RAM is a core component of all computer systems and stands for “random access memory”. It acts as a temporary storage for your computer and is used when data needs to be accessed short term. Chances are you’re reading this article on a browser and all this data you’re accessing and reading is all the doing of the random access memory. Unlike regular storage drives, It is super fast so the data you’re accessing and reading is done almost instantaneously. Today we are going to check out how 16GB vs 32GB RAM works in different scenarios.
For this reason, RAM is a very crucial component that directly affects system performance and speed. If your computer is low on RAM, it can be quite frustrating to use as it can be quite slow and sluggish especially when you’re trying to heavily multitask and open up several applications. This is why RAM is an important component of any computer system which makes it a no-brainer and is used as a benchmark even for those that aren’t necessarily quite knowledgeable about computers. For most people, they think more RAM capacity means better performance but that’s not always the case. There are more factors to how RAM affects system performance other than capacity.
In this article, we’ll explore and compare the performance between different capacities of RAM specifically about whether 16GB or 32GB of RAM is a better choice. We will take into account various factors such as the pros of cons of having 16GB RAM or 32GB RAM as well as compare the system performance between them.
It will include factors such as multitasking capabilities, gaming performance, performance in content creation and video editing, virtualization, and multiOS support. Additional factors such as the influence of other system components such as CPU, motherboard, and storage devices as well as RAM specifications will also be featured in this article.
How Does RAM Work
Before we move on to how RAM affects the overall system performance, you need to know how RAM actually functions in a computer.
Think of RAM as a memory chip with integrated circuits consisting of millions of tiny transistors and capacitors. DRAM (dynamic random access memory), which is what is being used worldwide as a standard is composed of a transistor and capacitor pair and is known as a memory cell. Each memory cell represents bits that the computer understands – in 0s and 1s.
The transistor acts as a switch that determines the capacitor’s state. Whether it is 0 or 1. If you don’t know what a capacitor is, think of it as a bucket of water. Instead of water, it actually stores electrons. If it’s full, it represents 1 and if it’s empty it represents 0. So the transistor acts as a controller that determines whether the bucket is full or empty.
Dynamic RAM which we all use today consists of capacitors that leak and needs to be refreshed periodically otherwise it would always be in the 0 state. However, this constant refreshing is time-consuming and slows down the memory as a result.
How RAM Affects System Performance
Now that you understand this, you need to know how RAM affects the overall performance of your system. RAM can affect system performance in multiple ways and the following are some examples:
All applications need to utilize a certain amount of RAM to run and involve using RAM to store their data and instructions. So more RAM allows your computer to handle multiple tasks at the same time and allows storage and access to more applications that are actively running. In times when RAM is insufficient, the computer starts using a storage drive such as a hard drive or SSD instead. But the performance suffers as data transfer while using a storage drive is significantly slower, so having more RAM can actually prevent this from happening.
RAM affected application performance dramatically as the application allocates various resources into the RAM such as its code, libraries, data, etc. so if you have more RAM, the applications can load faster and operate more smoothly. Especially in gaming, RAM can have a noticeable impact on many games and a lot of the performance can be affected by having less RAM for running the game. Insufficient RAM can also cause applications to hang up, lag, or crash.
Operating System Performance
RAM can also significantly affect the performance of your operating system as system files, libraries, and various operating system services utilize RAM to operate efficiently. Insufficient RAM can lead to the system utilizing disk storage which makes it very slow and laggy. By having more RAM, you can improve system performance.
For frequently accessed data, it is stored in the RAM as a cache so that you can access frequently accessed data quickly. For example, web browsers such as Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge cache webpages that you visit in RAM in order to speed up loading times when you revisit the same websites. This way, the user experience is much faster due to retrieving caches from the RAM rather than from the disk storage. So the benefit of having more RAM capacity, you can maintain larger caches which allow your system to respond better and feel faster overall.
