RAM (Random Access Memory) is one of the most essential components of computer hardware that determines how well your machine will perform in demanding tasks like gaming. Besides size, RAM speed is one aspect that you may find on a computer’s spec sheet and something every gamer researches when looking for the best gaming RAM for their new PC. So, does RAM speed matter for gaming? To answer this question effectively, you have to understand a few things first.
- RAM speed entails two parameters – frequency and latency
- To calculate RAM speed: Frequency/CAS timing
- You can mix different RAM speeds
- RAM bandwidth significantly affects RAM speed
- RAM speed doesn’t affect the gaming experience
How Does RAM Speed Work?
RAM speed works on the premise of a couple of things – frequency and latency. The former deals with the amount of data transferable to the module at a given moment. On the other hand, latency (CAS timing) refers to how fast RAM responds to different requests. These two aspects have a relationship whereby latency increases at higher frequencies, which means they balance each other out. For this reason, we could say that RAM speed does not matter as much as one would expect.
Knowing Your RAM Speed
Finding out what your system’s real RAM speed involves some little basic mathematics. You will work it out by dividing the frequency (e.g. 3200 MHz) by the first number on the CAS timing – for instance 15. Our example of 3200/15 should give you a result of 213.33. The resultant figure represents the total number of instructions that your RAM can carry out every second.
RAM Speed & Overclocking
The stock top clock speed should be 2133 MHz if you are working with DDR4 RAM. However, you may come across RAM speeds rated higher than this figure. The bigger figure means that you can overclock your system to the higher clock speeds. In such cases, you may come across information about Intel or AMD processor compatibility. This information relates to the built-in XMP profiles – it indicates the presence of default profiles in the module, which give the motherboard BIOS the ability to overclock RAM to the settings specified by the manufacturer. Despite specifying Intel or AMD, XMP profiles will work with both two types of processors. However, it will depend on your motherboard specifications.
Is Mixing Different RAM Speeds Possible?
Although not that straightforward, you can sometimes mix different RAM speeds. RAM modules can work with others with different speeds and timings. However, the motherboard will have an increasingly difficult time in running the two RAM modules the more the disparity between the CAS timings and speeds. For instance, if you were working with two RAM modules with equal speeds, but with slightly varying CAS timing, you would not come across any challenges. The motherboard will simply run both modules at the speed of the slowest of the pair. Increasing the difference in CAS timing will give your motherboard a hard time in trying to run the two modules together. You will have to manually underclock or overclock the two to allow the motherboard to run them. Manually controlling the RAMs can prove to be tedious and is something we would not recommend trying.
RAM speed also depends on other aspects such as bandwidth, and you should consider this aspect before buying any RAM module. Bandwidth determines the amount of data that can pass through a RAM module at a particular point in time. The more bandwidth a module has, the higher the amount of data that it can let through. More bandwidth translates to a better gaming experience as it gets to utilize more of the RAM at a given time. Less bandwidth results in less data transfer and ultimately lower RAM speeds. Always go for a module with the highest possible bandwidth for the ultimate gaming experience.
How Do RAM Modules Perform at Different Speeds?
The following information is from the results of a 3DMark Time Spy benchmark test on three different RAM modules each with two different RAM speeds. The graphics score is the number to look at since it determines how good or bad a gaming experience will be on a computer. Here is a breakdown of the benchmark results:
- Two 32GB RAM modules with a frequency of 2933 MHz and 2400 MHz recorded a graphics score of 4475 and 4458 respectively
- Two 16GB RAM modules with a frequency of 2933 MHz and 2400 MHz recorded a graphics score of 4475 and 4459 respectively
- Two 8GB RAM modules with a frequency of 3600 MHz and 2133 MHz recorded a graphics score of 4465 and 4470 respectively
From these results, it is evident that there is no significant difference regarding performance in the graphics department. RAM speed does not have any significant impact on the graphics. The main reason behind these findings is the fact that games rely more on the graphics cards and the processor than on the RAM module. RAM speeds become more important in multitasking like playing games while streaming some content online. However, when it comes to gaming alone, it does not matter the RAM speed that your system has at its disposal.
Concluding that RAM speed does not affect the gaming experience would be the right thing to do. For this reason, you do not have to worry too much about it while shopping for a RAM module for your gaming computer. Even at a low RAM of 8GB, the speed does not make any significant difference in the graphics department, having a negligible impact on gaming. Other aspects that you should consider when purchasing a RAM module include warranty, brand, and memory. Always go with brands with a good reputation. Search on various online forums for positive and negative user reviews so that you can know what to expect and avoid. However, if you intend to double-up your gaming computer, especially laptops for other functions that require multitasking – higher RAM speeds should work best for you.