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For us, to ‘remember’ something is to ‘store’ it in our brains. For a computer, the memory has less to do with remembering where your files are stored on your computer much more to do with accessing large amounts of data so the computer can process all the tasks it needs to do without the user having to wait too long. In that way, you can think of it much more like short-term memory. As soon as the task is done, it moves onto the next task, often simultaneously. The more memory you have, the more tasks can be processed. The shorthand for computer memory is RAM, which stands for Random Access Memory.
Memory usually comes in kits, or sets, that are made up of 2 sticks of equal Gigabyte size and transfer speed. The reason why there are two is because most motherboards these days have dual-channel memory capabilities, which means that instead of accessing the memory slots one at a time, the computer can do that simultaneously so as to process tasks faster. The memory sticks are officially called DIMMs, which stands for Dual In-line Memory Module. The modules are the little black rectangles on the larger rectangular circuit board that links them all together so it can talk to the motherboard via the connector at the bottom. The main memory manufacturers -- Corsair, Crucial, Kingston and Gskill -- will also put their own aftermarket shrouds on the DIMMs in order to enhance the performance. Since the module requires power and are processing a high number of tasks, they can heat up when pushed to higher loads.
This arrangement of letters and numbers is a shorthand to refer to the type of synchronous dynamic random-access memory it is. DDR3 has been used as the standard since 2007, and DDR4 is a recently introduced type with a different signaling voltage and timing than DDR3. As such, they are not compatible. So, if you want to use DDR4 in your system, then you’ll need to find a current generation motherboard that is DDR4 compatible. However, despite the new type, DDR3 is still used more commonly for gaming.
They both feature high bandwidth speeds in order to transfer lots of data back and forth quickly. To deal with the incompatibility issue, Intel developed the Skylake architecture that feature a SO-DIMM package called UniDIMM that is able to take advantage of either DDR3 or DDR4 memory module chips. The CPU controller can then work with either memory type. Where DDR4 becomes an advantage is with tasks that require high amounts of rendering, such as video editing and 3D content generation. DDR4 can transfer huge amounts of data at a faster rate while consuming less power. So after editing that cinematic masterpiece, there’s less time to wait while Adobe Premier renders it into your preferred media file type. This faster speed is due to DDR4’s new bus type, which is the architecture on the PCB used to talk with the motherboard. Also, because DDR4 uses less power and generates less heat, laptops greatly benefit from using it.
On that note, another spec you want to consider is the clock speed. Typically, DDR3 modules range from a 800 to a 2133 megahertz clock speed with transfer rates denoted by a PC3 before the number. The number that follows just just refers to how many megabytes of data can be transferred in a second. Some DDR3 DIMMs clock at even higher speeds, such as the GSkill TridentX Series of RAM, which has a clock speed of 3000. At such high speeds, these DIMMs also feature a custom heat spreader and a timing rate of 12-14-14-35. For DDR4, clock speeds go even higher, up to 3400, with timings of 16-18-18-38.
The timing rate numbers are a measure of DRAM performance based around refresh cycles. Basically, how many cycles can be completed in a nano-second. Each set of numbers refers to a different task type. Since there is rarely any major difference between the timings, you don’t need to be concerned with this as much as the clock speed. Additionally, the main thing you need to consider is how many gigabytes of RAM you want in your system. The standard right now is an 8 Gigabyte kit (with 4 gigabytes on each DIMM), but as virtual reality gaming becomes more popular, it’s going to require more RAM. Many people are starting to invest in 16 Gigabyte or even 32 Gigabyte kits. The good things, RAM is one of the easiest things to install in your system, so you can always upgrade it later.