RAM is important in laptops because it is how the computer optimises itself. Data is held in RAM before it is sent to the CPU for processing. Without enough RAM the computer slows down because it is limited in how much data it can process. Indications of low RAM are slow speed, freezing, excess hard drive activity and overheating. RAM has always been important in computers. Its main function in the early days of computers was to compensate for slow mechanical hard drives. The CPU could process more data than the hard drive could send to it so RAM is a buffer or cache for the CPU. The system loads data into the RAM, it can quickly send that data to the CPU. In the old days of green text monitors and no graphics, this worked very efficiently. However as data has become more graphical, we stream videos and load webpages with thousands of graphics, and RAM can not keep up. Data has become more dense, which is why your computer slows down over time, it is just trying to do more data with that same amount of resources. A RAM upgrade is a quick fix.
Understanding RAM and Its Importance
Random Access Memory (RAM) is commonly called computer memory or just RAM. It allows data to be stored and accessed randomly by the CPU (computer). It is volatile, which means that its contents are lost when the power is turned off. RAM plays a crucial role in the overall performance of a computer system, as it provides temporary storage for data that is actively being used by the processor (CPU). It allows for fast and efficient access to data, enabling the computer to perform tasks quickly.
RAM is important because it is the basis of the computer's useability. The more you use your computer, the more RAM you need. Multi-tasking applications require RAM. If you are like me, every time you Google search you open a new tab, and at the end of the day you have 25 Chrome tabs open, Each tab is sucking up a bit more of your available RAM. Increase your RAM = increase your computer's performance.
What is the difference between RAM and storage? We get this question all the time, and we all like to mix up the terminology. RAM refers to memory on the motherboard. It is usually a limited resource, which means you can only have a certain amount, there is a maximum amount of RAM you can install. For laptops using DDR3 RAM, this is usually 16GB. For DDR4 and DDR5 laptops this is usually 64GB. We expect DDR5 laptops to use up to 128GB however high-density 64GB modules have not been released.
Storage refers to your hard drive or SSD. Storage is almost unlimited, you can add terabytes of internal and external storage.
RAM and storage are connected. Both PCs and Macs use internal storage to optimise themselves. They will page or cache data to storage when RAM is low. This is why an SSD upgrade will also improve your computer's speed. Make sure you have 20% free space on your storage so your computer can efficiently cache.
Types of RAM for Laptops
The main types of RAM are DDR3, DDR4 and DDR5. If you buy a new computer it will have DDR4 or DDR5 RAM installed. Tip for new computer buyers: be aware that if the computer RAM spec says LPDDR this means the RAM is soldered onto the motherboard and not upgradeable.
Every type of DDR is different and not interchangeable. The voltage changes on every DDR RAM type, so they designed the boards to have different notches to stop a DDR3 SODIMM from getting installed in a DDR4 socket. If the laptop RAM module does not fit in your computer's RAM slot, do not force it in, you have the wrong type of DDR RAM.
DDR4 vs. DDR5: What's the difference?
Speed, voltage and size are the differences. DDR5 is the next generation of RAM. DDR5 modules can be up to 256GB, though currently, the biggest size is 32GB and 48 GB. The speed improvement is 50% faster. The voltage is now 1.1v not 1.2v. There are a lot of changes in the architecture that will make DDR5 more reliable. In our real-world experiences, we have found DDR5 to be less compatible and less forgiving in speed compatibility. It is important to match RAM speeds exactly in DDR5, but in DDR4 you could mix and match different speeds with no adverse speed or compatibility effects. The most important factor about DDR4 vs. DDR5 is they are not interchangeable. If your laptop uses DDR4 you can not install DDR5 laptop RAM.
Should I get gaming RAM or regular RAM?
Gaming RAM is usually flashy, has a distinct visual appeal and is a faster speed than regular RAM. The immediate reaction is it looks better and runs faster so must be better. Wrong. Gaming RAM is usually not as compatible as regular RAM. To make it compatible or run at its faster speed you need to install only the gaming RAM and remove any regular RAM. This adds to the already higher price of gaming RAM, removing old RAM and installing matched pairs. Most computers can not use the gaming RAM at higher speeds. Gaming RAM belongs in just gaming laptops. Using gaming RAM in a normal PC does not make the laptop run faster, just increases the chance of incompatible RAM.
Standard laptop RAM is usually in the format size called SODIMM. SODIMM stands for Small Outline Dual Inline Memory Module. It is a smaller version of a uDIMM. A SODIMM is a similar size to the length of your index finger. A uDIMM that goes in a desktop computer is the length of the palm of your hand including the index finger.
Top RAM Brands in 2023
This might be controversial, there are only a few top RAM brands in the world, and they are not the ones gamers want to put in their gaming rigs. The top PC companies (Apple, HP, Dell, Lenovo) in the world only buy from a few brands and module houses. These are Micron, Samsung, Hynix and Transcend. These are the top brands because they are made RAM to JEDEC standard and manufacturers test their new computers on these RAM brands for compatibility. This is the number one feature regular computer users want: compatibility. They want to add extra RAM, compatible with existing RAM. The easiest way to identify quality RAM is the warranty. Best RAM has a lifetime warranty. At Upgradeable we supply one grade of RAM, which is one we can give a lifetime warranty. We have had the same warranty since the first version of the Upgradeable website in 1999.
Micron is the second largest RAM manufacturer in the world, their retail RAM brand is Crucial. Crucial you are getting a Micron module with a Crucial sticker. Some of the best RAM you can buy, however, Micron is a large producer and can only make the most popular speeds. Although we like to supply Crucial, sometimes it is not always possible. Currently Crucial is not making DDR4 2666mhz, they have standardised on 3200mhz. Please be aware if you order a 2666mhz, if you want new RAM and not secondhand or pulls, then you will be getting 3200mhz
Transcend is one of Asia's largest module houses and an OG computer component manufacturer in Taiwan. Upgradeable is an Australian distributor for Transcend, we love the quality and reliability. Their failure rate is lower than Micron's!
