Anyone who seriously games online goes to considerable lengths to guarantee that their PC is running in tip-top condition. Lag times, slow response times, overheating…these are all problems that can slow down game-play and result in lost matches.
One of the biggest problems in gaming, though, is keeping up with the constantly-changing hardware requirements. As games advance, so do their needs for more speed, more memory, and faster graphics processing.
This constant state of change often leaves gamers pondering the question of how much memory (aka RAM) is needed for gaming?
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What Role Does RAM Play in Games?
Before you consider how much you need, it’s a good idea to understand what RAM is in the first place. RAM, short for random-access memory, refers to the computer chips that store information on a short-term basis for your computer.
Basically, RAM helps store things that aren’t necessarily required to be stored on your hard drive. Because content stored on RAM is critical to your esports or gameplay, it needs to be fast, and there needs to be plenty of it.
With low RAM, your PC will not have the option to store all the game data it requires to run quickly, prompting uneven edge rates and lackluster performance. Without RAM, your computer would have to continually read/write to your SDD or hard disk, creating critical wait times and slowing down your gameplay.
Are There Different Types of RAM?
Most certainly. When we refer to RAM, we’re usually talking about rectangular circuit boards that have memory chips attached to them. These are often referred to as RAM chips or RAM modules and connect directly to your motherboard.
It’s important to note, however, that video cards have their own type of RAM, known as VRAM. This is unique in relation to system RAM in that it’s totally centered around sending graphics to your display.
For gaming, it’s critical to balance the amount of RAM with the proper amount of VRAM. A deficiency in one usually will cause game-play issues.
For instance, to play games at a high resolution like 4K, you’ll want a great deal of VRAM. You could be running a healthy 32GB of system RAM, but if you only have 2GB of video RAM in your machine, the performance will likely be terrible.
As a result, it’s important to consider not only how much RAM you’ll need to play, but how much VRAM you’ll need to play at high resolutions.
How Much RAM Do I Need for PC Gaming?
Most motherboards today can accommodate up to 64GB of RAM. Some high-end motherboards can even support 128GB of RAM. Be that as it may, it doesn’t mean you want to run out and max out your motherboard capabilities.
Because many of us are on a limited budget, we want to balance our spend on a combination of RAM and VRAM. To be honest, most gamers will see great performance with 32GB of RAM, and many can get by just fine with 16GB.
So, if you’re getting ready to build or buy a gaming PC, target 16GB of RAM for gaming, and if your budget can afford it, increase that to 32GB. Be sure you have a motherboard that allows for future expansion since we know games are only going to continue to increase their memory requirements.
Single Module or Multiple Modules? Which One Is Better?
Most gaming PC motherboards have a dual-channel configuration. That means there are two slots to accommodate our RAM modules. Some higher-end motherboards have four slots, allowing for additional expansion.
So, the question sometimes arises as to whether it’s better to have two 8GB memory modules or one 16GB memory module. There are those who believe it’s immaterial as to whether you use one or two, but that is generally for those who are considering expansion options in the future.
From a purely performance perspective, benchmarking has indicated that two 8GB memory modules will outperform a single 16GB module because they can share the input/output load more efficiently.
So, if your motherboard supports two modules, and you have a budget for 32GB, then you are better off purchasing two 16GB modules rather than a single 32GB module.
If, however, you’re eyeing an upgrade in the future and can only purchase 8GB right now, you might consider purchasing a single 8GB module now and adding another 8GB module in the future.
If you were to purchase two 4GB modules right now, when you go to upgrade, you won’t have any use for those two 4GB modules when you upgrade to 16GB.
What Are Some Common RAM Configurations?
Memory modules are sold in increments of 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB. If you are going to go with a pair of memory modules, be sure they match. Never mix a 4GB memory module with an 8GB module.
Some common memory configurations and uses are:
4GB of RAM for Gaming
Is 4GB of RAM enough for playing games on PC? For the most part, a 4GB RAM PC is appropriate for home and normal office use; it isn’t enough for modern PC games that are graphics intensive.
If you’re playing simple web-based games, you can get away with 4GB, but anything beyond that and you’ll start to notice poor performance.
8GB of RAM for Gaming
8GB RAM is a good starting spot for gaming. Your PC can run a lot of games at 8GB RAM easily. If you evaluate the memory requirements for a lot of the more intense games out there, they indicate that 8GB is good for solid performance.
16GB or 32GB of RAM for Gaming
As I mentioned above, some games might run better with 16GB or even 32GB of memory, and it’s almost certain that future games will require more memory. So, if you have the budget and want to build for the future, expand your memory.
When building a machine, I always buy a little more memory than I need and spend the rest of my budget ensuring that my graphics processing unit (GPU) has plenty of VRAM.
Things to Consider When Purchasing RAM for your Gaming Computer
Hopefully, this article has given you a foundational understanding of what RAM is and how it relates to your gaming computer. The following is a summary of some of the considerations to keep in mind:
- RAM is a transient storage unit used to briefly hold information from a game you’re playing.
- RAM is not a replacement for your SDD or hard drive. Instead, it is a supplement to those storage devices, allowing for faster transmission of short-term data.
- 8GB is the target level of RAM for gaming today; however, 16GB is a decent future-sealed choice.
- If you have budget to buy more RAM beyond 16GB, you might consider putting that budget toward more VRAM by upgrading your GPU.
- Consider the number of spaces on your motherboard when choosing how to purchase your RAM.
- Be sure to buy RAM in matched pairs for best performance unless you will be upgrading soon. Then you can get by with a single module until you’re ready to add a second, matching module.
Keep in mind that RAM is a moderately minor piece of a gaming PC, so be sure to think about your needs and invest wisely.
I hope this helps in your understanding of RAM and how much you need for gaming. Have questions or comments? Be sure to leave them in the comments section.