When you’re looking for your next laptop to invest in, there are a lot of technical features you can and should consider. You’ll need to make decisions about screen size, screen resolution, processing speed, internal storage, and RAM, just to scratch the surface.
Or maybe you already have a laptop but you’ve noticed some lag when you’re multi-tasking between different applications. Do you simply scrap your old laptop and buy a new one? Or should you upgrade your RAM which will allow your laptop to handle doing more at once?
Below, we’ll delve into a specific type of memory module, DDR4 RAM, which is one of the best ways to upgrade your laptop. However, you must be certain a DDR4 is compatible with your computer model before doing so.
Here’s a quick guide to getting to know RAM, the short-term memory system in your computer, and how DDR4 can take your computer from struggling to multi-tasking master.
What is RAM?
Before we get into DDR4 RAM, you might be asking yourself, “What’s RAM in the first place?”
RAM is where data is stored before any processing occurs within your computer. RAM is short for Random Access Memory. It’s comprised of dynamic memory chips that can be written and then rewritten, over and over again.
The memory in your RAM can only hold onto data when your laptop is powered on. So what does it actually do when you’re busy typing away on your computer and browsing the web?
RAM is what loads the data for whatever you’re doing. When you open a new tab or your web browser or a document to edit, that’s your RAM doing the heavy lifting. You can think of it as your computer’s working memory that loads information for whatever you’re currently using; applications, browsers, or games.
But RAM isn’t just any kind of memory, it’s short-term based. In the computer world, the memory is called “volatile” because once you turn off your computer, it “forgets” whatever is on it.
There are three main types of RAM for consumers to choose from; DDR3, DDR3L, and DDR4. We will be diving into the specifics of the last type of RAM, the DDR4.
What is DDR4 RAM?
DDR4 SDRAM is an abbreviation for “Double Data Rate Fourth Generation Synchronous Dynamic Random-Access Memory.” The last dynamic RAM update was the DDR3 which came out in 2007 , but developers were actually already working on the DDR4 all the way back in 2005.
Quick facts about DDR4 RAM
- DDR4 RAM has higher overall speed.
- It gives you increased transfer rates and less voltage which means less overall power consumption.
- DDR4 RAM cuts back voltage by 40% and boosts performance and bandwidth by 50% as compared to DDR3.
Benefits of DDR4 RAM
One of the main benefits of DDR4 that makes it better than the DDR3 modules is that it has a larger span of clock speeds and timings, uses less power, and features an overall reduction in latency.
Because the DDR4 is capable of handling more information at once than previous RAM options, it aids long-term system stability. It also serves as a safer choice for overclocking
tests because it can handle much more information without getting overworked. And finally, it reduces stress on the computer as a whole.
Is DDR4 worth it? Or should I settle for DDR3 RAM?
DDR4 might be worth it if you’re regularly using programs that require a ton of memory like games, engineering programs, and video editing software. Most triple-A (AAA) games use between 2GB and 5GB of RAM, for example.
If you’re using more RAM than your computer actually has, your CPU takes information from the hard drive. Compared to your fast, short-term memory, the hard drive is a lot slower. This may mean overall slower speeds and a drop in performance.
For normal PC users, usually no more than 8GB of RAM is necessary but if you use a lot of RAM-intensive image-editing software or play PC games, you might want to look into more robust RAM.
DDR4 RAM specifications
Most PCs use a RAM kit of 2 sticks, so 2 x 8GB would mean 16GB total of RAM. If you have a higher end PC, you could look into a four-stick kit.
Here are some of the main DDR4 improvements over DDR3 RAM:
- More available clock speeds, lower power consumption, and reduced latency
- With DDR3, you’re limited to 4 different choices: 1333 MHz, 1866 MHz, and 2133 MHz, with 2133 MHz being the upper limit
- DDR4 doesn’t have a ceiling on its clock speed so far
- 64GB maximum capacity per memory module (common capacities include 16GB and 32GB)
- 16 internal memory banks
- 1600 Mbps to 3200 Mbps data transfer rates
- 1.2 volts of electrical power required
How to Install DDR4 RAM
Before you start, you’ll need to know how to check DDR4 RAM compatibility and if its speed (3200 MHz, 2400 MHz, 1600 MHz etc.) will work with your specific computer as mentioned before. To do this, simply search up your motherboard’s model specifications to find the max bandwidth it can handle.
