Love playing video games on your PC but you hate lag, the crashes, and the terrible-looking graphics. Now, imagine playing all the latest and greatest video games without any frustrations in stunning detail. How? RAM. As much of it, to get the smoothest, fastest gaming performance.
Every detail, every texture, every model, every shadow, every effect all in ultra-high settings. Sounds amazing, right? But not every RAM is created equal.
How Does RAM Work?
RAM (Random Access Memory) is a type of computer memory that stores data temporarily by its millions of tiny transistors and capacitors that can each hold electric charges that represent binary data. Think of it simply as a kind of storage, or like FedEx where hundreds of packages some large (graphics), some small (sounds), and some a cluster of packages (applications, notifications, software) are stored, processed, and delivered.
Each of these packages is temporarily stored in a facility that can only hold a certain amount. A specific package is sent out whenever there is a request for it. For example, one of your 8GB RAM sticks (facility) can only hold the RAM-loving Google Chrome and its extensions and tabs. There is also SDRAM which to avoid confusion is essentially the old version of DDR with few pins and higher voltage.
Now, finally each “facility” has a certain classification i.e. DDR3, DDR4, or DDR5 so 8GB DDR RAM means it has a classification or facility capacity that can hold 8GB of data. The technical term Double Data Rate (DDR) describes the amount of data being transferred within a rate (range) of Bits Per Second (BPS) with the numerical at the end i.e. DDR3, DDR4, DDR5 referring to its generation.
To avoid further confusion and headaches, here is the super simple way how RAM sticks work:
- 8GB of RAM = refers to how many “packages” (data) it can store. In this case, it can hold 8GBs of information.
- DDR4 = refers to the “workers” inside of a RAM stick. The higher the number (generation), the faster they work.
- RAM Clock Speeds = refers to its delivery meaning, the lower/slower the Clock Speed the more Traffic Stops. The higher, the less Traffick Stops.
What RAM Is Compatible with Your Motherboard?
It depends. For a RAM stick to work, its generational technologies i.e., Land Grid Array (LGA) to be compatible with the motherboard you want. To find the socket generation, either ask a knowledgeable salesperson or visit that specific motherboard’s product webpage. For example, for Asus Prime H510M-K, scroll down and you will see a graphic, that says the LGA 1200 socket supports 10th-11th gen Intel processors.
Each generation of RAM has different electrical and physical characteristics from its speed, bandwidth, voltage, and pin layout. A DDR3 RAM stick is 1.5v with a 240-pin configuration while a DD4 RAM stick has 288 pins and 1.2v. LGA 1200 sockets do not support DDR3. Why? Because of the pin layout. LGA 1200 sockets are structured for 288 pins RAM sticks. A DDR3 only has 240 pins.
And just because there is an excess of 48 pins, does not mean that a DDR3 RAM stick will work. These pins are the metal contacts that attach or connect to the motherboard. If you insist on installing a DDR3 RAM stick into an LGA 1200 motherboard; either you will damage your mobo or the RAM stick itself.
Not to mention that a DDR3 RAM stick is 1.5v whilst a DDR4 RAM stick is 1.2v. If the voltage is either too high or too low, there is a high possibility that your RAM will not work due to overheating or short-circuiting.
Intel LGA Sockets and Compatible DDR Technologies:
- DDR3 (240 pins, 1.5v / 1.35v) = LGA 1156, LGA 1366, LGA 1150, LGA 1155, LGA 2011
- DDR4 (288 pins, 1.2v / 1.05v) = LGA 1151, LGA 2066, LGA 1200
- DDR5 (288 pins, 1.1v / lower) = LGA 1700
Please note that specific LGA 1700 socket motherboards do support DDR4 but an LGA 1200 socket motherboard does not support DDR5.
How Much RAM Do I Need for Gaming?
General RAM Guidelines:
- 8GB: The bare minimum requirement for most games
- 16GB: The actual minimum requirement for all modern games
- 32GB or more: If you are creating content or streaming. At least 32GB or more.
