How much RAM do I need? Select the best memory for your PC

When we buy a new computer, many times we stop to think how much RAM is needed for our day to day activities. It is easy to let yourself be convinced by the vendors, or the desire to have the “best of the best.” But before spending our hard-earned savings, you should think about the use that you will give to the machine.

How to choose the memory

In all cases, it’s usual to buy RAM memory in an even number of modules. That way you can take advantage of a motherboard feature (the models from the latest few years have it) that lets you use both modules at the same time during the execution of tasks (what is known as Dual Channel). So, I will focus on memory amounts that are multiples of 2. To obtain performance from 4GB of RAM or more, you must have a 64-bit operating system.

You must also be careful when choosing memory whose included dissipators do not collide with the CPU fan, as some models, especially the overclocking ones, are really big and occupy part of the plate beyond the area left for the CPU. You will be able to deduce from the photographs if they are of low or no profile.

Maximum speed and overclocking

Current Intel chipsets accept memory speed of up to 1600 MHz, and only the Z87 chipset (a high end one) can take advantage of faster speeds by overclocking the RAM. The H81 chipset supports up to 16GB of RAM, and the rest of the current Haswell chipsets that accept up to 32GB..

If you buy memory with higher speed it doesn’t matter, since it is compatible but it will operate at the speed that is limited by your motherboard. In case that the processor, the motherboard and the memory are compatible with Intel XMP (this is the most common situation, unless you have a low-end chipset), you can make them work up to the actual memory speed without having to resort to overclocking or the Z87 chipset. Usually you will have to activate it in the BIOS, and in AMD motherboards it is known as AMP.

Latency

A parameter to consider when buying memory is latency. It is a parameter that indicates how fast it is able to access stored data and it can be interesting to distinguish two memories of the same frequency. As a general rule, and to not enter into great technical detail, the less latency the better.

The performance difference in a 1333 Mhz memory against a 1600 MHz is vital when it comes to gaming, but it’s not much if you compare 1600 against one of 1866. But for those who want to scrape a few fps from their plate it is always recommended that you buy the highest frequency that your motherboard supports. The difference between 1600 and 2133 MHz can be 2 or 3 fps, while from 1333-2133 it can be up to 7 fps (1080p, medium quality).

You will see the latency parameter represented as “9-9-9” or similar in the data sheets of the pads. These are the sub-timing values. The lower, the better.

Keep in mind that increasing memory frequency will increase the sub-timing, but the access times measured in nanoseconds, will be lower, so do not worry if your 1600 memory has 9-9-9 and your 2133 memory has 11-11-11. It is a parameter that with the same frequency it allows you to distinguish which is faster.

1GB or 2GB

This amount is small, but sufficient for small Linux computers with Media Center or that you will use to navigate the Internet, work a bit with LibreOffice or create other services in the environment of your home network, such as a NAS or similar. With Windows it is necessary to have 2GB if you really want to do something with it, though Windows 8 works much better with this quantity than Windows 7.

The 1GB memory modules are already hard to find at reasonable prices, and 2GB are usually in the 16-20 dollars range, depending on the speed.

My recommendation:  (Desktop memory)

Crucial Ballistix Sport 2GB Single 1600MHz DDR3
Memory: 2GB; Speed: 1600 MHz; Latency: 9-9-9; Type: DDR3; Without profile 

Kingston Technology ValueRAM 2GB 1333MHz DDR3
Memory: 2GB; Speed: 1333 MHz; Latency: 9-9-9; Type: DDR3; Without profile 

4GB

This amount is the most usual to find in most laptops. It is enough for your day to day work with Office and playing your favorite titles. It is enough if you don’t do several things at once, and for most users it will be enough.

Kingston HyperX FURY 4GB DDR3
Memory
: 4GB; Speed: 1866/1600 MHz; Latency: 10-11-10/10-10-10; Type: DDR3; ; Without profile 

Crucial Ballistix Sport 4GB Single DDR3 1600
Memory: 4GB Speed: 1600 MHz Latency: 9-9-9 Type: DDR3

G.Skill Ripjaws Series F3-12800CL9D
Memory: 2 x2GB Speed: 1600 MHz Latency: 9-9-9 Type: DDR3; Profile: XMP (1333 MHz, CL 9-9-9 sin XMP)

Laptop Memory:

Kingston ValueRAM 4GB 1600MHz PC3-12800 DDR3
Memory
: 4GB Speed: 1600 MHz Latency:11-11-11 Type: DDR3L; Without profile

Crucial 4GB Single DDR3 1600 MT/s
Memory
: 4GB Speed: 1600 MHz Latency:11-11-11 Type: DDR3L; Without profile

8GB

It is the new memory standard for a new computer, and Apple already includes it as the minimum amount by default on their computers (except the Mac Mini, but I’d never recommend less than 8GB for this model). In most situations you won’t need more than this amount, and it gives you plenty of capacity to have a bunch of running applications, such as Office, several browsers, Photoshop and others at the same time. It is also the maximum memory that you should have a PC that you use for gaming, since beyond this amount there’s no noticeable increased performance in any game.

