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Thursday, March 22, 2012

G.Skill RipjawsX F3-2133C9-32GXH 32 GB PC3-17000 1.6 V DDR3

With the first quarter of 2012 nearly over, and the halls of CeBIT empty, this week we take a look at a newer product fresh on the market from G.Skill. The F3-2133C9Q-32GXH is a high-performance, high-capacity dual-channel kit for the most discerning high-end consumer, featuring a blazing fast 2133 MHz speed, and offering an immense 32 GB of total capacity. After 23 years in the business, G.Skill knows its stuff, and while this kit is not one meant to clock to the moon, it has an entirely different take on what it means to be "High Performance". Here's what G.Skill themselves has to say about themselves:

Established in 1989 by computer hardware enthusiasts, G.SKILL is a leading memory & Solid State Drive manufacturer based in Taipei, Taiwan. The company's top priority is quality. All of the products undergo a series of the most rigorous tests and strict quality control processes. In addition to a committed, qualified IC testing house to examine the products, all G.SKILL products are 100% tested to ensure the highest yield, reliability and quality.

I recently covered a different set of quad-channel ram from G.Skill, which can be found here. That kit was definitely one of the better kits I've ever had the pleasure of playing with, so when I was contacted for another review, I jumped right on it. Our rep at G.Skill warned me that this kit may not overclock a lot, but it contained a special surprise, one that I really really never expected, especially considering its intended platforms are P67, and Z68.

SPEED RATING:DDR3-2133 (PC3-17000)
RATED TIMINGS:9-11-11-31
PCB TYPE:8 Layers



The F3-2133C9Q-32GXH kit was overnighted to us from G.Skill's head office, and I must admit, when I opened the package, I was left a bit puzzled. The F3-2133C9Q-32GXH kit is clad in a standard plastic clamshell that is clearly designed to hold modules of different shapes, a small thing that helps G.Skill save in the production of packaging, and helps keep costs down. Flipping the container over, we find two modules on each side, all four of which are packaged with the labels viewable to potential buyers, and I clearly saw a case badge loose inside the packaging. Yet why was I surprised?

With the package open, and the inner cardboard removed, we can see all four modules together, labels deftly hidden on the other side, and it's very clear that these modules use the standard RipjawsX heatsink, a sleek mix of a black and blue on a sticker affixed to a black aluminum metal wrapper. I was confused...a staggering eight-gigabyte-per-module density, but for P67, and Z68?? I removed all the modules from the plastic, and the case badge too, as you can see in the second image above, placed them on the table, and quickly looked for a product page on G.Skill's website. Doing so confirmed that this $100-a-stick kit WAS for P67 and Z68, and had a listing of several motherboards that this kit was qualified for, but at the same time, I also found a similar kit intended for the test platform we always use, based on Intel's X79 Express platform. Still, I found listings for ASRock, ASUS, Gigabyte, and MSI motherboards, but at the very bottom was this little disclaimer:

*G.Skill guarantees 2 Dimms dual channel operation would reach announced specification.

Wait...a 32 GB kit, based on four sticks, but only guaranteed for operation with two DIMMs at the rated speed? This deserves a much closer look, for sure, as it seems contradictory to sell four sticks together in the same package, but not guarantee they'll work together once installed. Having spent well over a year playing with the LGA 1155 chipsets, I was more than familar with the issues that can arise trying to clock memory on those platforms, with many 8 GB 2133 MHz kits not working fully at rated speeds on all board products, mainly due to BIOS incompatibilities. This knowledge made me immediately dismiss G.Skill's disclaimer, as clearly this was just the defacto "cover our butt" warning for those who just like to "plug and play". Those outstanding issues with 4 GB DIMMs in the back of my mind, I turned on the Macro mode of my camera, and snapped more pictures, looking for something to explain what's up with the F3-2133C9Q-32GXH kit. 

A Closer Look
With each stick in the F3-2133C9Q-32GXH kit carrying a total 8 GB capacity, the 32 GB kit looks like so many other RipjawsX kits that have been on the market for the past 16 months or so. The RipjawsX family of products is built for the P67 and Z68 LGA 1155 chipsets, and each features the same distinctive design, although there are different colors to chose from as well. On one side we find the product label on top of the flashy RipjawsX sticker, which to my delight faces towards the socket on Intel LGA 2011 and LGA 1155 motherboards. The other side features the same sticker, which matches the colors cheme of many enthusiast motherboards on the market today.

The heatsink's underside mates with the eight memory ICs below it, and wraps around the top to meet with a matching pattern no matter what direction the sticks are installed in. The 10 protruding fins are designed to stick out slightly into the case interior to help disperse heat, and produce a tunnel of air that travels over the top of the DIMM and down onto the PCB surface below.

With a listed price of $399.99, each stick is $100, a fair bit more than buying two 4 GB sticks in a pair, rated at similar speeds. That's a pretty high per-stick price for what has been an affordable product line since its inception.

Close inspection of the stick does reveal several details that hint that this isn't your standard RipjawsX memory stick, but I must say that the matching heatsink and PCB really do look sharp, and the black matte finish throughout helps keep the stick from looking overly stylized.

The label itself shows the model number, timings, voltage, speed, and also indicates that this single stick is part of a kit, that is XMP-ready. There's also a holographic emblem and production date on the left side, revealing that this kit is fresh off the assembly line. The 8-layer PCB itself bears a few specific markings, including a product ID number as well as the customary numbers on each side indicating the PCB layer level, and the 8th layer is revealed to be on the sticker side of the modules, as shown in the third image above.

On the opposite side we find a small sticker that says "G.SKILL Warranty", that I've not seen on my other RipjawsX kits, and if you look just above that, you can see the "1" indicating the first PCB layer. On the opposite end of the sticker we find the letters "GC" in gold, which I think stands for "G.Skill Corporation", but I'm not entirely sure on that one.

Normally I'd take a peek at the ICs contained underneath but I didn't want to molest the high-value kit . The heatsinks are quite firmly attached with an adhesive thermal strip of some sort, so I'm not sure what actual ICs are contained below. There cannot be many ICs to make 8 GB sticks that can reach these speeds easily so I'm not really too concerned about what actual ICs it contains either. I'm sure more information will come out in the weeks ahead, as although you can find these sticks at most larger etailers today, they were never officially launched with much fanfare, except under a different product name and featuring a different heatsink or two at CeBIT just 14 days ago.