RAM, DDR3 SDRAM, Memory, Etc.
Before we get into it, all these names I’m using above all essentially refer to the same thing in this context. DDR3 SDRAM is the current standard type of RAM and is the most specific term here. Primary Storage is the classification of this type of memory in a memory hierarchy. RAM itself is the term you’ll likely be most familiar with (if any) and it’s just the general type of memory that’s been used as primary storage for PCs since long before we even care about discussing here. “Memory” of course, is memory. It’s a very generic term, there’s a form of memory on all components of a computer. As such, we’ll avoid using this term as much as possible. So there you have it, hopefully you’ll now understand a bit more about computers and know what I mean when I use a specific term (or an unspecific term at that).
So, getting back on track, like the CPU and Motherboard on the previous pages, RAM is a core component of a PC. However, it’s the first component that we get to talk about that is incredibly easy (and pretty darn cheap) to upgrade, replace, or add on at a later date! This is lucky as RAM is hugely beneficial to a PC and can single handedly render an otherwise fast system, unbearably slow to use if it is not supplied in sufficient quantities (as such it makes a great place to start if you’re upgrading an existing system!).
Modern 64-bit operating systems (Ubuntu, Windows 7, and Server 2008 R2 included) can use in excess of 4 GiB of RAM (with 8-16 GiB the current “standard” amounts for gaming systems) all the way up to 1 TiB for Ubuntu and 16-192 GiB (depending on which edition you choose) for Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2. For a 64-bit gaming system, do try and use more than 4 GiB as benchmarks have shown that a 64-bit system with 4 GiB of RAM will run a tad slower than a 32-bit system with the same amount (though, give the 64-bit system more, and it will out pace the 32-bit system in almost every case!).
For our needs, the standard 8-16 GiB amount should be a nice target and all that’s really left is finding RAM that is compatible with our suggested motherboard and processor and that is as fast as possible.
JEDEC Standards & DDR3 Speed
A caveat here before we get into it though, bad or problematic RAM can absolutely ruin a system’s stability. As such, I take great measures to ensure I buy only standards-compliant RAM and RAM of similar types that have been tested on the motherboard I’ve chosen (in this case the P8Z68-V PRO from the last section). So, if we go to the standards link above and then cross check that with on ASUS’s specifications page for the P8Z68-V we can see that the DDR3-2133 PC3-17000 is the fastest standards compliant RAM that our chosen motherboard supports. That’s good to know, but we don’t need to go with the fastest RAM nor the RAM with the fastest timings. For Sandy Bridge based CPU’s DDR3-1600 PC3-12800 seems to be the sweet spot (see here and here). Timings are also not of significant importance (they are less important than the memory’s speed). So, keeping in mind that this system is focused on benefits versus cost we will thus be targeting the DDR3-1600 PC3-12800 speed DDR3 SDRAM.
Note: The Sandy Bridge processors we’re looking at support dual channel memory. As such, to get the most out of our setup we should use even quantities of ram (2 sticks, or 4 sticks in this case)!
Quarter 1, 2012 Suggestions, Alternates, & Other Considerations
Suggestion: G.Skill Sniper F3-12800CL9D-8GBSR2
This Sniper memory from G.Skill covers all our performance bases (DDR3-1600 PC3-12800 with the second lowest timings to boot) and offers the lowest power consumption available for DDR3 SDRAM! This memory kit comes with two 4 GiB DDR3 SDRAM sticks for a total of 8 GiB of dual-channel memory! Additionally, two of the kits could be purchased for a total of 16 GiB of RAM which would max out a Home Premium version of Windows 7 x64!
Either 8 or 16 GiB should allow for a huge amount of data to be loaded for the CPU to process. This should also allow for gaming to fly and help in reducing load times by allowing for more of a game’s files to be cached until they are needed again! If you’re itching to go up to the 16 GiB capacity immediately, remember it’s super simple to add more memory down the line and you may be able to get two low-voltage 8 GiB sticks at a reasonable cost in a year or so, which would give you an epic total of 24 GiB of DDR3 SDRAM!
Note: Your system would need to be running Windows 7 x64 Professional or Server 2008 R2 Standard or better to utilize this additional 8 GiB of memory (Ubuntu, Linux Mint, or Fedora x64 of course, will use it with no problem however!).
If the above is not enough reason to purchase this memory for your system, it has also been tested by G.Skill with our exact recommend motherboard and ASUS has tested, not this exact model of memory, but very similar G.Skill memory which has also been verified as working.
Stable, fast, low voltage, low heat, and lots of it. That’s about all there is to RAM really. It’s so simple, and this G.Skill Sniper choice fits so well with what I want that I don’t even have an Alternate, let alone an Other Considerations for this section. As such, we can move right along on to the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) on the next page!
Again, that’s it for DDR3 SDRAM. On the next page we’ll take a look at GPU’s!