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a hand installing Kingston FURY Beast DDR5 RGB into a PC motherboard

The ultimate RAM guide for gamers

Everything you wanted (and didn’t want) to know about RAM!

Building a computer for the first time is a daunting task. With so many components and specifications to keep track of, knowing what to look for in a purchase can be tough. Graphics cards and processors usually steal the limelight, but if you want your games to load and run smoothly, knowing what RAM to buy is just as important.

RAM will help your games load levels and effects faster, letting you cut down the time spent waiting and get straight into the action. If you like to multi-task and run applications in the background while you game, having more RAM is essential. Programmes like Google Chrome are notoriously RAM hungry, so if you want to watch videos/live streams or check social media as you game, then you’re going to need more RAM. Kingston produces top-of-the-line yet affordable RAM to keep your PC in peak form. In this guide, we’ll break down exactly what you need to know and understand as a first-time RAM buyer.

What is RAM?

RAM is an acronym that stands for Random Access Memory. In a computer, it temporarily stores fast-access data between the processor and HDD/SSD (Hard Disk Drive / Solid State Dive), also referred to as long-term storage. When your PC boots, the operating system (Windows, macOS) is retrieved from the HDD/SSD and loaded into RAM, as well as any background applications or applications you open. More RAM means more space for your computer to store this fast-access information, allowing it to run more applications or have more files open concurrently.

DDR3, DDR4 and DDR5

Kingston FURY DDR5 family

Today’s computers use Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory (SDRAM), which connects to your computer’s system board via a memory module. Most memory modules come in standard form factors, with the most common for PCs and laptops being a DIMM (Dual In-Line Memory Module) or SODIMM (Small Outline DIMM). Since SDRAM was first introduced in the late 1990s, it’s evolved considerably to provide faster performance and higher capacities, all while using less power to save on energy costs, extend battery life, and reduce heat. The latest version of SDRAM is DDR5, which is an acronym for Double Data Rate 5th generation. When shopping for memory, you’ll notice that most vendors drop the term “SDRAM” and simply specify DDR5 and a speed rating. Just like all previous generations, DDR5 is offered in a range of industry standard speeds, beginning at 4800MT/s or DDR5-4800. “MT/s” means megatransfers per second and indicates the speed at which data is transferred on and off of the memory module. The industry standards body for memory introduces new memory generations about every 7 years, and within each generation they plan for all the speed increases, densities, and configurations they can imagine will be needed for computers in that time. For example, the last generation was DDR4, and it covered a speed range of 2133, 2400, 2666, 2933, and 3200MT/s. Intel and AMD typically release new chipsets and processor generations every year, enabling the next standard memory speed.

One important distinction between memory generations is that they are not backwards compatible. A DDR5 memory module will not physically fit into a DDR4 or DDR3 memory socket. While they may look similar, a notch on the bottom of the module acts as a key and will only fit into a compatible socket. Within a memory generation, however, faster memory speeds are always backwards compatible. For example, if you purchase a standard DDR5-5600 module and use it with a 12th Generation Intel processor, the memory will automatically “clock-down” to operate at 4800MT/s.

When deciding which memory technology to use for your PC or laptop, it really comes down to the processor and motherboard. Knowing the make and model of each will help you find what available memory options there are for your system.

Size and speed

Most PC, motherboards have four RAM sockets, although some high-end/workstation systems push this number up to eight or more. Laptops are a bit trickier. In addition to larger screens, gaming laptops usually have two accessible memory sockets. But thin or ultra-thin laptops may have only one socket, or their memory is directly mounted to the motherboard and not upgradeable.

Depending on which DDR generation, single RAM modules for PCs/laptops tend to range in size from 2GB-48GB and, due to how computers work, they may be sold in kits of two, four, or eight to match the memory architecture of your specific system. This is more commonly referred to as dual channel (2CH), quad channel (4CH) or octal channel (8CH). When installed in identical pairs or groups matching the memory channel architecture, their bandwidth is combined to provide a huge boost in performance. For example, a DDR5-4800 memory module has a peak bandwidth of 38.4GB/s. In a dual channel setup, that number becomes 76.8GB/s. So, installing correctly according to the motherboard and processor can make a significant difference for your system’s performance. As for how much RAM you will need, that’s more subjective. For a gaming PC, the optimal amount of RAM recommended for the most recent gaming titles is 32GB. If you like to run a lot of applications in the background, you might want to push this number up to 48GB or even 64GB. The latest PCs from Intel and AMD with four sockets can support up to 192GB!

Speed is the next consideration. If you use industry standard speeds, you’re pretty much limited to what the processor and motherboard will support. Some systems also have rules about installing modules into the second memory bank. On a dual channel motherboard with four sockets, these are arranged in two memory banks, where each memory channel (usually A & B) has two sockets. When installing modules into the second bank (e.g., A2 & B2), the memory may be forced to clock-down to a slower speed. This is due to limitations inside the processor.

A close-up image of memory slots in a motherboard with signs showing the different channels and banks

If standard speeds won’t cut it for your gaming needs, then consider overclockable memory. Overclocking memory is relatively safe and easy using Intel XMP and AMD EXPO profiles and can provide noticeable boosts to game and application performance, such as increased FPS (Frames Per Second). Choosing an overclockable kit is relatively easy. You can check the QVL (Qualified Vendor List) of your specific motherboard on the manufacturer’s website or use Kingston’s Configurator to see what parts they’ve tested as compatible.

Putting it all together

Once you’ve selected the memory kit that matches your gaming needs, you may want to check out Kingston’s latest videos on how to install the memory correctly and enable overclocking profiles. If you’ve opted for RGB memory, you can download Kingston FURY CTRL software to customise the lighting patterns or use your motherboard manufacturer’s RGB software to synchronise all the lights to suit your style. All Kingston FURY RGB modules also feature the patented Infrared Sync Technology, which keeps the patterns in perfect lock-step.

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