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Is more memory or fast memory better?
First-time RAM buyers can get tripped up by densities and speeds
Does “8GB 2666 MT/s RAM” make sense to you? If it looks like alphabet soup, you’re not the only one who feels that way.
If you’ve never installed computer hardware and you’re considering a memory (RAM or DRAM) upgrade, you’re on the right track to fixing a slow desktop or laptop. But your head might spin if you have to choose between 4GB 2400 MT/s, 4GB 2666 MT/s, 8GB 2400 MT/s, and 8GB 2666 MT/s. Even if you know they’re densities and speeds, which option do you need? Here’s how to make that call.
How to read memory specs
An 8GB 2666 MT/s memory module, for example, has a density of 8 gigabytes (GB) and has a speed of 2666 megatransfers per second (MT/s).
This is what that means:
Density, also known as capacity, is the maximum amount of data the module can hold at once.
Speed, also known as frequency, is the amount of commands (megatransfers) that the memory can send to the central processing unit (CPU) in a given period of time, which then gets processed into what you see and do on your computer.
Density or speed? Here’s the short answer
When you’re forced to decide, choose density. But (you knew there was going to be a “but”), it’s more of a priority issue, not an either/or situation. Density is the first priority, speed the second.
DDR4 (the latest memory technology, which matters when figuring out compatibility) memory speeds generally range between 2133 MT/s and about 3000 MT/s. DDR3 memory (common in older computers) speeds range from 1066 MT/s to 1866 MT/s. Let’s say, for example, you buy some RAM that’s rated at 3000 MT/s. If your computer’s CPU or motherboard can only run memory at speeds up to, say 2400 MT/s, the system will only run the memory at 2400 MT/s. There are also maximum limits on densities, so you can’t install 64GB of memory in a system that can only support 8GB.
How density and speed benefit what you do
Depending on how you use your computer, and what your computer is capable of, you’ll experience the benefits of a memory upgrade differently. Although it’s difficult to separate density from speed and vice versa, here are a few activities and what you would likely notice if you added density or speed.