Although one can now buy peripherals, cases, audio gear, or even an entire PC from Corsair now, the company’s roots are in RAM. We’ve been using the company’s memory in our personal systems and test rigs for nearly as long as TR has existed, so when Corsair offered us a set of its Dominator Platinum Special Edition Torque memory (Dominator Torque for short) to test, we couldn’t say no.
As its name reveals, the Dominator Torque kit builds on Corsair’s highest-end regular-production RAM, the Dominator Platinum series. These kits feature what Corsair describes as “highly-screened” memory chips. In the case of the Torque kit, that means desirable Samsung B-die DRAM chips. Corsair says these chips can run “a few bins higher” than the kit’s rated DDR4-3200 speed, something the company claims offers higher-than-normal overclocking potential. Although overclocking results will always vary, I’m happy to at least have a claimed leg up on run-of-the-mill RAM in the silicon lottery.
Corsair mates those dies with a 10-layer circuit board ensconced in a hefty aluminum heatsink, all topped off with a solid-feeling bar of aluminum with a white LED light pipe running through it. (No RGB LEDs here, sadly, given the cost of the kit.) The Torque kit gets its name from the special hand-applied finish atop these bars. That in-your-face look is meant to emulate the rainbow gradient one can get from high-quality TIG welds.
For extra prestige, Corsair individually numbers each Torque kit, although the company says production is unlimited for now. As with the most coveted muscle cars, collectors of classic PC hardware can look for numbers-matching examples of Torque kits in the future.
|CMD32GX4M4C3200C14T||32GB||2x16GB DIMMs||3200 MT/s||14-16-16-36||1.35V|
Those fancy finishes will bedeck two 32GB memory kits. The kit we’re looking at today offers a pair of 16GB DIMMs rated for 3200 MT/s at latencies of 14-16-16-36, and it’s best suited for Intel Z170 and Z270 platforms. Although this RAM will certainly work in AMD Ryzen builds, its dual-rank configuration means that it’ll be difficult (if not impossible) to get running at its full rated speed. This kit lists for a whopping $400. Corsair will also offer a quad-channel kit with 32GB spread across four DIMMs with the same specs for $450, and those DIMMs will use single-rank configurations. Both kits are available direct from Corsair only.
Either way, Corsair is asking a lot of money for this RAM. Memory is largely a commodity market these days, so buyers will have to weigh whether the Torque kit’s fancy looks, combined with Corsair’s careful component screening, are worth the premium over RAM from other manufacturers. Let’s rev up this memory kit now and see how it runs.
Installation and clearance
From the top of the heatsink to the top of the pins, the Dominator Torque DIMMs measure two inches (51 mm) tall. In contrast, the bog-standard DIMMs I have in the lab measure about 1.2″ (30 mm), and G.Skill’s Trident Z heatsink measures in at 1.7″ (42 mm). The top of each DIMM has a finned heatsink to allow air to flow through to other parts of the CPU socket, but this memory could interfere with conventional tower heatsinks that butt in on DIMM slots’ airspace.
Our test system uses an all-in-one liquid cooler to do its thing, though, so memory clearance isn’t an issue with that arrangement. Many modern motherboards also use the second and fourth DIMM slots (relative to the CPU socket) as their primary memory locations. Many tower coolers are now designed to cant away from the memory slots for better clearance, as well. Those developments mean that the Dominator Torque DIMMs likely won’t interfere with carefully-chosen components.
Our testing methods
As always, we did our best to deliver clean benchmarking numbers. We ran each test three times and took the median of the results.
Our test system comprised the following hardware:
|Processor||Intel Core i7-7700K|
|Motherboard||Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming|
|Memory size||Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming|
|Memory type||32GB (2x16GB) Corsair Dominator Torque|
|Storage||Samsung 960 EVO 500GB
2x Corsair Neutron XT 480GB SSDs
1x Kingston HyperX 480GB SSD
|Power supply||Corsair RM850x|
|OS||Windows 10 Pro with Creators Update|
Our thanks to Intel, Asus, Corsair, AMD, and HyperX for providing the hardware that makes our testing possible. Our thanks again to Corsair for hooking us up with the Dominator Torque kit itself, as well.
We used AIDA64 version 5.9 to perform our synthetic memory tests. We also relied on the publicly-available version of the STARS Euler3D benchmark and the most current version of Arma III for those tests. Our thanks to FinalWire for the AIDA64 license.
XMP performance versus stock speeds
Thanks to Intel’s Extreme Memory Profile tech, overclocking the Dominator Torque kit to its rated speed should be effortless on most any good Z270 motherboard. A couple clicks in our Asus board’s firmware, and I had the Torque DIMMs running at 3200 MT/s and Corsair’s baked-in 14-16-16-36 latencies without a hitch.
CPU-Z confirmed that the XMP profile loaded properly. We then compared the performance of this memory’s DDR4-2133 stock speeds and 15-15-15-35 2T stock timings to its DDR4-3200 14-16-16-36 2T XMP profile.
