RAM (random access memory) is an essential component for any gaming computer. The addition of more RAM can improve the responsiveness of your system and boost performance when compared with systems that have less RAM.
Learn the workings of RAM as well as how to locate suitable modules and just how much memory you need to play.
How Does RAM Work?
RAM’s primary function is to store information that computers require for proper operation. However, unlike a hard disk drive or SSD (solid-state drives) that are able to store data for a long time, RAM resets each time the system reboots.
RAM can be described as “volatile memory”, meaning that it stores information when it is powered in comparison to the “non-volatile” HDD or SSD. Software is loaded into RAM for a short period of time while they are in use but remain on a drive that is permanently stocked with storage (until removed).
Computers require fast access to their temporary data to run applications or complete tasks. The latest PC games like them require rapid access to art assets. Games write and read data to RAM since it’s several orders of magnitude more efficient than accessing data on a storage device.
What RAM is compatible with Your Motherboard?
Before you think about the capacity of your RAM and frequency, ensure that RAM works with the processor and motherboard. A module that is not compatible will not work, and RAM that isn’t designed for your computer may not perform as well.
RAM is available in sticks or memory modules, which fit into the memory slots on motherboards. RAM that isn’t compatible with your system may not work or will not work properly.
Modern motherboards come with DDR4 RAM. DDR4 is not to be mistaken for DDR3, which was the first model of SDRAM. They’re not interchangeable, and it’s impossible to swap (for instance) 8GB of DDR3 with 16GB of DDR4.
DDR4 and SDRAM
Computers utilize a kind of RAM referred to as SDRAM (Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory). “Synchronous” SDRAM works in sync with the frequency of the processor. SDRAM has seen improvements in the past, providing advantages like less energy consumption, more efficient speeds of transfer and more reliable data transmission.
DDR4 SDRAM can be described as the present standard used in modern computers. DDR4 is the abbreviation for “Double Data Rate 4” and is the fourth generation of DDR technology that replaced SDR (Single Data Rate) SDRAM. DDR4 has higher data transfer speeds as well as larger capacities and lower voltages than the previous generation.
If you’re building your own PC or upgrading the RAM of an older system likely to be working with the latest version in DDR4 SDRAM.
Why isn’t DDR4 backwards-compatible? Because it’s different in timers (see below) in terms of voltage, volts, addition to pin number, along with other features. To stop unintentional installation, the primary hole in DDR4 modules is placed after an additional pin than DDR3 modules, which means it won’t be able to slide into DDR3 slots.
There are a number of simple methods to locate compatible memory. Go through the documentation for your processor or system or run a profiling system tool, or utilize an online tool for determining compatibility with memory.
DIMM (Dual In-Line Memory Module) sticks are bigger RAM modules that are designed to work with desktop motherboards.
SO-DIMM (small outline dual in-line memory module) are smaller modules that are designed to be used in laptops. Intel(r) NUC mini-PCs and a few Mini-ITX small format (SFF) motherboards.
Important RAM Specs
Capacity is measured by gigabytes (GB). The larger capacity, the more data is saved by the applications. With higher capacities, more programs are able to run concurrently, and games are able to keep larger quantities of temporary data.
Speed measured in mega transfers second (MT/s) It is usually referred to as the speed measured in megahertz (MHz), but it’s a different measure than the speed of a clock. Higher speed ratings translate to quick response to requests for reading or writing and, consequently, better performance.
How much RAM Do I Need for Gaming?
It depends. Do you plan to play games during focused sessions or stream while multitasking?
In terms of gaming RAM, 8GB can be the standard for AAA games. Yet, RAM demands are increasing. Red Dead Redemption 2, for instance, recommends 12GB of RAM for maximum performance, while Half-Life: Alyx calls for 12GB at a minimum. If you’re looking for enough power to play games that are coming out in the near future, 16GB of RAM is recommended.
If you intend to go beyond gaming, think about 32GB. It allows you to live stream, chat with friends on Discord as well as keep YouTube as well as Twitch running in the background.
If you’ve got the cash and require more memory (for 3D modelling or for other professional software), Windows 10 Home and the most recent Intel(r) Core(TM) processors can handle the capacity of 128GB. You can check “Max memory size” in the processor’s specifications for memory.
What do I need in terms of RAM speed?
Find the ideal combination of capacity and speed. It’s possible that 32GB of RAM with a slow speed isn’t the best choice. However, it’s not as bad as 4GB of RAM, which is fast.
DDR4 RAM speeds start at about 1600MHz. However, these speeds are considered to be low according to current standards. In the Intel(r) Core(TM), the i9-10900 processor, as an instance, has a speed of 2933MHz when it is in standard specifications.
Gaming-related games have advantages to using RAM with high-quality speeds. While it may not have as massive an effect as upgrading the graphics card or processor, the speed of RAM will improve gaming performance and frame rates.
