COLORFUL CVN Guardian 8GB DDR4-3200 Review

0

COLORFUL have sent over a module of their CVN Guardian 8GB DDR4-3200 for review. This swish-looking memory comes with a beautifully made heatspreader. Plus, COLORFUL are using SK Hynix CJR ICs – a reasonably good midrange chip that customers should find reassuring. However, the MSRP is $69 for just one 8GB stick. Furthermore, the rated speed is a conservative DDR4-3200 at standard 16-18-18-38 timings. Can it be worth the money despite the basic spec? Read on to find out…

COLORFUL CVN Guardian 8GB DDR4-3200 Specifications & Features

Model CVN Guardian DDR4 8G 3200
Kit Configuration 1x8GB
SPD Speed DDR4-2133
SPD Timings 15-15-15-36
XMP Speed DDR4-3200
XMP Timings 16-18-18-38
XMP Voltage 1.35V
XMP #2 Speed n/a
XMP #2 Timings n/a
XMP #2 Voltage n/a
Cooling Aluminium Heatspreader
Special Features Addressable RGB
Memory IC 8Gbit Hynix CJR
IC Guaranteed? Yes, by spec
Ranks Single Rank
PCB Layout A2
Warranty Lifetime

COLORFUL spec these sticks as using Hynix CJR ICs. Hynix CJR can generally run better overclocks than the Samsung C-die found on other 3200 16-18-18 sticks these days. It’s also a lot better than many older chips.

COLORFUL CVN Guardian 8GB DDR4-3200 Closer Look

Packaging and Visual Inspection

The COLORFUL CVN Guardian 8GB DDR4-3200 stick comes in a large, shrink-wrapped box with a window showing off the module. Opening it up, we find a protective plastic clamshell and a small user guide with installation instructions and warranty information. We prefer minimal and recyclable packaging here at Play3r, so I do have to gripe about the shrink wrap and the excessive size. The clamsell does bear a recycling mark, which is great, but only on one of the two parts – both would be better.

The installation instructions are extremely concise. It’s good that they mention the notch, but they could be improved by noting that the retention clips need to click into place. Nonetheless, your motherboard manual should have more detailed instructions including which slots to use. The pamphlet also contains warranty information in a variety of languages.

The stick itself is, to my eye, extremely good-looking. A bright brushed aluminium with solid colour highlights has a real premium feel. It also manages to pull off the bright colours without feeling tacky. The tragedy is that all this won’t be very visible in most cases. Colorful have also included a dust cap on the gold contacts – nice, but perhaps unnecessary behind all the other packaging.

Peeking under the heatspreader, we can see that the actual memory chips are arranged in two tight clusters of 4 chips each. This is consistent with the JEDEC-standardised “A2” PCB layout typically seen on modern 8GB sticks.

RGB and Aesthetics

In place on our test bench, the stick goes great with the ASRock X570 Taichi. The RGB illumination is very bright – so bright that the camera used can’t capture it without having to darken the rest of the picture. Colours are clear and sharp, and the frosted diffuser is very effective – there aren’t any noticeable bright spots.

We did have a bit of trouble getting the RGB control working, but that’s on ASRock – older versions of the Polychrome software didn’t fully work with the up-to-date Zen 3-compatible BIOS. We have confirmed however that the memory is fully compatible and works great once the software is sorted*.

*If you are using RGB RAM and have problems controlling the RGB lighting on your X570 Taichi motherboard, click here for a guide to explain how we got ours working.

We also looked into PWM flicker. PWM is commonly used in LED lighting solutions to control brightness, and works by turning the LEDs on and off imperceptibly fast. If the PWM is too slow, this can lead to a flicker that causes eye strain or may even be visible and irritating. Of course, since PWM is used to reduce brightness, this won’t happen at full brightness – only when at least one colour is below 100%.

One way to view PWM flicker is by using a camera. As you increase shutter speed, faint banding will appear. At first there are faint blurry lines, but go fast enough and you see solid black stripes.

To get the solid black stripes with this RAM we had to go up to 1/3000th shutter speed. This is a great result – for comparison, a mouse from a big name in the RGB industry shows the same effect at 1/1000th. A cheap remote control LED light bulb also hits the point where the banding is solid black at 1/1000th. We’d rate the flicker on this memory as very low.