AIDA64 bandwidth and latency
To nobody’s surprise, the Dominator Torque kit with XMP enabled outperforms its stock DDR4-2133 profile by a wide margin (although with the advent of Kaby Lake, the floor of memory performance is raised slightly by the chips’ support for DDR4-2400). Modern CPUs tend to be hungry for memory bandwidth, so a 40% or greater increase in potential throughput from the move to 3200 MT/s is nothing to sneeze at.
AIDA64’s memory latency benchmark shows another advantage of this speedy RAM. The move to 3200 MT/s speeds and 14-16-16-36 timings means data gets to the CPU 23% faster than it does with bog-standard DDR4-2133, at least with this synthetic benchmark. Less time spent waiting around for data is a good thing when it comes to CPU performance.
A classic benchmark from our CPU test suite, the STARS Euler3D benchmark tests performance in a computational fluid dynamics scenario. This test wants all the memory bandwidth it can get, so it’s ideal for showing the benefits of faster RAM. You can read more about Euler3D here.
If you’ve got a fast chip like the Core i7-7700K, and your workload warrants it, the move from DDR4-2133 to DDR4-3200 is a no-brainer. Euler3D is an extreme demonstration, to be fair, but run-of-the-mill RAM seems to leave quite a bit of performance on the table with high-end Skylake chips.
Some games can take advantage of faster memory for better performance, but almost none more so than Arma III. This game puts a disproportionate load on a system’s single-threaded CPU performance and memory subsystem, so it’s another fine demonstration of how faster memory can benefit a system. To show off how the Dominator Torque kit performs, we cued up the latest version of the Yet Another Arma Benchmark (or YAAB) scenario. We used the following test settings at 1920×1080:
YAAB is a demanding test, but the move from DDR4-2133 to DDR4-3200 tames it a little bit. Average frame rates rise slightly, but more importantly, the 99th-percentile frame time (a good proxy for animation smoothness) falls from a concerning 45.3 ms with DDR4-2133 to a slightly more palatable 35.9 ms with DDR4-3200.
In other words, the DDR4-2133-equipped system delivers 99% of its frames at an instantaneous frame rate of about 22 FPS or better, while the DDR4-3200 kit improves that figure to about 28 FPS, or right on the edge of what might be considered playable. That’s a major boost for Arma III smoothness.
A quick shot at overclocking
As I noted in the introduction, Corsair claims the ICs on the Dominator Torque kit are hand-selected and binned above their rated frequency. Despite that assurance, our manual overclocking attempts proved fruitless. Even after trying a range of timings, speeds, and voltages for both the RAM itself, along with the CPU system agent and VCCIO, I couldn’t even get my test system to POST with the Dominator Torque pushed beyond its XMP settings. That’s the silicon lottery for you, I suppose.
The potential performance differences between the rock-solid-stable 3200 MT/s XMP profile and my 3466 MT/s and 3600 MT/s overclocking recipes isn’t that large to begin with, so stressing the memory controller with eyebrow-raising voltages in excess of 1.4V didn’t seem worth it. This isn’t a knock on the Dominator Torque, mind. It’s already a high-speed, high-density kit with impressive performance. I just don’t think manual overclocking of the RAM is worth it when hyperspeed RAM with XMP profiles is abundant. If you want higher speeds than DDR4-3200 from the Dominator Torque, however, manual overclocking is the only way to go. Just be ready for some potential frustration.
With its swanky presentation, unique finish, and matching-numbers pedigree, Corsair’s Dominator Torque memory kit offers a nice dash of exclusivity in a commodity market. At $400 for the 32GB kit I tested, this memory will not appeal to folks shopping for the best value. Just like a hand-crafted custom exhaust only reveals itself on close examination, though, this Dominator kit will immediately tip off those in the know to the fact that it’s not the average pair of DIMMs.
For the money, I do wish the Dominator Torque kit included RGB LED lighting. This kit is all about flash, so it’s a little bemusing that Corsair stuck with solid white LEDs for its most special RAM in this day and age. White is one of the most difficult colors to match up among RGB LED-illuminated hardware, and that fact might annoy the builders of tricked-out PCs who seem most likely to buy this product.
Corsair says it would have had to start from scratch to implement RGB LED lighting in this kit, to be fair, but given the company’s prowess with RGB LED-illuminated everything, it’s a shame the company’s blinkenlights wizards weren’t given the go-ahead to do their magic here. That work would have gone a long way toward making the Torque kit’s price tag less likely to induce sticker shock.
That one beef aside, the Dominator Torque kit carries on Corsair’s reputation for rock-solid reliability and plug-and-play speed (so long as you’re an Intel builder). Corsair’s XMP profile dialed in the right settings across a couple of Z270 motherboards at my disposal, and for memory-bandwidth-intensive applications and games, this kit will offer a noticeable boost over plain old DDR4-2400.
Of course, any DDR4-3200 kit will offer similar benefits, but that’s like saying someone can get to the grocery store in a Honda just as well as they can in a Ferrari. If you want something more special than generic RAM and have the means, the Dominator Torque kit is every bit as fast and furious as it looks.