If you want to experience great performance while playing games, it’s important that you use the right hardware to do the job. Most often people are concerned about the processor and graphics card that they choose for their gaming systems, but those aren’t the only parts you have to think about. The memory, also known as RAM, is equally important for great performance. This article will help describe why using the correct RAM is important, what specifications to look for, and how they can affect your gaming performance.
Why Is RAM Important?
RAM is an important consideration because it is an active participant while gaming. While the processor and graphics card do all of the calculations, the RAM is the area that stores needed variables and content. Besides loading time, top performance from a hard drive is nonessential because that’s all it does. Once the game has been launched — into the RAM — then the hard drive becomes a secondary, passive participant while gaming. The RAM is an active participant because once the game is loaded into it, it’s there that information is read and stored — the processor and graphics card request information from the memory, do the calculations, and store the results back in the RAM.
If you’re wondering why RAM is being used instead of the hard drive directly, it’s because it is faster, and is meant to store temporary items. If you’re wanting to store things for longer periods of time, that’s when you write to the HDD — but that mainly concerns game settings and save data, which you don’t care about while you’re in the middle of playing the game.
Essentially, bigger and faster RAM is better for gaming performance, because you’ll be able to hold more temporary information and the information can be read and written to it faster as well. Bigger size means that your computer can do more while it’s loading the game, rather than load part until the RAM is full and then constantly free memory and load more parts of the game from the hard drive. This can slow down your game severely. Faster speeds mean that information is fed to the processor and graphics card faster. Their output is stored faster, and you want it to be this way because the processor and graphics card will be faster than the RAM no matter what; you’ll want them to be fed as much as possible.
Ideally, you should look for RAM that is 8GB or larger so that you can be assured that you have enough space for your operating system as well as a resource-heavy game. If you can afford it, more is always better, but beware that each system has a different limit for the maximum amount it can support. To find this out, check your manufacturer’s website for the maximum amount of memory supported or, if you built your system yourself, you can look at your motherboard manufacturer’s website for this information.
Besides gaming, there are many other benefits of increasing your RAM capacity.
Next, RAM runs on various frequencies, where its controller can perform a task during each “tick” of the RAM’s clock. Similarly, the higher the frequency, the better the performance, so it’s ideal to go as high as your system or motherboard supports. This information can be found in the same location as the maximum amount supported (mentioned above). Please note that some motherboards list a few supported frequencies with (O.C.) listed next to them. This means that those frequencies can be supported, but the system needs to be overclocked in order to do so. Otherwise, if you buy memory that natively supports one of those frequencies and don’t overclock your system, it won’t run at the RAM’s full potential frequency or even worse, not at all.
Lastly, RAM also has various latencies for different tasks (such as searching for a location in memory, reading the location, etc). These latencies should be as low as possible, so you should try to look for RAM that has the lowest numbers. As an example, latencies are usually described as “10-10-10-27”, which means that it has a latency of 9 memory clocks for one task, latency of 1 memory clock for another task, and so on. There should be a total of four numbers. All motherboards should support all latencies as these describe the responsiveness of the RAM rather than how it interacts with the motherboard. This makes a small difference, but a difference nonetheless.
If you’re interested, there is a more technical explanation of RAM latencies available.
Hopefully with this in mind, you can pick out the right kind of RAM that is best for your gaming experience. Again, remember to check what the maximum supported amount and maximum frequency is to ensure that it is compatible with your system. Also, check to see how many RAM slots your system even has (often called DIMMs). If your maximum amount of memory supported is 8GB, you have the choice of buying a pack of 2 x 4GB or a pack of 4 x 2GB. If you only have two available slots, it’s important to be aware of that fact so you can get the 2 x 4GB pack.
If you need help with replacing the memory in your system, you can check out this guide on how to replace the RAM in your laptop. If you’re using a gaming desktop, you can read the article as most of it is still relevant. You’ll just have to open your case and pop out the modules and push in the new ones.
What’s the best RAM you’ve ever used? What about the best value for the price? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credits: William Hook