As discussed in multitasking performance earlier, various operating systems utilize virtual memory when you use up all the available RAM. The operating system then moves the less frequently accessed data to disk storage in a process called file paging or swapping. Performance can drop dramatically as you run out of memory and have to use virtual memory as it involves excessive swapping when data is being constantly moved around between virtual memory and RAM. So having more RAM is beneficial if you want your system to optimally operate and can depend on your workload.
16GB vs 32GB RAM
There are various factors when it comes to choosing the right RAM capacity. It solely depends on your specific workload so you have to choose accordingly. An excessive amount of RAM does not necessarily mean your system would perform better especially if you’re not utilizing it. Therefore, you need to wisely consider what amount of RAM suits your requirements accordingly. It will depend on various workloads such as whether you’re gaming, editing videos, running virtual machines, or simply doing typical browsing or using word processing applications such as Microsoft Word.
16 gigabytes of RAM for your computer can come in various configurations. You can either get a single stick of 16GB RAM or run it in dual channel mode with a matching set of either 2x8GB RAM or 4x4GB RAM. Dual channel mode allows for maximizing memory bandwidth thereby increasing system responsiveness and providing a performance boost.
In the past 4GB of RAM was a standard for many entry-level or budget-oriented systems but as RAM demands increased due to advancements in modern operating systems and applications, 4GB is way too less for everyday use in consumer systems. These days, 8GB of RAM is most commonly and widely recommended for everyday use without hitting memory constraints too easily.
However, if you want to use more demanding tasks or applications such as content creation or gaming, 16GB of RAM can dramatically improve the system performance and overall provide a more comfortable experience. By having 16GB of RAM in your system you can perform smoother multitasking, load applications faster and overall allow the system to perform better.
By having 16GB of RAM, it is unlikely that you’ll experience performance issues by running out of memory even if you run multiple applications simultaneously. This means you can open many many tabs on Chrome if you’re that kind of user. You can also utilize resource-intensive applications such as photo or video editing software such as Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Pro. This makes it a popular choice for content creators such as graphic designers, 3D modellers, and video editors that use Photoshop, Premiere Pro, or 3D modelling applications such as Autodesk Maya or Zbrush. More RAM allows smoother performance, faster processing, and rendering which enables the system to efficiently handle large project files.
16GB is also great if you work with virtual machines for various purposes such as testing, development, or running multiple operating systems so 16GB RAM is a decent amount of RAM to allocate enough memory to each virtual machine and will unlikely run into issues such as file swapping or paging between RAM and virtual memory.
Analysis of large datasets or performing complex calculations also require a large amount of RAM and 16GB of RAM allows you to sufficiently load a large amount of data to be accessed and processed. This allows better performance in tasks such as data mining, machine learning, bioinformatics analysis, or scientific simulations.
Due to the advancement of modern-day software and operating systems, memory requirements keep increasing, so for those that are still on 8GB of memory, opting for 16GB of memory allows you to easily run many applications comfortably for a good few years. However, recent trends show that enthusiasts or gamers are slowly pushing it further into getting 32GB of RAM for even more future proofing for their systems. For example, a popular game called “A Plague Tale: Requiem” recommends a minimum RAM capacity of 16GB to run the game and recommends 32GB RAM to run it optimally.
32 gigabytes of RAM for your system are commonly installed in configurations of 4x8GB or 2x16GB in dual channel mode.
On the contrary, 32 GB RAM is geared toward enthusiasts and power users that need extensive multitasking capabilities or who work with tasks that demand a large amount of memory such as 3D rendering, high-resolution video editing, complex simulations, and multiple virtual machines. Even triple-A titles these days have recently hit the ceiling of 16GB of RAM at the highest quality presets which presses many gamers today to upgrade to 32GB of RAM.
