There are various components to consider while designing or updating a gaming PC. Each one has a distinct impact on your computer’s speed, and ignoring any of them may result in a bottleneck.
Let’s talk about RAM today. We’ll look at RAM’s importance in gaming, RAM specifications to look for when purchasing, and what you don’t need to be concerned about.
What Is RAM?
Let’s describe RAM quickly in case you’re unfamiliar with this critical computer component. For further information, see our RAM primer.
RAM is an abbreviation for random access memory. It is short-term volatile storage that briefly stores information that your PC need. When you launch a software, the operating system saves it in RAM. Then, when you shut down your system, it erases everything in RAM.
When you open too many apps, your computer may grind to a halt if you don’t have enough RAM.
How Does RAM Play Into Gaming?
RAM is vital because your system can access data in it faster than it can from your primary storage drive. You have all of the game’s data on your hard drive or solid state drive, but repeatedly retrieving it from there is inefficient. As a result, your computer transfers the game information it will need to RAM in order to load it rapidly.
With insufficient RAM, your computer will be unable to retain all of the game information required for effective operation, resulting in choppy frame rates and poor performance. A severe deficit of RAM may possibly prevent the game from starting at all.
It’s worth noting that specialized video cards have their own RAM, dubbed vRAM. This is distinct from system RAM in that it is only dedicated to transferring graphics to your display. As a result, if you want to play games at high resolutions such as 4K, you’ll need a lot of vRAM. Even if you have 32GB of system RAM, performance will suffer substantially if your video card only has 2GB of video RAM.
See our guide to increasing vRAM to learn more about this.
Is More RAM Better?
Because RAM helps games to load quickly, you may believe that adding more RAM would always result in improved performance. This, however, is not the case. If you have more RAM than you need to store information, the surplus goes to waste.
Consider a liquid storage container to better show this. You can’t keep everything in one place if you need to hold a gallon of water but only have a half-gallon container. However, if you have a 10-gallon container that only holds one gallon of water, the majority of the container will be wasted.
RAM works in the same manner. You could install 64GB of RAM on your PC, but if you only need 2GB to play light indie games at 720p, the great bulk of that capacity would be wasted. While having a little extra RAM for future-proofing is a good idea, unused RAM is usually wasted RAM.
How Much RAM Do I Need for Gaming?
As of this writing, the commonly acknowledged baseline for standard PC gaming is 8GB of RAM. Casual testing have shown minimal difference in performance between 8GB and 16GB of RAM.
While many older games may be played with with 4GB of RAM, there’s no incentive to design a new machine with this little RAM. As games get more complicated and demand more RAM, 4GB will no longer enough.
If you want to prepare your system for the future, or if you use your computer for tasks such as video editing or heavy multitasking, 16GB is a good update to make. While you may not notice a significant boost in games right immediately, your forethought will pay you in the long run.
Understanding RAM Specs for Gaming
The amount of RAM available for gaming is merely one aspect of the equation. RAM is not all the same; there are additional parameters to consider. Let’s take a look at a couple of them.
DDR and a version number will be seen on almost every stick of RAM you encounter. DDR is an abbreviation for Double Data Rate, which indicates it runs twice each clock cycle. This technology has evolved over time, resulting in DDR2 and subsequent variants.
DDR2 is currently pretty obsolete, therefore you’re unlikely to stumble across it. DDR3 RAM is still available, however it has been mostly replaced by DDR4, the current standard. While DDR5 is still in development, it is not yet commercially accessible.
Different versions of RAM are incompatible, therefore you can’t put a DDR4 stick into a motherboard with DDR3 slots. If you’re replacing RAM in an existing system, be sure it’s compatible with your motherboard. Stick with DDR4 for a fresh build since it’s the best we have right now.
A RAM stick’s clock cycles, in addition to DDR, are given on its product page. These are measured in megahertz and signify the number of cycles the RAM can do each second. For example, 2666MHz RAM does 2.666 billion cycles per second.
The higher this number, as expected, the quicker the RAM and the smoother your experience. However, it is hardly a significant improvement. Faster RAM is better than slower RAM, although the difference is usually insignificant.
DDR generation and clock cycles are linked; you won’t see ultra-fast figures on old DDR2 RAM, for example. As a result, as long as you conform to the existing standard, you’ll have RAM that operates at a reasonable pace.
If you combine RAM sticks with various clock cycles, they will all operate at the lowest possible frequency. The potential speed may also be limited by your motherboard.
On RAM, you may also notice a string of numbers, such as 5-9-5-23. These are known as timings, and they show how delay the RAM has while responding to requests. Most people aren’t concerned with these figures; capacity and DDR generation are more essential.
Number of Sticks
When purchasing RAM, you should also consider how many slots your motherboard has. The majority of motherboards enable dual-channel memory. This allows your system to use two sticks of RAM at the same time, which improves performance somewhat.
Assume you wanted to install 16GB of RAM in your computer. Than take use of dual-channel memory, two 8GB sticks are preferable to one 16GB stick. If your motherboard has more than two slots, please sure you order the sticks according to the instructions.
Summarizing RAM’s Role in Gaming
We’ve gone over several elements of RAM’s importance in your gaming system. But, luckily, it’s not that difficult. The following is a synopsis of the most essential points:
- RAM is a kind of short-term storage unit that is used to briefly store data from a game.
- Today, 8GB is the standard for gaming, but 16GB is a fantastic long-term investment.
- Until DDR5 RAM becomes available, use DDR4 RAM (unless you have a motherboard with DDR3 RAM slots).
- The faster the RAM clock speed, the better, however this has little influence in practice. Higher cycles are associated with newer DDR generations. Mixed RAM sticks will operate at the slowest possible speed.
- When selecting how to purchase RAM, consider the amount of slots on your motherboard.
Having said that, bear in mind that RAM is a very small component of a gaming PC. That part is mostly taken care of as long as you have adequate RAM and it isn’t too old. You may then focus on picking the best-looking RAM that complements the rest of your design.
Upgrading to a more powerful graphics card with more vRAM will provide even bigger benefits. Furthermore, if your PC still has an outdated HDD, you should prioritize upgrading to an SSD. Check out the improvements that will have the most impact on your PC for some guidance.
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