Computer Memory Upgrade
Your guide to computer memory upgrades,
RAM buying guide, and guide to install compatible RAM.

Table of Contents

How Much Memory Do I Need ?

The answer really depends on how much and for what your system is used. Upgrading Memory is easy and cost effective. RAM is used every time you open an application, download, play a game or simply turn on your computer. Additionally if you work with or plan to work with digital audio and video more ram is a necessity.

Novice User / Administrative
If you use your computer to send and receive email, do a little word processing, and are starting to surf the Web, you can get by with 64MB. However, you would benefit from going to at least 128MB of memory.

Basic User
If you are spending more time surfing the internet, sending and receiving email, and doing word processing along with other applications, you can get by with 128MB, but would benefit from going to 256MB.

Professional / Feel the need for Speed!
If you are running multiple business applications, want to play the newer video games and/or work with graphics, you can get by with 256MB, but your computer speed would benefit greatly by having 512MB.

Advanced Professional
If you work with high-end graphics, CAD software, digital images, or video, you can get by with 256MB, but would benefit greatly by installing 512MB of memory or more. Right now our 512MB memory modules are available at incredibly low prices.

Graphics Design Professional
If you are, or plan to be, a professional graphics designer, use CAD or modeling software, digital images or video, you can get by with 512MB, but would benefit from going to 1GB of memory or more.

Gaming rig??

Ahhhh. Here's the point of all this tech talk. For a gaming rig, how much is enough? Well, before this article, I would have said, anything over 128Mb. We'll see if that's my opinion at the end, although I do recommend instead of skipping to the end, you read what I have to say, because there's some twists to this article that might interest you.

Test System

Below is the system that was used in this article, along with any other important information.


Intel Pentium 3 800Mhz
Hercules Prophet SDR (GeForce 256)
Abit BX6 Rv. 2.0 Motherboard
Microsoft Windows 2000 SP2 Operating System
Test Programs: Quake 3 Arena, 3Dmark 2000

Let me explain some things. I believe the Windows 9x series is now defunct. Windows XP is the future, and the Windows 2000 core is the closest thing I have to to XP, so that's why 2000 was used in this review. Also, Windows 2000 has the best memory handling of all the current Windows OS's. Add in there: total stability, and supreme control over the OS, and you've got all my reasons. The reason Quake 3 is used, is because it's a very taxing program on a system like mine, and it's very easy to benchmark. 3Dmark 2000 was used because 2001 is made for next-gen video cards, and by using 2000 there's more discrepancy between results, making them easier to apply to an article.

Now, the benchmarks.

Benchmarks

Here we have some predictable results, except for a twist. Between 256 and 384 Mb, I lose some performance. I have attributed this to using multiple boards of RAM, instead of a single board of 256Mb. Also, notice how close the scores are to each other. Between 128Mb and 640Mb, there's only a 8.76% difference in performance. Is 8.7% worth $100 for having 512Mb RAM on your motherboard?

Here we go again. Similar results so the "fastest quality" settings. Again, we see the having the single chip of 256 is more efficient than using the 128 and 256 chips together. And notice the difference in performance again. My calculations give 7.5% difference. Again, not worth the extra cost of 512Mb.

Now for the third test, the results are starting to present a clearer picture. First, the gap between 256 and 384 starts the close. This is probably because the game is requesting more memory usage, due to the higher resolution needed in the game. More textures = More information to swap. As for 128 Mb, now we start to see what really should be posted by every hardware site. Less memory = Less performance. In this test the difference is 11.71%.

BAM! Here's the goods right here. 128 Megs is NOT enough. "Sucks" is the word that comes to my mind. Performance is starting to level out more at the higher memory amounts, but as everyone can see plainly, the jump from 128 megs to 256 megs is simply unbelievable. The gap between 256 and 384 is by 0.4 FPS, and negligible. The difference between 128 and 640 is now 14.29%.

High Quality MAX is the game maxed out at full resolution, and highest quality everything else. This benchmark is mainly just to show how important having at least 256 megs can be, as when you get into the higher memory amounts, the limitations of the video card and CPU show their true colors. Of small note is how 384 megs pulled ahead of 256 megs in the benchmark. That's another indication of how important RAM is to a system, especially in higher memory usage environments.

For my Direct3D test, I chose 3Dmark, because I don't own any good Direct3D game to benchmark! This benchmark is straightforward. Like said before, Memory = Performance. Enough said.

Final Words

In conclusion I would have to say that you don't want anything less then 128 megs. 64 megs with the Windows 2000 OS is suicide, and you're asking for endless punishment. Windows XP has higher memory requirements and will probably chew up and toss even 128 megs out in the trash. From these benchmarks it's pretty obvious that you'll want 256 megs if you can afford it. But I'll state it again, just so it's burned into all your heads:

These results clearly show that 128Mb is not enough ram for a modern gaming system, for a high end gaming PC, 256Mb should be considered the minimum. Although not required by any games today, it won't be long until the dreaded 'requires 256Mb RAM' appears on the sides of boxes in a retail store near you.

Try  this site for recommendations on DDR and DDR2 Memory Upgrades


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