Best Gaming RAM Buying Guide

1 | Overview and roles of Memory (RAM)

  • Role of a memory stick
  • Evolutions and versions

RAM is an essential component of any computer, whether fixed or portable, gamer or office. It is in the form of a strip composed of independent microchips that are also called memory cards, sequential memory, RAM or RAM simply.

Role of a memory stick

The Random Access Memory (RAM) is intended to store data for the processor to access quickly temporarily. This volatile memory has indeed access times that are counted in nanoseconds, much longer than those of a hard disk or an optical medium type DVD or CD-ROM. It’s a little short-term memory of your PC, HDD and SSD being rather long term.

The acronym for RAM is misleading because “random” access does not mean randomly, quite the opposite. Hence the term sequential memory sometimes used because the information is perfectly organized and stored in a bar of RAM but accessible at any time and in any order.

This volatile aspect is fundamental. Especially since, as soon as the data capacity of the memory, expressed in gigabytes, is full, the processor processes the stored information to integrate new issues from the hard drives which slow down. The quantity but also the quality of the memory (see the chapter characteristics) are to be considered together.

Evolutions and versions

There is not a computer memory but computer memories!
The term RAM has long been opposed to ROM (Read-only Memory) or ROM, the latter designating non-volatile storage.

While the term ROM has become rare, the RAM family remains large. A distinction is made between static random access memory (SRAM) and dynamic random access memory (DRAM). Less bulky, cheaper but also less fast, the DRAM are those that equip our computers today.

But even within the DRAM, there is split, with one on one side the DDR-SDRAM (or DDR for Double Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory) and the other SDRAM.

The first type indicates that at equal frequency, this type of memory doubles the transfer rate of reads / writes compared to conventional SDRAM. The latter is synchronous, i.e., its frequency is synchronized with that of the system bus as opposed to asynchronous memories that have their own clock but require small waiting time. due to synchronization with the system bus.

It was with Intel’s Northwood architecture in 2002 that DDR-SDRAM appeared, which has since seen three major evolutions to increase data throughput from the original 200 to 400 MT / s.

DDR2-SDRAM is the second generation of DDR memory. The naming principle is to show the doubling of the theoretical flow at equal real frequency. Indeed the DDR2 memory has the same clock frequency as the DDR but thanks to a doubled bus frequency, the memory has a theoretical rate also doubled.
DDR3-SDRAM, the third generation of DDR memory, arrived on the market at the end of 2007 and provides twice the output of DDR2.

The fourth and current generation of DDR memory, born at the end of 2014, is called … (drum roll) … DDR4 !! And guess what? It provides twice the throughput of DDR3.

2 | RAM: understand the characteristics

• 1 – Quantity
• 2 – Frequency
• 3 – Latency (CAS & timings)
• 4 – Voltage

1 – Quantity
The amount of memory is measured in gigabytes, corresponding to the available volatile space. No secret, the better there is. However, beware of your OS, 32-bit operating systems cannot exceed 3 GB of RAM.

Computer applications are so varied that it is difficult to define a “just” amount of memory. Operating system (Windows, Linux, Mac OS, etc.) use (office, gaming, virtualization) and budgets are to be taken into account.

If overclocking interests you better, prioritize frequency over quantity.

Note however that an excess of memory will be the excellent opportunity to set up a ramdisk, storage faster than an SSD but, in fact, volatile. This may seem complex but more and more motherboard manufacturers are providing suitable software.

Similarly, if you opt for 8 GB, for example, a single bar will offer more opportunities for future changes that 2×4.

Some points of reference:
Depending on your requirement, your gaming PC will require more or less GB of memory. Here our Unity PC which has 2 x 8 GB.
Depending on your requirement, your gaming PC will require more or less GB of memory. Here our Unity PC which has 2 x 8 GB.
If 4 GB of memory on a recent version of Windows is a base, especially for office use, 8 GB is much more comfortable, especially if you have to do several things at the same time.

