If you want to improve the performance of your PC games without spending too much money, the most practical thing is to install an SSD or expand the RAM. If you have to choose between SSD vs. RAM: which improves your PC’s performance?
Traditionally, when you wanted to improve your computer’s performance, the obvious solution was to change the CPU or graphics card. It works even now, but in some cases, you will notice an even better performance improvement by installing an SSD or expanding the RAM. Spending less money.
Ideally, if there is we can afford it, it would be better to install both: an SSD to speed up the operating system or game loading, and expand the RAM to watch 4K video and other improvements. But if your wallet does not allow it, then you will have to decide one of the two.
We see the pros and cons of installing an SSD with respect to RAM expansion and situations, especially in relation to games, or if it is better to install/expand one of the two.
Why am I interested in installing an SSD?
SSDs or Solid State Drives have been released for a couple of years, but only in recent months have we seen their use increase and even increase storage space, to become a viable alternative, allowing us to greet the dear old hard drives.
The main advantage of an SSD compared to a hard disk or HDD is that it has no moving parts.
Hard drives have a small motor that spins the disk and a head that reads the data. This motor and the rotation of the disk produce noise, produce vibrations, overheat the disk, consume energy and limit the speed of the hard disks.
The SSD typically uses NAND flash memory with no moving parts use less, does not make noise, little warmth, and are much faster than a hard drive. They are also more resistant to shocks and falls.
Today we can buy a 120 GB SSD for only € 20. Or a 500 GB SDD for € 99. They are reasonable prices, considering they are about three times faster than a traditional hard drive.
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Hard drives will remain with us for a long time to come because they are cheap and offer a large storage capacity. Today we can buy an external 4 TB disk for € 99. But in terms of performance, an SSD disk surpasses it in almost all aspects, as you can see in these tables:
Features of an HDD
- Size: various TB
- Access time: 5-7 ms
- I / O response time: 400 ms
- Random input / output operations: 400 io / sg
- Consumption: 5-15 W.
- CPU resources: 7%
- Life cycle: many years
- Low price
Features of an SSD
- Dimensions: up to 1 TB
- Access time: 0.1 ms
- I / O response time: 20 ms
- Random input / output operations: 6000 i / sg
- Consumption: 2-5 W.
- CPU resources: 1%
- Life cycle: some years
- Average price
An SSD disk captures data faster, reads faster, consumes less and needs less CPU resources. But they don’t just have advantages. They have a limited number of data writing (in modern SSDs, several TB) and over time they end up degrading and you have to change them. And as we have seen, they are more expensive and offer less space than a hard disk. But if you want to improve the performance of your PC, you have to install one (or two) SSDs, as we will explain.
What are M.2 discs?
In recent times M.2 discs have become fashionable, they are nothing more than an evolution of the SSD.
The new M.2 form factor is a revision of SSD disks in which NAND flash memory chips are placed on a card that connects directly to the motherboard and does not require additional power.
Sometimes the card is placed on a plate and is used to add a heat sink.
The SSD M.2 are inserted into the motherboard through a SATA III connection or a PCIe slot. They are easy to distinguish because those who switch to a SATA connection have two notches and those that use PCIe, one.
The M.2 SATA III is the slowest because the maximum speed they can reach is 600 MB / sec. Even so, it is much higher than the 50-150 MB / sg that a hard disk can reach, and the 250-500 MB / sg obtained from a standard SDD.
The PCIe M.2 PCIe depends on the version and the number of lanes. There is a recent PCIe 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 or 4.0 connection. The bandwidth of the PCIe connection is divided into lanes, usually from 1 to 16, and is indicated by the terms 1x, 2x 8x, etc. to mark the number of lanes you use.
According to PCIe 2.0, 3.0, etc., speed per lane varies. For example, the PCIe 3.0 connection offers 984.6 MB / sec per lane. If an M.2 SSD is PCIe 3.0 x4, it indicates that it uses 4 lanes, so its maximum speed is 984.6 x 4 = 3938.4 MB / sec, light years above a traditional hard drive.
Why am I interested in RAM expansion?
The RAM is infinitely faster while running games and applications. The problem is that it is volatile, that is when it does not receive energy, it is canceled. This is why we use non-volatile memories, such as the aforementioned hard drives or SSDs, to store data.
