cinebench multi-core processing score and competes remarkably well against quad channel configurations.
Once overclocked, the 2780MHz frequency increases the memory’s performance by a noticeable margin. While it doesn’t fare as well as the top dual channel kit, the difference isn’t substantial enough to affect typical usage scenarios.
In terms of memory bandwidth, the results can look a little worrying but this is because the majority of review samples adopt a quad channel setup. As you can see, the memory outperformed its closest rival with an identical frequency in write and copy tests although it reported a slightly worse read score.
The maximum overclock contains a 14MHz deficit compared to the Ballistix Sport LT which results in a lower memory bandwidth. As I initially anticipated, the similar overclocking headroom between these products means the results are extremely similar.
When it comes to latency, the memory’s CAS15 stock performance is good and remains within an acceptable distance of the top-tier results.
Even when overclocked, there isn’t a major impact to memory latency as the final figure was achieved at default timings.
Here we can see the memory performs quite well and posts better a better Aggregate score than the Ballistix Sport LT. Once again, the numbers are exceptionally close and could yield a different order with numerous runs.
Despite using a slower memory speed, the kit managed to beat its nearest competitor in Aggregate testing. Admittedly, the gap is inconsequential and within an expected margin of error.
The Blackline Ridgeback completed the Pi calculation in an impressive time and wasn’t too far off achieving a score under 4 seconds.
The overclock really helps matters and reduces the compute time to 3.907 seconds. While this still doesn’t beat the Ballistix Sport LT, it’s an excellent result which deserves recognition.
3DMark Fire Strike
The memory’s stock XMP profile managed to achieve a fairly average 3DMark Physics score. Despite this, the DIMMs didn’t stray too far from the mid-table figures, and the result makes sense when you consider the 2400MHz dual channel configuration. Saying that, it did fall behind the Ballistix Sport LT and could have done better to close the gap.
In a rather surprising turn of events, the manual overclock catapults the memory into first position with a staggering Physics score of 17870.
The Mushkin Blackline Ridgeback DDR4 2400MHz 16GB dual channel memory kit is currently available from Newegg.com for $84.99 including free shipping. This provides a wonderful price to performance ratio and should please the average consumer looking for a balanced kit. On the other hand, competition is fierce in this sector, and the G.Skill Ripjaws V DDR4 3000MHz 16GB costs an extra $5 and features a higher stock frequency, 15-16-16-35 timings and black PCB. As a result, Mushkin faces a difficult task to persuade users to purchase their products instead of the competition. This is especially the case throughout Europe, where the memory isn’t in stock from any online store.
Muskin’s FrostByte heatsink isn’t the most spectacular design I’ve encountered but its understated styling really looks fantastic and becomes more appealing over time. More specifically, the angled heat spreaders, vivid black finish and silver accents combine to create a premium finish. This is surprising considering the memory’s target audience and low price point. Even Mushkin’s branding has been implemented in a non-obnoxious way which adds to the product’s visual appeal. The Blackline Ridgeback range would really benefit from using a black PCB on every model. The green tone doesn’t contrast well, and I cannot understand why black themed DIMMs come in this colour. Perhaps, it’s down to Mushkin’s production where they could only use high-quality ICs with a green PCB.
The memory’s 2400MHz stock frequency and 15-15-15-35 timings are capable of producing some superb results and consistently traded blows with the Crucial Ballistix Sport LT kit. This is especially the case in memory latency which remained quite low. While we tend to focus on high-frequency quad channel kits, it’s important to see the memory bandwidth of budget friendly dual channel alternatives. The only fair comparison to make is with the Crucial Ballistix Sport LT given the identical frequency and dual channel setup. The results speak for themselves, and I was thoroughly impressed with the memory’s overall performance.
On another note, it was remarkably easy to overclock the memory while maintaining maximum stability with tight timings. As previously mentioned, I did attempt to loosen the timings and find the absolute bleeding edge of performance. However, altering the timings had zero effect, and I reached the memory’s full potential using stock values. Although, a small voltage change was required. Even though the Blackline Ridgeback fell 14MHz behind its nearest competitor, it didn’t really have a substantial effect in performance. Additionally, the overclock is still a great boost and showcases the memory’s overclocking abilities. One area the memory did really well in is overclocked 3DMark performance. This resulted in the best Physics score we seen thus far and outshone many higher priced options. Although, it’s unclear what percentage of this derives from memory performance or driver enhancements from NVIDIA. Whatever the case, the overclocked numbers are very good and surpassed my predictions.
- Attractive heat spreader design
- Excellent stock results
- Good overclocking headroom
- Hand tested
- Lifetime warranty
- Low voltage
- Overclock stable with default tight timings
- Superb value
- Green PCB
- Only available in the US at the time of writing
“The Mushkin Blackline Ridgeback DDR4 2400MHz 16GB memory kit offers exceptional stability, impressive stock results and good overclocking headroom. Additionally, its neutral colour scheme makes it the perfect choice for a wide range of PC builds. While the green PCB looks fairly outdated, this isn’t enough to detract from a very solid, and reliable package.”
Mushkin Blackline Ridgeback DDR4 2400MHz 16GB (2x8GB) Dual Channel Memory Kit Review
Thank you Mushkin for providing us with this sample.