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How to choose RAMs?

A Brief Guide

ramRandom Access Memory (RAM) is best known as computer memory and is one of the most important components in your PC. It is so-called because the CPU can access any part of the Memory randomly instead of through a serialization process (i.e. checking from one end of the data to the other end to find the needed piece of data).

When you run applications on your PC, it copies information to your RAM where the information can be edited and accessed quickly. The RAM only temporarily stores this information and is constantly loading and unloading new information.

In basic terms, the more RAM you have, the faster your computer will run. When shopping for a system, try to buy no less than 512 MB (megabytes) though we usually recommend 1 or 2 GB (gigabytes) of Memory (1 GB = 1024 MB) even for the typical user.

GooGoo Explains

It is important that your Memory speed synch up with your Processor speed. The measure of RAM is expressed in terms of 400 MHz (megahertz), 667 MHz. 800 MHz… etc.
 
Another thing about RAM is that they need a certain time to ‘rev up’ to their maximum speed. This attribute is called ‘latency’. You can think of it as the time it takes for a car to accelerate from 0 to 100km. The lower the latency of your RAM, the faster your RAM hits its optimum speed.

‘Dual Channel’ is another feature found specially in RAMs. In laymen’s speak, it means that RAM operates faster in pairs than by itself as a single stick. In other words, a pair of 512 MB RAM will perform faster than a single stick of 1024 MB (1 GB) RAM.

Matching your RAM and CPU speed is a tedious process involving various calculations but rest assured when GooGoo assemble a computer for you, we will have done our research and matched the Memory and Processor to achieve the best possible performance for your computer.

Picking a (pair of) RAM

  • How much is enough?

As is the case with money, you just can’t have enough RAM. This is especially the case if you are building your computer for 3-D graphics projects, or playing the latest games. Next to the CPU, the RAM is probably most important component that determines a PC’s performance. Sometimes, upgrading the RAM alone makes more of a difference than getting a new CPU!  

That said, though you want to be covered in the Memory department for present and future demands, you do not want to go over the top and overspend on RAM. Microsoft recommend 128 MB as the minimum requirement for Windows XP but it is better to go for at least 512 MB even if you are using the PC for basic applications such as surfing the web and word processing. If you need to do design work such as 3-D modeling or intensive gaming, you’ll be well-advised to go for as much RAM as you can afford.

  • Types of RAM

What type of RAM your Mainboard can accommodate is the next thing you must know. The different types are DDR, DDR2, SD-RAM, SODIMM … etc. We will only discuss the DDR2 RAM for two reasons:

  • It makes use of the latest technology. The DDR2 (Double Data Rate) RAM is the second generation of DDR RAM and has greater speed. It uses lower voltages to support significant performance improvements over DDR RAM.
  • Most Mainboards presently come with the appropriate connection for DDR2 RAM.

Below is a list of the different types of DDR2 RAMs.

DIMM Module

Chip Type

Clock Speed (MHz)

Bus Speed (MHz)

Transfer Rate (MB/s)

PC2-3200

DDR2-400

200

400

3,200

PC2-4300

DDR2-533

266

533

4,266

PC2-5400

DDR2-667

333

667

5,333

PC2-6400

DDR2-800

400

800

6,400

We stress again the importance of synchronizing your RAM speed with your Processor speed. A lot of users do not even know how much their PC is underperforming due to mismatching the pair. If you are unsure, GooGoo will be able to help you to achieve peak performance for your computer by synchronizing your RAM speed with your Processor Speed.

GooGoo Recommends

rAM1If you are configuring a high-end system with the best Processor, Mainboard, etc, then go for a high-end RAM to keep up with the high performance of your system. Otherwise if you have a tight budget, save on your RAM and invest somewhere else… say a better Mainboard for example.

The reason for this is that RAM can be upgraded easily. Most of the time, you don’t even have to replace your RAM – you only have to add more to it. The same cannot be said for the Mainboard.

If your computer is going to be for basic programs such as emailing, surfing and listening to music, 2 x 512 MB of RAM will suffice but if your computer is going to be sweating over graphics editing like CAD and 3D Studio MAX, or intense gaming, it will be better for you to start with at least two sticks of 1024 MB.

Though you can save on the quantity of RAM, remember you can’t save on the quality of your RAM! We cannot stress enough how important the Memory is to the computer and therefore we advise buyers to invest in top quality Memory from reliable manufacturers.

You do not want to experience problems such as computer freezing, or worse, data corruption. If you are buying preconfigured models from computer brands, always enquire about the brand of the RAM they are offering. Do not allow your self to be lured into thinking you are getting a good bargain for a PC system with DDR2 RAM without first checking with the salesman the brand of the RAM they are offering.

In general, the larger, more established brands are more consistent with quality, control and testing. For example, some brands like Kingston Technology offers a lifetime warranty for their RAMs. This warranty is fast becoming the industry benchmark so we recommend strongly that you always purchase RAMs that come with a lifetime warranty. 

 

The above guide is provided as a free service for our customers and visitors and all information is written as objectively and accurately as possible. GooGoo Custom Computers are not responsible for any undesirable outcomes resulted directly or indirectly from reading our hardware guide.

 


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