Just like the benefits you see in the previous section for 16GB of RAM. It applies the same way to 32GB RAM except with even greater system and application performance, especially in memory-demanding titles and software. It allows for even smoother performance and faster processing for resource-intensive applications and is more future-proof for the long run for years to come. For gaming, you can expect smoother gameplay, reduced loading times, and overall feel a significant boost in gaming performance. However, one downside is that more RAM usually means you have to spend more money on buying a larger memory kit. So budget constraints are one of the disadvantages of getting 32GB RAM for your system.
Additional factors that affect RAM performance
There are additional factors affecting RAM performance other than capacity such as RAM speed and timings as well as the influence of your other system components such as your CPU, storage device, or graphics card. While having a large amount of good quality and performing RAM is beneficial, it also comes down to the other parts since they can bottleneck the full potential of your RAM. Therefore, it is recommended to have a more balanced system configuration for optimal performance.
RAM speed and timings:
The rate at which RAM modules transfer data is known as RAM speed and is usually measured in megahertz. Higher RAM speeds result in a faster data transfer rate between the RAM and CPU. Its benefit can be seen in tasks that demand memory bandwidth such as games, video editing applications as well as other memory-demanding applications.
The RAM speed determines how fast data can be written to or read from the memory modules. Therefore, it reduces the time required for the CPU to access the necessary information stored in the RAM. In simple words, it allows the CPU and RAM can communicate faster thereby enhancing overall system performance. RAM timings, especially the CAS latencies which stands for “Column Address Strobe” latency measure the number of clock cycles required for the memory module to respond to memory requests.
So the lesser the number of clock cycles, the faster the response times and the lesser the memory access delays. With higher RAM speed and low CAS latency timings, you can expect faster loading times, faster file transfer, and an overall smoother response from the system.
Influence of other system components:
Depending on what PC build you have, you can run into bottlenecks to your RAM if your CPU, motherboard, or storage device cannot catch up with the RAM’s performance. For example, the CPU memory controller and CPU cache can play a crucial role in the management and communication between the CPU and RAM. CPUs with more advanced memory controllers and larger and faster CPU caches can handle higher RAM speeds and allow for more efficient memory access which improves overall system performance.
The system and motherboard can also affect the RAM’s potential as the system bus provides the channel for the CPU, RAM, and other components to communicate. The architecture and speed of the system bus can impact the data transfer rate which affects the performance of RAM. Memory slots, chipset, and design of the motherboard can also affect RAM performance as a motherboard that supports dual channel mode is definitely better than those that can’t.
Storage devices such as hard disk drives or solid-state drives can also impact the performance of your RAMs. Slower disk storage can lead to longer data retrieval times which pushes the system’s load on the RAM to cache frequently accessed data. Installing faster storage devices in your build can prevent your RAM from being overly relied upon and ensures smoother and faster access to data.
Another very overlooked performance killer of system components is cooling. Overheating of components be it the RAM, CPU, etc. can cause thermal throttling which can reduce the maximum performance of your components. Installing efficient cooling solutions, you can tackle performance reduction in components and enable faster and more stable system performance.
All of these factors show the importance of having a well-balanced system configuration to achieve the most optimal experience. Long story short, if you can afford good quality RAM with great clock speeds and low latency timings for your system, go ahead and get 32GB RAM. It will be future-proof and will run whatever you throw at it especially if your workload consists of memory-hungry applications.
However, if you’re on a tight budget and want the best performance, it is more advantageous to get a faster memory kit with low CAS latency timings rather than more RAM capacity. Because system performance will highly depend on the specifications of your RAM kit such as clock speed and CAS latency unless your workload is maxing out the RAM capacity. Ultimately, the amount of RAM you need, whether 16GB or 32GB, highly depends on your needs.
Get the appropriate RAM kit you need for your workload and allocate the rest of your budget to the other components such as storage or CPU as it can affect system performance on a much greater scale. A good way to determine whether you need 16GB or 32GB of RAM is to check the RAM requirements for the various applications you use. You can therefore compare whether it is wiser to invest in more RAM capacity for your workload or to prioritize memory quality and performance instead.