How to choose gaming RAM and not be mistaken?

Today's material about RAM: briefly and without extra water, let's go over its main characteristics, talk about what its wrong choice can affect, and how to avoid this mistake. Well, at the end we will give a list of models that we can vouch for with our heads. In a word, this is a simple text for those who want to quickly figure it out, buy and forget.

But we have not forgotten about those who need a more scrupulous and comprehensive approach to the issue of RAM: a large article on this topic is already in progress.

Main characteristics of RAM

So, let's first define what kind of random access memory is on the market and how the bars may differ from each other. If we ignore brands and prices, then it makes sense to pay attention to the following nuances: the manufacturer of the memory chips themselves, the presence or absence of XMP and passive cooling in the form of a radiator, the rank, the voltage required for operation, and the frequency with timings. At the same time, the memory standard (DDR3 or DDR4) could be included in this list, but since we are talking about computers that are relevant for 2021, there is only one option: DDR4. DDR3 is already out of date. Well, all the main characteristics are in front of us - let's take a closer look at each of them.

Memory Chip Manufacturer

When choosing a strap, you can generally ignore the manufacturer of a particular RAM model. HyperX may be listed on the label, for example, but this company does not have its own memory production facilities. The firm simply buys the chips, solders them to the PCB, comes up with a design, and sticks its label on top.

What you really need to look at is the memory chips, which are usually hidden from prying eyes. Let's say Samsung B-die (Samsung is the manufacturer, B-Die is the die layout) is the best there is today. And then there are Nania , Spectek, and Elpida, which are no longer very good. The problem is this: none of the manufacturers, of course, will tell you which of the above is under a beautiful radiator. To find out, you have to dig forums or read reviews on major trading platforms. You can also use the Thaiphoon Burner program, but this is not a so-so solution, since it assumes that the memory is already in your hands. Nevertheless, the option is quite workable when buying used modules.

There is also the B-Die Finder website, which can be used to find almost all existing memory modules based on Samsung B-Die chips. Experienced users, of course, and by indirect indications can guess what is "under the hood" of this or that module. Let's say a memory with a frequency of 3200 MHz and a CL timing of 14 is absolutely definitely a Samsung B-Die. But two seemingly identical modules with a frequency of 3600 MHz and CL 16 can be made by both Samsung and Hynix (This is already much better than Elpida, Spectek and Nania, but still not Samsung B-Die or, for example, Micron E -Die ).

Xtreme Memory Profile, or XMP

Xtreme Memory Profile - a profile of settings that are saved in the SPD RAM module. It represents certain frequencies and timings at which the module should function after the successful activation of XMP in the BIOS. And this, by the way, should be taken into account: buying modules with XMP support does not mean that it will immediately work at the declared frequencies. Without activating the profile, the memory will start at the base frequency for DDR4 - 2133 MHz.

In short, XMP is a factory overclocking memory that does not require anything from the user except a couple of mouse clicks. However, there is a nuance that should be feared. XMP is not always a guarantee of stability: it is not uncommon for the computer to simply not start after activating the factory overclocking profile. In 99.9% of cases, this problem can be solved, but this already requires knowledge, since you will have to manually set all the necessary voltages, frequencies and timings. What if you don’t have this knowledge or you simply don’t want to do it? Contact QVL.

QVL, or Qualified Vendors List, is a list of RAM modules tested on a specific motherboard, indicating all frequencies, voltages and timings. If the memory you have chosen is in the QVL of the motherboard you are interested in, feel free to purchase it. It is easy to find the QVL for the required board: go to the official page of the motherboard, look for the Support or Downloads sections, and there you will find something like the Memory Support List.

We will immediately answer a very popular question: "What if I want to buy memory with XMP 4400 MHz CL 17, it is in the QVL of my motherboard, but on the official Intel (or AMD ) website only 2133 MHz support is indicated?"

The roots of this problem lie in the misinterpretation of processor specifications. The 2133 MHz you see is just a 100% guaranteed frequency of RAM modules with which your processor will definitely start. This does not mean that the memory controller built into the CPU is not capable of operating at higher frequencies. At Intel, all Core processors from the 6th to the 10th generation are capable of working with sets of RAM, the frequencies of which lie far beyond 4 GHz. In the 11th generation (due to changes in the controller part), the supported frequencies have dropped significantly, but this is still an impressive 3733-3800 MHz. Modern AMD Ryzen processors have about the same limit, but in extremely rare cases it can reach 4000 MHz.

Radiators. Are they needed or not?

Do memory modules need a passive cooling system? Yes and no. It all depends on several factors.
If we are talking about low-frequency RAM (ranging from DDR4-2133 MHz to DDR4-3000 MHz) with low voltage up to 1.35 V, then no heatsink is required. But if you plan to overclock this memory or we are talking about initially high-frequency modules operating at voltages of 1.35 V, then the radiator and cold air blowing are strictly necessary. Without these conditions, memory will work, of course, but it will be unstable. Blue screens (BSODs), sudden reboots, and crashes of applications to the desktop - this is what overheating leads to.

RAM rank

Memory is mainly peer-to-peer and dual-rank (memory with four ranks is extremely rare). There is a myth on the Web that dual-rank memory is supposedly faster than peer-to-peer (at the same frequencies), but this is not entirely true. It's all about the secondary timings. But now we will not delve into the theory of what they are. The main thing to understand: if you do not plan to manually configure the RAM, it is better to choose two ranks (as a rule, these are modules with memory chips soldered on both sides of the printed circuit board, but there are exceptions). If you can manually set aggressive secondary timings, then there will be no difference between the peer and dual-rank memory (or the difference will be 0.5-1%).

It is much more important to pay attention to the memory channel. Never buy one RAM module with a modern processor: this will force the CPU to work with memory in single-channel mode, and this will significantly reduce the overall performance of your PC. Always take two modules.
But is it possible to bet more: for example, four or eight?

Yes, you can. However, it should be understood that a processor designed to work with two memory channels (Dual Channel) will not work in four-channel mode, even if you install four modules. To activate Quad Channel, you need a CPU that supports it. As a rule, such processors belong to the highest (HEDT) price category or to server solutions (desktop Intel Core X and server Xeon from Intel, as well as Ryzen Threadripper along with server EPYC from AMD). How many memory channels your processor can work with directly, check with the manufacturer's official specifications.

Frequencies and timings

We will describe in detail what frequencies and timings are in a separate article, which was mentioned at the beginning of this article. For now, let's get by with general provisions.

So, as a rule, you can take one thing: the higher the frequency of the RAM and the lower its timings, the better. For example, if you see two sets of memory in front of you, one at 3200 MHz with timings of 14-14-14-14-34 and the second at 3600 MHz with the same timings, you should always choose the second one. However, such high-speed solutions, as a rule, are not very attractive for their prices, and in real life you have to make compromises. Then our recommendations are as follows: choose 3000 MHz kits with CL timing 15 and kits at 3200 MHz with CL timing 16. This is not the fastest solution that can be found on the market, but far and not the slowest - some optimum, ideal for everyone. modern processor. Yes, with such memory, you will not squeeze all the juice out of your CPU in terms of performance (namely, it benefits from increased memory efficiency), but you will not lose much either. And the latter applies not only to productivity but also to money.

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