How Much RAM Do You Really Need for Gaming? 2020 Edition
System requirements for PC games are something that has always been steadily increasing the demand on our computers. You'll notice that more and more RAM seems to be required as we progress to new generations of components. Luckily as these requirements increase, the technology becomes more affordable, stopping us from spending every last dollar on our glorious rigs.
We have noticed that modern games appear to require more and more memory, and consumers are recommended to have 16GB for some games!
Is 16GB of RAM really needed for gaming, though? Is 8GB of RAM enough for gaming? This article is going to clear up how much RAM you really need for gaming, so without further ado, let's get our teeth into some RAM.
What Does RAM Do to Gaming Anyway?
RAM (Random Access Memory) is where your PC stores data and programs while they are being processed. Take a game. For example, your game is stored on a hard drive, but constantly retrieving data from the HDD is inefficient and slow. This is why RAM is important as it allows your PC to access data quickly, so your computer will move the crucial game data it needs to the RAM for a quick load.
With an inadequate amount of RAM, your PC wouldn't be able to store all the game data it needs to run, which can lead to laggy frames and a poor experience.
It is worth noting that dedicated GPUs come with their own built-in RAM known as vRAM. vRAM differentiates itself from system RAM as it purely focuses on sending graphics to your monitor. This is where it gets interesting, as for gaming in 4K, you would want to increase your vRAM over your system RAM to stop performance issues.
Gone are the days when 4GB of RAM is the standard for gaming. With so many updates and developments through the years, 4GB of RAM for your average game just isn't enough anymore. Not only that, but with prices of RAM kits dropping, it makes sense to get more than 4GB.
While it is true that some games may not be able to deliver a decent gaming experience if you use a 4GB RAM, some (newer) games have no problems with 4GB.
Below are graphs of varying RAM usage when gaming at 1080p for comparison and evaluation. Starring 4GB RAM, 8GB RAM, and 16GB RAM, respectively. Image courtesy of Youtube Uploader Science Studio for the graphs below.
Looking at the graphs above, all the games (except for the Witcher 3) have no problems with 4GB of RAM, even when the graphics are set to Ultra, High, and MAX settings.
Even games that recommend 16GB of RAM as per Steam Recommended system requirements such as Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, can run with 4GB of RAM, as shown below.
For the budget gamers who take each penny to the extreme, 8GB may seem unnecessary, but to truly let your system shine, there is little point going for the absolute bare minimum RAM size.
Graph showing the FPS Count of Rise of the Tomb Raider, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and For Honor, using 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB of RAM, respectively.
Is 4GB RAM Enough for Gaming Today?
While these graphs show strong proof that you could easily run several games with 4GB of RAM, it just isn't worth cutting this corner. Factoring in the low additional cost of extra RAM and the extra headroom a smarter investment of 8GB minimum would bring, makes gaming with 4GB of RAM redundant.
Is 8GB RAM the Ideal RAM Then?
Is 8GB of RAM enough for gaming? In short, yes, 8GB is regarded by many as the new minimum recommendation. The reason 8GB is considered to be the sweet spot is that most of today's games run without issue at this capacity.
For gamers out there, this means that you really want to be investing in at least 8GB of adequately fast RAM for your system. This amount will eliminate the risk of a poor gaming experience and give you the headroom you need for certain games and, of course, future upgrades.
With the newer Ryzen CPU's being released, we see the focus on RAM speed primarily and the capacity recommendations rising slowly as they always have done. Sure some games will not require anything more than 4GB, but with the cost of RAM being very affordable, you may as well invest for what is to come.
Is 16GB of RAM Worth Investing In For Gaming?
The First thing to mention is there is no downside to grabbing a 16GB RAM kit, it's a solid investment if you can afford it. While some games claim they require 16GB a minimum, you will often find 8GB runs them just as well.
Whether or not you installed 16GB or higher really depends on your build costs and the power of the system. While it may not seem necessary for most, if you have an extremely powerful PC, adding a minimum of 16GB RAM is a smart investment. Including this size RAM in your build will give you the confidence that your system can stand the test of time (until the inevitable overhaul takes place).
Single Module vs Multiple Modules
How Much RAM Is Too Much?
Technically there isn't going to be too much RAM for your system unless you have bought more than the motherboard can handle. As mentioned, 8GB of RAM is great for gaming as many, if not all, games will run well at this RAM capacity. While going for more than 8GB is not a waste of your investment, it may be a while until it is fully utilized (depending on what you use your PC for).
There are specific cases for 16GB of RAM and higher being ideal for gamers. For gamers that also create content, stream, or even play music in the background, higher capacity RAM kits are a great addition. Video editors and 3D modelers wouled undoubtedly see a benefit to higher capacity RAM, such as 16GB and more.
Applications like Google Chrome can require a decent amount of memory to run everything smoothly at the same time. Having a bit of headroom for applications like this will give you the best chance of avoiding any issues/ crashes.
So, if you are an avid gamer who casually streams games, 16GB of RAM is going to be the best option. For casual and hardcore gamers that don't use the PC for much more than gaming, 8GB of adequately fast RAM should suffice.
So what have we learned? Well, while going with 4GB of RAM for gaming may, on paper, seem plausible, it isn't really the smartest investment for you and your money.
8GB of RAM for gaming seems like the way most gamers should go. Whether its the best DDR4 RAM you can buy or a RAM kit with relatively fast speeds for your build, 8GB will give you the least amount of issues for a very reasonable price.
Of course, if you have a very high-end build, plan on building a top of the line spec PC, or create lots of various video content, 16GB capacity or higher RAM is probably your best bet.
Most, if not all, motherboards you find for gaming, support dual-channel memory. Some higher-end motherboards can even support quad-channel.
The main advantage of having multiple RAM modules is that it gives your system a bit of security against failures or broken modules as the others can pick up the slack.
You are unlikely to see a difference in your gaming with either single or multiple RAM modules, but at least with multiple, you can continue gaming when something goes wrong.