RAM (Random Access Memory) speed is the onboard memory available for the CPU to access promptly compared to retrieving it from an SSD or HDD. An exciting development in recent years is doubling the bandwidth and latency for high-capacity memory modules, allowing more information to be readily available for the CPU.
Speed is only part of the performance with RAM, as CAS latency and capacity play a factor depending on your motherboard and CPU performance. For DDR4 gaming PCs, an ideal bandwidth would be between 3000 and 4000 Mhz with a CAS latency of 16-18 (lower being better). DDR5 changes this by optimally doubling the bandwidth and latency to 4800 and 6400 Mhz and a CAS latency of 34-40.
This guide will answer questions about how RAM speed matters when playing heavy-load games and using popular productivity software.
Does Faster RAM Improve PC Performance?
High-speed RAM does improve your overall performance due to the amount of data handed to the CPU being larger at any given time. The most critical aspect of faster RAM speed is having comparable latency to keep up with workloads and running games.
Multiple intricacies like RAM capacity, DIMM channel utilization, and stability justify some RAM modules. Let's learn what RAM and features on a motherboard contribute to the overall performance.
How RAM Affects PC Gaming
Due to how games differ in their RAM utilization, only a few genres rely on more RAM, like open-world and strategy games. These genres often have multiple AI behavior and environment triggers requiring significant CPU and RAM input.
Depending on your motherboard’s chipset, XMP (eXtreme Memory Profile) or EXPO (AMD Extended Profiles for Overclocking) profiles that enable RAM configurations to run at full speed may or may not be able to accommodate specific models. Higher-end boards like AMD’s B650s and X670 and Intel’s B660s and Z790 chipsets offer the best performance and FPS gains while keeping overclocked RAM stable.
The Best RAM Speeds for Gaming on PC
Learning your gaming PC's “sweet spot” for RAM speed should be achievable depending on your chipset and memory limitations. In recent years, gamers have garnered support for high capacity and speed RAM, which has seen 5400Mhz to 6400Mhz replace the previous DDR4 3000Mhz to 4000Mhz for gaming and other workloads. In addition to this speed, the CAS latency for DDR4 should be 16-18 (lower being better) and DDR5 between 34-40.
RAM Speed vs. Capacity
While there are no significant effects at lower memory capacities, going beyond 64GB in DDR5 variants has caused important speed issues since the platform's adoption in 2020. The modules that see the most trouble in stability are high-capacity DDR5 memory. An easy solution to fit stability issues is reducing the speed below the maximum levels.
Typical gaming motherboards running DDR5 with a capacity of 64GB to 128GB have had significant issues running at full speed.
DDR4 vs. DDR5
The significant difference between DDR4 and DDR5 is an upgrade in architecture between the motherboard and memory modules. This makes them not only “non-compatible” with each other but doubles the available bandwidth on the PCB of each module.
While differences between the two generations of memory have slight gaming performance improvements, their true potential is in the reliability and stability of hitting advertised speeds. DDR5 is where the first few generations of hardware must resolve the stability issues as new hardware is released and iterated on.
Testing Your PC’s RAM Speed
You can always see your system's current RAM speed by opening Task Manager>Performance Tab>Memory and checking the speed in the column on the left. Depending on the capacity and speed, experiment with how much you can overclock system memory before instability sets in.
To test how fast your PC can go, try maxing the XMP setting in the BIOS screen. When your PC boots to the BIOS, hitting the default XMP profile should be easy and stable enough for 8, 16, and 32GB configurations for DDR4 and DDR5 systems. If the system refuses to boot, attempt to lower the speed or try a different profile within the memory overclocking tab.
After many retries and tests, see which configuration works best for you!
Gaming & RAM Speed FAQs
Let us review some commonly asked questions regarding RAM performance, capacity, and speed for gaming and productivity workloads.
Does Increasing RAM Increase FPS?
Size and speed increase FPS, especially on specific resolutions regarding AI generation while gaming. However, there is a recessed cost at a certain point regarding how much capacity shaves off speed, which inevitably hurts performance. The most popular DDR5 configurations are 64GB at 6400 Mhz and 96GB at 5400-6000 Mhz.
Is 3200 Mhz RAM Good for Gaming?
The memory speed of 3200 Mhz at DDR4 is perfectly acceptable. In recent years, DDR4 technology has allowed 3600 and 4000 Mhz kits to become worth upgrading to for an added performance boost. This should not overshadow the more significant promise of DDR5 development but offer a competitive price point edge to systems still on DDR4.
Summary of Faster RAM Speeds for Gaming
Whether you have DDR4 or DDR5 memory, a system with high enough RAM speed to game on modern titles delivers excellent performance when under load. The most popular speeds for those systems are anywhere from 3000Mhz to 6400Mhz for DDR4 and DDR5 models.
Over the past few years, the emergence of DDR5 into the PC part market has seen a more significant reduction in high-functioning DDR4 kits that will remain usable well into the 2020s. This comparison stems from DDR5's initial growing pains with the last two CPU and motherboard variations releases.
At Apex Gaming PCs, we commit to our systems having a 3200 Mhz transfer speed or higher, depending on your configuration choices. These options are unified across all builds offered on our site, whether you want a custom gaming PC or a workstation-oriented system. Whatever your RAM needs are, we hope to be of service at Apex!
Written By William Wilson