Reviewed 15 years ago: Corsair’s XMS2 Dominator for extreme CPU overclocking

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Reviewed 15 years ago: Corsair's XMS2 Dominator for extreme CPU overclocking

With the Dominator product line (test), Corsair expanded its own RAM portfolio 15 years ago to include a premium series for overclockers and enthusiasts. The memory itself was convincing in the test, but the system configuration was tricky.

There was also the GHz race for RAM

Like AMD and Intel, memory manufacturers fought head-to-head 15 years ago to see who could achieve the highest clock frequencies. One day after Corsair presented the DDR2 modules baptized XMS2 Dominator with clock rates of up to 1,111 MHz (effective), OCZ countered with the announcement of units with up to 1,120 MHz. In terms of timing, Corsair with CL4-4-4-12 was ahead of OCZ with CL5-5-5-15. At that time, at least 580 euros were due for two modules with a capacity of 1 GB each – they were available from 799 euros.

  • Corsair Dominator

    Corsair Dominator

  • Image 1 of 7

    To enable the high clock rates with low latencies, Corsair had to increase the voltage of the DRAM chips from the intended 1.8 to 2.4 volts. As temperatures rise with high voltage, the Dominator modules have a protruding heat sink. The cooler not only absorbed the heat directly from the chips, but was also connected to the PCB of the memory modules with heat-conducting pads – it should also dissipate the waste heat to the cooler. Because of these two cooling channels, the manufacturer introduced the marketing name “Dual-path Heat Exchange” (DHX). But that was not enough for the cooling: Corsair added a fan module with three 40 mm fans to the top models, which could be mounted above the RAM and should provide sufficient fresh air. The manufacturer went so far that the promised clock rates and latencies were only guaranteed when using the fan module.

    The best RAM is useless on a lousy motherboard

    Corsair was just as specific as to the use of the fan module with regard to compatible motherboards. The manufacturer explicitly recommended the Asus M2N32-SLI Deluxe for Athlon 64 processors and the Asus P5B Deluxe for CPUs from Intel. The test revealed that these recommendations were made for a reason – no more than 1,086 MHz could be achieved on a motherboard with Intel’s high-end chipset i975x. Even the recommended motherboards did not guarantee proper operation of the Dominator modules: An Asus P5B Deluxe from the editorial team was able to reach 1,111 MHz at first without any problems, only to no longer work stably at the same clock rate after an overclocking attempt. In addition, the “Front Side Bus” (FSB) generally had to be overclocked on Intel systems in order to be able to achieve the memory clock – the processor had to allow this in this case.

    In practice there was no advantage

    In the test 15 years ago, the Dominator memory was operated in combination with an Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 and an Asus P5B Deluxe. Since it was an Intel system, the memory required the FSB to be overclocked in order to achieve the various clock rates. Accordingly, not only the memory clock and its timing, but also the CPU frequency played a role in the benchmarks.

    Corsair Dominator

    In the theoretical benchmarks, the Dominator was able to achieve better results at full clock rate than at lower clock rates, but this was not noticeable in practice. In Quake 3, performance scaled with CPU frequency, but not with RAM clock. The theoretical benchmarks also showed that manual overclocking of the Dominator memory was not worthwhile: At 1,125 MHz, the clock rate was only marginally higher, but the timing with the CL5-5-5-18 was so much worse that there was no performance gain compared to the Default settings remained.

    Conclusion

    The first modules in the Dominator series were some of the fastest DDR2 memory modules available 15 years ago. With a price of almost 800 euros (available), the manufacturer was rewarded princely, but the benefits in practice were negligible. Rather, users had to deal with incompatibilities in terms of mainboard and CPU in order to be able to operate the expensive memory at full speed. For whom the RAM actually offered advantages, there were mainly extreme overclockers, who overclocked CPUs higher due to the greater flexibility in the RAM clock and were able to post new records in benchmarks because of the minimally higher performance. Regular users could invest their money better in many places.

    In the “Test 15 years ago” category, the editorial team has been looking into the test archive every Saturday since July 2017. The last 20 articles that appeared in this series are listed below:

    Even more content of this kind and many more reports and anecdotes can be found in the retro corner of the ComputerBase forum.

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