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Gaming Laptops – Why RAM Is Mission Critical?
RAM or random access memory is critical for gaming laptops. Mainly because the more RAM you have in your laptop or computer, the higher the level of performance you can achieve. Higher RAM will increase your enjoyment and allow you to play even the most challenging 3D games.
Apart from the CPU (Central Processing Unit) RAM is probably the most vital element you will have in your laptop or computer. Just like you can’t have enough money, you can’t have enough RAM. The more the better. The more RAM you have, the faster your computer will run.
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 for the performance of their gaming laptop. Above all, they know their graphics cards or GPUs (Graphics Processing Units).
First, you should understand that RAM is probably the most popular form or type of computer memory. Second, RAM is very important in how well your computer can perform the tasks you ask it to perform. The more RAM you have, the more tasks and programs you can run at the same time.
Nor should you make the mistake that only gamers worry about getting enough RAM; professionals who work with heavy graphics like video editors, architects, rendering artists, web page designers… are also very aware of the importance of having enough RAM to get the job done.
Keep in mind, computer technology is advancing at a rapid rate and is constantly changing. Overseeing all of these industry standards and technologies is JEDEC, which acts as a regulatory body for the semiconductor industry. Hey, someone has to keep track of all these forms of RAM!
Basically, you have two types of RAM – Static RAM (SRAM) which is faster and more expensive than Dynamic RAM (DRAM). As their names suggest, dynamic RAM is constantly refreshing and is slower and cheaper than static RAM.
Static RAM is primarily used for cache, as in your speed-sensitive CPU cache.
What confuses most people is the whole range or types of dynamic RAM, with more under development as we speak. Further complicating the issue is the development of RAM for laptops which need smaller and more compact memory modules.
Here are some types of RAM that 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 in L2 cache; and if you’re wondering what level 2 cache is, that’s the cache located outside the processor chip. Level 1 refers to the internal cache in the processor.
EDO DRAM — which stands for “Extended Data-out Dynamic Random Access Memory” and is about 5% faster than FPM DRAM. The transfer speed is about 264 MBps in L2 cache.
SDRAM — which stands for “Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory” is very common in today’s computers. The maximum transfer speed reaches about 528 MBps.
DDR SDRAM — which stands for “double data rate synchronous dynamic RAM” is similar to SDRAM, but has greater bandwidth, allowing for higher speeds. L2 cache transfer speed is around 1,064 MBps.
DDR2 SDRAM — which stands for “Dual Synchronous Dynamic Double Data Rate RAM,” uses the external data bus twice as fast as DDR SDRAM.
DDR3 SDRAM — which stands for “double-speed dynamic three-synchronous RAM” and is an improvement over DDR2 SDRAM. DDR3 allows chip capacities of 512 megabits up to 8 gigabytes, which gives you a maximum memory module size of 16 gigabytes.
RAM modules are mounted on printed circuit boards for use 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 laptops, you have SO-DIMMs (dual small outline memory modules) which are smaller and more compact integrated memory 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 is designed by Rambus and has a high-speed data bus called the Rambus channel. Likewise, you had the Rambus Inline Memory Module (RIMM) and for laptops you had the SO-RIMM.
Next you should know that there is something called VRAM or VideoRAM. This is a type of RAM used for video adapters or 3-D accelerators. VRAM is located on 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) because it’s cheaper. Other types of high-speed or multi-port special memory include WRAM, DDR2, GDDR3, and GDDR4.
Your Graphics Card will be the heart of your gaming machine. Most gamers go for top brands like NVIDIA (GeForce) and ATI (Radeon) — higher numbered series cards usually mean higher performance. For example, at the time of writing, Nvidia has released the GeForce 9800 GX2, which is essentially double the GeForce 8800 GT in one card. This will also give you DirectX 10 graphics. Wait a few months and maybe there will be something faster and more powerful on the market.
If one graphics card is good, then two or more would be even better. This is why you have SLI (Scalable Link Interface) technology which allows connecting 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 perform. You will be able to do more tasks and do them faster if you have a lot of RAM. In fact, upgrading your RAM to a higher level will usually give you a whole new computer.
There are minimum recommended 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 run fine on a system with only 4MB of RAM.
For Windows Vista – Microsoft recommends at least 1 gig of RAM, but many users have reported that 2 to 3 Gigs of RAM make Vista a much easier beast to handle. Vista probably needs all the good press it can get.
For Gaming Laptops: How Much RAM?
Again, the more the merrier, gaming laptops need a lot of RAM since you have heavy graphics and video images. Serious gamers usually buy as much RAM as they can afford, opting for 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 regarding laptops and RAM? Well, the new Alienware Area-51® m17x laptop comes with the following specs: An Intel® Core(TM) 2 Extreme processor with up to 4GB DDR2 667MHz memory, with Dual Nvidia® GeForce® 8800M GTX. This machine also features the Killer(TM) K1 gaming network card plus ultra-lifelike environments created by the Ageia PhysX(TM) processor. You should also note that Ageia was recently (February 2008) acquired by Nvidia.
Perhaps, with regard 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. The changes are, wait a few months and you’ll probably need to upgrade your RAM.
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