How to Choose RAM

The amount and specifications of your system database, or RAM, can have a big impact. When it comes to the general efficiency of a build, RAM is the most important component after the CPU and GPU. The specification sheet for every particular RAM module or kit is a tangle of names, features, and multiple other parameters that may mean little to the ordinary gamer, much like the CPU and GPU.

You’ve landed at the correct place if you’re looking for ram for a new build or an update to an existing computer or laptop and aren’t sure if you need 8, 16, or 32GB (or more), how much maximum clock counts, or what memory durations exactly mean. So, how we should think of while selecting RAM? It’s all quite basic with a little research, just like anything else that has to do with creating or updating a PC.

What is RAM?

‘Random Access Memory’ is the full form of RAM. It is a type of memory storage required by computers. Because RAM’s function is to enable a CPU to quickly access essential data without retaining it permanently, it is constantly erased and updated, unlike an HDD or an SSD. However, it is much faster than any long-term storage solution. Eventually, it can only supply data shortly while the PC is switched on.  This is the reason why it can’t be used for long-term storage.

Why is RAM Important?

It has now become well-known that it is used to hold related data that the CPU or GPU needs quick access to. As a result, it is essential for effective jugglings, such as keeping a large variety of initiatives open at the same time and keeping them running smoothly. In terms of gaming, it stores all necessary assets for the game to acquire quickly.

Desktop and Laptop RAM

Laptops, notebooks, and computers employ distinct types of RAM that differ primarily in form factor, or size, as well as the layout of the electrical connections that link to the motherboard. Computers engage DIMM, also identified as UDIMM RAM module. Meanwhile, laptops inherit SODIMM, also recognized as Small Outline Dual In-Line Memory Module. SO-DIMM is merely a lower variant of DIMM, as the name implies.

DIMM is 5.14 inches in length as compared to SO-DIMM’s 2.74 inches. It is about semi the amount of DIMM. This is due to the space limits present in a laptop. The difference between SO-DIMM and DIMM is that SO-DIMM has 260 pins and DIMM has 288 pins. As a result, laptops cannot accommodate DIMM memory and desktops cannot accommodate SO-DIMM memory, so be careful not to purchase the incorrect RAM. Fortunately, they are easily distinguishable at first inspection.

Choosing the Correct DDR

Modern RAM is DDR architecture-based. Over the previous two decades, the desktop computer has gone through four generations: DDR, DDR2, DDR3, and DDR4. The significant majority of contemporary machines use fourth-generation DDR4. It became very common in 2016. Moving on, DDR3 memory and DDR3-compatible motherboards are still accessible, but they are rapidly becoming outdated. DDR4 is substantially higher than the rest, and it is superior in almost every regard.

It’s worth noting that DDR4 is not compatible with old motherboards or CPUs, and DDR3 is not compatible with recent models. As a result, DDR4 will not work on an outdated DDR3-compatible motherboard, and DDR3 will not work on a modern DDR4-compatible motherboard. DDR4 is substantially higher than the rest, and it is superior in almost every regard.

Motherboard and Number of Slots

It’s easy to figure out whether your motherboard coops with DDR3 or DDR4. Just look for System Information, and then look under System Summary for the System Model area to know which motherboard you have. Then all you have to do is look up that model on the company’s website and double-check the spec sheet for all the details you require.

The amount of RAM slots is next, which may be easily determined from the official page or by looking at the motherboard directly. The count of slots depends on the motherboard’s form factor. Mini ITX motherboards have two RAM slots. The ATX motherboards have four slots. Micro ATX motherboards also have four slots. There are also models that have two slots. Additionally, there are EATX motherboards with as many as eight slots, but gaming PCs do not require that much RAM.

However, physical slots alone are not enough; the motherboard’s optimum RAM capacity is also something that can be easily determined via a spec sheet. However, if you’re creating a gaming PC, you won’t have to worry about this because you’ll be hard-pressed to find a fairly new motherboard that doesn’t handle at least 32 GB of RAM.

Limit of CPU and OS

Both motherboards and CPUs have a RAM limit. This restriction, like that of motherboards, will not be an issue with newer 64-bit CPUs, which largely favor up to 64 GB or 128 GB of RAM, such as the recent Intel Core and AMD Ryzen processors.

If you have a modern 64-bit CPU in your PC, you don’t need to be anxious about the RAM bottom lines forced by the OS or the CPU. The reason behind this is gaming PCs rarely require more than 16 GB of RAM at the present. However, if you’re using an outdated CPU, it’s always a good idea to double-check.

