Noob question (2 large RAM modules, or 4 small ones, which one is better)

PCJake

Senior member
Apr 4, 2008
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If you had four free RAM slots on your board, which of the following would you choose:

a) 16GB (2x8GB) or
b) 16GB (4x4GB)

Ignore the fact that getting 2x8GB sticks leaves you with room to upgrade - pretend 16GB was all you'll ever need. Just in terms of speed, reliability, power consumption, etc., which would you choose? Is there really much difference?
 

Ketchup

Elite Member
Sep 1, 2002
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More RAM sticks would give you more probability of a failure (more parts) but that's about it for an Intel system. Get whichever one is cheaper. I would personally get two sticks (just for the off chance of upgrade) and they would probably be cheaper anyway.
 

poohbear

Platinum Member
Mar 11, 2003
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For overclocking, 2 sticks is always more stable. 4 dimms being filled causes all kinds of stability issues, and not just for ram overclocking, but for entire system stability (even if ure just using cpu multiplier)
 

TemjinGold

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Dec 16, 2006
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Let's put it this way: Outside of possibly price, there is no advantage to having 4 sticks over 2.
 
Jan 31, 2013
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Each stick uses 1.2-1.7v so having more sticks obviously will immediately lead to more power consumption. Secondly, if you plan on overclocking your memory at all now or in the perceivable future, two sticks will scale a lot better than four. Four sticks will also produce twice as much heat, which could play a factor in your ambient temps (depends on how hot the memory you get is). Lastly I leave you with my recommendation of picking up some of Samsungs wonder ram. If you live near a Microcenter, otherwise getting them will be near impossible for their original price.
 

PCJake

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Apr 4, 2008
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Awesome, I'm glad there's a consensus here, that's very helpful to me.
 

Anteaus

Platinum Member
Oct 28, 2010
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Assuming the chips offer the same timing/speed, there is no benefit one way or the other. In general though, smaller DIMMs (in RAM, not size) tend to be offered with better timing/speed because there is penalty for having more physical chips on a DIMM. If you're not overclocking and stick with a reputable brand any difference between 2GB and 4GB dimms will be negligable. Sure there will be some differences in benchmarking, but in real world terms you'll never see it.

Myself, I tend to go the route that leaves options down the road. If going with 4GB ram means leaving room to upgrade later while not penalizing performance, then in my view thats the way to go. Defintely go the route that nets you at least 1 pair though, because why would anyone purposely avoid better performance with minimal effort.
 

bononos

Diamond Member
Aug 21, 2011
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The larger sized dimms are more likely to be still in use when you want to dispose of them.
 

john3850

Golden Member
Oct 19, 2002
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In the early days 1 stick at times would give you the best oc.
I just went 3x4 to 2x8 without much gains in speed.
I stole the 3x4 from my 930 pc which was left 3x2 at 7-7-7-24.
 

Ketchup

Elite Member
Sep 1, 2002
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Getting a single stick? I've never heard of doing this? Advantages (if any)?
Generally a disadvantage, as most chips take advantage of dual-channel. In the old days of overclocking by FSB, 1 stick would generally allow a higher FSB (not by a lot though.)
 
Jan 31, 2013
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Getting a single stick? I've never heard of doing this? Advantages (if any)?
None other than a single stick with large capacity. You'll have only one 64bit data channel for data throughput (sorta like a one way street). With dual channel the CPU's memory controller can communicate with both channels at the same time (two way street) which offers higher memory bandwidth (128bit data channel). So in short, anyone saying to buy one stick over two because it will hold its market value longer. Is plainly bullpooping you. o_O
 

PCJake

Senior member
Apr 4, 2008
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None other than a single stick with large capacity. You'll have only one 64bit data channel for data throughput (sorta like a one way street). With dual channel the CPU's memory controller can communicate with both channels at the same time (two way street) which offers higher memory bandwidth (128bit data channel). So in short, anyone saying to buy one stick over two because it will hold its market value longer. Is plainly bullpooping you. o_O
But this throughput benefit doesn't really scale over to having four sticks instead of two (thus using all available slots)?

Like I said, still learning about RAM.
 
Jan 31, 2013
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But this throughput benefit doesn't really scale over to having four sticks instead of two (thus using all available slots)?

Like I said, still learning about RAM.
You'll have dual channel as long as you're putting pairs of memory into your machine. This day in age your dimm slots are color coded for this reason. ;)
 

PCJake

Senior member
Apr 4, 2008
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You'll have dual channel as long as you're putting pairs of memory into your machine. This day in age your dimm slots are color coded for this reason. ;)
OK, so you're saying there are only two data channels for memory on each board...even if you use four RAM modules you will still only be using two data channels (meaning using two modules is more optimal). Am I correct?
 

Sleepingforest

Platinum Member
Nov 18, 2012
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OK, so you're saying there are only two data channels for memory on each board...even if you use four RAM modules you will still only be using two data channels (meaning using two modules is more optimal). Am I correct?
Correct! The chipset only supports dual channel, even if you plug in four DIMMs (if you use 4 DIMMS there will be two "pairs" running in dual channel, which is no faster than a single pair in dual channel).

Basically, there is never an advantage to more DIMMs unless the motherboard supports more channels.
 
Jan 31, 2013
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OK, so you're saying there are only two data channels for memory on each board...even if you use four RAM modules you will still only be using two data channels (meaning using two modules is more optimal). Am I correct?
Each dimm is a channel of itself. So if you placed a single stick of memory into your motherboard, you'd be effectively utilizing a single 64-bit channel. Before dual channel existed, even pairs of memory were utilized as a single 64-bit channel. With the implementation of dual channel, the motherboard allows the memory controller access to two channels at the same time. Which allows for the transfer of twice as much data per cycle (not dram cycle, but memory controller I/O). So instead of it processing 64-bits at a time, it can process 128-bits at a time. Moving onto triple and quad channel is where things get flaky, as triple channel allows the memory controller to do completely different things (e.g. access three dimms at the same time). All anyone needs to know is to follow the color coded dimm slots on the motherboard. Two of the same color means supports dual channel, three of the same color triple channel, four of the same color (Socket 2011) quad channel. Running memory in specified channel modes will always have benefit over running a single stick of large capacity memory.
 

corkyg

Elite Member | Peripherals
Super Moderator
Mar 4, 2000
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For me, it would be somewhat dependent on the age of the computer. If brand new, I would most likely go with the 2 DIMM set. If a year or two older, which ever was cheapest.
 

Ben90

Platinum Member
Jun 14, 2009
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Let's put it this way: Outside of possibly price, there is no advantage to having 4 sticks over 2.
False.
If the memory controller is not the bottleneck, you can generally get tighter timings from smaller modules.
 

john3850

Golden Member
Oct 19, 2002
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Over the years I have used single channel just to have the extra memory.
I have used the same amount of memory single and dual and never saw or felt much difference.
In theory dual should be double yet in many game benchmarks it comes out the same.
 
Jan 31, 2013
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Over the years I have used single channel just to have the extra memory.
I have used the same amount of memory single and dual and never saw or felt much difference.
In theory dual should be double yet in many game benchmarks it comes out the same.
Memory speed and bandwidth is irrelevant for gaming. You can surprisingly max games like BF3 out on 400 MHz DDR1. Where you will notice the performance gains is in high bandwidth applications. This day in age there isn't much reason to not buy 2 x 8GB modules. With a majority of motherboards having four dimm slots, 32GB of memory is overkill for your average consumer (no game is going to even use half that).
 

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