Things to Know When You Buy RAMMay 18, 2018
You might be looking into upgrading your PC or starting a new build altogether, and you’ve got everything from your GPU and CPU to your fans and manic RGB lights all chosen out. All you need to do now is pick out your RAM, but before you just cram in 32GBs of random cards, you need to know that your choice in RAM can have as big an impact on performance as all those other components. To keep you on the right track, here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing your RAM.
Before you do anything else, the most important thing is to check what RAM manufacturers and standards your motherboard can accept – you don’t want to go and spend a chunk of money on the latest DDR4 cards only to find out that your motherboard is only compatible with DDR3. You should be able to find what is known as a QVL, or Qualified Vendors List, on your motherboard manufacturer’s website. This list will let you know which cards you can pick up and where from.
When we talk about speed in relation to RAM, we’re talking about the rate at which memory is transferred. Usually, this is measured in MHz (despite MT/s being a more accurate gauge), with the higher the MHz the faster the transfer. Doesn’t sound too complicated, does it?
When you buy RAM you’ll see it listed as DDR(number). These are the different standards for DDRAM, with more recent standards having increased performance. DDRAM4, for instance, will generally outperform DDRAM3.
Latency is the time that is taken for memory to be accessed on the RAM card. Now, you might think that this is the same as speed, but they are quite distinct although closely related. A higher transfer rate will overcome an increase in latency, while a card with low latency and a low transfer rate will be slower. When you look at the most recent DDRAM cards you’ll see that they generally have a higher CAS latency than the older cards, but they are still faster overall because of the increases in transfer rate.
Getting a bit more complicated now right? Basically, what this comes down to is that when you’re looking at RAM you want a card that has a high transfer rate (shown in MHz) and a low CAS latency (ms) – but it is the combination of these in the Real Latency(ns) that matters.
How Much Memory Do You Need?
So, now that you know the basics, how much memory do you actually need to get. Well, very simply, more is better. 4GBs is about the bare minimum that you need for a modern computer, but if you’re looking to do gaming that will increase to 16GBs and if you need your computer for specialist work, like 3D modelling or video editing, this will increase to 32GBs. Anything above 32GBs isn’t generally worth the cost, as the increase in memory will only be used in the rarest of occasions.
I don’t blame you, it is a lot to take in. Learning how RAM works and how to purchase exactly what you need can be a bit intimidating. But, this is a great place to start and there are lots of other resources available online that go into much more depth. If this all sounds like too much, then you can always go with a pre-built PC or use a PC building service which will source your parts and build it for you, ensuring that it is all compatible and works as intended.