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View Full Version : RAM vs Processor? What to spend money on?


Geodetic
08-31-2010, 1:05 PM
A dual core processor with 6-8 GB of RAM or quad core with 4-6 GB of RAM? All for about the same cost. Whats really more important when it comes to running Windows smoother? Assuming I play games that are a couple years old what would really matter?

paradox
08-31-2010, 1:13 PM
Assuming I play games that are a couple years old what would really matter?

Neither. Unless the game is compiled for 64-bit, it won't use more than 4gb of ram. None of the older games were multi-threaded enough to saturate more than 2 cores.

If you want something cheap that can run all your office stuff and older games, get an AMD and a 4gb of ram. You won't know the difference between that and a top of the line Intel filled to the gills with ram.

Scratch705
08-31-2010, 1:14 PM
quad with 6gb ram.

Rekrab
08-31-2010, 1:14 PM
Cost being equal I'd go with the dual core. Most tests haven't shown a significant user experience improvement with quad core unless you're doing video, photos, cad, or other CPU intensive applications that actually take advantage of the quad core architecture.

Also, unless you're running 64bit you're not going to take advantage of more than 3 gigs of ram.

bombadillo
08-31-2010, 1:19 PM
I'd go processor because you can always buy more ram at a later date and throw it in. To me its more of a pain to replace a processor.

Barbarossa
08-31-2010, 1:37 PM
Processor = Big engine (<-- this)

Ram = More (easily added) seats in the car

bigmike82
08-31-2010, 8:09 PM
I'd go with the RAM.

A lot of it will let you do more at once, far more than two extra cores will.

Mute
08-31-2010, 8:30 PM
Buy the best processor you can afford, but only if you're building a new system. RAM is almost always cheaper to upgrade and the cost seems to continue to get more affordable. In my experience, by the time you consider upgrading the CPU, the rest of your system is more or less outdated or will be in need of upgrading also.

Of course if you don't run any applications that taxes the CPU this may all be a moot point.

sniper4usmc
08-31-2010, 8:41 PM
4gb ram is enough memory...I would buy quad core.and OverClock the CPU with Good CPU cooler llike Corsair H series water cooler

Pyrodyne
08-31-2010, 8:43 PM
Unless you are running a milsim like arma 2, a quad won't help one iota. No games are yet compiled for 64 bit and won't address more than 2GB per discreet thread. 32 bit OS can only address 3 GB total. 64 bit OS won't work with all old games.

The core speed is more critical for games. A 3.4 ghz dual will run most games much faster than a 3 ghz quad.

Intel costs more, AMD costs less. i5/i7 can overclock automatically when only 1/2 cores are saturated.

Coming to memory, timing gets you more than raw speed. 800mhz with 4-4-4-12 is faster than 1200mhz at 8-8-8-24. G.Skill has "HK" series memory that can run really good clocks at normal spec voltages and overclocks very nicely if you like to burn hardware for all it's worth.

ATI is currently much much cheaper for similar performance cards than nVidia. A relatively cheap radeon 4770 will beat a GTS 250 by a long shot and costs the same and if your motherboard supports crossfire you can run two when the one isn't enough.

Do note that newer duals/triples in the AMD Phenom line are actually quads with disabled cores - I would avoid these on general principles of not wanting a partially defective unit.

0x80884
09-01-2010, 2:18 PM
Don't want to be a downer, but you haven't told us what you're currently running.

If you have a home built machine that's already decked out, upgrades would be different than a cookie-cutter store-bought machine, or a super-economy class machine.

If you could tell us your frontside bus speed (unless it's an i/5/7) and current configuration, we could better describe your possible upgrades.


or...
Take the couple hundred and go buy another case of ammo :D

ZX-10R
09-01-2010, 2:20 PM
Buy the best processor you can. Memory can be added later.

JDay
09-01-2010, 4:19 PM
No games are yet compiled for 64 bit and won't address more than 2GB per discreet thread.

