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How much RAM do I really need for gaming

How much RAM do I really need for gaming Article Author : Naylor
Date : 29th Apr 2014
Comments : 20

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What is RAM?

RAM, or ‘Memory’ is simply the amount of ‘room’ a computer system has to function with. Think of a computer system like a small office, with a desk, filing cabinet and a person sitting at the desk. The filing cabinet would be the hard drive, where all the files are stored, the person sitting at the desk would be the CPU, removing and replacing files from the filing cabinet and working on the files on the desk’s surface, which would be the RAM. The more RAM a system has, the larger the desk’s surface would be, and therefore the more room the system has to have multiple files open at the same time.

If a system has a small amount of RAM, then the CPU would have to continually read files from the hard drive, work on them in a small space, and then replace them before opening any more files. Conversely, if there is a large amount of RAM then the system can have many files open at the same time without having to continually access the hard drive.

Testing

For this test I thought it would be interesting to find out exactly what the performance implications of using different amounts of RAM would be in various gaming scenarios. I have been wondering if 4GB is enough for games nowadays, as it used to be the ‘sweet spot’ around 3 years ago. However, many systems are now using at least 8GB, due to RAM being one of the lowest cost components in a modern PC. What I want to know is –‘Is 8GB of RAM really necessary for current gaming?’

Rather than using different sticks of RAM for this test, it is more convenient and efficient to simply limit the amount of RAM that Windows is able to use in applications using MSConfig’s system configuration utility. Testing under these conditions also improves the validity of the results, as there will be no discrepancies between the performances of different brands of RAM sticks.

I am using what I consider to be a relatively standard gaming setup for these tests. The specifications of which are listed below:
  • Intel i5 2500K Overclocked to 4.6 GHZ with Corsair H60 liquid cooler
  • Nvidia GTX 670
  • 8GB RAM DDR3 1600Mhz Corsair Vengeance Blue Pro series
  • 128GB Samsung EVO Solid State Drive (system)
  • 1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200rpm Mechanical drive (storage)
  • Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium
For the purposes of testing I have installed all of the games onto the Seagate Barracuda Drive, as it has a large amount of space and many people use this configuration (installing main programs and the operating system onto the SSD and games libraries onto larger storage drives).

Games tested

Diablo 3

Have a lootin’ rootin’ good time! This isometric view Action RPG isn’t hugely demanding graphically, but the massive amounts of on-screen particle effects and team-based combat with hordes of insane monsters can occasionally challenge even beastly computers. For this test I will use the highest graphics settings available.

Skyrim

The current godfather of first person RPG’s. Although released in 2011, Skyrim can still demand a huge amount of horsepower to run well on modern PCs, due to the beautiful vistas, huge draw distance and complex on-screen effects. Since its release, Skyrim now has access to thousands of graphical modifications that can quickly eat up graphics cards and processors, however for this test I will run the game using the stock settings, which default to ‘Ultra High’.

Crysis 3

The daddy of graphical showcases! This game is one of the most graphically demanding games currently available on the PC, due to the heavy implementation of DirectX 11-based effects and high-resolution textures, along with superb lighting effects and a cutting-edge graphics engine. I will be using “Very High” settings for this test, with DirectX11 effects turned on.

Resolutions

For the tests I will also use two separate resolutions, to analyse performance difference and impact on the RAM usage for each game.

The resolutions tested will be: 720p (1280x720) and 1080p (1920x1080).

Configurations tested

I will use configurations from 1GB up to 8GB of RAM to test each of these games, in various stages. These will be:
  • 1GB
  • 2GB
  • 3GB
  • 4GB
  • 6GB
  • 8GB
The figures in each chart will be the average frame rates (using FRAPS Real-Time Frame Rate Analyser) over a 3 minute stretch of gameplay, with the same part of each game tested each time. I will also test the load times of each game, from clicking ‘continue’ to the moment that the game begins.

So... without further ado, let’s get testing!




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