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How much RAM does your gaming PC need? Maybe just 4GB, according to new test

One of the more controversial pieces of advice I’ve published in guides at Digital Trends is the notion that you need less RAM than you think. We’ve written that 8GB is the sweet spot, and that even a gaming PC will have no issue with that amount. I said the same during a recent Computer America appearance, where the hosts wondered what their listeners should focus on when buying a PC.

This view is based on years of experience testing computers and computer hardware. After benchmarking a few PCs, it becomes quite obvious that RAM has far less impact than most people think. Yet it’s always nice to see another bit of evidence pop up to support this view, and that’s exactly what TechSpot has published.

The publication decided to investigate RAM usage by running a variety of benchmarks on a system with 4GB, 8GB or 16GB of memory installed. The results are stark and, to most people, will be surprising – especially among gamers. TechSpot found that even 4GB of RAM is perfectly adequate for modern titles like Grand Theft Auto V. I must admit that even I thought there might be a slight performance drop, the results showed an average framerate variation of just one frame per second.

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Greater differences were found in tests specifically designed to stretch memory to the max. An Adobe Premier CC encoding time test, for example, found that performance was about 40 percent slower with 4GB of memory installed. However, the difference between 8GB and 16GB was just a few percent. Other, synthetic benchmarks varied. Some showed almost no change, whiles others showed a major variation.

TechSpot’s results confirm, once again, that the RAM you need has a lot to do with how you use your computer. Most tasks, even games, do not benefit greatly from more than 8GB of memory, and even 4GB is often adequate. Some software does need a lot of memory, but if you use such software, you probably already know that – in fact, it’s likely listed on the minimum requirements.

Keep this information in mind the next time you purchase a PC. Manufacturers use memory as an easy up-sell, luring buyers by promising better performance from a relatively inexpensive upgrade. In fact, RAM may have no positive impact all, depending on the software you use.