The more demanding your game is, meaning, the more models, the more complex (detailed) the textures, motion blur, sharpness, particle effects, cinematic quality, and many, many more. . . the more RAM it will demand. Take for example the upcoming Cities: Skyline II, it has a recommended specs of 16GB, an i5-12600k/Ryzen 7 5800x, with a 10GB RTX 3080! Just to play 60fps at 1080p. Hopefully, that is just an optimization issue.
Video Games That Benefit with More RAM:
- 1) Rust can easily demand 25GB of RAM
- 2) DCS / Digital Combat Simulator needs at least 20GB
- 3) Star Citizen over 16GB if not more
- 4) Baldur’s Gate 3 needs a minimum of 16GB, with 32GB setups, Baldur’s Gate 3 is perfect
Please take into your RAM consideration that most gamers do not simply just stick to 1 application meaning an average PC player most likely also has his/her Discord open and most likely either Twitch, a YouTube video, or a random website on the notorious Google Chrome (one of the most RAM hunger web browsers) that in it of itself easily eats up 6-8GB of RAM.
What RAM Speed Do I Need?
What is RAM speed? It is the rate by which information or data is transferred. Though some argue that the differences between RAM speeds are trivial in comparison to the sheer amount of RAM that you have do not mistake it, RAM speeds are very crucial. To avoid excessive technical terms such as MT/S, CAS latency, and so now. We will keep this nice and simple.
Typical RAM Clock Speeds are:
- 2400MHz, 3200MHZ, 3600MHz – some overclockers have achieved a whopping 8,704 MT/s using a 16GB G.Skill RAM Stick . This requires extreme cooling and voltage adjustments, which means, do not do this unless either you love to overclock or you have the money to back up your fun.
How Clock Speeds Impact Gaming
When your RAM sticks have higher clock speeds, it affects how fast each data is transferred between your CPU and memory. Think of it as how fast a magician’s hand moves into his magic hat to pull out (data) a magic trick (texture, sound, graphics, etc.). Clock speeds influence the following
- 1) Load Times: From loading screens, saving, games with large textures, or hundreds of environmental models. The higher your clock speed, the faster all of these will load.
- 2) Frame Rates: Most games take advantage of the CPU and GPU but for scenarios when it is limited to just your CPU. Faster clock speeds have a positive impact on your frame rates as there is more rapid data access and processing.
- 3) Frame Timing: Frame Timing is all about making frame stuttering smoother meaning barely noticeable or less delay. Here is a fantastic video on video game shuttering.
The most important aspect about all of this is simply, having a balanced computer. Having the highest clock speeds available will not necessarily give you god-tier performance especially if you are lacking CPU and/or GPU power. And do take note not all RAM sticks can be overclocked and even if they could be overclocked, you may incidentally void your warranties.
What Type of RAM Is Right for Your Gaming PC?
This is no real definitive answer for this but it can depend on your gaming preference and finances. According to the RAM motherboard compatibility section, the latest LGA 1700 socket motherboard supports primarily DDR5 with some motherboards also supporting DDR4. If you have the money, go for a DDR5 build and pair it with a powerful GPU (RTX 4000 series) and an 11th or 12th-gen CPU.
If you are on a tighter budget and you are looking for more value for your RAM sticks money. Go for DDR4, as the difference between DDR4 and DDR5 is about 6%-10%, especially if you part of the community that believes that 2k is the sweet spot for performance and value.
However, as a rule. Regardless of aesthetic taste, and raw power needs, a minimum of 16 GB of RAM with a clock speed of 3,000-4,000MHz and a latency of 16-18 CL will work for most video games, programs, and software applications. If at any point during your read, you were confused or had questions.
Now that you understand the many aspects of RAM, from its uses, and clock speeds to sheer power. Remember this simple idea, if you are running a video game or software that is very demanding. The more RAM you will need. Think of it as, more RAM = more hands. More hands make demanding multi-tasking tasks much easier.
RAM Module Setup
- 2x16GB = dual channel RAM
- 4x8GB = quad channel RAM
To simplify, a dual channel is like having 2 pairs of eyes with a peripheral vision or scope of 16GB or each pair of eyes can see 16 things. A quad-channel, 4 pairs of eyes that can each handle or see 8 things. This is a very, very simple explanation. Clock speeds play a crucial role in either configuration.