People often wonder whether memory speed matters and if yes, then by how much? How fast should your RAM be if you’re a gamer? That’s what we’ll answer in this post, plus some tests on the impact of memory speed on gaming performance. The first thing you need to know is that the impact of memory is subtle but at the time, it can have a serious impact on your overall experience: FPS drops, frame pacing issues and random dips in performance are some key indications of a memory bottleneck.
In Intel’s monolithic chips, the impact of memory speed is relatively less pronounced, but in the case of the Ryzen 3000 CPUs, it can have a fairly significant impact on gaming performance. This is because of the Infinity Fabric connecting the various chiplets. It runs at around 1800MHz, so if you use a memory kit slower than that, it’ll scale down to the same speed, inducing a latency between the various CCDs.
The IF fabric runs either at the same frequency as the RAM or at half the speed. The former is preferred. In all our tests, we’ll rum the Infinity Fabric at 1800MHz and set the memory configuration to 1:1, so that both the IF and the memory run at the same frequency.
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
- GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Super
- Memory: Trident Z Royal 8GB x 2 @ 3600MHz
- PSU: Corsair HX1000i
The average frame rates in a game give a relative measure of overall performance. They don’t account for the lags or FPS drops (if any) and as such can be misleading at times. 90th and 99th percentile are used in tandem with the averages to make up for that shortcoming. The higher their values, the better the overall performance:
- Average: This represents the average frame rate through the benchmark run.
- 90th percentile: 10 frames out of 100 are slower than this frame rate. 90% of the frames will achieve at least this frame rate.
- 99th percentile: 1 frame out of 100 is slower than this frame rate. 99% of the frames will achieve at least this frame rate.
Impact of Memory Speed on Gaming Performance: Ryzen 9 3900X
All the games were tested at the highest in-game preset at 1080p with the memory timings set to 16-16-16-36:
Other than Metro Exodus, all the games see a healthy boost going from 2400MHz to 3000MHz. However, the uplift to 3600MHz is relatively less attractive with even the memory-intensive Assassins’ Creed Origins gaining just 3 FPS on average. The lows, however, still see a sizeable improvement.
Our recommendation would be to get a 3200MHz dual-channel module and run it at 3400-3600MHz. That will give you the optimal performance without draining your bank account.
What About Latencies?
There’s a lot of confusion regarding latencies. Most people aren’t even sure what the memory timings or latency refer to. We won’t explain it here. If you want info on that, we did a detailed post on it a while back:
For this test, we’ll compare Dual Channel Memory Running at 3600MHz and 3000MHz. Then, we’ll reduce the latency (lower is better) of the latter and see how much of a difference does it make, and whether low-timings are better than higher frequencies:
In Assassins’ Creed, there’s almost no difference. In fact, the lows fall slightly. Ashes Escalation, on the other hand, gets a marginally improved average and identical lows. I suspect, 16-16-16-36 is the sweet spot and below that there’s very little you can gain. Furthermore, after this point, you should focus on increasing the memory frequency over reducing the timings. We’ll do a more detailed piece on the impact of memory timings on gaming performance, stay tuned!