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Corsair's XMS Xpert memory modules

The winky-blinky DIMMs

ModelXMS Xpert
Price (street)

I FIRST LEARNED THE power of glowing LEDs on memory modules back when I wrote a couple of smart-ass articles about a really horrid pair of DIMMs that I bought from some shady online vendor a number of years ago. The basic gist of the article was that these were really lousy, cheap, unstable memory modules. I showed folks pictures of a single, green, glowing LED on each DIMM, and joked that they were "suckage detectors." "When the DIMM sucks, the LED light comes on," I said. "It's always on."

It didn't matter. I got buried under an avalanche of e-mail from people asking where they could buy the glowy DIMMs. So the things didn't actually work right¬óbig deal. People like the blinkenlights.

Corsair first capitalized on folks' affinity for glowy things with its XMS Pro series of memory modules, DIMMS with a strip of multicolored LEDs running up their spines that were triggered by memory activity. The apparent success of the Pro series has prompted Corsair to take the bling-bling, or should I say blink-blink, to the next level with its new XMS Xpert modules. On the inside, these are your everyday, above-average DDR400 memory modules suited for ultra-low-latency 2-2-2 timings and backed by Corsair's lifetime warranty. On the outside, they are an electronic symphony of light emitting diodes in various configurations, from an adaptation of the Pro's activity-based EQ pulse to a full-on scrolling alphanumeric marquee.

Some of you will probably be turned off immediately by the combination of these two elements, practical people that you are. I feel your pain. In between the quality RAM and the light show, however, is the Xpert's ace in the hole: a microcontroller that monitors conditions on the DIMM and reports them back to the user, either via the LED marquee or Corsair's monitoring software. This additional capability makes the Xpert DIMMs a little something more than just a flashy curiosity, though they are definitely that.

Vegas at night
I'll dispense with further attempts at describing the Xpert modules and go right to the pictures, so you can know what we're dealing with here.

The XMS Xpert module at work

That's the money shot: the Xpert module doing its thing. As you can see, the DIMMs are reporting voltage and temperature in the picture above. By default, they cycle through those displays plus a few more, including a clock speed display and a little bit of self-identification/advertising. I've chosen to take a picture of the two modules out of sync so that I can show you both a voltage and temperature display at once. Most of the time, though, a pair of DIMMs running the default display will remain perfectly matched.

Obviously, you'll need at least a case window, at the very minimum, in order for the Xpert's Vegas-style entertainment to be visible to awed observers and mesmerized domestic animals.

Look closer, and you'll see that the XMS Xpert module has a pretty strange shape for a DIMM.

The L-shaped profile allows for a wider display

The display is twice as wide as the module itself, so that those numbers and letters can be properly large and legible. That requirement led Corsair to create a DIMM with an L-shaped profile. The Xpert stands quite a bit taller than other DIMMs, and its display only protrudes out into space well above the DIMM socket. That means the Xpert should be compatible with most lower profile modules out there, even from Corsair's competitors.

A standard-height DIMM nestles easily under the Xpert's overhanging display

That's kind of funky, but what happens when you put a pair of Xpert modules directly next to one another, or when space is otherwise tight? Well, to understand that, you've gotta see how the Xpert's two-piece design works.