Performance improvements differ between games. There are some games that show a noticeable improvement, and others see a slight improvement. You should check benchmarks to determine the average frame-per-second rate to determine if an upgrade is worth the cost.
Additionally, it can increase frames per second; speedier RAM could also improve frame time as well as the stability of frame rates. This will be shown as the 1.1% and 0.1 percent numbers (averages of the lowest frames recorded) and the highest values (averages of the slowest 1% and 0.1 percent of frames captured) during the tests.
Beyond frame rates, higher speeds of RAM also can improve other aspects of a system’s performance. For instance, speeding up boot time.
Other Factors to Consider
RAM is generally bought by a set of either two or four units (for instance, “2x16GB” or “4x8GB“). Before you purchase a kit, verify the number of memory slots on your motherboard.
Desktops usually come with four slots, and laptops typically have two slots. Computers with a high-end design and style could have as many as eight slots; however, there are a variety of slot sizes available on unusual configurations such as NUCs and SFFs may differ.
If you’re considering replacing the RAM of laptops, ensure that RAM is accessible and not connected to the motherboard. Certain laptop RAM isn’t designed to be exchanged.
If you’re considering upgrading your desktop, make sure to open up memory slots for future expansion. For example, installing a 2x16GB model instead of a 4x8GB model on the desktop leaves two slots available to upgrade in the future.
To benefit from the greater bandwidth offered by dual-channel RAM, it is recommended to install at minimum two RAM modules in slots that are symmetrical (usually coloured). The modules should have identical capacity and, in the ideal case, identical speeds. If they aren’t compatible with each other, the module that has slower speeds will control the speed.
What is Dual-Channel RAM?
Many modern computers feature dual-channel memory. Dual-channel (or interleaved) mode permits the memory controller of the CPU to share data with RAM using two channels. It allows reading and writing to two memory sticks simultaneously. This improves the bandwidth available.
Dual-channel mode is automatically activated on motherboards with just two DIMM slots. If two sticks are used on a motherboard that has four slots, the memory needs to be installed in a symmetrical manner to make use of that same channel. The slots are typically color-coded. However, they can also be staggered or side-by-side. Refer to the motherboard manual for specific guidelines.
For optimal performance, ensure that each memory stick is equipped with the identical speed, capacity and timings. Do not mix and match different specifications of modules if you can.
RAM speed isn’t all you need to assess the performance.
RAM timings are a measurement of latency or the amount of time prior to when RAM is able to execute the commands it’s given. Memory timings are presented in the form of numbers, for example, 16-18-18-36. These numbers can be displayed on the sticker of the module’s manufacturer.
Each number represents an exact test. For instance, the first one as an instance refers to a CAS (Column Address Strobe) Latency–the number of cycles required in order for the memory device to provide the data set after instruction by the controller.
Comparing RAM modules according to timings can be difficult. As an example, CAS latency is only a measure of the total number of cycles. However, the length of each cycle is also a factor when assessing responsiveness. For instance, DDR3 memory usually has a lower CAS Latency than DDR4, yet it is less responsive because of the slower speed of its clock.
Timings for memory aren’t typically an important factor on a gaming PC. Timings can be of interest to people who want to overclock their PCs, who can alter timings manually within the BIOS and then evaluate for stability. If you are successful, you will improve the performance of the RAM that you already have.
For most gamers, RAM capacity and speed are the primary aspects to consider.
If you’ve invested in high-performance RAM, then overclocking could allow you to go above stock specifications. The easiest method for doing this is via Intel(r) Extreme Memory Profile (Intel(r) XMP).
If the Intel(r) XMP profile is selected in the BIOS on the motherboard that supports it, the profile adjusts voltages, timings and frequency to improve performance. The pre-defined settings have been thoroughly tested and certified to ensure stability.
You can also tweak the memory profiles of certain motherboards and adjust settings manually using the BIOS.
To begin, read this detailed guide on how to increase the speed of RAM.
Cooling and Aesthetics
Memory heatsinks can help make your set-up look more appealing. But, they’re usually strictly aesthetic.
RAM produces heat just like every other component. However, it’s not extremely hot unless operating at extremely high speeds. You can skip the heatsink if you’re really in the process of overclocking your RAM. As with any component, it’s best to ensure that your memory is properly exposed to airflow.
Memory sticks with RGB lighting can also offer an appearance of customization and enhance the visual appeal of your system. Be sure to ensure the RGB memory sticks that you choose are compatible with the specific motherboard model.
What type of RAM is appropriate for your gaming PC?
In the end, the amount of RAM you require to play games will be contingent on your budget and the type of case. Before purchasing, be sure that the specifications of your RAM match your particular requirements.
It is crucial to find a balance between RAM alongside the rest of the components of your system since they all play a crucial role in determining your general performance.