Single Channel RAM vs Dual Channel RAM: Which is Better?

Single Channel vs Dual Channel RAM

Random access memory which is shortly known as RAM is one of the most important components in determining your system’s performance. When you have better RAM, your system performs better. RAM is essentially your PC’s short-term memory. It temporarily stores everything currently running on a device, like all OS-specific services and any web browser, image editor, or game you’re playing. A better RAM is essential for every PC because RAM stops your PC from accessing the slow storages. But how do you determine which RAM is better? Well, there are many pre-established facts that make a RAM “better” for your system. Before you buy your RAM, you have to search for RAM speed, memory size, channel type, timing and latency. All of these look like too much of a hassle and we just go to the market and buy the one the PC guy at the store suggests. But if you want to dig deep about RAM, then it gets more complicated. But we are doing it anyway.

RAM Speed

RAM speed or frequency is measured in Megahertz or shortly as MHz. From 2133MHz to the gigantic 5000MHz, there are many options available on the market. Just a few years ago, RAM speed didn’t matter that much compared to now. If you were using an intel build, your CPU needed a 2133MHz DDR4 RAM to reach the peak performance. But now, your system will need between 3200mhz to 3600mhz for best performance. The same thing happened with AMD, but in this case, the change is very drastic. If you have an AMD CPU, the more the speed, the better.

Memory Size

Memory size is less complicated than other factors. The more, the better. But at one point, you will have to ask yourself, “how much is too much?” If you are using a gaming rig, then 16 gigabytes is enough, 32 gigabytes is kind of considered overkill and anything more than that is just showing off. But depending on the work you do, you can get up to 4TB RAM, which is not for regular use.

Timing and Latency

‘Timings’ are another way of measuring RAM speed. Timings measure the latency between various common operations on a RAM chip whereas ‘Latency’ itself is the delay between operations. It can be thought of as “waiting time.” The minimum timings are set by spec, so you can read a table of the fastest-possible RAM timings for each DDR specification. There are 4 RAM timings- CL, TRCD, TRP, TRAS. If you can tweak these numbers properly, then you can easily overclock your RAM. Overclocking will make your RAM faster and faster RAM shortens the processing time for RAM-bound workloads, improving rendering speed and virtual machine responsiveness.

Channel Type

There are three types of channels, single channel, dual channel and quad channel. As the name suggests, single channel RAM transfers data in a single channel, dual channel does in two and quad channel in four channels. For some reason, quad channel memories are not that much popular among motherboard and CPU manufacturers right now. The conversation for which one among single channel and dual channel should a person choose is still ongoing. And we will try to go to great lengths on this topic and help you to choose between them.

single channel ram
Single Channel
dual channel ram
Dual Channel
quad channel ram
Quad Channel

Single Channel vs Dual Channel Memory

Installing a RAM on a single channel is plain and simple. But in case of dual channel memories, there are some motherboards that support dual channel memory but come with 4 DIMM(Dual In-line Memory Module) slots, which can be confusing if you are building your own PC at home. But it is an easy process, you have to put one stick on the slot that is farthest from the cpu and then just skip a slot and put the second one in. The idea behind dual channel RAM was to add a parallel channel that can be accessed simultaneously with the first stick of RAM. For example, single-channel 2133 MHz DDR4 RAM delivers 17 GB/s of memory bandwidth. But, if you have a pair of 2133 MHz DDR4 RAM modules in dual-channel, your memory bandwidth doubles to 34 GB/s. The only way to hit that level of performance in single-channel mode is to use memory modules running at 4000 MHz or higher. But right now, the most optimal speed for any processor is 3200Mhz, so that’s a huge advantage for dual channel users.

Single Channel vs Dual Channel in Gaming

On paper, you should not get that much difference in performance while gaming. But the performance varies from game to game. For example, Assassin’s Creed Origins and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey are nearly unplayable on PC without a dual-channel memory system. According to a benchmark test conducted by hardwaretimes.com, we found out that at first sight, the difference between single channel and dual channel may not look like much because the average frame rates aren’t affected that much. But the lows and frame pacing take a big hit in single channel and the CPU latency in single-channel increases by a whopping 50%. This is because there is only one 64-bit channel between the CPU and memory. Games like The Division 2 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider have an even lesser impact on average frame rates but the lows and consistency are affected drastically. This fps drop may not be that big of a deal if you are just playing a single player game, but if the fps drop happens during multiplayer, the experience will definitely not be smooth. But if you don’t nitpick about things, then you won’t find that much difference among them.

Single Channel vs Dual Channel for Professionals

Now, if you are building a system for doing professional work, then RAM takes priority behind a good CPU and a quality GPU. In all of the benchmarks, we noticed one common thing, and that is, even though they give the same FPS, single channel memory needs more CPU usage while the other works with 10-15% less usage. That 10-15% will surely come in aid for those stressful renders. Also, in every benchmark test where single channel memory is stacked up against dual channel memory configurations in professional applications there is a bit more of a difference in terms of performance between the channel configurations. “So, if you have to use a computer for any of those kinds of tasks, going with a multi-channel memory configuration might give you a boost in performance.”

Final Verdict

So, Which is Better? Single Channel or Dual Channel?

“The short answer is – There are many who believe that single channel and dual channel memory aren’t that much different. This statement is true, if you are a person who does not want any complications while building your own system. But if you care about every aspect of your build and you want an advantage over others, be it slight or big, then dual channel RAM should be your bet.”

Single Channel RAM vs Dual Channel RAM

Future of RAM

RAM upgrades do not come that fast compared to other PC components. DDr4 RAM was introduced in 2014. And after 6 years in 2020, DDR5 RAM was published. Initially it came with promising specs and it was set to supersede DDR4 in almost every area. faster speeds, greater bandwidth, better power efficiency, DDR5 was supposed to beat DDR4 in every possible way. But sadly, even after a year of being introduced to us, DDR5 is still not available everywhere, we can partly blame the pandemic for this issue. But if the specs are true, then we will finally have a new generation of faster PC and other consoles.

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