If you’ve ever wondered why your GPU is not performing as good as those reviews and performance showcase videos on YouTube, chances are that your RAM simply wasn’t able to keep up. When it comes to deciding how much RAM you need for your particular system, a few nuances must be taken into account. For example, what kind of games you’re going to be playing, what their requirements are, what kind of system you have, and whether RAM actually is the reason why your computer is slugging out in the first place.
Through some careful research, we’ve concocted a guide that helps you find a general ballpark figure on how much RAM you actually need for gaming.
Understanding Your Requirements
First things first, we need to understand what kind of games you play. Generally, there are a few categories of games that you might be interested in. Each of these categories has very different requirements in terms of how much RAM they need.
For example, if you play older, retro games on an emulator, you might do well on 4-8 GBs of RAM. If you are into E-Sports titles like Valorant or League, 8-12 GBs might do you well. On the other hand, if you play AAA games, 16 GBs might just be the bare minimum. Here’s a quick look at what we feel is the RAM you’ll need depending on the kind of games you play:
- Hyper Casual Gamer: If you only play browser-based games, a little bit of Minecraft here and there, and aren’t into very demanding titles, 4-8 GBs of RAM will do just fine.
- Casual Gamer: Valorant, CS:GO, Terraria, League. If these names ring a bell, chances are you either are an E-Sports fanatic or just someone who likes the occasional skrim with their friends. For you, 8-12 GBs of RAM is enough.
- Gamer: If your main gaming platform is PC and you aim to play every AAA game on it, you’ll need at least 16-32 GBs of RAM for an optimal experience.
However, the amount of RAM you have is only part of your equation. Your memory’s overall speed and latency can greatly contribute to your gaming experience. For instance, traditional server installations tend to have huge capacities of slower memory while gaming rigs are meant to have relatively lower capacities but with much speedier RAM sticks.
Finding The Sweet Spot
Nowadays, PCs generally aren’t just used for gaming. You’ll have Discord, a few Chrome tabs, and other background processes hogging down your memory as well. While you should close down as many as you can, sometimes, that simply isn’t feasible. So, you might end up needing more RAM than what the game’s requirements state simply due to your unique case.
For that, we recommend keeping 2-4 GBs reserved besides what the game’s minimum optimal requirements state for an optimal gaming experience. Considering the fact that some game developers nowadays aren’t really faithful with providing accurate requirements, keeping some leeway when getting your PC built is a safe bet. However, if you end up snagging a pre-built gaming PC, you might not end up running into these issues as they’re specced in a manner that ensures the fact that you’ll be able to play the game that you bought the rig for.
What RAM Speed Should I Get?
Now that we’ve established that it is not just size that matters when it comes to getting good performance out of your RAM. If you meet the minimum memory requirements of a game but still are experiencing choppiness, lag, or an unplayable framerate, chances are that your RAM config is slower than what is needed.
In most cases, we recommend sticking in between 3200 – 3600 MHz. Anything less and you’ll experience bottlenecks and going further won’t lead to a significant performance difference unless you are playing on an extremely high refresh rate monitor and need to squeeze out every frame.
In terms of the brand, most reputable trustworthy brands use Samsung’s B-die Integrated Chip which does the job just fine. What it then boils down to is the stick’s overall thermal conductivity, how much leeway it has for overclocking, and what its timings are. But, without getting into the nitty-gritty of things, picking up something like the T-Force Xtreem 3600 MHz RAM should do just fine.
DDR4 vs DDR5
With DDR4 reigning supreme as the de-facto standard for a few years now, we’ve finally made a jump towards DDR5 memory which promises better performance due to its higher speeds. However, as we’ve mentioned earlier, you won’t be finding huge differences in terms of gaming performance with these newer kits too. We took a look at Kingston’s DDR5-5200 Memory Kit module and generally found that most games weren’t that well-optimized to take advantage of the fast speeds.
However, that’s not to say that there were no performance gains. In fact, if you are going to be building a PC from the ground up or will be getting a pre-built, we recommend going for a DDR5 compatible motherboard even if you are purchasing DDR4 RAM so that you can upgrade later on.
It’ll only be a matter of time before games actually start utilizing the faster speeds which will allow for higher frame rates. Until then, you can settle for a DDR4 kit that’s rated higher than 3000 MHz.
Ultimately, what capacity of RAM you end up choosing is connected to the type of games you play and what other kind of work you do on your PC. Generally, you’ll need to upgrade your RAM capacity every 2 to 3 years to keep up with AAA titles and more intense software like Premiere or Ableton.