In the next step on the road to building a cheap gaming pc, we are going to quickly take a look at memory – which is actually going to be quite simple. Memory is fast. By its very nature, ram is blazingly fast. Sure, you can get some ram that is faster than another ram, but quite frankly, the average person isn’t going to tell the difference between different speeds of RAM.
I run a computer that uses DDR2 ram, and I’m happy with its speed. Sure, I can’t run Crysis two at full tilt – but the larger effect on my performance is going to be the video card and then CPU – those are our bottlenecks. Ram is rarely ever a bottleneck in any kind of normal gaming situation.
That being said, there are still a few considerations to take into account. We are building a Sandy Bridge system, so we will be looking at DDR3 ram which runs at 1.5 volts or lower. Since we do have a choice, we should look at 1333 vs 1600 speed ram. We also need to look at 4 vs 8 vs more GB of ram. As always, I will briefly discuss manufacturer.
Here’s the low down dirty truth. You could probably get pretty much any brand of ram, on any DDR3 speed, and do just fine. Ram is not an issue. I do have a recommendation and a specific set that I would use, but you don’t need to do that. There pretty much is no wrong answer. I believe that you can spend your money wisest here, but you aren’t spending money poorly by going with a different choice.
1333 vs 1600 – the price difference is minimal for a speed boost, even though as I said you probably wouldn’t notice. I don’t think it’s worth saving maybe $20 off the price tag for the slower ram – it’s just $20, and this is a bombing system we are going to build to last 4-5 years (on #4 with the current, and I can play any game out there). If you are on a strict budget, then go for 1333 to squeeze it in.
4 vs 8 GB. Most people say if you are gaming, you don’t need more than 4 and won’t tell the difference. I’m here to tell you that I noticed a massive performance boost when I went from 4 to 8 – and I didn’t change ram, I just added 2 more sticks of 2 of what I had (G.Skill DDR2 800 – same exact set). Always get multiple sticks of ram in Dual Channel. You can get triple channel ram sets, but there is no performance gain (aside from the quantity of 6 GB vs 4), and you hamstring your ability to upgrade (most boards run 4 slots, which means to upgrade from the triple channel, you would have to replace all your ram). If you are on a budget, get 4 (2 sticks of 2 GB) and upgrade to 8 later – however, for future value, I recommend getting 8 now (2 sticks of 4 GB) – and you would be able to bump that further in the future if you need.
My current recommendation is based off recent benchmarking for higher end sandy bridge ram done at Tom’s Hardware. I’m not going with their best performance/price pick because that is a Kingston set. #2 is Corsair. Based on reviews, I believe Corsair to produce more reliable hardware than Kingston. That being said, I’ve never had a problem with ram sticks, and I’ve used obscure brands before. Like I said before, feel free to use whatever you want.
My RAM recommendation for a sandy bridge gaming pc is Corsair Vengeance 1600, 8GB Build a Gaming PC A Quick Look at RAM. That’s it. G.skill is a fantastic brand as well. They make a very interesting set of ram – G.Skill Sniper 1600 1.25 volt set Build a Gaming PC A Quick Look at RAM. The 1.25 volt means less energy used, less heat generated – more overclocking potential – so that could be a good alternative option at the 1600 speed. I haven’t read any conclusive benchmarks that lead me to put the g.skill over the Corsair, but for a gaming computer under 1000$, you couldn’t go wrong with either of those.