Which memory to choose for a laptop?19 March 2021
Latest modification: 19 March 2021
There is a common, yet false, belief that laptops cannot be upgraded. As a result, after a few years of using reliable hardware, we decide to get a new one. However, improving the performance of our notebooks works exactly the same as in desktop computers, where the easiest way to upgrade is to swap the hard disk drive for an SSD and replace the RAM.
Today we will focus on the latter method – that is the modules, because improving a laptop with RAM is still uncharted territory for many people.
Laptops for special tasks
In recent years, the way we use computers has changed tremendously, just have a look at gaming, the possibility of working remotely, or even the way we interact with the computer. On our market, there are more and more laptops and mini workstations designed for gamers, graphic designers, or filmmakers. Home office or catching up on emails on a Saturday afternoon while sipping a cup of good coffee on the town is a standard nowadays. The devices offered by notebook manufacturers are not much different from their desktop, large-size counterparts, but they give us the freedom of mobility and also an easy and fast access to our favorite applications wherever we are, only at the cost of a smaller screen (and sometimes too closely spaced keys). Memory modules are largely responsible for speed and multitasking. Of course, companies producing modern notebooks and ultrabooks do not take their components from a “magic well” but they use what is offered by widely available component manufacturers, such as GOODRAM. So why shouldn’t we take the opportunity to upgrade our notebooks with DRAM ourselves?
The replacement of the memory module in our computers itself takes about 5 minutes of work. Simply disassemble the base of the laptop (the bottom) by removing the screws or pulling it out of the latches. Then, gently slide the RAM out of its slot and place the new one in it (or, if your computer has an additional slot, install it there). However, before you start unscrewing your laptop, let’s try to choose the right memory module.
DIMM RAM or SO-DIMM RAM?
The first thing we should pay attention to when buying memory for our notebook is its format. Thus, we could choose either DIMM memory (Dual In-line Memory Module) with the dimensions of 133 x 32 mm, or SO-DIMM (Small Outline Dual In-line Memory Module) with the dimensions of 69.6 x 30 mm.
At first glance, it is clear that the second format, the smaller SO-DIMM, is used in laptops due to high ergonomics and space utilization.
DDR3 or DDR4?
Once we know that we should look for SO-DIMM memory, we need to choose the standard. The most popular one on the market is DDR4, but older notebooks may also have memory sockets designed for the DDR3 standard. The main difference between them is their data bandwidth – DDR4 chips offer more than double the data bandwidth of DDR3. In addition, computers with DDR3 memory can support up to 16 GB of RAM, whereas DDR4 does not have such a limitation. However, switching from Generation 3 to Generation 4 is not that easy. It is all due to the physical differences between the two generations of standards (i.e. the shape and size of the slot) and their voltage. DDR3 modules are marginally smaller than DDR4 memory and run mostly on 1.5V, whereas the 4th generation SO-DIMMs mostly use 1.2V. Of course, some people will say that there are DDR3 (DDR3L) and DDR4 (for overclocking) modules operating at the voltage of 1.35V. Nevertheless, all in all, it is the size of the module and the position of the notch that makes it impossible to put a DDR4 RAM in a laptop that previously supported a DDR3, and vice versa.
When we talk about memories and their technical features we focus on capacity, clock speed, and latency. Capacity, in short, is the amount of internal memory that can be used by applications running on your computer. Consequently, applying simple logic, we can safely say that the more memory (capacity) the better, because the laptop can perform either more numerous processes or just more complex ones. RAM latency is determined by the CL, or CAS Latency. These are not the only latencies we face with RAM. There are also RCD (RAS to CAS Delay), RP (RAS Precharge), or CR (Command Rate), and others. However, it is CL that has the greatest impact on the performance. This parameter specifies how much time elapses from the moment of sending the READ command to the moment the data from a particular memory column is accessed. The rule is simple – the lower CL, the better. Clocking, or frequency, is an important memory parameter that affects performance.
It mainly affects gamers and people who deal with editing videos, as memory with higher clock rate will also allow a few more frames in games or videos per second. Frequency is currently the easiest and quite effective way to “overclock” the processor, however, as we mentioned earlier, it has an impact in advanced notebook use, where the average user will not feel much of a difference between 2666MHz and 3200MHz.
Earlier we focused on memory formats and parameters (i.e. technical features), now let’s try to finalize our choice by considering additional features. Here we can consider many factors ranging from the color of the circuit board to the heatsink. The most important thing is the quality and a proven manufacturer. Nothing speaks in favor of us more than a lifetime warranty and a fully tested product – GOODRAM and IRDM by GOODRAM can easily be classified as memories that boast of such qualities. The final arguments in favor of the products (in addition to the above-mentioned lifetime warranty supported by many tests) are the manufacturer with a 100% Polish capital, production in Silesia, and almost thirty years of experience in working with RAM.