There are so many options of RAM on the market. Is it worth emptying out your wallet for the fastest memory? Let me guide you on how to choose a suitable RAM without wasting your money. There are six criteria.

RAM basic introduction

RAM is computer data storage where the CPU stores data currently being used.

The memory card is like a parking lot. The larger it is, the more cars people can park there. But it does not mean it is great. For example, a parking lot has 1000 parking spaces, but only 300 cars are parked there. So the rest of the places are a waste.

And memory bandwidth is like lane width. The wider the memory bandwidth is, the more data the memory card can receive. But the wider memory bandwidth does not mean upgradation of computer performance.

1. RAM is classified as DDR2, DDR3, and DDR4

DDR4 is the mainstream of bandwidth. What type of RAM you are supposed to use depends on your motherboard and CPU compatibility. If you buy the wrong one, you cannot insert it into your motherboard.

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Also, be aware that DDR4 has different transmitting frequency according to its spec. Basically, if motherboards are compatible with DDR4, you do not need to worry about DDR4's transmitting frequency.

2. RAM speed - higher is better?

For AMD(Ryzen), the answer is yes.

RAM speed

Photo by eTeknix

The picture shows RAM speed make a big difference on AMD's CPU performance.

For Intel, the answer is debatable.

But to be fair, getting the highest RAM speed is not cheap. So if you are on a tight budget and have to choose between a better CPU/GPU, CPUs and GPUs are always the priority. An extra memory card does not make an obvious difference as the CPU does. For example, the high-end DDR4-4600 will be a massive increase in price, but it only makes slight efficiency synergy for mother Intel motherboard or CPU.

This also applies to the choice of the total amount of RAM. If you have to choose between low-storage RAM with faster speed and high-storage RAM with slower speed, I would suggest go for the high-storage RAM rather than the faster RAM.

3. RAM data rate - higher is better?

Data rates represent DRAM's operating frequency. It should accord with CPU's and motherboard's spec.

A data rate is usually followed by the word of DDR4. For example, Kingston 16G DDR4-2400 means it has a data rate of 2400. Generally, a regular memory card(without heat spreader) is enough for those who do not have needs of overclocking. This is due to 1. accessibility of repair 2. reasonable price.

As shown above, AMD RYZEN's and Intel i8's base data rates are both 2666. Even if you buy a memory card with a higher data rate than that (e.g. 3200/4000), your computer still shows 2666 as RAM base data rate.

But there is one exception - overclocking. For example, Intel's Z- and X- series motherboards support overclocking. As for AMD, except A-series motherboard, the rest AMD motherboard series support overclocking.

Extra tip: XMP

XMP is a simple RAM overclocking way developed by Intel. What you have to do is simply insert an overclockable RAM into your motherboard and then turn on XMP in BIOS.

4. RAM storage - sufficient storage is good enough

The needs of more RAM storage is not always necessary. The more storage a memory card has, of course, it can temporarily store more stuff. However, it has nothing to do with reading speeds. Thus, I would say you it is good enough to have adequate but not excessive storage. Generally, 8GB RAM is the basic spec for computers. Then according to your needs and budget, you can, to an appropriate degree, increase memory card storage. For example, if you are a computer gamer and have enough budget, you can buy two 8GB RAM chips. As I said, it depends on your motherboard and needs. So shop smart and spend your money wisely.

  • word processing - 8GB
  • gaming - 8GB; i7/R7 gaming computers - 16GB
  • illustration - at least 16GB

5. RAM brand - leading brands provide assurance

The common RAM brands are G.Skill, Crucial, Corsair, and Kingston( the order has nothing to do with ranking). I choose these brands because I want to assure I would have

  1. repair service
  2. warranty
  3. accessibility of repair
  4. product quality

I would suggest choose the RAM mainly based on accessibility of repair.

Kind reminder

  • Kingston only refunds the depreciated value (many people complain about that !!!)
  • G.Skill is a good choice for gamers who have needs of overclocking

6. RAM CAS latency(CL) - lower is better

CL is about the latency period of sending signals. The lower CL is, the better a computer operates. Unless you want to have an overclockable memory card, you do not have to worry about the details.

Most manufacturers do not mark CL on RAM. So far, I noticed that G.Skill and Corsair mark CL on their products.