RAM or random access memory is one of the leading computer elements contributing to overall performance and speed. We know the fact that the processor picks the instructions from memory, and the process may take more than enough time, reducing the efficiency. The volatile memory or RAM takes the middle placement, stores the instructions, and passes them to the processor in no time. In this post, we’ll try our best to dig deep to answer the question: how to choose the best RAM for gaming?
Generally, increasing the RAM size increases the performance and effectively reduces the latencies enhancing the overall system’s efficiency. However, numerous factors play a significant role in proving the statement. In addition, there are so many questions that often confuse the users when uncovering the best out of best memory kits. So, this article can help you clarify all types of inquiries related to choosing the best system’s memory. You must read until the end to collect all the related ideas.
How does RAM work?
The first and most obvious question to better understand the topic is, how does the RAM work? I have already slightly introduced the working process when I mentioned in the introduction that it is the cycle’s middle part when the CPU is accessing the data from memory. But the complete answer is quite exciting and extended and is still there waiting for me to be explained.
If I unfold the research pages for you, RAM purposely stores the data for a short time, and this is why it is called the volatile memory. You may think it is the same function that the hard disks or SSDs do, but it’s not like that. The RAM keeps resetting the stored data whenever the system is rebooted, unlike the hard drives or solid-state drives that store indefinitely. On top of that, the random memory has a lot more data transmission speed than the ordinary memory disks.
The current-era computers need quick access to the instructions to keep the heavy software or a game or even lighter ones running at an optimal pace. Also, you won’t like to unutilize the true potential of a system. So, having the best memory kit powering the system is necessary for every high-quality build.
Desktop vs. Laptop RAM kits
The working procedure of all the RAM kits is the same whether they are installed on laptops or desktops. But the main difference is the overall size or form factor. Since the laptops are smaller, they require smaller memory modules to fit, unlike desktops that can accommodate larger RAM modules. In addition, many of the latest slim laptops have started coming with the memory soldered to the motherboard. We have further discussed the compatibility between the laptops and desktops in the next section below this one.
What RAM is compatible with the motherboard?
Compatibility is the foremost important aspect you need to keep in mind even before assessing the memory capacity and speed. Furthermore, if you buy an incompatible memory kit, it won’t fit into the system and will be a waste of money. You must go through the factors given below to pass this compatibility hurdle.
The volatile memory comes in sticks or modules that fit into the dedicated slots embedded in the motherboards. As time passed, the generations or types have evolved too. If you have ever seen something like “DDR3”, the “DDR” is the memory type, and “3” is the memory generation. The current-era memory modules are DDR4 type, and you need a compatible motherboard to run these properly.
The DDR technology isn’t backward compatible due to different timings, voltages, pin count, and more. So you can’t use the DDR4 memory modules with a DDR3 compatible motherboard. You must ensure that the memory you’re buying is selected appropriately according to the mother circuit and its RAM sticks’ accommodating sockets. You can check the memory kit and motherboard for your ease.
The form factor is a physical factor related to the RAM sticks. You may say that it is the overall height of the modules. We often ignore this factor when building a bigger system because it’s not an issue in that case. But you double-check this factor if you want to sculpt a compact system for gaming or any other usage. There are three types of form factors in which all the volatile memory kits come, and those are:
DIMM: DIMM or dual in-line memory module sticks have larger heights and are used only on desktops due to their height. You can further find numerous sizes under the umbrella of this common type of form factor.
SO-DIMM: the SO-DIMM or small outline dual in-line memory module type of sticks are way smaller than the DIMMs. These are used in laptops, Mini-ITX small form factor (SFF) motherboards, or Intel NUC mini-PCs.
Micro-DIMM: This memory stick is even smaller than the previous SO-DIMM, with a smaller form factor and height. These are used in laptops or other smaller computing devices and mobile-type notebook computers.
How much memory do you need?
If I say, how much memory do you need, what would be your answer? Interestingly, it’s the most asked question by the customers whenever they purchase a memory kit. But the answer to this question varies from user to user. You should start analyzing your usage and considering typical workloads and prices. If you’re a regular user who often uses the system for surfing across the internet, the 4GB mark is a perfect option for you.
In contrast, things got heated in terms of gaming and content creation. The 8GB mark becomes the starting pack to run the baseline AAA titles and create some mid-level content. You may have to go for 32GB to hit the peak-level content creation with a massive load-taking application. However, the 16B volatile memory is considered a sweet spot and a perfect match for gamers and content creation in terms of speed and price.