This is an old list (by several years) of 64-bit games, just to name a few. There are many more out now, in fact I bet all the new PC games have 64-bit support.

http://www.start64.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=190&Itemid=116

* Half-Life 2
* Lost Coast
* Bet On Soldier: Blood Sport
* Codename: Panzers (Phase one)
* Colin McRae Rally 2005
* Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
* Far Cry
* Fahrenheit
* Shadow Ops: Red Mercury
* Unreal Tournament 2004
* WWII Tank Commander
* S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl
* Dreadnought

Do note that newer duals/triples in the AMD Phenom line are actually quads with disabled cores - I would avoid these on general principles of not wanting a partially defective unit.

Most of these are not defective in any way and just had cores disabled so they could be sold as a dual-core CPU. You can also enable those cores.

I also highly recommend installing 64-bit Windows 7, if you decide to install 4GB or more RAM in the future you will need 64-bit Windows and you cannot upgrade from 32-bit.

Satex
09-01-2010, 5:11 PM
Ignore everyone else, spend you money on RAM. Buying the next best processor will give you overall performance gain of several percent. For the same money you can double your RAM providing the system with much more resources to work with.

Twinsen
09-01-2010, 5:27 PM
4GB of RAM is enough to max games out. A slow processor is not enough to max games out.

The 'OMFG 19GB OF MEMORY' thing confuses me. If you go Intel, get the triple channel 6GB, if you go AMD, 4GB is good in 2 2GB sticks.

Unless you want to run 19 games at once on minimum settings and don't mind them running at 1FPS. Which I guess is what a lot of RAM is for.

bigmike82
09-01-2010, 5:59 PM
RAM gives you far more flexibility than lots of processor power.

Ever have 20 windows/tabs open...in two or three browsers?

Running visio, excel, outlook and word at once?

Perhaps you'd like to run a VM in the background.

If you're a 'power' user...the added RAM will serve you much, much better than a fraction of a GHz.

Geodetic
09-01-2010, 7:17 PM
Don't want to be a downer, but you haven't told us what you're currently running.

If you have a home built machine that's already decked out, upgrades would be different than a cookie-cutter store-bought machine, or a super-economy class machine.

If you could tell us your frontside bus speed (unless it's an i/5/7) and current configuration, we could better describe your possible upgrades.


or...
Take the couple hundred and go buy another case of ammo

Well I'm seriously on the fence about what to spend more money on in a laptop. My experience in that past has been when I upgraded RAM in an old desktop I saw serious performance enhancement. The "QUAD CORE" stuff had me excited but for a dual core I could double the RAM and be at the same or less cost wise. I'm looking at either an HP Dv8t or a Dell Studio XPS. Looking to replace my desktop as the main computer. Something I could do everything on and still have some portability. I must say I saw an HP at Costco today... a Dv7 I believe and was just blow away. That screen is amazing.

JDay
09-01-2010, 10:56 PM
Well I'm seriously on the fence about what to spend more money on in a laptop. My experience in that past has been when I upgraded RAM in an old desktop I saw serious performance enhancement. The "QUAD CORE" stuff had me excited but for a dual core I could double the RAM and be at the same or less cost wise. I'm looking at either an HP Dv8t or a Dell Studio XPS. Looking to replace my desktop as the main computer. Something I could do everything on and still have some portability. I must say I saw an HP at Costco today... a Dv7 I believe and was just blow away. That screen is amazing.

I would stay away from the DV line of HP laptops, in fact I'd stay away from all their consumer lines. My buddies Dv7 just died (ordering a new AC jack to fix it) and it has had nothing but problems since he got it. Unless you're a gamer you aren't going to need the XPS either. Personally I'd go with a ThinkPad T510, in fact I plan on ordering one this week. You can get them with integrated Intel HD graphics or an NVIDIA NVS 3100m (which you can game with) and a 1366x768 resolution display all the way up to a 1920x1080 display that has 95% color gamut. You also have your choice of an i5-520m all the way up to an i7-620m CPU.Not to mention all the other options. If you look around you can find them new for less than Lenovo sells them for. Throw in the optional 9-cell battery and they get 6.5-8 hours or so of battery life, depending on use.

http://shop.lenovo.com/SEUILibrary/controller/e/web/LenovoPortal/en_US/catalog.workflow:category.details?current-catalog-id=12F0696583E04D86B9B79B0FEC01C087&current-category-id=B004765D5705496FA8CB7EE99E68D075

Geodetic
09-01-2010, 11:07 PM
Not a serious "gamer" but I like the ability to play some first person shooters when I feel the need to blow away zombies. Its a good escape from the world of excel sheets. And I like good speakers on a laptop (at least as good as they can get) to watch an occasional movie. Does Lenovo have any comparable multimedia laptops?

odysseus
09-01-2010, 11:10 PM
It depends on what you really are doing with the system.