Clock Speed

The clock frequency of a RAM module is measured in MHz, much like the clock speed of a CPU or GPU, and it influences how quickly it can access information, which has an apparent impact on performance. In general, greater clock speeds are desirable, but when it comes to gaming, storage always takes precedence over speed.

Higher clock rates and upgraded RAM can boost performance, but only by a few frames at most, so it’s not worthwhile to invest more money on fast RAM with a fancy heat spreader if you want to get the most return on investment. Admittedly, DDR4 is DDR4. If you’re largely concerned with gaming, the difference between 3200 MHz and 2400 MHz RAM is insignificant.

Single Channel, Dual-Channel, or Quad-Channel?

Multi-channel RAM has been available for a long time, and its main benefit is higher performance. In simple words, the quantity of data that a CPU and a single RAM module can communicate is restricted. Dual-channel and quad-channel sets are added to the mix to avoid encouraging creativity. Dual-channel configurations use two RAM sticks. On the other hand, quad-channel configurations use four. When additional modules are incorporated, the bandwidth and efficiency may be considerably increased.

However, when it comes to gaming, all of the increased bandwidth is irrelevant, because multi-channel RAM is mostly required for desktops and laptops running memory-intensive software that transfers large amounts of data. However, even if the performance advantages of dual and quad-channel RAM are minor in gaming, having additional RAM modules seems to have some advantages.

First and foremost, there’s the cost. Multiple low-capacity modules are frequently less expensive than a single high-capacity module. If you were creating a PC with 16 GB of RAM, for instance, you might save a few dollars by obtaining a 28 GB or 44 GB kit instead of a mere 16 GB module. Prices might fluctuate depending on availability and market conditions, thus kits aren’t always less expensive than individual modules.

Second, replacing faulty RAM sticks when there are two or four of them is easier and less expensive. Lower-capacity RAM modules are certainly less expensive. Also, if you have a configuration of 8GB X 2 set and one module fails, you can quite still be able to run your computer with other 8 gig of module. You can use it easily until the new module arrives. In contrast, if you only have one 16 GB RAM stick and it fails, your computer will be unusable for a long time.

Timings and Latency

CAS/CL stands for latency, which is the time it takes for data to become accessible for the computer to access after a read command is sent. In sequential DRAM like DDR4, latency is assessed in CL factor instead of nano seconds.

But, without going too scientific, let’s just say that latency, like clock rates and bandwidth, is irrelevant to the ordinary gamer. Lower latency delivers no higher performance in gaming, therefore it’s not worth spending so much money on, and storage should always come first.

RAM Capacity

As previously stated, capacity is the most significant component when it comes to playing, and 16 GB is the current gold standard. In 2021, overcrowding a gaming PC with 32 GB or more RAM would be considered excessive. On the other hand, 8 GB will be considered inadequate. Nonetheless, you may start with 8 GB and then extend later, or you could go as high as 32 GB if you plan on running any RAM-intensive applications or simply want a more future-proof configuration.

Still, in a gaming PC, the GPU and CPU are more important, so don’t scrimp on those in pursuit of additional RAM, especially if it’s only for future-proofing. As previously stated, RAM is the simplest component to update in a PC, and if 16 GB isn’t enough for your requirements, you can always acquire more. Upgrades to a CPU or GPU, on the other hand, are more difficult, which is why you should favor them above RAM.

How much memory do you need?

For a decade, 8GB of RAM has been a common need for use with Windows 8 and Windows 10. It’s common to get Windows 10 laptops and desktops with just 8GB of DRAM in mainstream and even inexpensive models. That is, indeed, the standard, which is fine for day-to-day productivity tasks, light gaming, and moderate multitasking. However, for a seasoned user, this isn’t a good place to start.

Even surfing the internet can use up to 50% of the space on such devices, leaving little room for other applications like PC games or photo editors. When other programs require more memory capacity, current web browsers often decrease the burden, although this can make the computer feel slow.

Most users who want to juggle without experiencing the above-mentioned slowness should have 16GB of primary system memory, while strong multitaskers or those running memory-hogging applications like video editors should have 32GB. For most people, anything beyond that is excessive. Programs that perform best with 64GB or more are usually built for skilled or competent users.

Conclusion

Finally, you should know that, while different brands of RAM can also be used as once, but doing so is not advised. Combining RAM modules from various manufacturers can result in unexpected compatibility difficulties, crashes, and general sluggish performance. Furthermore, if you use modules with varying clock speeds, the pace of all the modules will be limited to the slowest one.

To conclude, prefer capacity over speed and latency, choose for kits rather than individual high-capacity modules. Leave the extension room if required. Also, if you intend to upgrade your RAM later, don’t mix and match different models.