If you are a gamer, 16 GB seems the most appropriate amount, some games (such as Open World type GTA) can be quite greedy. Similarly for the processing of heavy images, vector drawing or 3D.

32 GB mainly concerns very specific uses: gamers for whom no compromise on fluidity can be made, virtualization (creation of workspaces, emulation of other operating systems within a virtual machine), CAD with images in RAW, for example, raytracing, vector gradient in all directions.

Let us understand well: these values are given for information only, it is above all a question of comfort. If you still have 4 GB or less updating, your memory can make your system more responsive. Go from 8 to 16 will be less significant and there are probably other components to update before the RAM, an SSD for example.

2 – Frequency
Among the most important characteristics for a memory array, we find the notion of frequency, expressed in megahertz (MHz). This corresponds roughly to the processing speed of the RAM in question (in fact, the speed of the connection between the RAM and the Northbridge of the motherboard): the higher the measurement, the faster the bar is fast and stable.

Beware, however, the motherboard manufacturers indicate a maximum frequency beyond which the surplus MHz will be useless. Except for overclockers, you do not need to go higher then.

You will also notice an indication of type PC19200 or PC27700. This one is directly related to the frequency it is a synonym if one dares to say: it is enough “to divide by 8 (8 bits = 1 bytes for recall) to know the frequency of a bar. A RAM type PC19200, therefore, has a frequency of 2400 MHz, for a PC8500, 1066 MHz, etc.

3 – Latency (CAS & timings)
Latency is often the least understood technical data. Also called timings, it represents the number of clock cycles (not that of your kitchen, that of the processor), in other words, the time needed to access data stored in the RAM. The timings are represented by a series of 4 numbers in the form “9-9-9-24” or “2,5-3-3-6”.

Understandably, the lower the numbers, the better. But it’s also what costs the most!

These four numbers represent in order:

• CAS latency (for Column Address Strobe latency): The number of clock cycles between the sending of the read command and the actual arrival of the data. In other words, it is the access time to a column.
• RAS Precharge Time (for Row Address Strobe, sometimes denoted tRP): The number of clock cycles between two RAS instructions, that is, between two accesses to a line.
• RAS to CAS delay (sometimes denoted tRCD): number of clock cycles corresponding to the access time of a row to a column.
• RAS active time (sometimes denoted tRAS): number of clock cycles corresponding to the access time to a line.
Except for overclocking fans, at an equal budget, it is better to favor a higher frequency at a tighter latency.

4 – Voltage
Expressed in volts, the tension is undoubtedly the most simple data to understand. It indicates which electrical power is recommended for the bar. The lower the voltage, the less the bars are energy-consuming.

The main thing is to choose a voltage that your motherboard will handle, so it is again she who gives the LA.

Overclocking enthusiasts (aka overclockers) will be turning to XMP (Extreme memory profile, Intel Technology) or AMD (AMD Memory Profile Technology, AMD technology) for overclocking memory by increasing the voltage.

3 | PC memory sticks: how to change?

• Detection and diagnosis
• Installation
• The special case of the laptop
• Detection and diagnosis

Apart from the time of purchase, there are two situations in which you will have to look at the purchase of RAM: when you miss it or when a bar is defective.

There are several things you can do to make sure that there is not enough RAM.

The first is almost in the name: if RAM is insufficient, your PC will … row! This slow operation is because when the RAM is saturated, your PC will use the virtual memory of the computer or will go directly to the information on the hard drive which leads to longer loads.

Other ways to identify a lack of RAM, system information – which will tell you the total to compare with what you have installed – or the task manager of your OS. By starting the latter and especially by going to the performance tab, you can view the amount of memory used and what is left. If you are in a tight state, it is better to add quantity.

The CPU-Z utility also provides detailed information about your entire system including RAM.