Desktop Memory:
1600 MHz

Kingston HyperX FURY 8GB Kit (2x4GB) 1600MHz DDR3
Memory: 2 x4GB; Speed: 1600 MHz; Latency: 10-10-10; Type: DDR3; Without profile

Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB Kit (4GBx2) DDR3 1600
Memory: 2 x4GB; Speed: 1600 MHz; Latency: 8-8-8; Type: DDR3; XMP profile: (1333 MHz, CL 9-9-9 without XMP)

G.Skill 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 PC3-12800 1600MHz
Memory: 2 x4GB; Speed: 1600 MHz; Latency: 9-9-9 Type: DDR3; Profile: True (1600 MHz, CL 11-11-11 without XMP)

Kingston HyperX Savage 8GB Kit (2x4GB) 1600MHz DDR3
Memory: 2 x4GB; Speed: 1600 MHz; Latency: 9-9-9; Type: DDR3; XMP profile: (1333 MHz, CL 11-11-11without XMP)

G.Skill 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 PC3-12800 1600MHz
Memory: 2 x4GB; Speed: 1600 MHz; Latency: 8-8-8 Type: DDR3;  XMP profile: (1600 MHz, CL 10-10-10 without XMP)

Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 1600 MHz
Memory
: 2 x4GB; Speed: 1600 MHz; Latency: 9-9-9 Type: DDR3;  XMP profile: (1333 MHz, CL 9-9-9 without XMP)

Kingston HyperX Beast 8 GB Kit (2×4 GB) 1600MHz
Memory: 2 x4GB; Speed: 1600 MHz; Latency: 9-9-9 Type: DDR3;  XMP profile: (1600 MHz, CL 11-11-11 without XMP)

1866 MHz

G.SKILL Sniper Series 8GB (2 x 4GB)  DDR3 1866 (PC3 14900)
Memory
: 2 x4GB; Speed: 1866 MHz; Latency: 9-10-9 Type: DDR3;  XMP profile: (1600 MHz, CL 10-10-10 without XMP)
Kingston HyperX FURY 8GB 1866MHz DDR3
Memory: 2 x4GB or 1 x 8GB; Speed: 1866 MHz; Latency: 10-11-10 Type: DDR3;  XMP profile: (1600 MHz, CL 8-9-8without XMP)

2133 MHz

G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB
Memory: 2 x4GB; Speed: 2133 MHz; Latency: 9-11-10; Type: DDR3;  XMP profile: (1600 MHz, CL 9-11-10 without XMP)

2400 MHz

G.Skill F3-2400C10D-8GTX 8GB
Memory: 2 x4GB; Speed: 2400 MHz; Latency: 10-12-12; Type: DDR3;  XMP profile: (1600 MHz, CL 10-10-10 without XMP)

Laptop Memory

Corsair 8GB (1x8GB) DDR3 1333 MHz
Memory
: 1 x8GB or 2 x4GB; Speed: 1333 MHz; Latency: 9-9-9; Type: DDR3; Without profile

Kingston ValueRAM 8GB 1600MHz DDR3
Memory: 1 x8GB or 2 x4GB; Speed: 1600 MHz; Latency: 11-11-11; Type: DDR3; Without profile

16GB or more

This case is for users who really squeeze the most from their computers, or are really engaged in the world of graphic design and need to be running multiple applications at the same time, such as Photoshop, CAD tools, After Effects, Illustrator and others (quite usual in this industry), which consume a lot of memory. It is also useful for those who make use of virtual machines from which you run other operating systems (something widespread among Mac users that run Windows simultaneously).

Desktop Memory
1600 MHz

Corsair Vengeance 16GB (2x8GB) DDR3 1600 MHz
Memory: 2 x8GB; Speed: 1600 MHz; Latency: 10-10-10; Type: DDR3;   XMP profile: (1333 MHz, CL 9-9-9 without XMP)

Kingston HyperX 16GB Kit (2x8GB)
Memory: 2 x48B; Speed: 1600 MHz; Latency: 9-9-9; Type: DDR3;  XMP profile: (1600 MHz, CL 11-11-11 without XMP)

Corsair Memory Vengeance 16 Dual Channel Kit DDR3 1600
Memory: 2 x48B; Speed: 1600 MHz; Latency: 9-9-9; Type: DDR3;  XMP profile: (1333 MHz, CL 9-9-9 without XMP)

Laptop Memory

Corsair Vengeance Performance 16GB (2x8GB)

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