However one rule is surely true. A system with even the fastest processor will quickly be brought to its knees without adequate RAM.

JDay
09-01-2010, 11:34 PM
Not a serious "gamer" but I like the ability to play some first person shooters when I feel the need to blow away zombies. Its a good escape from the world of excel sheets. And I like good speakers on a laptop (at least as good as they can get) to watch an occasional movie. Does Lenovo have any comparable multimedia laptops?

You can game with the T510, here's the Windows Experience Index results from one with the NVS 3100m.

http://img831.imageshack.us/img831/8339/t510wei.jpg

I took that from this review.

http://www.notebookcheck.net/Review-Lenovo-Thinkpad-T510-4349-4JG-Notebook.25722.0.html

AS45-70
09-02-2010, 4:13 PM
Put the $ into a CPU, RAM is dirt cheap and easy to add anytime.

V8toytruck
09-05-2010, 1:01 AM
Have you looked into SSDs?

Photoshop CS4 and Bridge loads in about 1-1.5 seconds.

I'd go with RAM and SSD!

safewaysecurity
09-05-2010, 1:16 AM
Get SSDs instead. People think speed is all about the CPU but the hard drive is the bottleneck for most.

RRichie09
09-05-2010, 1:39 AM
Buy the best processor you can. Memory can be added later.

This.

I just bought some memory for my 6 year old computer. Goodluck trying buying a processor that will work with the motherboard for a computer 3 or more years old.

I buy computers for long term. A lot of people subscribe to the buy cheap and new every two mentality, but I'd rather spend the money up front and buy top of the line and keep the computer for longer. I get to enough a top of the line computer for a year and then it falls right in line with the new cheap computers 3-4 years later.

0x80884
09-05-2010, 9:08 AM
This.

I just bought some memory for my 6 year old computer. Goodluck trying buying a processor that will work with the motherboard for a computer 3 or more years old.

I buy computers for long term. A lot of people subscribe to the buy cheap and new every two mentality, but I'd rather spend the money up front and buy top of the line and keep the computer for longer. I get to enough a top of the line computer for a year and then it falls right in line with the new cheap computers 3-4 years later.

Absolutely. You don't need to go balls-to-the-wall crazy with the expense, but it will cost you less than buying new and cheap every few years.

DiscoBayJoe
09-05-2010, 9:24 AM
In order of Importance:

(1) Video Card/Chipset
(2) Memory Bus Speed/Archetecture (proccessor selection, memory selection (interleaving/qty)
(3) Amount of RAM
(4) Speed of Storage (SSD is where it's at!)
(5) RAW CPU Speed

If using a Windows platform, you want W7x64 for sure.

Wherryj
09-30-2010, 2:18 PM
A dual core processor with 6-8 GB of RAM or quad core with 4-6 GB of RAM? All for about the same cost. Whats really more important when it comes to running Windows smoother? Assuming I play games that are a couple years old what would really matter?

A 32 bit OS (Standard systems) have been demonstrated to run faster if RAM is increased above 1gb, but there is an apparent ceiling. If you give the OS more than 3-4gb the rest will remain unused.

64 gb OSes can use up to 128 gb (I'm going from memory, but you have to have specific OS versions-even Win 7's different versions vary by amount of RAM that is available), but testing has shown that there is again a ceiling of about 4gb.

If you have triple channel DDR, you'd want to go for 6gb. The RAM must be identical chips, so your choices are 1X3 or 2X3. Getting that extra gb of performance is relatively cheap, but you'll only really be using 4gb unless you have specifically coded apps that can utilize more memory.

Wherryj
09-30-2010, 2:20 PM
Neither. Unless the game is compiled for 64-bit, it won't use more than 4gb of ram. None of the older games were multi-threaded enough to saturate more than 2 cores.

If you want something cheap that can run all your office stuff and older games, get an AMD and a 4gb of ram. You won't know the difference between that and a top of the line Intel filled to the gills with ram.