If this is not a lack but a defect in the RAM that affects your computer, the symptoms can be more varied with including repeated crashes, blue screens (the famous screens of death, the BSOD, Blue screen of death) and in the first place the lack of initialization of the PC with different beeps depending on your BIOS version.

But whatever the latter, we can remember a constant: if your PC does not emit its usual beep at startup, it means that processor or memory are improperly installed or out of order. Three beeps indicate a RAM problem.

To verify, it may still be helpful to restart your PC with additional RAMs or remove them one by one to identify the fault (s).

Since Seven, Windows also includes a utility that will allow you to test your RAM: just launch the application “Windows Memory Diagnostics” (with a short test and a long, more advanced) and follow the procedure to check the memory integrity.

Other utilities, including online, are available for free to do an analysis of its memory modules. The Memtest history remains a reference.

Installation
When you mount a PC, install the RAM is probably the simplest. DIMM slots are easy to locate, colors being there to identify where to connect RAM that should work in interlaced or dual channel mode.

Therefore, prefer these locations if you use technically identical bars.

The slots are additionally keyed, and the notches of the bars prevent any error.

The special case of the laptop
Because we have underestimated its use or simply because we want to have more performance, the amount of RAM on a laptop may be insufficient. Technically, as on a desktop PC, this can change if the bars are not soldered to the motherboard. It will then choose the so-called RAM SO-DIMM. Do not panic, at Gaming Reporter we have a category dedicated to laptop memory!

First pitfall, access to these bars: you will sometimes need a screwdriver, patience, and method as the sites are sometimes well hidden. Some manufacturers have a good idea, however, to prefer a hatch to a screwed panel. Above all, most engrave a symbol or a mention RAM to locate it. Once open, if you have a free slot and you want to add RAM or change it, make sure to take a compatible reference, the best is to leave on an identical bar. Be careful, carefully remove the pins or clamps holding the bar.

Last but not least: this operation, if not mastered can damage your laptop. Especially, if it is still under warranty, it may not be valid if you open the device.

4 | Memory: these little things that make the difference

  • Overclocking
  • The dissipative RAMs
  • ECC Memory
  • Memory with LED lighting

Overclocking
As for the processors, the technical characteristics indicated on the RAM strips are based on the measures recommended by the manufacturer. But they are sometimes able to do much better by being overclocked or overclocked. As we saw in Chapter II (LINK), we will prefer memory modules to XMP or AMP profiles to support changes of timings or frequencies.

As for the OC operation itself, it can be done through dedicated software and interventions in the BIOS to change the parameters for taking into account your RAM whether the voltage, the frequencies, timings …

The dissipative RAMs
It is increasingly difficult to find RAM without a heatsink or radiator. A generalization that does not bring so much in terms of temperature management, the RAM itself heating very little. So, of course, the cooling systems of manufacturers help it to keep a cool head, but it is more aesthetic gains than performance if not for those who overclock and therefore raise the temperature of their RAM. In this case, heatsink memory modules will be welcome.

Above all, check the place they can take in the case to, for example, not be blocked by the cooler. References Low Profile, less bulky, will adapt to this type of configurations.

ECC Memory
Some models display with ECC, which stands for Error Correction Coding. Behind this acronym lies the ability to detect and correct on the fly errors in writing / reading. This is an essential feature for servers for example or for computing machines.

Memory with LED lighting
More and more components adorn themselves with clothes of light: understand, they integrate LED lighting to take care of the aesthetics of its configuration. LED RAM arrays have therefore become fashionable, and most brands have made it.

If some references have a single color, others offer a real rainbow RGB, sometimes controllable with specific software like the Asus Aura for example.

Kennedy

Hi, My name is Kennedy - a gamer, and blogger. I write everything about gaming from the high-end Intel processors and graphics cards to reviews of the latest AAA games. I am also interested in cryptocurrency (Ripple & Bitcoin Cash). When I'm not on my rig gaming or blogging, you will find me outdoors on my dirt bike!

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