How much RAM do I need for gaming?

It’s one of the first questions buyers ask when shopping for a new gaming PC: “How much RAM do I need?” Is the 4 GB of system memory on many budget-priced laptops enough to play the games I like? Or do I need 8 GB? Or 16? Or even 32? [Don’t worry… few, if any, games require 32 GB of RAM!]

The good news is that some interesting and entertaining PC games can be played with as low as 4 GB of RAM – just not the latest or most popular ones. For the newest, top-rated games, you’ll need a bigger RAM allotment to maintain the high frames-per-second (FPS) rates associated with smooth gameplay.

But there’s good news here, too. Market forces (such as a slowdown in smartphone sales) have lately been pushing down the cost of memory. You can get more RAM for your money than just a few years ago.

What’s the right amount of RAM for playing PC games?

RAM requirements differ for each game title and format (first-person combat, sport and adventure, simulators, virtual reality, and so on). So, if you’re buying a new gaming PC to play a specific title or genre, always start by checking the game maker’s published requirements for RAM, processor speed, graphics card, etc. You’ll typically find both “minimum” and “recommended” system specs.

Generally speaking, here’s a breakdown of some popular RAM sizes and their ability to power today’s expanding array of PC games:

  • RAM for gaming – 4 GB: Having just 4 GB of RAM will limit your options in terms of game titles and genres, although some older, simpler games will work well. And while many of today’s popular games list 4 GB as the “minimum” RAM requirement, experts typically suggest having the manufacturer’s “recommended” RAM allotment (nearly always higher than 4 GB).
  • RAM for gaming – 8 GB: An 8 GB RAM chip is recommended to support the broadest selection of today’s PC games and game styles. Many experts call it the gaming “sweet spot” for RAM. Unless you’re running a game server or playing the role of game administrator/referee, experts say 8 GB of RAM will usually be sufficient for all but the most demanding games.
  • RAM for gaming – 16 GB: If you’re trying to “future proof” your new gaming system, having 16 GB of RAM might be a good idea. Some manufacturers are already recommending 16 GB for their newest titles, including Just Cause 4, Quantum Break, and others. The extra RAM can also help if plan to use your PC for other things (such as playing music) as you’re playing.
  • RAM for gaming – 32 GB: As of mid-2019, nearly every gaming expert considers 32 GB of RAM to be overkill for gaming. Such massive RAM amounts are mostly aimed at video editors and others with hyper-sized working files. In fact, many of the advanced visual features of today’s PC games rely more on the VRAM on a discrete graphics card than on general, system-wide RAM (this is one reason you’ll often see “dedicated GPU” among the recommended system specs for high-performance game environments).

Factors besides RAM that affect gaming performance

Of course, RAM is not the only factor that determines whether your PC can support the games you like to play. Two different system components – you can probably guess what they are -- will typically have a greater impact on game performance:

  • Processor: When it comes to judging if your PC is up to playing your favorite games, the top determinant is the processor. You can hold lots of game data in memory, but the speed of the CPU will still determine how rapidly that data can generate visible on-screen action and responses.
  • Graphics: Systems with integrated graphics (built into the CPU) must – by their nature -- use general system memory in generating game visuals, whereas a discrete graphics card (GPU) has its own dedicated VRAM to support many graphics tasks. So a PC with a discrete GPU can produce smoother game visuals with less RAM than a similar system with integrated graphics.

Options for improving game performance without more RAM

Of course, you can’t always buy the best, most expensive system on the market. If price or availability forces you to buy a new PC with less RAM than you would prefer, there are still some things you can do to improve gaming performance:

  • Try to find a system that allows you to expand your RAM later -- whether by adding a RAM card or stick to an empty slot on the motherboard or by inserting a bigger card into the sole/primary slot. This adds some “future proofing” but without forcing you to make the full investment up-front.
  • Take steps to reduce how other programs are consuming your available memory. Closing open programs and browser windows, removing programs from the Start menu, and other simple steps might free up small increments of RAM that your system can instead apply to running your game.

When you’re ready to buy a new gaming PC with the right amount of RAM for the games you play, be sure to check out Lenovo’s broad line-up of gaming laptops and gaming towers. Or visit our Accessories section if you just want to add more RAM to your existing set-up.

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