RAM modules are one of the most important parts of your PC. Good RAM can give you many benefits, including considerable performance gains and the power to multitask. Here’s how to choose the right RAM and how to avoid overspending.
Buy at least two sticks
First of all, perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that you should never buy individual bars of RAM. If you want to put 16 GB of RAM in your PC, you have to buy two 8 GB devices or four 4 GB devices.
If you put a single stick of RAM in your PC, it will work, but you’ll leave a lot of performance on the table, as your memory will essentially be running at half its full potential speed.
Because? Due to something called “dual channel memory”. By using two memory modules simultaneously, you get higher data transfer rates and bandwidth. Your computer can access data in parallel from both memory modules, and the system can process the information more efficiently and quickly, improving overall performance.
Dual-channel memory reduces bottlenecks and improves the computer’s ability to handle memory-intensive tasks such as gaming, media editing, and running multiple applications simultaneously. So it wouldn’t be wise to deny your PC those gains, especially since price-wise it’s not really cheaper to buy a single stick of RAM.
Of course, it’s not just about buying and installing it. You need to make sure it is installed in the proper slots, which is usually slots 2 and 4 on most motherboards, to take advantage of dual channel mode.
Check memory times
When people look at the specs of a memory kit they’re buying, many look at the clock speed. For DDR5 RAM, it could go as high as 4800 MHz or 5600 MHz. But an equally important factor to consider is memory timings, rather than just memory clock speeds.
RAM timings can be thought of as the “response time” of computer memory. It represents the time it takes for memory to react and provide the data needed by the computer. Lower times translate to faster response times, which is ultimately better for performance.
You’ll see RAM timings as a series of numbers, like 9-9-9-24 or 5-5-5-15, printed on the RAM’s spec sheet, but the most-watched parameter here is CAS latency, or CL. This is essentially the delay between when a command is received and when the RAM can actually deliver the data that was requested, and is measured in clock cycles. If a RAM says it has a CL of 9, that means it will take nine clock cycles for the RAM to deliver the requested data from the time of the actual request. If you have a CL of 15, it will take fifteen clock cycles. The lower the better.
In DDR4 memory, you can see RAMs with CLs ranging from 14 to 18, and in DDR5 memory, at the time of writing, they can range from 30 to 40, and the lowest latency RAM could appear in the next few years.
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In practical terms, lower clock speeds (faster response) are more noticeable in everyday tasks like gaming or using various apps, while higher clock speeds (faster data transfer) are more beneficial in tasks that involve data transfers. large files or working with heavy software. A good balance between the two is ideal for optimum performance.
Now, we are coming to the most notable specifications. We are talking, of course, about clock speeds and capacity.
The RAM clock speed, often measured in MHz, determines how many data cycles the RAM module can complete in one second. Higher clock speeds allow for faster data transfer rates and may result in higher bandwidth. As you can imagine, the faster the better, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should go all out and buy a DDR5-6000 kit – faster RAM will give you a performance boost, but it won’t make up for slower parts. In fact, if you have a bottleneck of any kind, any performance gains that fast RAM could have given you would have been wasted.
Get the best RAM that fits your budget. If you have a certain amount of money set aside for a 32GB RAM kit, make sure you buy whatever is fastest within that budget, and confirm, of course, that it comes from a trusted brand and has a warranty. Don’t blow your budget because your favorite tech YouTuber recommended some lightning-fast kit and promised you incredible performance gains with it.
As far as capacity, it really comes down to your specific needs, but you should also avoid going overboard unless you really need it. 8 GB of RAM should be the bare minimum and you should try to put at least 16 GB of RAM in your PC. 32GB is probably the sweet spot, but anything above it will be overkill unless you have very demanding multitasking needs.
Heat sinks don’t matter
Finally, you have probably seen many RAM designs with different types of heat sinks, and even some specific modules, perhaps cheaper, without any type of heat sink.
You are probably wondering if the heat sink makes any difference or not. So we’ll tell you: they don’t matter at all in RAM modules.
Sure, RAM will get hot with use, but in reality, unless you really push it through and do some serious overclocking, the heat is minimal enough to dissipate normally with air. A heat sink primarily serves a cosmetic purpose: it’s where the RGB lights live, and manufacturers will put all sorts of cosmetic details there to make the RAM modules look more attractive.
So if you’ve been debating different RAM modules because of heat sinks, don’t. Unless you really want to splurge on that nice RGB device, you can safely buy any module from a trusted brand you want while prioritizing other more important RAM specs like timings and speed.