How Much RAM Does A Gaming Laptop Need?

When shopping for a new gaming laptop, gamers often wonder how much RAM they needed for gaming. This is understandable considering the fact that RAM is the third most important factor, after the processor and graphics card when it comes to enhancing gaming performance.  

Besides that, gaming laptops with more RAM are generally more expensive than those with less RAM. Therefore, knowing how much RAM is required can save you from spending more money on extra RAM you don’t need. 

What Is RAM (Random Access Memory)?

RAM is the physical hardware that temporarily stores data of all currently open programs for fast retrieval. It acts as the computer’s “working” memory and is faster than the hard drive. 

How Much RAM Should A Gaming Laptop Have?

A gaming laptop needs a minimum of 8 GB DDR4 RAM for it to play most games smoothly. But if you want to be able to play hardware-intensive game titles and still have other programs running in the background, you should have at least 16 GB of DDR4 RAM.

For older and less demanding PC games such as Cuphead and Minecraft, you can get away with as low as 4 GB of RAM. But for AAA game titles, you may require up to 16 GB.

For example, the minimum RAM requirement for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is 8 GB. However, if you want to enable some of its features such as ray tracing, you’ll need at least 16 GB of RAM.

How RAM Affects Gaming

The RAM requirements for each game are different because each is designed to run on a different game engine and has its own unique game assets. For example, here are the minimum and recommended RAM requirements of some popular games according to pcgamebenchmark.com:

PC GameMinimum RAM RequiredRecommended RAM
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare8 GB16 GB
Grand Theft Auto V4 GB8 GB
Minecraft2 GB8 GB
Borderlands 36 GB16 GB
The Witcher 36 GB8 GB
Fortnite Battle Royale4 GB8GB
Player Unknown Battlegrounds (PUBG)8GB16 GB
Overwatch4 GB6 GB
Doom Eternal8 GB16 GB

Game engines are software development environments that help game developers build video games. Some popular ones you may have heard of include Unity, Unreal Engines, and GameMaker.

Game assets include everything a game engine needs when running a game. Examples of such assets include sound effects, background music, modules and code snippets, complete projects, and 2D and 3D models. 

The size of RAM determines the number of game assets that can be loaded into memory at the same time. When a computer runs out of RAM, it is forced to store the extra assets in your hard drive. And since hard drives are much slower than RAM at retrieving data, stutters and frame drops occur, leading to a poor gaming experience. In cases where RAM is extremely low, a game crashes or fails to load completely. 

The size of RAM also determines whether you can play games at their highest settings. You will need more RAM if you prefer playing games at high/ultra settings than if you play them at their default or minimum settings. At ultra settings, a lot more assets need to be loaded into memory in order to enhance graphics.

Also keep in mind that if your gaming laptop has 4 GB of RAM and a game requires 2GB of RAM, this does not mean that the other 2GB of RAM remains idle. You also need to account for the RAM usage of other programs that run in the background such as the Operating System and Antivirus Software.

Therefore, if you are planning on running additional programs while gaming, such as browsers and screen recorders for live streaming on Twitch or YouTube, 16 GB is the optimal amount of RAM needed. 

The following video shows how different RAM capacities affect gaming:

Does More RAM Equal Better Gaming Performance?  

Adding more RAM will definitely enhance your gaming performance, but only if you have less RAM than a game requires. However, just adding more RAM for the sake of it does not equal better gaming performance. 

Different games require a certain amount of RAM to run smoothly. So if a game requires 4 GB of RAM and you already have 8 GB of RAM installed, upgrading to 12 GB RAM, in this case, will not necessarily boost your gaming performance. 

But for multitasking purposes, having more RAM definitely helps because it allows you to run multiple programs in the background and still game without causing low FPS.

Having sufficient RAM also prevents lagging and stuttering while playing large open-world games such as Saint Row and Far Cry. This is because these games load more data as you venture into new scenes, and this can get too heavy on the CPU as the game progresses.

Upgrading RAM On A Gaming Laptop

Most gaming laptops have upgradable memory, all you need to do is open a section of the bottom panel to access the memory slots. If there is an empty memory slot, slide our new memory stick into the empty slot to increase RAM. 

If all your memory slots are filled, you’ll have to remove the current memory stick(s) and replace them with larger-capacity memory cards. RAM generally comes in 2 GB, 4 GB, 8 GB, and 16 GB memory capacities.

For example, if your gaming laptop comes with two 4 GB memory sticks, that means you already have a total of 8 GB RAM. To upgrade to 16 GB you’ll need to replace the 4 GB memory sticks with two 8 GB memory sticks. 

Before buying new RAM, you should understand that the maximum amount of RAM your gaming laptop can hold is determined by your gaming laptop’s Motherboard. Some gaming laptops are upgradeable up to 16 GB while others can be upgraded to 32 GB or more. 

RAM frequency is also another thing to keep in mind when buying new RAM. DDR4 and DDR3 are the main frequencies available. DDR4 RAM operates at higher clock speeds than DDR3 RAM and is hence able to retrieve data a lot faster. 

It is always a good idea to buy memory sticks that are similar to your current model or that are from the same brand to avoid compatibility issues. 

VRAM Vs Regular RAM

Regular RAM is mainly used in the running of system processes and it’s where all open programs store most of their information during operation. On the other hand, VRAM is part of the graphics card and is used purely by the GPU to store image data such as patterns and textures. 

VRAM, just like RAM, comes in different sizes and is usually faster than normal RAM hence is able to retrieve graphical data fast in order to achieve smooth gameplay. 

Final Thoughts

When looking to buy a gaming laptop aim for a minimum of 8 GB of RAM. The good thing is that most modern gaming laptops come with at least 8 GB of RAM. They also have the DDR4 RAM version which is faster and more power-efficient than the previous DDR3 version. 

8 GB of RAM should be enough to play most games. However, if your budget allows, go for a gaming laptop with 16 GB of RAM as this will future-proof your purchase. For most gamers, 32 GB of RAM would be considered overkill, unless you absolutely need that much RAM.

If you opt to go for a laptop with 8 GB of RAM,  ensure it has the option to upgrade RAM because as games get more advanced, you may need to upgrade RAM in the future.

Since gaming performance is not entirely reliant on RAM, ensure your CPU and GPU are also fast, otherwise they will affect your gaming performance.

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