Gaming Laptops – Why RAM Is Mission Critical?6 min read
RAM or Random Access Memory is critical to gaming laptops. Mainly because the more RAM you have on your laptop or computer, the higher the performance level you can achieve. Higher RAM will increase your enjoyment and let you play even the most challenging 3D games.
Besides the CPU (Central Processing Unit) RAM is probably the most vital element you will have in your laptop or computer. Just as you can’t have enough money, so too you can’t have enough RAM. The more the merrier. The more RAM you have, the faster your computer will perform.
Most serious gamers know their RAM. They know the difference between static and dynamic RAM. Many can even tell you how SIMM, DIMM and SO-DIMM memory modules are different from each other. Plus, they would all know the importance of VRAM or VideoRAM to the operation of their gaming laptop. Most of all, they know their Graphics Cards or GPUs (Graphics Processing Units).
First, you should realize, RAM is probably the best known form or type of computer memory. Second, RAM is very important in how well your computer can perform the tasks you call upon it to do. The more RAM you have, the more computer tasks and programs you can run at one time.
Nor should you make the mistake that only gamers are concerned about getting enough RAM; professionals who work with heavy graphics such as video editors, architects, layout artists, website designers… are also keenly aware of the importance of having enough RAM to get the job done.
Keep in mind, computer technology is advancing at a blistering rate and is constantly changing. Overseeing all these industry standards and technology is JEDEC, which acts like a regulating body for the semiconductor industry. Hey, someone has to keep track of all these forms of RAM!
Basically, you have two kinds of RAM – Static RAM (SRAM) which is faster and more expensive than Dynamic RAM (DRAM). Just as their names suggest, Dynamic RAM is constantly refreshing and is slower and less expensive than Static RAM.
Static RAM is primarily used for cache such in your CPU’s speed-sensitive cache.
What confuses most people is the whole range or types of Dynamic RAM, with more in development as we speak. Complicating the matter even further, is the development of RAM for laptops which need smaller and more compact memory modules.
Here are some types of RAM you may or may not have seen or heard of:
FPM DRAM — which stands for “Fast Page Mode Dynamic Random Access Memory” and was the original form of DRAM. It has a maximum transfer rate of approximately 176 MBps to L2 cache; and if you’re wondering what is level 2 cache, this is cache located outside the processor chip. Level 1 refers to internal cache in the processor.
EDO DRAM — which stands for “Extended Data-out Dynamic Random Access Memory” and is around 5% faster than FPM DRAM. Transfer rate is at about 264 MBps to L2 cache.
SDRAM — which stands for “Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory” is very common in today’s computers. Transfer rate maxes out at around 528 MBps.
DDR SDRAM — which stands for “Double Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic RAM” is similar to SDRAM but has higher bandwidth, allowing for greater speeds. Transfer rate to L2 cache is around 1,064 MBps.
DDR2 SDRAM — which stands for “Double-data-rate Two Synchronous Dynamic RAM”, operates the external data bus twice as fast as DDR SDRAM.
DDR3 SDRAM — which stands for “Double-data-rate Three Synchronous Dynamic RAM” and is an improvement over DDR2 SDRAM. DDR3 allows for chip capacities of 512 megabits up to 8 gigabytes, which gives you the maximum memory module size of a whopping 16 gigabytes.
RAM modules are mounted on printed circuit boards to be used in personal computers. First, you had SIMMs (single in-line memory modules) which were gradually replaced by DIMMs (dual in-line memory modules). The main difference between them: SIMMs have a 32-bit data path and DIMMs have a 64-bit data path. Now for notebooks, you have SO-DIMMs (small outline dual in-line memory modules) which are smaller and more compact memory integrated circuits.
Of course, like everything in life, there are radically different forms of RAM such as RDRAM which stands for “Rambus Dynamic Random Access Memory”. This was designed by Rambus and has a high speed data bus nicknamed the Rambus channel. Likewise, you had Rambus in-line memory module (RIMM) and for laptops you had SO-RIMM.
Next you must know there is something called VRAM or VideoRAM. This is a type of RAM is used for video adapters or 3-D accelerators. VRAM is located in the Graphics Card and is important for high resolution and color depth, both very essential for gamers. Since true multiport VRAM is expensive, some Graphics Cards use SGRAM (synchronous graphics RAM) instead because it is cheaper. Other types of special high speed or multi-port memory include WRAM, DDR2, GDDR3 and GDDR4.
Your Graphics Card will be the heart of your gaming machine. Most gamers go for the top brands such as NVIDIA (GeForce) and ATI (Radeon) — the higher number series card usually means higher the performance. For example, at the time of writing, Nvidia has released the GeForce 9800 GX2, which is basically dual GeForce 8800 GT in one card. This will also give you DirectX 10 Graphics. Wait a couple of months and there will probably be something faster and more powerful on the market.
If one Graphics Card is good, then two or more would be even better. That’s why you have SLI (Scalable Link Interface) technology which allows for the linking of two or more video cards together to get a single output. PCI Express, is another expansion card interface format which was introduced by Intel in 2004.
How Much RAM Do You Need?
As already mentioned, the more RAM you have, the better your computer will run. You will be able to perform more tasks and do them faster if you have plenty of RAM. Actually, upgrading your RAM to a higher level will usually give you a whole new computer.
There are recommended minimum requirements if you want to run certain programs or operating systems on your PC or Laptop. For running Windows XP, Microsoft recommends 128MB as the minimum RAM requirement, again more is better.
For Mac OS X systems you will need a minimum of 128 MB but for optimal performance try 512 MB. Linux will work nicely on a system with only 4 MB of RAM.
For Windows Vista – Microsoft recommends at least 1Gig of RAM but many users have reported that 2 to 3 Gigs of RAM makes Vista a much more easier beast to handle. Vista probably needs all the good press if can get.
For Gaming Laptops: How Much RAM?
Again the more the better, gaming laptops need a lot of RAM since you have heavy video graphics and images. Serious gamers usually buy as much RAM as they can afford, choosing the fastest machines with the latest Graphics Card. Laptops with four Gigs of RAM are becoming common, with many gamers opting for 8 Gigs.
At the time of writing, what levels are we currently at in regards to laptops and RAM? Well, the new Alienware Area-51® m17x Notebook comes with the following specs: An Intel® Core(TM) 2 Extreme processor with up to 4GB DDR2 667MHz memory, sporting Dual Nvidia® GeForce® 8800M GTX. This machine also has the Killer(TM) K1 Gaming Network Card plus the ultra-life-like environments generated by the Ageia PhysX(TM) processor. You should also note that Ageia was recently (Feb. 2008) acquired by Nvidia.
Perhaps, in regards to RAM, the wisest route to take is to buy a laptop or PC where you can easily upgrade or expand the RAM if you need more memory. Changes are, wait a few months and you will probably need to increase your RAM.