One of the most common metrics gamers get obsessed with when it comes to improving gaming performance is frames per second (FPS).
And while many factors affect FPS, like your graphics card, your monitor, and CPU, in this article, we’ll be focusing on RAM or Random Access Memory and if it affects FPS.
The short answer is that, yes, RAM affects FPS. but if you want to learn more geeky details keep reading because, in this article, we will talk about how RAM affects FPS and what RAM specs have the biggest impact on frames per second in gaming. So let’s start!
What is RAM
RAM, aka Random Access Memory, is your computer’s temporary memory, where various software and the OS store data that they need quickly, like when you are playing a game and the enemy moves, what gun you have equipped, etc.
If your computer didn’t have RAM, it would have to access all that data from the hard drive, which makes any real-time gaming experience practically impossible.
So as you can understand, RAM is very important not only for gaming but also for the smooth operation of your computer.
What is FPS
Now that you got a basic understanding of what RAM is and what it does, let’s talk about FPS or frames per second.
FPS is a metric that measures how many full-screen images (frames) your computer can render every second.
When you play a game or watch a movie, the motion you see on your monitor is a result of many static images (frames) being displayed really fast in a short period of time (seconds). As you can understand, the higher the FPS number (the rate at which your monitor displays static images), the smoother the motion, the animation, and the overall gaming experience will be.
Related Article: DRAM Frequency: A Complete Guide
How Does RAM Affect FPS?
Now you know what RAM and FPS are, let’s talk about how RAM affects FPS by examining the impact certain RAM specs have on FPS. So let’s get to it!
What Impact does RAM have on FPS?
While RAM does affect FPS, its impact is small compared to other computer components.
RAM’s work is to give your CPU quick access to the data that it needs; then, the CPU processes this data and sends it to the graphics card, which finally “translates” them into pixels that paint the image on your monitor.
This process happens in milliseconds, and if one of the three components cannot keep up, it will create a bottleneck to the data flow and finally affect the FPS.
Ok, but why do the other two components, CPU and graphics card, have a bigger impact on FPS than RAM?
This is because the CPU is the brain of your computer and has to do all the complex calculations (you can read more about if and how CPU affects FPS), and the graphics card is responsible for taking all that data and turning it into pixels on your monitor at a very fast speed.
So even if your RAM is able to give the CPU very fast access to the data it needs, it won’t have a big impact on the overall performance if either of these two components can’t process the data fast enough.
Related Article: How Long Does RAM Last? [Solved]
What RAM specs have the biggest impact on FPS?
Now that you know how RAM affects FPS, let’s talk about which RAM specs have the biggest impact on FPS:
1. RAM Size
RAM size is the number one spec people look at when they are buying RAM sticks. The RAM size is measured in gigabytes (GB), and it is the total amount of data your RAM can store at the same time. For example, if you run 4 applications and each of these applications needs 1GB of RAM, then you need a minimum of 4GB of RAM.
As you can understand, the RAM size is very important when it comes to multitasking, but what about when your run a single app and, more specifically, a game?
The short answer is that RAM size is the spec with the least impact on FPS.
Games are not designed to be RAM intensive but rather CPU and graphics card intensive. So if you are running a game that doesn’t require more than 8GB of RAM, then buying 16 GB or 32 GB won’t make much of a difference when it comes to FPS.
Later we will talk more in detail about what RAM size you should buy depending on the type of games you play, but in most cases, 8GBs of RAM will be ok, 16GBs of RAM will be great, and 32GB will be an overkill.
Before moving to the next spec, I would like to mention that RAM size becomes really important if you plan to stream or do heavy multitasking while gaming.
To see how minimal is the impact of RAM size on FPS, you can watch the benchmark video below:
2. RAM Frequency
The RAM frequency is the RAM speed measured in MegaHertz (MHz) and shows how fast your RAM can access the data stored on it.
The Frequency of the RAM is more important than its size when it comes to gaming performance and FPS because the faster the RAM can access the data, the quicker the CPU will be able to access it, resulting in better performance.
However, it is important to understand that RAM speed affect FPS; it won’t increase it by a lot; rather, it will give you a minor boost which will be most noticeable when playing heavy games.
