Often when we talk about hardware that is essential for gaming, we talk about processors and graphics cards as something crucial to your gaming experience. Components such as the memory or disk speed of the computer from which games are loaded, which probably won't directly affect performance in the number of frames displayed per second, but it can certainly affect your overall gaming experience.
If we look at the new generation of consoles, the focus is on a faster SSD and much faster game loading than has been possible so far. Of course, this is not a coincidence - this is an area in which computers have progressed much faster in previous years than in any other, including graphics cards and processors. So let's start with what all this is for and how to make the best use of faster memory for gaming.
In short how a gaming PC uses memory
Most of you may know this whole process, but it's never worse to remind yourself a little, and it's convenient because of the story about the new consoles because then everything can be clearer, and the principle of functioning is the same. A PC consists of a place where some data (in our case, games, and everything needed for it) is stored and a place where that data is processed.
For gaming purposes, data is processed in a CPU and GPU, and they are obtained by loading data from some type of memory through certain connections, often called buses. The memory can be a permanent type, such as an HDD or an SSD Drive, or a temporary type such as computer RAM, graphics card memory, processor cache.
In principle, the closer the memory is to the processing location, the faster it is, but also significantly more expensive per megabyte or gigabyte that it can store. In theory, this includes some completely external memory such as Steam or Playstation servers from which you download games (from which the game loads the slowest but you have countless terabytes of information), but we can ignore everything that is physically outside the computer.
How it works in practice - if you start a game, for example, Tomb Raider, the CPU, based on the available memory, loads the most significant data into the RAM from the Hard Disk or SSD to start, the main menu of the game. When done, you are in the menu, if you click on something, the computer quickly calls it from RAM or its cache.
You click to load the level, the loading starts from the disk into the RAM of the whole level or its part (depending on the game itself or the amount of memory you have), and part of the data is transferred directly to the graphics card memory, things like textures, and similar the graphics card itself.
And when you, for example, turn Lara Croft to the other side, the CPU sends a request to the graphics card to draw that part, and it draws from its memory what the character you will see on that side looks. Likewise, the CPU decides on your movement, say if you miss a cliff, what it will do next, and whether, for example, it should start loading a sequence of moving events if you need to die at that moment.
In general, games are based on loading as many things as possible into RAM or graphics card memory so that everything runs fast enough so that you don't even notice any loading during one level. At some point determined by the game designer, all the memory must be cleared and a new level, the scene, loaded, as the game is already divided. Then we have to reload things from the disk, which is the slowest memory depending on how much RAM we have and how optimized the game is it will happen less or less often.
Hard disk drive or SSD
Hard disks consist of magnetic plates on which a data-reading needle moves, and they have been in computers for more than 60 years, which means that they are currently well-tried and cheap technology. However, the very fact that the head of the hard disk has to physically rush back and forth to find the data you need at that very moment, no matter how much they speed it up, has its limitations, and they are already somewhere close to the maximum.
On the other hand, an SSD is a type of memory chip that, unlike RAM, can store data permanently. You practically have a board with a few chips on it, and that's it, are no moving parts. What exists as a difference between SSDs is their format and the way they connect.
One standard format is in the form of 2.5" drives. Another format that has become increasingly popular lately is the so-called m.2 NVMe actually looks very similar to a RAM module and plugs directly into the motherboard.
In practice, 2.5 "SSDs are a bit slower and cheaper, but they can be connected to any computer made in the last 10 or more years, while NVMe is faster, more expensive, and require a special connector on the motherboard. That started to appear only before a couple of years, primarily on stronger computer motherboards.
We also come to what differences in speeds can we expect? The simplest way to explain this is in numbers - if we are talking about continuous data reading, the fastest hard drives today have a speed of about 200 to 250 MB / s, 2.5" SSD drives usually move around 500 MB / s, while NVMe drives such as Patriot Viper VPN 100 with which we had the opportunity to play a little reaches a reading speed of an incredible 3450 MB / s.
However, this logic would lead to the relatively wrong conclusion that it is much better to have a disk that reads at a speed of 3450 MB / s for gaming than even a regular SSD that is only twice as fast as a hard disk. These numbers refer to continuous reading for example if you have one 40GB movie file and copy it to another location you would probably get comparable results.
However, games usually do not consist of such files but a pile of small data scattered on the disk. And then comes the calculation of the so-called access time, the moment when the head of the hard disk needs to be moved to the appropriate location, with which SSD devices have no problem because they can access any data at any time. And then you come to the point that the loading time of a level in the game compared to SSD and HDD devices will be at least two or three times better in favor of SSD, while in practice for gamers the difference between 2.5" SSD and NVMe disk will be measured at best are a few tenths of a percent.
This isn’t to say that NVMe drives don’t serve their purpose - if you’re working with large files, videos that you later want to upload to YouTube, or something like that you’ll surely see a big difference between these two SSD formats VPN 100 which we also tried. It should be noted that some of these memory modules on NVMe disks are so fast that they heat quite a bit during operation, so the manufacturers also put passive coolers on them, just as is the case on the VPN 100.
