When shopping for a new gaming laptop, gamers often wonder how much RAM is 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 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 RAM for it to play most games smoothly. However, if you want to be able to play more demanding titles and still have other programs running in the background, you should have at least 16 GB of RAM.
For older or 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 requirements 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 Does RAM Affect Gaming?
Different games have different RAM requirements, for example, here are the minimum and recommended RAM requirements of some popular games according to PC Game Benchmark:
|PC Game||Minimum RAM Required||Recommended RAM|
|Call of Duty: Modern Warfare||8 GB||16 GB|
|Grand Theft Auto V||4 GB||8 GB|
|Minecraft||2 GB||8 GB|
|Boderlands 3||6 GB||16 GB|
|The Witcher 3||6 GB||8 GB|
|Fortnite Battle Royale||4 GB||8GB|
|Player Unknown Battlegrounds (PUBG)||8GB||16 GB|
|Overwatch||4 GB||6 GB|
|Doom Eternal||8 GB||16 GB|
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.
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. The video below shows how different capacities of RAM could affect your gaming experience:
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.
For example, the Windows operating system requires between 1GB and 2GB of RAM at all times in order to run smoothly. This leaves you with very little memory to run other programs.
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.
Does More RAM Equal Better Gaming Performance?
Adding more RAM will definitely improve 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 always 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 affecting the frame rate.
More RAM also reduces stuttering when you are playing large open-world games such as Saint Row, The Witcher, and Far Cry. This is because these games need to load more data as you venture into new scenes, and this can get too heavy on the CPU as the game progresses.
Can You Upgrade RAM On A Gaming Laptop?
You can easily upgrade RAM in most gaming laptops. The only exception is with laptops that have their memory directly soldered onto the motherboard or whose bottom is sealed. To find out if your laptop has upgradable RAM you can use Crucial Memory Advisor Tool.
Normally, if your laptop has 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 in your new memory stick into the slot.
If all your memory slots are filled, you’ll have to remove the current memory stick(s) and replace them with the larger capacity memory you have purchased. 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 purchasing RAM, it is important to note that the maximum amount of RAM you can upgrade to is determined by your computer’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 important thing to keep in mind when buying new RAM. DDR4 RAM operates at higher clock speeds than DDR3 RAM and is hence able to retrieve data much faster.
It is always a good idea to buy memory sticks that are similar to your current model or that are from the same manufacturer to avoid compatibility issues.
Other Hardware Besides RAM That Affects Gaming Performance
RAM is not the only piece of hardware that affects PC gaming performance. In fact, the processor and graphics card play a much bigger role in determining the games you can or can’t play on your laptop and how well they play.
The Processor (CPU)
The processor is the brain of your computer. It handles complex instructions and logical operations.
In gaming, the CPU controls simulations, your virtual environment, what non-player characters (NPCs) do, as well as what happens on the screen when you click or drag your mouse or press keys on the keyboard.
It is also responsible for sending instructions to the Graphics Card. This is why most graphics-heavy games such as Tomb Raider, Call of duty, and Batman demand a very fast CPU.
Intel’s i5, i7, and i9 or AMD’s Ryzen 5, 7, and 9 high-performance processors with multiple cores are considered ideal for gaming.
The Graphics Card
The graphics card, commonly known as the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit), is responsible for rendering all the images that you see on the screen. It takes the information provided by the CPU and converts it to images.
Shadows, the colors of your environment, textures, and video effects are all processed by the GPU.
The GPU also has its own RAM known as VRAM (Video Random Access Memory) that stores different image data such as textures, shadow casts, normal maps, and bump maps.
How Does VRAM Differ From Normal RAM?
RAM is mainly used in the running of system processes and it is 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.
Can You Upgrade The GPU And CPU In A Gaming Laptop?
In most gaming laptops, it is not possible to upgrade the CPU and GPU because they are usually soldered onto the motherboard. Only a few gaming laptops, such as the Alienware’s Area 51M, allow you to upgrade the GPU and CPU.
Conclusion- How Much RAM Is Needed For Gaming
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 that 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 really 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 might need more RAM in the future. Upgrading is always cheaper than buying a new gaming machine.
Since gaming performance is not entirely reliant on RAM, ensure your CPU and GPU are also fast enough otherwise they will affect gaming performance even if you have enough RAM.