Before moving on to the next spec, I would like to talk a bit about the current frequency standards of the market:
- DDR4 RAM with a frequency of 2400MHz – 3200Mhz
- DDR5 RAM with a frequency of 3200MHz – 6400Mhz
The DDR4 is the standard RAM type used nowadays, and if you buy a 3200 Mhz DDR4 RAM, then it should be enough for most games. But if you want to future-proof your computer built, you can go for a DDR5 motherboard and RAM with a frequency of 4000 MHz or higher.
3) Dual Channel RAM and FPS
The last RAM spec (well, not exactly a spec) that has the biggest impact on FPS is the RAM mode (in simple words, how many RAM stick pairs you use).
In the previous section, I talked about the two RAM generations available in the market, DDR4 and DDR5; and both generations have one thing in common: they are both DDR (Double Data Rate).
What is the Double Data Rate?
The Double Data Rate is a technology used by SDRAM that makes the memory able to transfer two signals per clock cycle*. This practically means that it is two times faster than it would be without using this technology. But there is a catch to it, to be able to use DDR, you should use at least two DDR stick simultaneously.
If you didn’t quite get it, let me give you an example:
Let’s say you buy a single DDR4 RAM stick with 3200Mhz frequency. When you plug into your motherboard, it will run at 1600Mhz, because the 3200Mhz frequency you read on the specs is a DDR frequency, and with one RAM stick, it is not possible to achieve this speed.
On the other hand, if you buy two RAM sticks with the exact same specs, then they will run at 3200Mhz because it will be able to take advantage of the DDR technology (it has to do with synchronizing the two sticks but I won’t get in more details).
Finally, keep in mind that the more channels (quad channel, octal channel, etc.), the more signals the RAM can transfer per clock cycle (4,8, etc.), resulting in an increase in FPS.
*You need to have a CPU with at least the same number of cores to be able to take advantage of DDR technology (two cores for dual-channel, four cores for quad-channel, etc.)
How Much RAM You should buy FOR GAMING?
If you have been reading the article closely, you probably have a good idea of what kind of RAM you should buy for gaming.
But let me tell you what I think is a decent RAM setup for gaming:
When it comes to the RAM size, I would recommend going for 16GB. This is not because 8GB is not enough, but because with the pace of the development of applications and games, the demand for RAM is growing, and 16GB is a good choice for future-proofing your system. Let me explain why:
Let’s say you want to play a demanding game that needs 4GB of RAM, and at the same time, you have forgotten to close your Chrome browser that is open with a few tabs and needs an additional 2GB of RAM. If you add to that the standard windows processes and a messaging application or two, you can understand that 8GB of RAM won’t be enough. To learn more about RAM size, you can read our article: “16GB vs 32GB RAM: How Much Do You Really Need?“
When it comes to the frequency of your RAM, I would say that a 3200Mhz DDR4 + with the option to overclock is a decent choice. But if you want to future-proof your PC build, then a DDR5 RAM with 4000Mhz+ frequency is the way to go.
Finally, when it comes to channels, it is a no-brainer, and you should definitely go for dual channels as it is the most important factor when it comes to RAM and FPS.
Related Article: “What RAM is compatible with my motherboard?“
RAM and FPS FAQ
Does FPS increase with RAM?
Yes, FPS increases with RAM, but RAM is not the most important factor that affects FPS. Components like GPU and CPU are more important when it comes to FPS and have a bigger impact on it.
Will 32GB RAM increase FPS?
It totally depends on what RAM frequency you had before. If you upgrade from 4GB to 32GB, then it will definitely improve your FPS. But if you had 16GB RAM and upgraded to 32 GB, there will not be much improvement in terms of FPS.
Will 16GB RAM improve gaming?
This depends on two factors, the games you like to play and the RAM you had before upgrading to 16 GB.
For example, if you had 8 GB of RAM and the games you play are not-so-demanding, there won’t be any noticeable improvement, but if you had 4 GB and like to play AAAA games, then the difference will be huge.
In this article, we have answered your question about if RAM affects FPS in gaming and explained in great detail why it does. We have also gone through the different aspects of RAM specs that you should consider when choosing RAM for gaming and explained why 16GB is the best choice for performance and future-proofing.
I hope that this article has helped you to make a better decision when it comes time to build or upgrade your PC. Good luck
Nick Ryley is a computer architect and the owner of The Pc Geekz.
His love for playing games got him interested in computers in the first place. He wanted to be able to build a gaming PC that could run all the latest games at max settings, and this has him pursuing a major in computer architecture!
He started this blog to help people out and answer some of the most common questions about computer building