Why is dual-channel RAM better for gaming

Dual-channel memory is when RAM is installed in two memory channels to increase the transfer speed between the CPU and the computer’s memory. RAM stands for Random Access Memory, and it stores short-term data such as recently accessed applications and files. Everything is erased off the RAM when the PC shuts down, so having more RAM allows you to keep more applications open without slowing down the computer.

There are five generations of DDR memory, and the standard is currently DDR4. DDR5 is being gradually introduced, and it runs at a bandwidth of 32 GB/s. On the other hand, DDR4 maxes out at 25.6 GB/s.

Apart from bandwidth, memory capacity (which is measured in gigabytes) is also a crucial factor to take into consideration when making a purchasing decision.


Dual-channel is better than single-channel

The memory controller is a circuit that controls RAM, and it is also responsible for defining the clock rate of the memory modules. If the memory controller’s supported speed is 1600 MHz, the RAM can only run at a maximum of 1600 MHz, even if it is faster. So when buying RAM, make sure to get what’s supported by your motherboard.

The CPU always processes data faster than the RAM, and the CPU stays idle while the RAM delivers data, hence wasting time and power. However, all of this can be avoided.


RAM performs faster

Dual-channel mode (Image via Kingston)
Dual-channel mode (Image via Kingston)

RAM can be installed in a dual-channel mode to increase the speed and match it with the CPU speed to avoid throttling performance. In single-channel mode, the data is being pushed through one channel, which means the maximum channel can be 64-bits in total, as one stick of RAM operates on 64-bit data.

Modern systems support multi-channel RAM systems, so in the case of dual-channels, the data will be pushed through 2x 64-bit channels, making it a 128-bit channel, effectively increasing the speed. This process increases the amount of memory bandwidth that is available even though it does not increase memory capacity.

For example, if one 8GB RAM stick has 25GB/s bandwidth, it will be able to process data at 25GB/s, but two 4GB RAM sticks that run at 25GB/s individually will run at 50GB/s if installed in this mode. Basically, one stick of 8GB RAM will be slower than the two sticks of 4GB RAM installed in this mode.


Cost-effective

Quad-channel RAM (Image via ASUS)
Quad-channel RAM (Image via ASUS)

There are even more reasons to get dual-channel memory, as getting two 8GB RAM sticks will be cheaper than getting one 16GB RAM stick. Two RAM sticks also look more aesthetically pleasing than a single stick installed on the motherboard.

Buying quad-channel RAM is another good option, as it will further increase the speed by having more memory bandwidth. During sales, 4x4GB RAM may be cheaper than getting one 16GB RAM stick as well. However, your motherboard should be compatible with the quad-channel mode.


Gaming performance

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In gaming, there is not a huge difference between single-channel and dual-channel memory as FPS is largely unaffected. The only major difference is CPU usage. When using single-channel memory, the CPU usage is higher as there is a lower bandwidth, increasing CPU load. However, with dual-channel memory, CPU usage is 10-20% lower as there is higher memory bandwidth, making the data transfer process more efficient. CPU-bound games will take advantage of the RAM installed in this mode.


More secure

In the rare occurrence of RAM failing, a single-channel memory user will be affected more than a dual-channel memory user. The computer will be inoperable if a single stick fails to run. However, with two RAM sticks installed, one stick failing won’t make the computer inoperable as there will be another stick to rely on.


Edited by Siddharth Satish

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