Overall, COLORFUL have a high quality RGB implementation here. The colours are clear and bright, the diffuser works well, and flicker is all but banished.

SPD and XMP Profiles

The Serial Presence Detect, or SPD, is a small chip on a memory module that reports the stock settings to the motherboard. This lets the motherboard know how to run the memory at stock, and also provides XMP profiles for a one-click overclock. Here, we’re looking at how the SPD is programmed.

CPU-Z 1.94.8 SPD tab for the colorful cvn guardian ddr4-3200. Key points are module manuf colorful, ranks single, dram manuf sk hynix, jedec 1066MHz 15-15-15-36-51, xmp 1600MHz 16-18-18-38-68 1.35VThe “JEDEC” columns are true stock speeds, named for the organisation that defines memory specifications. When the motherboard is left to set up memory on its own, it will go for the best JEDEC speed that is supported by the CPU and any other memory in the system. In this instance, that’s 1066MHz (DDR4-2133) at 15-15-15-36 timings. The “XMP-3200” column defines settings that are technically an overclock, but which the stick is tested for. To run at XMP settings, you need to go into the bios and enable XMP.

It looks like COLORFUL have bought chips from Hynix that are rated for only DDR4-2133, and are doing their own testing beyond that. As such, the true stock speed is only DDR4-2133 rather than one of the higher standardised speeds of 2400, 2666, 2933 or even 3200. This is standard practice among enthusiast memory manufacturers. However, while it’s not unusual, we would rather see chips rated for higher JEDEC speeds. Not all users will know to enable XMP, and others may not be comfortable with it. Higher JEDEC speeds mean everyone can get good performance.

Some sticks may also include a second XMP profile. There’s no need for that here, however, as the main XMP profile should work fine on almost any system. Overall, the SPD is totally standard.

Performance – Test Setup and Overclocking

For our DDR4 reviews going forward, we have a modern high-end setup featuring AMD Zen 3 and Nvidia Ampere.

CPU Ryzen 9 5950X @ 4GHz 1.1V
Motherboard ASRock X570 Taichi
Cooler Arctic Liquid Freezer II 280
Power Supply EVGA G3 1000W
GPU Zotac GeForce RTX 3070 Twin Edge OC
Storage Adata XPG SX8200 Pro 256GB

As well as stock and XMP, we’ve benchmarked the COLORFUL CVN Guardian 8GB DDR4-3200 with a quick manual overclock for this review. To do this, we initially stuck with XMP timings and just increased frequency. This got us up to DDR4-3533. However, this setting generated a couple of errors in HCI memtest.

Keeping tCL at 16, we loosened out tRCD and tRP from 18 to 20. This not only stabilised DDR4-3533, but allowed us to push further to DDR4-3733 and stay stable up to 200% in HCI memtest. We also manually set a synced 1867MHz infinity fabric speed. The resulting overclock was DDR4-3733 16-20-20-38.

In addition to pushing frequency, we tightened up the key tRRD_S, tRRD_L and tFAW subtimings to 4, 6 and 20 respectively. These are aggressive settings but ones that our experience says should usually work with the CJR that COLORFUL are using. Sure enough, it was still stable. Memory overclocking is a rabbit hole with no end of tuning possible, and there’s no doubt that with more time to tweak and optimise we’d get more out of this stick.

Performance – AIDA64

Produced by FinalWire Ltd, AIDA64 is a system information and diagnostic suite with an extremely wide range of features. Memory enthusiasts are particularly drawn to the synthetic cache and memory benchmark. AIDA64 latency especially is a common point of comparison for those looking to get the absolute most out of their systems.

The read, write and copy tests are all much the same story. All show a huge gap between single and dual channel setups. On the other hand, latency isn’t hurt by being just a single stick. Our “quick and dirty” manual overclock shows lower latency than even our G.Skill Flare X at XMP.

AIDA64 scores wouldn’t be complete without the screenshots people love to use to compare results – here are all three, for JEDEC, XMP and our manual overclock.

Performance – Geekbench3

Geekbench3 is a cross-platform synthetic benchmark, made by Primate Labs. Like AIDA64, this is a synthetic task. Geekbench3 is heavily weighted towards the artificial memory bandwidth test.

