Random Access Memory, or RAM, is one of those crucial components in a PC build that a lot of people seem to either overlook or know nothing about. So how much RAM is enough, and do you really need to run Dual Channel to get the best performance while gaming? Let’s take a look!
Before we get too deep into things, let’s go over what RAM is and it’s role in your PC. As the name insinuates, Random Access Memory is temporary read/write memory where things are cached for quicker loading and “randomly accessed” at a later date. To simplify
To simplify things even more, RAM is basically your computer’s short-term memory. It dictates how well your PC will be able to multitask, and how long it will take to load certain programs / perform certain tasks.
Some PCs might need massive amounts of RAM for various different reasons, but a dedicated gaming PC does not.
So, how much RAM do us PC gamers really need to stay ahead of the curve? 24GB? 32GB? 64GB?!? Well, judging by the amount of RAM that the majority of the people run, according to the Steam hardware survey that is, most people are still gaming with 8GB of RAM or less.
Based on Steam’s stats, we can pretty much assume that the majority of game developers are going to target this huge 83% chunk of PC gamers who run 8GB of RAM or less.
With that all said, as long as we’re building our PCs with at least 8GB of RAM, we should be safe – 16GB might even be necessary for a couple of games dropping this year. Point being, the vast majority of developers won’t be making games that require massive amounts of RAM to run, at least not yet.
Dual vs Single Channel
There’s been somewhat of a myth floating around that you absolutely have to run RAM in dual channel pairs (or more), or you’re doing it wrong. Although there is a performance increase (on paper and in benchmarks), it’s almost entirely unnoticeable while you’re gaming or doing pretty much any other real world task. Yep, “double the bandwidth!” sounds impressive, but it does almost nothing for gaming.
When you’re building a gaming PC on a smaller budget, you’re going to benefit way more by having a bigger upgrade path, especially if you’re using an mATX motherboard with only 2 slots for RAM. 8GB with the option for 16GB would be better than capping yourself at 8GB dual channel. An example would be when you’re building on a $500 budget.
With this in mind, you should now feel safe loading in a single stick of 8GB RAM knowing that you’re not sacrificing performance, and you’re actually giving yourself a bigger upgrade path!
By now we’ve basically come to the conclusion that you don’t necessarily need more than 8GB of RAM because the vast majority of PC gamers have that much or less.
Also, it might be a good idea to leave yourself the option of upgrading, by running a single stick over multiple (especially if you’re using an mATX motherboard with limited options). Lastly, there’s really no noticeable performance boost (when gaming) if you’re running RAM in dual channel pairs (or more) over a single stick.
For most people, a single 8GB stick of RAM might be all you need, you’re not only leaving yourself more room to grow, but you’re likely spending less to boot.