To find your motherboard model in Windows 10, go to the Power User Task Menu, type in “run” and then “MSinfo32.” Or you can check visually once you have the computer open and can access your motherboard.
Here are the installation steps:
Step 1: Remove power cable and unplug any other cables so you can turn your computer on its side.
Step 2: Take out the side panel (generally located on the left). This will allow you into the internal area of your computer where you’ll be able to see the RAM slots. In most laptop configurations, the RAM will be next to the processor and its cooler. Take out the RAM sticks by pressing on the tabs holding them in. Remove the sticks carefully.
Step 3: To put in your new RAM sticks, match the notches with the gaps in the motherboard and push firmly and evenly until you hear a ‘click’. The tabs on the outside should secure the RAM sticks.
Pro tip: if it doesn’t click into place the first time, you should take the RAM stick out and double check to make sure it’s in the right way. If you try to force a RAM stick into the slot incorrectly, it could harm the motherboard.
Step 4: After you’ve installed the new RAM kit, close your computer. Restart everything and reboot. Then, enjoy your upgrades in performance.
Is DDR4 speed good for gaming performance?
Gaming can be a serious business and that means the technical features of your computer are crucial to vanquishing enemies and continuing your killstreak. With that said, is DDR4 a good choice for gaming? And which DDR4 speed for gaming should you choose?
DDR4 does offer some slight advantages in performance, although, for the majority of gamers, DDR3 and DDR4 won’t offer too much of a difference in terms of the quality of gameplay. As a rule, 2666 MHz RAM is fine for most, and generally, you don’t have to go over more than 3000 MHz. When it comes to RAM speed in a computer
look for a low latency number and a fast clock speed.
How much RAM do I need?
In order to answer this question, you’ll need to know what you plan to do with your PC, how long you’re going to keep it, and whether or not you’re able to upgrade it after purchasing. Adding more RAM won’t necessarily make your PC faster, it just allows you to do more at once.
For some users, that might be the only need but if you’re looking for a faster computing experience, it might be time to build a custom PC that meets your specifications.
It’s also important to note that more RAM usually means more power consumption, but for most people, this doesn’t matter. And for DDR4 RAM specifically, it actually has a lower voltage than other modules like DDR3.
Notes on Compatibility
If you’ve determined you want more RAM, the first thing you’ll need to do is check for compatibility: your new module has to work with your existing motherboard. Different types of RAM feature different notch locations which affect installation. Different memory technologies may not be compatible with one another.
Motherboards can usually only support one type of RAM technology. So, for example, if you have DDR3 RAM and want to upgrade DDR4 RAM, it’s unlikely you will be able to in your current motherboard because different notch locations as mentioned above prevent correct installation. Of course, you can decide to opt for a new motherboard that’s compatible with the new RAM kit. But at that point, it might make more financial sense to buy a new laptop
or upgrade your laptop
Again, it pays to lay out your particular needs when you’re deciding on memory upgrades. There are many other ways to improve your computer's performance
other than upgrading your RAM.
To find out what RAM is compatible with your motherboard, you’ll need to research the specific motherboard your laptop or desktop PC currently has. You should be able to easily ascertain what RAM will work with your particular device once you have the motherboard model specifications.
Whether you want to upgrade your RAM for gaming purposes or to enhance your multi-tasking day-to-day life, it might make sense for you to look into DDR4 modules. DDR4 provides a noticeable difference for the end user in terms of performance.
It’s especially apparent if you have seen lag when opening multiple tabs. With the right memory, you’ll have the ability to multitask or crush your enemies in your PC game with panache.
About the Author: Michelle Wilson is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Michelle is a content creation specialist writing for a variety of industries, including tech trends and media news.
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