Finally, we come to the issue of capacity, you can find a 1TB hard drive for $ 40, while an SSD of the 1TB capacity costs from $ 80 and up for a 2.5" version, or $ 100 and more for the NVMe variant. At the same time, this difference further increases as the capacity of the device increases, again in favor of hard drives.
That is why there is a kind of coexistence of hard disk and SSD devices, most often SSD is used to install the operating system on it (because everything will run much faster) while the hard disk is used to store music, movies, unfortunately often large video games. . And that’s just wrong because then you do not affect loading games faster which are now getting huge, some take up over 200GB.
In that sense, it is recommended that you allocate funds for the SSD that you intend to use for games for at least 480/512 GB version, and if possible 1TB. 256GB models can be used for the operating system and another game.
Unlike consoles, with a PC, it is always good that you can easily upgrade it later when prices fall even further. The Patriot Viper VP 100 NVMe drive, which is currently one of the fastest in the 512GB version, currently costs around $ 100, while a 2.5" drive from the same manufacturer, can be found for 30-40% less money.
It’s not a small price difference, and unfortunately, you probably won’t notice such a big difference in performance when we’re only talking about games. What is certain is that the SSD initially costs a little more, but it is well worth it!
RAM is the part where data is loaded from disk, and then the CPU takes it directly. In essence, the more RAM you have, the less chance there is that the processor will have to look for something on a much slower disk, even if it was a fast SSD. In practice, this means that you can have open programs running at the same time or are ready to do something at any time without additional loading.
As for the games themselves, they are usually limited by the minimum amount of RAM that exists in the system requirements for a particular title, so by adding additional memory you will usually not notice any acceleration in the games. While some newer games will work even with 4GB of memory (especially some online titles like Valorant or Fortnite), a large number of titles now require 8GB as an absolute minimum, virtually all AAA titles released this year.
So that would be the absolute minimum in terms of the amount of memory in one gaming computer, while the recommendation for the computer you are currently assembling would be to have 16GB of memory. Anything beyond that is completely irrelevant to games, but it depends on other ideas you have with your computer.
If you are involved in 3D modeling or animation, developing video games or other software, manipulating video materials, or working with large files in a graphics program. In that case, you may need 32GB, 64GB, or maybe even more memory, but that of course depends on your budget, and what you would use the computer for 16GB is more than enough for games at the moment.
Two things are still important, one is the layout of memory modules - most processors today can use memory that works in the so-called dual-channel mode where it communicates faster with two separate modules than with one.
This means that most memory modules are purchased in pairs - 2x 4GB, 2x8GB, are placed in the appropriate slots on the motherboard (usually marked with the same color as those that are paired). The problem here is that you need to think about the characteristics of the motherboard and the amount of memory you have and that you will potentially want to expand.
If the board has four slots, and you buy 2x 4GB there is no problem to insert another 2x4GB or 2x8GB later even everything will work at optimal speed. However, if the board has only two slots and you took 2x4GB at the beginning, it means that you will have to completely replace those modules to put 2x8GB, so it is better to plan it at the beginning, or buy more memory immediately or buy only one module from 8GB so that you have a slightly slower work until you do the upgrade if you have a relatively short time frame in which you plan to do it.
At the same time, keep in mind that the modules should be identical, and if not exactly, then at least as close in characteristics as possible, that is why they are usually sold as a so-called paired kit. We got a pair of 2x32GB modules from the Patriot in the so-called Blackout edition, which includes better coolers and the like.
One item to pay attention to is the type and speed of memory - most computers currently use DDR4 memory so there is nothing difficult, but there are different speeds. DDR4 memory runs at speeds from 2666MHz up to 4400MHz.
This largely depends on the platform you use - Intel processors are generally a little less sensitive to memory speed, so even the latest generation of everything from 3000MHz and up will be fine.
AMD is a bit more demanding here, so you will get better performance if you use a little memory for at least 3200MHz, while some 3600MHz (such as the Patriot you see in the pictures) is realistically an optimum.
The most powerful AMD processors from the latest 5000 series can use even 4000MHz memory, but they are a bit exaggerated for some common gaming and are most often bought only for workstations. All in all, pay attention to this parameter to take full advantage of the processors you have or plan to purchase but don't overdo it because you won't see any significant performance improvements in games and buy the most expensive and fastest possible memory, a much more important detail, is capacity.
The part that deals with memory is often overlooked when it comes to a gaming computer, but this can significantly affect our overall experience of using a computer, downloading games, and the like. Current trends for a modern gaming PC say that it should have 8 to 16GB of RAM and that it would certainly work much better with an SSD, either in 2.5" or NVMe version, depending on the needs of users, and cheaper games will work quite correctly, is much better than a standard hard drive.
Of course, the question of capacity remains, and the rule is as much money as there is music, considering that the new generation of consoles has SSD disks with a capacity between 512GB and 1TB, it is clear that this is something to look at as a starting point, and further upgrade.