When it comes to laptops, one of the biggest misconceptions people have is that the more memory, or RAM, they have, the more useful their machine will be. Of course, RAM is one of the most important aspects of a laptop; however, that doesn’t solely determine how useful your device can be. Knowing how much RAM your laptop really needs is crucial because buyers are often misguided to spend extra for space they may not really want or use.
Random Access Memory (RAM), also widely referred to as “system memory” or just “memory”, is one of the most vital parts of a computer, or laptop. This memory is usually confused with the storage you get from a mechanical hard drive (HDD) or solid state drive (SSD). But the difference between the system memory and these storage drives is quite straightforward: while the RAM carries temporarily all the files and software that are currently in use, SSDs and HDDs hold the same permanently, unless and until you delete the files or uninstall the software.
For a better understanding, for instance, in the case of a low charge, or if you accidentally turn off your laptop, all the contents of your RAM will be lost. This is why you use long-term storage solutions like SSDs and HDDs. As a result, when you want to access a file or software, it gets pulled from your long-term storage, your HDD or SSD, to the RAM, which is your short-term storage, and this makes access quick and smooth.
Impact of RAM on Laptop Performance
The amount of RAM available in your laptop is undeniably a huge factor that determines the performance of the device. The flow of data, which we discussed above, is controlled by your laptop. When you run a program, say open an application or read a file, the device will use some of the available RAM space for in-use memory and assign some as standby memory, reserving the same for other future operations.
However, when you use up all of the available RAM space, your laptop will create swap files where all the data that are currently not being used by the system will be stored, onto your SSD or HDD. This is what is called virtual memory. Reading and writing data on your storage drives is a much slower process, which therefore will slow down the entire operation on your laptop. Furthermore, your laptop can become totally unresponsive, requiring you to restart the system, which in turn will cause you to lose all the unsaved files you have been working on.
Ultimately, for your laptop to perform smoothly, you need a decent RAM size, especially if you know you will be multitasking a lot and will need to use multiple documents at any time. Of course, your processor and GPU largely affect the overall performance of your device, but your system memory gives you the ability to make the best use of that performance.
In most laptops, the software or applications that make the most use of the RAM space are the web browser and the operating system, apart from some games and applications that actually use more space than everything else. Though you cannot do anything about your operating system, whether it is Mac OS or Windows, using so much memory, you can certainly look at having more RAM in your laptop in order to be able to use more than one browser tab at a time.
In addition to software and applications, there are also websites that use more RAM than the rest. In fact, a streaming service like Netflix, something that most individuals access today, is one of the many websites that use up more memory. The same applies to programs as well; while something as simple as a chat program might not take up much space on your RAM, something intense, like working on Photoshop or playing an advanced game will certainly take up a few GBs.
How Much RAM Do You Really Need in Your Laptop?
Let’s start with the basic. When it comes to RAM size, 1GB is the minimum system requirement for many new operating systems. However, this petty size is certainly isn’t sufficient and not recommended by experts as well. Yes, you can perform some basic operations with a 1GB RAM, like email, minimal image editing, and web browsing (but not with several open tabs). However, gaming, even if it is the most basic version, will be frustrating with this size, and there is no doubt that you wouldn’t be able to perform tasks like video editing, Photoshop projects, etc. Therefore, regardless of what you plan on doing with your laptop, you will definitely benefit from having more than just 1GB RAM.
The next possible RAM size on laptops you would come across is 2GB. Again, this is the minimum size requirement in many laptop models and their operating systems. With this size, you can do pretty much anything that you would normally do with your laptop. From using multiple browser tabs at the same time to running Microsoft Office to playing games to editing images and videos, the 2GB will be sufficient for typically any work you can think of.
Yes, you can get away with having a 2GB RAM in your laptop, but it is more likely that you wouldn’t be very happy with your system’s performance. Your laptop is likely to become slow, and when you experience poor performance from your device, you should think about adding more RAM.
Now we are getting to the more viable RAM sizing options, starting with 4GB. If you have experience using a laptop with 1 or 2GB RAM and then move on to 4GB, you will be able to notice a monumental difference in the system’s performance. Regardless of the operating system, the boost in performance you experience will be well worth what you pay for the 4GB RAM. In addition to the overall performance is faster, you will also be able to run multiple applications at the same time, which will be very much helpful when you work, say when you want to work between Microsoft Word and Excel simultaneously.
From this point forward, you are at the sweet spot in terms of RAM size. This is where the real performance of your laptop begins. If you are really serious about investing in a good machine for long-term use, then 8GB RAM is the minimum you should start with. Whether you are just after a faster system in general or looking to use yours for intense workloads like constant video or photo editing, then 8GB is a definitely bare minimum.
Also, if you are a heavy multitasker, wherein you are most likely to use multiple browser tabs at a time, access websites with heavy graphics, and the like, you will need more RAM in your laptop. You can either choose a laptop model that allows you to upgrade the RAM or go with the one with 8GB RAM.
16GB and 16GB+ RAM
Now, to have a 16GB RAM or more in your laptop is not a cheap option. Therefore, if you need the bang for your buck, you should be someone involved in a lot of intensive operations. For instance, if your job is to edit videos, you are most likely to use Adobe Premiere Pro or other similar applications, which basically requires a large amount of RAM, then you will need more than 8GB RAM.
This also applies to hardcore gamers; if you are an avid gamer and often play very demanding games, you should invest in at least 16GB RAM for your laptop. And when you have a laptop with more than 16GB RAM space, you typically have a powerful machine that can run more than one resource-heavy applications at any given time without impacting the speed or performance of your device.
Software’s Recommended Specifications
When it comes to choosing the RAM size of your laptop, an easy way to determine the same is to first look at the recommended specifications and minimum requirement from the software developer of all the software you will be using. This is something not many laptop owners do, and most individuals just tend to assume the amount of RAM they might need.
In many cases, you could end up getting shocked seeing how much RAM space a particular application uses when you expected something in the smaller numbers. Moreover, you should also remember the fact that you will be running more than just that particular application at a time, which means you need a lot of available RAM space for uninterrupted performance.
For instance, the 2018 version of Adobe Premiere Pro has 8GB of RAM as its minimum specification; however, the recommended specifications happen to be 16GB for HD media and 32GB for 4K media or higher. Add to this the other applications you will be running simultaneously, you will need a much larger RAM space.
All said and done, your ultimate focus should be to have more system memory than how much you are likely to use. Fortunately, RAM is one of the few hardware devices that is isn’t very expensive and easy to install as well. Moreover, when you want to upgrade the RAM size of your laptop, all you need to do is add a stick of the hardware to your device. And to do this, you need to find a future-ready laptop, which allows you to perform the upgrade whenever necessary.