One of the most common questions asked by gamers and PC enthusiasts is – do I buy a single stick of 16GB RAM or two sticks of 8GB RAM?
The short answer is – you should always go with two sticks of 8GB RAM in dual channel instead of just a single stick of 16GB RAM in single channel as this will give you much better performance.
But does that mean you should never go for a single 16GB RAM? Well, that depends on whether you want to upgrade your RAM down the line. Having a single 16GB RAM installed will allow you to easily slot in another 16GB RAM, thus, drastically improving the capability of your computer.
However, 32GB of RAM is just overkill at this point in time. There aren’t any games or programs demanding enough to utilize that much memory. So, it’s best to go for 2x 8GB RAM.
With all that said, let’s get into the technical details.
What is RAM?
Random Access Memory (RAM) is a short-term memory storage system for computers that allow users to access data easily.
It is one of the most important components of a PC that determines how well it will perform in day-to-day tasks. Simply put, the more RAM you have, the better your system will likely perform.
The primary function of RAM is to temporarily store everything you are currently running on your PC, whether it’s your web browser, a game, or any other software and its data.
So, when your system has a lot of RAM to work with, it can store much more data and information, rather than making your PC access slower memory lanes. This makes your PC feel a lot more snappy and quick, especially when it comes to multitasking.
Things to Consider Before Buying RAM for Your PC
This leads us to one important question – what aspects affect the performance of RAM?
RAM speed is measured in Megahertz (MHz). Current-gen RAMs have a speed that can range from 2133 MHz to 5000 MHz. But most people nowadays go for RAMs with a speed of 3200 MHz to 3600 MHz, as that is the sweet spot for both gaming and multitasking.
You can find RAM modules with varying memory sizes, ranging from 4GB to 32GB. 8GB of RAM has become the standard, but if you are a gamer, then you can opt for 16GB of RAM. Although it is true that more RAM memory capacity will improve the overall performance of your PC, however, the difference isn’t noticeable enough to fully recommend kitting out your rig with more than 16GB of RAM.
Depending on the motherboard of your PC, you can utilize your RAM slots in three ways. If you use just a single stick of RAM, then your system will transfer data in a single channel. Whereas if you install two sticks of RAM, then your system is now using a dual-channel system. Lastly, some motherboards allow you to fit four sticks of RAM, which gives you access to quad-channel data transfer. But that is not always the case as some motherboards are only limited to dual-channel memory.
There are several other factors that affect RAM performance. To know more, you can check out this in-depth breakdown of the differences between single channel memory vs. dual channel memory.
How to Install RAM?
If you want to add or upgrade your RAM, then you will need to first get into the internals of your laptop or desktop. Once you have done that, you need to locate the RAM slot inside your computer. Then take the RAM kit and align it with the dedicated slot. After that, gently press down on it until you hear a click. This indicates that your RAM is securely installed in your computer.
Some motherboards have RAM slots with clips. In that case, undo the clips before installing the RAM, and then latch it back on once it is in place.
If you want to use two modules of RAM, then you will need to know a few things. First, you will need to determine how many RAM slots your PC has. If you are using a laptop, then the process should be easy as most laptops come with an extra unoccupied RAM slot.
But in the case of a desktop, you will need to find out how many RAM slots your motherboard has. If it has two, then just install the two RAM modules and you are good to go. But if you have 4 slots, then you need to install one in the first slot, and the next in the third slot.
Should You Choose 2x 8GB RAM Over 1x 16GB RAM for Gaming?
If you are planning to build a gaming PC, then choosing 2x 8GB RAM over 1x 16GB RAM would be more beneficial. That is because many modern AAA games utilize dual-channel memory to give you the best possible performance and framerates.
However, there is a caveat. Not every game suddenly starts running at 60 FPS if you install two sticks of RAM. While games like Assassin’s Creed do benefit from it, the performance difference is very negligible in other games. But the most prominent advantage of a dual-channel system for gaming is that you get a much smoother experience with more consistency.
We recommend going for two DDR4 8GB RAM with a speed of 3200 MHz instead of one DDR4 16GB RAM with the same speed. That way, you get double the bandwidth, which means more information can be transferred to and from the memory unit. Moreover, CPU latency and poor frame pacing is also drastically reduced thanks to dual channel memory.
Should You Choose 2x 8GB RAM Over 1x 16GB RAM for Productivity?
For professional applications like photo editing, video editing, graphics rendering, etc., you should choose dual channel RAM. That is because single channel memory requires more CPU usage than dual channel memory.
It has been proven that every time a single kit of RAM is put up against a dual kit of RAM in a benchmark test, the PC with the dual channel memory configuration has always been ahead. From this, we can conclude that 2x 8GB sticks of RAM would give you a better result than a single stick of 16GB RAM.
Which One Should You Go for?
It’s pretty clear that 2x 8GB RAM sticks will perform much better both in gaming and productive tasks than 1x 16GB RAM stick. However, the difference isn’t significant enough to completely rule out using the latter. If you have budget constraints, then going for a single 16GB RAM is a viable option. But if you want to squeeze every last bit of performance out of your rig, then going with 2x 8GB dual channel memory lane should be a no-brainer.
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