Choosing the right RAM for your gaming build is important. You probably already chosen your CPU and GPU. Now you need to decide on the RAM that you will be using. Do you go with 3200 MHz or how much RAM is enough 8, 16, 32 GHz? What are the timing of RAM etc. While this might seem like a easy but just buying some DDR4 ram to slot into your motherboard. Choosing wisely and understanding the benefits / pricing differences and how they can affecting your gaming is what we will be going through in this article.
Lets start of with understanding RAM and how if effects your gaming experience.
What is RAM?
RAM is an acronym for random-access memory and it refers to how the memory is stored on your computer. RAM is temporary memory being continuously overwritten and refreshed to allow your CPU to quickly access relevant information without the need to store it permanently like a SDD or HDD. By not preeminently storing the data significantly increases the speed at which the data can be accessed by your CPU.
The biggest indicator of not having enough RAM is when your computers slows down after having a lot of applications open at once. If RAM is slow it also might make loading in game speeds lower. resulting in a less enjoyable experience or not being able to play a game at all.
How Much RAM do your Need for A Gaming PC
When we first start to look at RAM for our PC we are going to need to decided on the amount of RAM that we will be using. Most motherboards are going to have 2 to 4 Slots for RAM. These slots can be filled with 4, 8 or 16 GB RAM sticks. Most sticks come in 4 GB or 8GB and sometimes 16 GB per Stick. So if we fill two slots of 8 GB RAM then our computer will have 16GB RAM in total.
Now remember when shopping for RAM you want to buy sticks and install them in pairs. This enables dual channel. Which is when a pair of same-size memory modules are installed into matching memory banks. Which increase the total performance of the RAM. So buying two 8 GB sticks of RAM is better than buying a single 16 GB stick.
Most modern game specifications are going to recommend a 8 GB RAM or more to be able to run there game smoothly. So 8 GB is the minimal amount of RAM your are going to need. But as I said that is minimal .16 GB of RAM is the optimal amount allowing you to game and run other programs without any slowing down. 32 GB of RAM or more is starting to be a little bit overkill for most gaming computers as games won’t ever need that amount of RAM in order to run smoothly. It also doesn’t hurt to have 32 GB of RAM 16 GB is the sweet spot but for reference I have 32 GB of RAM in my computer.
What Type of DDR
Since 2016 DDR4 is the standard and the vast majority of computers will be using this format. DDR3 memory is still available but is on the verge of becoming obsolete. So if you are building a new machine then going with DDR4 is the way to go. If you are upgrading your RAM on your old computer. First check to see what RAM is installed on your computer. To make sure you are installing the correct DDR.
Motherboards will only support one type of DDR, DDR4 motherboards are not backward compatible with DDR3 and vice versa. Always check what you have installed or what you motherboard supports before making a purchasing decision.
DDR5 RAM is due for release and mass adoption in 2021. DDR4 will still be available but will eventually become obsolete.
Choosing the correct Speed
RAM speed is measured in megahertz. This is the clocked speed between each read and write. Which is done in a series of cycles. For example, RAM that has a speed of 3200 MHz, will read and write at 3.2 billion cycles per second. Giving you the overall total speed for your RAM. Well mostly RAM speed also is measured with its CAS latency but we will get to that in the next section.
While having a higher speed is always better. It really depends on what your computer can support is what you should be basing you decision on. Memory speed can be limited. Some low end Intel CPUs and chipsets might only support 2,666 MHZ. So choosing the right speed for you gaming setup really just depends on what you can support. Higher is always better to a certain degree. But if you components don’t support the higher speeds then
Timings and Latency
Column Access Strobe (CAS) latency is how many clock cycles your ram takes in to access a specific set of data in one column. Basically the lower the CAS latency the better. The CAS latency is represented in a format: 15-16-16-35. This number represents that time it takes from a instruction given to when the information made available to be processed.
For gaming the CAS latency isn’t hugely important. Having modern DDR4 ram will dictate the latency of your RAM anyway. Generally speaking DDR3 ram has a CAS latency of 9 or 10. DDR4 RAM has a average latency of 15. But since DDR4 has high clock speeds it makes it a supper ram.
Quick Overview on What you actually need:
Size: Currently 16GB of RAM is the sweet spot. While you are able to run games and programs with 8GB of RAM. Upgrading to 16 GB will provide decent coverage. If you are using programs that require a lot of RAM or multitask other than gaming. Then 32GB is needed. Having a large amount of RAM won’t increase performance of a game. But will increase the quality of life while using your computer if you are running multiple programs at once.
Speed: Speed depends on what your computer can support. Always double check what your motherboard and CPU can handle. And go with the highest amount. So if your computer can support 3200 MHz then go with that. having high speeds that you computer can’t support will most likely slow your computer down. Most users won’t notice the different in MHz speed between 3200 MHz and 2,666MHz. Enthusiast on the other hand will.
DDR: Currently the highest DDR standard is DDR4. If you are building a new PC then go with DDR4 and make sure your motherboard supports it. If you are upgrading your computer check to make sure what DDR memory is installed on your computer. If you computer is not handling games using DDR3 Memory then it most likely not a memory issue but that of your CPU and GPU being to old.
Time and Latency: CAS latency is generally dictated by the type of DDR that your machine is running while lower CAS latency is better. When if comes to gaming your won notice the difference between CL16-18-18-38 (CAS 16) and CL14-14-14-34 (CAS 14). There won’t be much of a difference when it comes to the performance of your machine.