Which is actually better? 4 sticks of RAM vs 2 sticks?
The debate between the number of RAM sticks you use can get convoluted to technical nuances. And no matter others have been saying, there’s a slight gap in terms of performance between these two setups.
But how big is this gap?
Well, 4 RAM sticks can give you a 5% to 7% increase in performance boost over just using 2 sticks. But don’t go and buy 4 pieces of RAM just yet.
This article will go over certain nuances between using 4 sticks of RAM and 2 sticks.
Why Do The Number of RAM Sticks Matter?
Do you know what the DDR in DDR4 RAM or DDR5 stands for?
No, it’s not Dance Dance Revolution. DDR stands for Double Data Rate, and this is in reference to the RAM’s ability to double its speed if there’s another RAM stick with similar specs to synchronize with.
If you have 8GB 3200MHz RAM, then that means you’re only running at 1600MHz if it’s the only RAM stick on the motherboard. This could be worse if XMP is disabled.
If you want your RAM to run at its actual speed, you need a dual-channel configuration with either 2 or 4 sticks. It’s also worth mentioning that RAM kits that have 2 sticks or more won’t be running at their actual frequencies. If your RAM kit was advertised to have 3200MHz, it doesn’t mean that it’s running at 3200MHz. Simply put, your 2 sticks of RAM are running at 1600MHz a piece, giving you that final speed of 3200 MT/s, or Megatransfers per second.
Using 2 or 4 sticks of RAM will allow you to run your RAM at the dual channel or quad-channel configuration. But 4 RAM sticks don’t mean or guarantee Quad Channel configuration since it’s a feature that’s mostly only available to HEDT or high-end desktops and server motherboards. You can, however, use 4 RAM sticks on dual channel configuration. But regardless of how many sticks you use, your stock speed will hinder you from achieving your optimal speed. And to tinker with your stock speed, you need to open your BIOS.
If you want to match the speed on the box, enable XMP or your AMD BIOS equivalent setting.
Can Quad Channel Configuration Double The Speed?
Dual channel configuration would allow 2 RAM sticks to double their speed by working together. Does this mean that quad channel configuration could increase their speed by 4x?
The answer is… NO.
However, you will definitely notice improvements on your memory bandwidth if your motherboard can support quad channel.
What Kind of Improvements Can You Expect from 4 Sticks of RAM?
Assuming your motherboard can support quad-channel configuration, you’ll definitely notice some improvements in your memory bandwidth. But take note that memory speed isn’t boosted from moving up from dual channel to quad channel.
In-game framerates for certain games will probably get at least a 10% boost, up to 25% at most. But don’t expect quad channel RAM setup to greatly impact your graphics performance.
The increase in frame rates comes from your CPU’s enhanced performance, but then again, not a lot of motherboards don’t support quad-channel RAM setup, so you don’t really get to see the difference.
Why Should You Just Stick with Using 2 Sticks of RAM?
If quad channel memory configuration can’t be possible without a motherboard that can support quad channel, then why settle for just 2 sticks of RAM?
- First, it’s more affordable to secure RAM kits with just 2 pieces of memory modules.
- It’s a lot easier to reach higher memory speeds with lower CAS latencies.
- Dual channel configuration and support is guaranteed.
- More memory modules can be added later on.
The biggest perk of going for a 4-stick RAM setup is its increased capacity, and with a quad channel motherboard, you can enjoy a massive boost to your memory bandwidth.
But this boost in memory bandwidth isn’t going to do a lot for most of the applications we commonly used, even for games. Unless your system is CPU-bound, there’s never going to be a noticeable difference in performance with quad channel support.
For memory-bound scenarios, your memory capacity plays the biggest role, follwoed by memory speed. But even then, these gains or boosts will vary depending on the application.
If you’re the owner of a Ryzen 5000 processor, you’re going to be all right with just 2 sticks of RAM. But you will see the most meaningful improvements when you increase to 4 sticks. But then again, Ryzen processors are affected by RAM latency and speed, so it can be difficult to increase both with 4 sticks.
Any Arguments for Using 8 Sticks of RAM?
All right, we’ve heard enough about 2 sticks of RAM and 4 sticks of RAM. But what about 8 sticks of RAM? Can you push higher memory speeds with 8 sticks?
Well, the only time you ever see people use 8 sticks of RAM is when they’re building servers or HEDTs, and even then, they’re limited to just quad channel the same way that 4 sticks of RAM are restricted with dual channel support on modern boards.
8 sticks of RAM is uncommon and it’s just expensive to do with little benefit added to performance.
What about 8 Sticks of RAM?
8 sticks of RAM is basically only a thing on HEDT and server boards, and even then they are still limited to Quad Channel in the same way that 4 sticks of RAM are limited to Dual Channel on consumer boards.
Octa-Channel isn’t really a thing, and implementing it into a motherboard would be prohibitively expensive for little performance difference than that of a dual channel motherboard setup.
What If My PC has a Single Channel Configuration?
There aren’t any manufacturers out there who’ll only make a single RAM slot, but on the rare chance that your prebuilt PC does have one slot of RAM, then you don’t need to worry.
You only need to make sure that the RAM you’re adding is compatible with the RAM slot on your motherboard. You also need to make sure that the generation of desktop RAM you’re upgrading for a prebuilt PC will match the old one.
Which Processor Is More Sensitive to RAM? AMD or Intel?
AMD processors, or at least the modern ones like Threadripper and Ryzen, are built around what’s called the Infinity Fabric.
Think of it as a tiny chip built into the CPU. The Infinity Fabric works best when it’s running at half the final speed of whatever RAM you have. But it’s a double-edged sword.
The Infinity Fabric allows for greater performance out of Ryzen and Threadripper processors, especially if the RAM’s overclockable and has low latency.
But on the other hand, the Infinity Fabric can’t really match the RAM speed, or if your RAM is running at stock speed, then your experience will be worse in terms of performance.
Can You Use 4 Sticks of RAM on Mini ITX or Micro ATX Motherboards?
The answer is a solid NO for Mini ITX motherboards because they just have enough room for two RAM slots. But mini ITX motherboards can still have dual channel support and your RAM should still reach their speeds through the dual channel mode.
For Micro ATX motherboards, that depends on the board itself. There are some Micro ATX boards that only have two memory slots available. But there are some with four memory slots.
There are also people who’ll use Micro ATX motherboards with 4 sticks of RAM and run at quad channel configuration if they’re setting up an HEDT or server with an AMD Threadripper or Intel Xeon CPU (or any equivalent).
The Bottom Line
Are four sticks of RAM better than two sticks? Well, that still depends on what you’re using the RAM for. Ideally, RAM with more capacity would give you better performance for certain tasks. But the real difference in performance lies in a lot of intensive tasks such as video editing, rendering, and high-end gaming.
You don’t really notice if performance is better or worse for 2 vs 4 sticks if you’re just doing office tasks.
If you’re going to be gaming or doing video editing, then you’ll need no more than 2 RAM modules at about 8GB each or 16GB each.