Samsung is the world's largest RAM manufacturer, an absolute powerhouse. Due to the recent trade war between China and the USA, Samsung has been hard to source supply in reliable quantities. This is because Chinese companies are restricted from buying Micron and hence are taking a lot of Samsung out of the market. Most of the server RAM Upgradeable supplies are Samsung OEM.
Upgradeable has recently started assembling RAM. During COVID supply chains were restricted and Upgradeable needed a way to ensure we could keep supplying our full range of products. We have partnered with SYG, a large Chinese module house. They assemble our RAM to our specifications. Upgradeable is owned by IMS Memory Australia. IMS started assembling RAM at The Research Park at Bond University in 1992. We have a lot of history manufacturing RAM.
Factors to Consider When Choosing RAM for Your Laptop
RAM compatibility is the number one factor in buying new RAM for your computer. No one wants to buy something that does not work. For most upgrades matching speed is the only compatibility check you need to do. The problem occurs if you have the older speed that is no longer available. Here is the cheats guide, 30 years of RAM upgrade experience summed up in a few paragraphs!
DDR3 1066mhz 1067mhz must be speed matched. If you have 1066mhz RAM you have to match new RAM at 1066. 1333mhz or 1600mhz has a high probability of not being compatible.
DDR3 1333mhz and 1600mhz are compatible and can be mixed.
DDR3 1866mhz 1867mhz is not backward compatible. Will not run as 1600mhz and you can not mix different speeds with 1866 1867. You must match the same speeds.
DDR4 RAM is fully speed compatible. You can mix and match 2133mhz, 2666mhz and 3200mhz together.
DDR5 RAM is not speed compatible. To guarantee compatibility, match the same speed RAM together.
The capacity size of laptop RAM is flexible and does not cause performance or compatibility issues when mixing sizes. Dual channel RAM is a big catchphrase in the RAM upgrade world. The idea is if you match the speed and size of RAM it will use "Dual Channel" mode and run faster. In the testing, I have seen the speed improvement is maybe 1%, which is not noticeable for the average user. You will get a bigger speed improvement from having more RAM than match RAM. An example is the computer has 4GB: one 4GB in the first slot and one slot free. To dual channel, you would install another 4GB for a total of 8GB. The computer can use 8GB. The better option is adding an 8Gb with 4GB for a total of 12GB. Getting above 8GB, the laptop will run better than match pairs of 8GB.
The best option when upgrading is to use the largest module available. It will be the best value for money and the most economical for future upgrading.
The Best Gaming RAM for Laptops in 2023
Most gaming RAM is made for desktops, not laptops. It is hard to find a wide selection of gaming laptop RAM to recommend. Tom's Hardware has the best Expert Picks for Gaming RAM in 2023
In Australia, our choices for gaming RAM can be a bit limited. Corsair consistently delivers the goods. However Crucial is killing it at the moment. Not only have they made the funnist gaming video in 2023, they have backed it up with quality DDR5 RAM. The new ram is called Crucial Pro and the first match RAM kits are 5600mhz.
An alternative brand that is usually available in Australia is Corsair. They have some nice matched pair kits in the Vengeance range. The pick would be the Corsair Vengeance 64GB (2x32GB) DDR5 SODIMM 4800MHz C40 1.1V.
DDR5 Gaming RAM is still very new. Crucial DDR5 modules have very high specifications. The 32GB DDR5 Crucial module is the same spec as the Corsair, running an amazing CAS 40 at 1.1 volts. Probably the best value module to buy now until faster speeds arrive in 2024.
DDR4 gaming RAM is wide open with choices. Again you want to buy matched pairs so all your RAM is the same and it is easier to configure. Most modern computers will see the matched pairs and sync at the fastest rate. The days of hacking computers to overclock them are mostly over or relegated to the 1%.
The Corsair Vengeance series is our go-to recommendation. Go big or go home, 64GB kit or bust!
How much RAM do I need for gaming on a laptop?
As much as you can afford. Gaming will use as much memory as you can give it. Gaming rigs with DDR3: 32GB and Gaming rigs with DDR4/5 64GB
What is the difference between DDR4 and DDR5 RAM?
DDR4 and DDR5 are two different architectures. DDR5 is more power efficient, comes in bigger capacities and is faster.
Are there laptops with more than 128GB RAM?
Laptops that can be upgraded to 128GB are generally called mobile workstations. The easiest way to identify if a laptop can be upgraded to 128GB is to find out how many SODIMM slots are in the laptop. Only laptops with 4 (FOUR) SODIMM slots can be upgraded to 128 GB. This is because the largest module available is 32GB. The current list is Lenovo Thinkpad P16, HP ZBook Fury 16 G10, and Dell Precision 7770.
How do I check my laptop's RAM compatibility?
Use Task Manager to identify the RAM speed and how many slots are free. Or use the Upgradeable configurator to find your model and see what is available.
Is it worth upgrading to DDR5 RAM?
You can not use DDR5 RAM in a DDR4 laptop. To upgrade to DDR5 it would require buying a new laptop.
Upgrading your laptop with more RAM is the fastest way to increase it's performance and extend its life. It is usually an easy upgrade and upgraded as a DIY upgrade by most computer brands. The most important part of choosing new ram is the match with the existing ram and this will be speed. Speak to a professional like the Upgradeable team, we answer the phone and answer all types of questions, no matter how simple.