Random Access Memory, also known as RAM or simply “RAM”, is one of the key parameters affecting the performance of any computer. But how much is it really needed?
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In order to answer this question, we first define two factors: what we want to do on this device and how much we are willing to spend on it.
Of course, the amount of RAM is very important for smartphones (to a lesser extent for the Apple iPhone, but this factor cannot be completely ignored), but in this guide we will talk about powerful computer systems running the three most popular operating systems – Windows, macOS and Chrome. OS.
In a nutshell:
- 2 GB – such a modest amount of memory has long been found only in budget tablets. On a laptop or desktop computer, of course, you need more.
- 4 GB – the minimum sufficient volume, the basic option for machines running Windows and Chrome OS.
- 8 GB Is a good option for Windows and macOS. Sufficient for (almost all) games. 8 gigabytes of “RAM” will be enough for the vast majority of users.
- 16 GB and 32 GB – ideal for professional work and more demanding games.
- 64 GB and more – exclusively for enthusiasts and specialized workstations.
But do not forget – RAM is not a key component for performance, so buying 32 GB of RAM and hope is pointless, because you will not get ideal performance. The SSD, the processor, and the video card also matter.
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What is RAM
It is often confused with a storage device – permanent storage on a disk – HDD (mechanical hard disk drive) and SSD (solid state drive). Interestingly, sometimes even manufacturers mix them “in one cocktail”.
To avoid confusing RAM with persistent memory, use the analogy with a table. RAM is like a tabletop. The longer it is, the more papers and other things you can put on it (tabletop) and, accordingly, have on hand. And a hard drive is like a drawer under a desk that stores papers that you don’t need at the moment, but will sooner or later need.
The more RAM your system has, the more programs it can run and run on them at the same time. Of course, this indicator is not determined by the size of the “RAM” alone – after all, many programs need a very small amount of such memory to work. Another thing is that if you do this constantly, the system will slowly but surely begin to slow down.
Why? Let’s go back to the table analogy. If it is too small, it will quickly accumulate “deposits” of paper, which, in turn, will slow down your work – because you have to constantly look for something.
Yes, a lot of RAM is good. But why do you need a large desk if you only work with a few papers? So our task is to understand how much RAM (read: space on the table) we really need to solve problems.
And yes – RAM should not be confused with graphics memory (video card memory) either. Top 3D games use video memory (VRAM), which is often referred to as “GDDR5”, while “RAM” is referred to as RAM (“ram”) or DDR3 / DDR4.
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What does RAM look like?
The operating system for desktops and laptops is in most cases a small printed circuit board that houses the memory chips.
In smartphones and tablets, RAM is a small chip on the device’s motherboard. For example, in recent generations of iPhones and iPads, the RAM is under the processor.
Below is a photo of the motherboard of an iPhone 11 Pro Max with an A13 processor (highlighted in red) with 4GB Hynix LPDDR4X RAM embedded under it.
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Which applications require the most RAM?
These are primarily operating systems and browsers, games and some programs for professional work with media content. Concrete example: the more memory you have, the more tabs you can open in your favorite browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Edge, etc.). In addition, you should be aware that there are websites that “devour” RAM resources as quickly as possible. A news article doesn’t need a lot of RAM, but pages like Gmail do it.
It has been obvious for many years that programs tend to take more and more RAM over time. A messenger or a simple toy like Minesweeper for RAM is undemanding – which can not be said about giant Excel spreadsheets, a large Photoshop project or a modern blockbuster game with incredible graphics. Professional programs and engineering software are created in order to serve the most complex projects – and without any regrets they are ready to “eat” at least all the RAM on the computer in order to solve the assigned tasks.
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How much RAM do tablets need?
Tablet PCs were not built to handle demanding applications. Accordingly, they need no more “RAM” to work than the same smartphones. Another thing is that today tablet manufacturers really want to turn them into devices for work. And if you need such a gadget, then RAM for it should be chosen in the same way as for a laptop.
For example, the latest iPads have only 3 GB and 4 GB (in Pro versions) of “RAM” – but by and large they only need a beautiful screen and work in the browser, plus a “tenacious” battery. But the hybrid laptop and tablet Microsoft Surface Book 2, even in the basic configuration, gets 16 GB of RAM – and it is able to perform tasks corresponding to such a volume of “RAM”.
3 GB is the normal amount of RAM on a tablet for simple tasks like surfing the web and watching videos. But if you are using a tablet as your primary device, it makes sense to start with at least 4 GB of RAM.
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How much RAM do laptops need?
By default, budget laptops are equipped with 4 GB of RAM, most users choose 8 GB, and only top solutions come with 16 GB of “RAM”. As mentioned above, the more RAM a laptop has, the better.
In the case of a Chromebook, which runs primarily through the cloud and has a minimal storage capacity, 4GB of RAM is sufficient.
For Windows and macOS, the operating requirements are more stringent – today it makes no sense to take a computer with less than 8 GB of RAM. Well, if you seriously work with video or photo, or plan to play “heavy” games – definitely choose a PC or Mac with 16 GB of RAM, saving in this case will not be the best solution, because the lack of memory will slow down your work significantly.
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How much RAM does a desktop computer (desktop) need?
Here the layout is the same as on laptops. For a “basic” scenario like web browsing, office applications and most games, 8 gigabytes of RAM is enough. For anything “more complicated” – 16 or 32 GB. If right now it is difficult to decide on the tasks and scenarios of use, take 8 GB, and if necessary, one more bar with “RAM” can be purchased and installed later.