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Does more RAM make difference in gaming performance?



And old rule every computer enthusiast tries to follow is “the more RAM you have, the better”. Sure, a larger quantity of RAM does not hurt, but is it worth it to spend more on RAM when you are building a gaming computer? Which is the best, to install 4 GiB, 8 GiB, or even 16 GiB? Let’s find out in this gaming performance test.

The RAM (Random Access Memory) is where the computer keeps data and programs while they are being processed. In theory, if the amount of free RAM in the computer is less than the executing program demands, it will not run. However, in the PC architecture, there is a feature called “virtual memory”, where some memory data is temporarily transferred to a storage device (a hard disk, most of the times) to free some RAM. When the CPU asks for data that was transferred to the storage memory, the data must be reloaded to the RAM and the new, unused data is now transferred to the virtual memory. That swapping reduces the computer performance, because the performance of a hard disk drive (or even of an SSD) is always lower than the RAM performance.

When there is free memory, most operating systems use this “idle” memory as a data cache, keeping a copy of the last data read from the storage memory. Because of this, when we open the same program for a second time, it will load way faster than the first time: there is no need to read the data from the disk again, because they are already in the unused RAM.

Because of those two features, the amount of RAM can affect the general performance of the computer; low memory amount can let the computer slow because of the virtual memory usage; a large amount of RAM can speed up the storage performance by using drive cache.

The question we will analyze today is if, in real life, more installed RAM improves a computers gaming performance. In order to answer this question, we ran eight modern games in a gaming computer (we used a near-high-end configuration in order to avoid bottlenecks on the video card or CPU) using 16 GiB, then 8 GiB, and then 4 GiB. On the tests with 16 GiB we used two 8 GiB modules (in dual channel), on the test with 8 GiB we used two 4 GiB modules (also in dual channel), and in the test with 4 GiB we used a single 4 GiB module (obviously, in single channel) because we had no two 2 GiB modules available at our lab. Besides we were using different memory modules, on all the tests were configured with the same clock speed and latencies.

The fact we ran two tests with memory using dual channel configuration, and the third one with single channel should not influence the performance, as we already proved in our article Does dual-channel memory make difference in gaming performance?

Figure 1 shows the memory modules we used.

Does more RAM makes difference in gaming performance?Figure 1: memory modules used on the test

In the next page, we will list the test configuration.