Quick Shopping Tips
I have covered a significant part of the post to answer how to choose the best RAM for gaming. But still, there is a lot to cover in this article. My team and I have decided to simplify some factors in this section. Read the quick shopping tips given below to better understand the idea.
Channels or memory channels are like pathways between the RAM and CPU–more channels means more data can flow between the elements. Nowadays, most processors can accommodate dual- or four-channel memory kits with the help of compatible motherboards. You can use multiple channels by using a memory kit having more than one module. So, if you have two sticks, each of 8GB, you will be using dual-channel 16GB volatile memory.
ECC or non-ECC
ECC or Error Checking and Correction is a particular type of memory that is mostly used to detect and handle errors. In this way, it can help us to reduce the data faults, and memory errors passed to the CPU. However, it takes some extra time while checking and analyzing the data, resulting in slow performance. Remember, you only need this type of memory when the system is performing the heavy-computational scientific operations, not for gaming and content creation.
Timings and Latencies
The CAS latency or timings is the number of clock cycles the RAM module takes to access a particular set of data. Therefore we also call it memory timing. So, if a kit has a CAS latency of 16, it will take 16 RAM clock cycles to deliver the data to the CPU. There are numerous ways to deliver CAS 16, CL16, or CAS 16 timings. Every RAM has different timings, but the 16-18-18 with a 3200MHz of memory speed is considered the best option.
Higher speeds are better
Yes, the statement is totally valid. A kit with higher clock speeds provides way more performance and efficiency than one with lower ones. It’s the number of clock cycles a kit can perform in one second and is often measured in gigahertz (GHz) or megahertz (MHz). Further, if you don’t have a dedicated graphics card but rely on the integrated graphics, the higher clock speeds let you enjoy more frame rates and higher resolutions.
Know the system’s clock speeds
A memory kit with a higher clock speed is better, but it’s only the half face of the fact. In reality, the CPU must be able to support the rated memory clock speed. It’s not fruitful to buy a kit with 3600MHz memory speed when it has to be connected with a CPU to take only up to 2666MHz. In short, matching the performance caliber of the RAM with the processor and motherboard is as essential as the higher memory speeds.
Heat spreaders and thermal management
The terms overclocking and performance are directly related to each other but inversely proportional to the temperature. So, to fetch peak memory performance, you need to maintain optimal thermal management. Undoubtedly, no kit will perform effectively under high-temperature conditions. You must check that the memory sticks have a good-quality heat spreader, plus the air is blowing away from memory via a CPU cooler.
Each computer element works on particular voltages and performs well when the voltages are at an optimal level. You shouldn’t worry about the voltages for modern computers and laptops, but it’s still a worth telling aspect. An optimal voltage input ensures that the memory has enough to run at its peak capabilities and can be overclocked to fetch its full performance.
The overall look or the beautiful aesthetics with RGB doesn’t affect the memory performance but plays a vital role in looking pleasant to the eyes. No one would like to buy a kit with an unattractive look. Many aspects are responsible for making the memory modules attractive or vice versa. You can choose one with or without RGB lighting to select a wide range of color selections, but it depends on what you like.
What is XMP?
Intel’s XMP or Extreme Memory Profile is a famous technology accessed by the system BIOS and used to automatically overclock the clock speed to match the needs and alter the timings. It was initially introduced for Intel’s motherboards, but enthusiast-class AMD motherboards also support this feature. No doubt, if your motherboard has support for this technology, you won’t have to worry about the overall memory overclocking and performance.
Overall, XMP is a great feature to have on the motherboard, but some limitations are still attached to its name. Some motherboards don’t support this feature, so you can’t accept the automatic memory speed fluctuation in that case. Moreover, if a mobo has support for this feature, still, it won’t be able to ultimately vary the clock speed. The motherboard would have specific values to jump the memory speed on particular XMP values.
The volatile memory or RAM is one of the most dependable computer elements since it connects the CPU and hard drives or SSDs. It helps the processor get the instruction fastly from the non-volatile memory, enhancing the performance and reducing the latencies. But its selection is quite a tricky process because the market has filled with hundreds of products from tens of brands. So we have sculpted this post to answer how to choose the best RAM for gaming in such a challenging situation.
So, if I summarize the whole research discussed in this post, picking up a suitable RAM kit is just a matter of a few factors. You must start by checking DIMM physical form factor, generation, type, and memory capacity. In addition, an adequate memory frequency, CAS timings, and the number of channels also directly supervise the overall efficiency. If you somehow manage to find the best RAM kit for you, you’ll always enjoy having it.