Even a very basic 2x4GB kit in dual channel beats this single stick at XMP. Although a manual overclock allows it to squeak past in the multithreaded test, better dual channel kits are still far ahead.

Performance – y-cruncher

A “high school project that went too far”, y-cruncher is a highly optimised constant calculator. Written by Alexander J. Yee, the program can compute pi and other mathematical constants to trillions of decimal places. Because the Ryzen 9 5950X is so strong, y-cruncher is mainly memory bound on our test system. We’re benchmarking the time to calculate 1 billion digits of pi.

The massive amount of data our Ryzen 9 5950X can churn through makes ycruncher extraordinarily memory sensitive in this configuration. In particular, tRRD and tFAW timings are relevant. Since our manual overclock tightened these, there’s a huge gain. Nonetheless, this is another benchmark that really punishes single channel.

The winner, our 3000C15 G.Skill Ripjaws V, shows of the benefits of a dual rank configuration when moving huge amounts of data.

Performance – OpenShot

OpenShot is a free, open-source video editor ideal for content creators on a budget. We’re taking a 1080p 50fps source, and exporting a short video with basic transitions at 720p 30fps. The rendering speed, in frames per second, is a way to measure real-world performance in a demanding application.

OpenShot shows a bit of overlap between single and dual channel, but a decent dual channel kit still has an advantage. Surprisingly, the difference isn’t all that huge.

Performance – Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

First launched in 2012, CS:GO remains one of the most popular games in the world. Players swear by high FPS, which provides a key split-second advantage. CS:GO is also generally CPU bound on modern hardware. Therefore, memory performance should be a key part of the equation. CS:GO lacks a built-in benchmark, so we’ve used uLLeticaL’s benchmark map from the steam workshop.

It turns out the new Zen 3 architecture, with 32MB of L3 cache available to a single core, isn’t as memory bound as we’d expected. The upshot of this is that being single channel didn’t hamper the COLORFUL stick at all. Performance seems to be tied more to the FCLK speed that the memory setup creates, rather than the memory setup itself. As a result, the COLORFUL CVN Guardian 8GB DDR4-3200 scores its first win of the review, matching our Flare X at XMP and pulling ahead when overclocked.

The COLORFUL CVN Guardian 8GB DDR4-3200 Review: The Verdict

When we opened the article we asked, can a stick like this with basic specs be worth the money? Well, in many benchmarks the performance was exactly what we expected – poor. In others, though, we were pleasantly surprised. Single channel memory certainly hurts in many places, but wasn’t an all-around disaster. We were also glad to see COLORFUL’s use of Hynix CJR reflected in an impressive overclock to DDR4-3733.

What’s hot:

  • Looks great
  • Guaranteed Hynix CJR
  • Overclocks well
  • Excellent RGB implementation

What’s not:

  • Only runs at DDR4-2133 without XMP
  • XMP setting of 3200 16-18-18 is still basic
  • $69 MSRP isn’t very competitive
  • Single channel can be significantly slower than dual

Overall, despite the great looks, it’s hard to recommend the COLORFUL CVN Guardian 8GB DDR4-3200. Other brands sell 8GB DDR4-3200 sticks, albeit basic ones without RGB, for $30 on Newegg. Plus, there are dual channel 2x8GB kits with RGB available for around the same price. COLORFUL’s CVN Guardian has more overclocking headroom than you’d expect from a 3200 16-18-18 stick, but not enough to justify the $69 price. If I had to name one thing that would make this module better, it would be a faster XMP profile – the Hynix CJR can clearly handle it.

Overall, then, the best argument for this module is looks. Not only is the COLORFUL CVN Guardian 8GB DDR4-3200 stunning alone, but it pairs fantastically with silver colour schemes on motherboards like our ASRock X570 Taichi and many of COLORFUL’s own offerings. That alone may be worth the price for you. If you are attracted to the looks, the modules work perfectly and will serve you well.

COLORFUL CVN Guardian DDR4 can be bought direct from COLORFUL on AliExpress. At time of writing there’s also a 15% off sale, which makes the value prospect more appealing.

Thanks to COLORFUL for sending a sample of the CVN Guardian 8GB DDR4-3200 in for review.

Related Reading:

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.