Actually, from what I've seen none of the newer games tend to utilize more than two cores either.

Perhaps things will change over time, but for now if you are on a budget a dual core should be fine. Spend the additional money on a GPU or SSD.

Wherryj
09-30-2010, 2:22 PM
Don't want to be a downer, but you haven't told us what you're currently running.

If you have a home built machine that's already decked out, upgrades would be different than a cookie-cutter store-bought machine, or a super-economy class machine.

If you could tell us your frontside bus speed (unless it's an i/5/7) and current configuration, we could better describe your possible upgrades.


or...
Take the couple hundred and go buy another case of ammo :D

If you are building a desktop I heartily recommend the i7 cores. I picked one up a year and a half ago when they were still premium, but it cost only $240. Even considering the price break with the next set of cheapest CPUs running at $175, that wasn't enough to persuade me to go with the older tech.

Not sprining for the $1000 bells and whistles version is enough savings. Even at this point my computer is faster than most of the ones sold by HP, etc. Paying a bit more to delay obsolesence is worthwhile.

d4v0s
10-01-2010, 3:53 PM
What is far more important is matching ram speeds to your proc.

make sure you at least get ddr that matches your FSB.

Also go for the quad core, I build high end systems for a living, and a dual core can only do half what a quad will. With that being said, make sure you also get a high clock quad (at least 2.8ghz) and unless your using 64 bit programs, no need to run more than 4 gigs of ram.

intel Q9550 is one of the best deals around if you can find them, I am also a fan of the amd quad cores.

JaMail
10-01-2010, 4:44 PM
+1 to the SSD.. get a solid state drive and 6 gigs of ram.

ldivinag
10-01-2010, 5:00 PM
quad...

you can always buy more ram and install it easier.

Merc1138
10-01-2010, 5:12 PM
Faster dual core and 4GB of ram, spend the rest on the videocard or buy an SSD. The number of games(and it's mostly simulators) that can actually run more than a couple of threads, is still few and far between. Running those few threads faster is how you're going to see more performance.

No game needs more than 4GB of ram.

What exactly do you plan to do with this system? Ok fine, you said play some games, but what else? Personally I'll have a game open on one monitor, and have a tv show, music, or something else on the other monitor at the same time. That's a situation where quad core can be helpful. If you're just going to stick with 1 display and don't plan on ever running anything in the background, you don't need quad core for gaming.

An SSD drive won't improve game performance, it will make your computing experience a heck of a lot faster. Windows will load much faster, and games will load much faster(although you will be limiting yourself on just how much you can put on an SSD since we're talking about 64GB for roughly $80-$120, 128GB SSD drives are more expensive, 256GB SSDs are just so overpriced they aren't worth considering at this point). So you may still need your existing 500GB drive or whatever as a secondary to store videos and music(since loading speeds for those aren't an issue).

The other key to a better computing experience, a second monitor as I mentioned. I've had minimum of 2 monitors on any home system, or even work system(laptop currently) for years now, drives me nuts to only have 1 display. ATI hydravision and nvidia 3d surround for games spanned across multiple monitors are a separate issue.

The Original Godfather
10-01-2010, 5:35 PM
I'd say it depends.



If you want something that will last you a while, then get the best processor you can now. RAM is a fairly cheap technology and can always be added later. You wont need more than 3GB if you're not running 64bit.

However, if you want the easiest and most "perceived" improvement, then I will suggest getting 4GB RAM, a dedicated video card (there's a million options these days) and a SSD.

SSD will DRAMATICALLY increase performance. However, if you use SSD and your machine is mainly for gaming, rip your games to your SSD instead of running them from the CD drive so that way you take advantage of SSD performance. If not, SSD won't do you much good for gaming, it'll only affect whatever is being accessed from that particular SSD.

safewaysecurity
10-01-2010, 5:38 PM
SSD = 7 second start up

The Original Godfather
10-01-2010, 5:44 PM
SSD = 7 second start up

Ya, SSD is great.


When I did sound mixing and mastering SSD made a big difference loading up uncompressed files.

