How to Choose the Best Memory for Gaming

In this article you will learn how to choose the best memory for gaming. There are various types, speeds, and amounts of memory (aka RAM) out there so it’s a good idea to know what to look for. When you’re building a computer for gaming the memory is an important component and has a direct influence on the performance of your games and other applications.

best memory for gaming

A gaming PC will generally need more memory than a typical standard-use PC because complex 3D games demand a lot of your system and the more memory you have inside your build, the easier your computer will be able to cope, and the smoother your games and other applications will run.

What is RAM?

First of all, you may be thinking what RAM actually is. RAM stands for Random Access Memory. To put it simply, it’s the space in your computer where temporary data and programs are stored so that they can be continually accessed very quickly.

To put it another way, if you consider your computer a tool bench, then the RAM would be the space you set aside for your most commonly-used tools so that you can very easily and quickly reach for them whenever they’re needed without having to search around for them, allowing you to work efficiently.

RAM Terms To Know

Type

There are different types of RAM but these days the only one you need to concern yourself with for a desktop build is DDR3 SDRAM. This is the latest and fastest type of memory available for desktops. You’ll need to check that your motherboard supports this type of RAM, but it’s pretty much a given if you’re buying a modern motherboard.

The number of pins on the RAM is also something else to check with your motherboard for compatibility. 240 pin RAM is the most common and will likely be what you’re dealing with (again, most motherboards will support this but you should check just to be safe).

Speed

The speed of your memory is an important specification you should be aware of. There are two parts to the speed, the operating frequency and the bandwidth. The operating frequency is basically the speed of the memory and the higher the number, the faster your memory will be. The bandwidth measures how fast your memory can actually transfer data at a time.

As an example to help you understand, let’s say you have some memory and the speed says “1600 MHz (PC3 12800)”. 1600 megahertz is the operating frequency of the memory, and the PC3 12800 part is the bandwidth which translates to 12800 Megabits per second. When choosing your memory you’ll want to ensure that your motherboard has support for the particular speed of memory you choose.

Size

The capacity of memory is measured in gigabytes and oftentimes the memory will be split into multiple modules, so when you see “8GB (2 x 4GB)” that simply means there are two memory sticks each with 4GB capacity making for a total of 8GB memory.

Yep you guessed it, the more memory you have the faster your computer will run. You’ll need to find out your motherboard’s maximum memory capacity so that you don’t buy more memory than you can use (rare but possible).

Other Specs

There are some other specifications of memory such as dual channel memory, triple channel memory, cas latency, voltage, and heatspreaders to name a few. If you are interested to know about them you should do your research on them, but for the purposes of selecting the best memory for gaming you don’t need to be familiar with them and the aim of this article is to give you what you need to know instead of confusing you with technical info-overload.

I’ll just point out that it is important to know that if you buy either dual or triple channel memory (which is faster than standard memory), make sure that your motherboard supports it (multiple channel memory simple runs faster than standard single channel memory).

How Much RAM is Enough for Gaming?

Ok, we’ve covered a few of the important specifications and now you know a little more about RAM, but which memory is best for your new gaming build? The more the merrier, but to play the latest games now and into the next few years you will want a minimum of 4GB of RAM and no less. 8GB is the sweet spot and is what I would personally recommend right now.

With 8GB you will maximize gaming performance and you won’t have to worry about adding any more memory to your system for at least 3-4 years and you’ll still be able to keep up with the latest games. Plus, RAM these days is quite cheap and compared to other components there is quite a noticeable performance boost in games and other applications the more that you have (up to a certain point of course).

I would only suggest 12-16GB of RAM or more for those who plan on using demanding applications such as video and 3D editing/production. This amount is generally considered as overkill for gaming, unless of course you have the money to spend and want your build to be as future proof as possible without having to upgrade.

As for which speed to get, simply get the fastest you can afford also taking into account what speed your motherboard will support. To be honest the RAM speed isn’t that important. For example, if you use 1600 MHz RAM as opposed to 1333 MHz RAM, most people won’t experience any difference.

Choosing memory from a quality, reliable manufacturer is also a wise move. Stick to good brands such as Crucial, Kingston, Corsair, and G.SKill to ensure you’re getting quality memory for your hard-earned money. Doing so will also minimize the chances of receiving dead memory that you have to return.

Conclusion

Picking the best memory for gaming is quite simple really. To sum it all up, for your desktop gaming build you’ll want to get at least 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM from a good brand, preferably 8GB, whilst checking that your motherboard supports the type, speed, and capacity of the memory that you get. Easy.

Check out my current top RAM recommendations if you need help picking the best memory for your new build.

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