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More Memory vs Fast Memory According to Crucial

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Ballistix Elite

Anyone that’s recently had to buy memory will no doubt know the complexities in choosing the right modules. So many speeds, capacities, styles and other aspects to navigate through. Not sure what I am ranting about? Put yourself in the shoes of a non-technical person looking through the parts list on their favourite online site for an 8GB RAM upgrade:

  • 2 x 4GB 2400 MT/s
  • 2 x 4GB 2666 MT/s
  • 1x 8GB 2400 MT/s
  • 1 x 8GB 2666 MT/s

I guess they could simply RTFM but in all those times you were called to fix a family or friends PC, how many times had they done that 😎 But I digress. According to Crucial, even if you know about the various memory related metrics, “how can you tell which option is suitable for your needs? And should you prioritise bigger or faster memory?”

“If we take an 8GB 2666 MT/s memory module as an example, the 8GB is the density and the 2666 MT/s is the speed. Density, also known as capacity, is the maximum amount of data the module can hold at once. The speed is the amount of commands (megatransfers) that the memory can send to the central processing unit (CPU) per second (hence MT/s). Both density and speed measures can vary from module to module, so it can be difficult to choose which memory module is right for you.”

Crucial director of DRAM product marketing Jim Jardine

Jardine believes that when faced with a choice between density and speed, we should pick density. Unless we are in a situation where MT/s is crucial to the task being performed, density should take priority over speed.

“DDR4 memory speeds generally range between 2133 MT/s and 2666 MT/s and DDR3 memory (common in older systems) speeds range from 1066 MT/s to 1866 MT/s. In general, if your computer’s CPU can only run memory at a maximum speed of 2400 MT/s, then there is no reason to purchase faster memory as your system automatically reduce the speed to the maximum it supports, in this case 2400 MT/s. Similarly, with densities, a 16GB memory module would not be compatible with a system that can only support 8GB – so it’s important that you pick the speeds and densities that match your system.”

Crucial director of DRAM product marketing Jim Jardine

In a nutshell, benefits of memory upgrades will be different between use cases. Variables such as computer capability and the tasks being performed all experience different levels of performance gains. But in most typical scenarios, having more RAM available would provide a better performance overall than having less but faster RAM.

Let’s look at some specific recommendations from Jardine:

  • Word processing – increasing density would improve responsiveness overall, increased speed would have negligible gains.
  • Web browsers are known to be memory black holes and like word processing, density over speed is recommended.
  • Photo and video editing would fall in the same scenario as the previous 2 with density being more beneficial. That said, combining more RAM with an SSD would be the best outcome in this scenario.
  • Hardcore gamers would probably prefer the extra speed and density. Depending on the games being played you would opt for density first and then speed second. That said, if overclocking is being done, speed will be of a higher priority.

Where speed is critical, and users are running memory intensive workloads, Crucial have specific modules for such tasks such as their Ballistix Elite range that can go as high as 3200 MT/s.

“When you’re shopping for DRAM, the range of speeds available to the average PC user aren’t significant enough to truly notice a difference. Similarly, if you intend to use apps that flood your computer with active data, it’s likely that you don’t need the fastest memory module on the market. First, focus on maxing out your system’s memory density, then find the speed that best fits your needs and your budget. So, don’t let densities and speeds trip you up, consider all of your memory options and get a faster PC that will speed up your processes.”

Crucial director of DRAM product marketing Jim Jardine