Imagine loading a 3 hour mix in .WAV... that's about a 3.5GBs file... and try mixing it with 4 other files just as big at the same time. :willy_nilly:

12 GB of RAM with fast timings did help alot too. ;)

Merc1138
10-01-2010, 5:54 PM
However, if you use SSD and your machine is mainly for gaming, rip your games to your SSD instead of running them from the CD drive so that way you take advantage of SSD performance. If not, SSD won't do you much good for gaming, it'll only affect whatever is being accessed from that particular SSD.

No point. I haven't seen any PC games in years that actually run reading data from the optical drive. Installing games will install the game to your HDD(game developers quit doing it because HDD capacity began getting so high, that having a 10GB game install on your HDD wasn't a big deal). Optical drive access from games after the installation would be purely for DRM(checking to see that you have the disc for the game), rather than running the game from the disc.

So unless you pull some 10 year old PC game CD from somwhere and install it, a full install(default these days) will copy all of the needed game files to the installation folder, and in this instance that folder would be on your SSD.

Darklyte27
10-01-2010, 8:59 PM
Both actually. get as much both as you can afford.

UBFRAGD
10-03-2010, 1:57 PM
The other key to a better computing experience, a second monitor as I mentioned.

That's been on my to-do list for too long now.......

Here's my set-up, nothing special, I'm no power user, I like having a few browsers and some entertainment going on, photoshop and premiere pro, works great/very fast so far.
http://i343.photobucket.com/albums/o476/ubfragd/64bit.jpg

Joe
10-03-2010, 3:32 PM
quad with 6gb ram.

X2 for sure

Oshiat
10-03-2010, 3:32 PM
Are you replacing the motherboard? I looked at 2 lines of thought when I built my pc.
1. Decent mobo with a higher end i3/i5, good pc but no room to grow or,
2. Better mobo with lower end i7, but fully supports the newer 6 core intel chips for an upgrade down the road.
I have not found a game that isnt awesome even with graphics maxed out. I paid more that I really wanted to, but I should not have to upgrade for several years.

I7 930
6gig PC1066 ram
ATI 5770 graphics card
Asus P6X58 mobo

dchang0
10-05-2010, 2:03 PM
Oshiat and the guys talking about SSD are providing sound advice. The biggest bottleneck in most machines is the disk I/O, usually limited by a cheap storage controller in a cheap chipset on the motherboard OR by slow hard drives.

I've seen huge performance gains just by installing a better SATA controller card (usually a low-end RAID card) and a pair of high-rpm drives. OR, of course, you can go with SSD, which can be wicked fast with a decent SATA controller (a lot of SSDs I have seen have been crippled by a using a cheap PATA controller with PATA to SATA bridge).

So my advice would be to:

First get the best mobo that you can afford, focusing on the built-in storage controller
Second, get the best processor you can afford after buying the mobo
Third, get a fast hard drive (those WD Raptors are fantastic, or an SSD)
Fourth, get 4GB of RAM

Robidouxs
10-05-2010, 3:14 PM
Go with a high end motherboard, I have learned from experience it is better the spend the money up front since you will not have to spend down the road on peripherals which increase your software and hardware failure rates.

After taking care of the motherboard, look at CPU support. Lean towards something with support for high end CPU support and a company with a track record for updating and writing regular bios updates. The more company bios updates written, the higher the likelihood your motherboard will support additional processors down the road as they are developed.

For hard drive, get 6gb Sata. Super fast transfer rates.

USB: Go with USB 3.0, fast transfer rates.

Videocard: Your choice, spend the money up from so you don't have to upgrade until 2 generations of GFX cards have passed.

HuangYiChao
10-05-2010, 5:16 PM
It will be more about graphics card but quad core > dual core if ram is over 2gb. Basically if you have over 2gb it really comes down to processor. For games it goes graphics>processor (if ram is over 2gb)>then ram.

ExtremeX
10-13-2010, 12:07 PM
+1 on SSD

Ram and processor ... get the best u can afford. I have an i7 with 12 GB ram, and I could use more overhead for my application... VMWare Workstation

Even with the best processor and ram, the HDD is typically the biggest bottleneck in a computer.

Single smaller SSD for the OS would be ideal + a 10k performance drive for games and applications if you want to keep it simple. 7200 RPM drive for basic storage if needed or a RAID array for both speed, storage, and some fault tolerance of the drives.

Skys the limmit now adays, only impact is on the wallet.