The RAM is filled with three types of software:
- Operating system applications, which continuously work to control the computer
- Background programs, such as the antivirus, the e-mail manager that appears every 15 minutes if you receive an email, social networks, etc.
- The games or programs that the user is using at any time
These three parts compete with each other. If you play video games you need as much RAM as possible, so you need to keep the operating system and the software we use in good condition so that there aren’t many applications or system programs in the background that consume all the resources.
Windows 10 also works well with 4 GB of RAM, but today we need at least 8 GB of RAM to play powerful games. If you use 4K resolution and high-resolution textures, some games already recommend having 16 GB of RAM.
In the PC gaming environment, the amount of RAM is not the most important. We need to check the type of memory, speed and latency.
There are several RAM technologies: DDR, DDR2, DDR3, DDR4, etc. The bigger, the better, but the motherboard must support it.
Memory speed is important. A 2 GB memory at 400 Mhz will not produce the same work as another 2 GB at 2133 Mhz. This is reflected in the price.
At the time of reproduction, we must also take into account the latency. This CAS latency (CL) is indicated in the memory specifications. The smaller this value, the better.
If you intend to buy memory for a PC Gaming, it is better to have less RAM at a higher speed and less latency, compared to a greater amount of RAM, but slow or with high latency.
Installing more RAM does not increase performance instantly, unlike installing an SSD, where data loads faster and faster.
More RAM only benefits if the game or application uses that extra RAM, which doesn’t always happen. In fact, most of the games are programmed to use 4 GB of RAM or less, and even if we have 32 GB we won’t take advantage of it and the performance will be the same as a PC with 4 GB of RAM. But the most powerful games already require 8 GB of RAM, and some use all the RAM you have, even 16 or 32 GB.
What’s better? Install an SSD or more RAM?
The reality is that there is no absolute answer. It depends on your current hardware and what you do with it.
If you have an old and slow hard disk, you will be interested in putting an SSD disk even if you don’t have much RAM. If you only have 2 GB of RAM on your PC, it will be interesting to expand it, yes or yes.
And what happens in fairer scenarios, where the performance in both sections is good? For example, if we have a fast hard drive and a PC with 8 GB of RAM.
In this case, installing one or the other depends on the type of software you prefer. Let’s see it in detail.
Situations where you want to install an SSD
When installing an SDD, it is necessary to distinguish two things: the operating system, games or powerful applications.
We can buy a bigger SSD and use it for everything like we do with hard disks, but like SSDs they are not very big and today there are games like Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition that are larger than 100 GB. What it does is install the operating system on a small 120 GB SSD and play on another. In this way, both elements work separately and we get a greater overall performance.
Our advice is to install at least one SSD for the operating system, as you will notice an immediate improvement in Windows startup and application implementation.
Is it convenient to install a second SSD or a larger one for games instead of more RAM ?
An SSD disk accelerates data loading, since it is at least three times faster than a hard disk, much more if you use an M.2 SSD. So we will notice that the games load faster. Powerful titles like the aforementioned Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition or Forza Motorsport 7 can take 2 or 3 minutes to load on a slow hard drive, while on an SSD they can be reduced to 1 minute or less.
But there is another important factor: the loading of data in the background, used in open-world games like Assassin’s Creed Origins, Far Cry 5 and many others.
In these games the storage disk continuously reads the data to load the new areas you visit in real-time. If it’s slow you’ll notice stuttering, plots that don’t load or take a long time to do it, etc.
Therefore, if you play powerful games that take a long time to load, or many open-world games that continuously load data in the background, it is convenient to install an SSD to increase performance, rather than expanding the RAM (as we said, starting since we already have at least 4 GB of RAM and even 8 GB).
Likewise, if most of your games are simple and don’t require much RAM, like Fortnite, The Sims 4, indie games, etc. So give priority to the SSD disk.
Situations in which it is interesting to expand RAM
The RAM is used by programs to manage data. More RAM will not give you an increase in performance immediately unless you use many background applications or more powerful programs that work in parallel. In these cases, Windows uses RAM and does not have to resort to the hard disk, which is much slower, so you will notice that your PC works better.