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Do You Really Need More Than 6 GB Of RAM?

Conclusion

Not much has changed since 4 GB of RAM became the “sweet spot” for performance and price in the enthusiast market. While 32-bit operating systems previously limited those 4 GB configurations to around 3 GB of useful memory space, today's test shows that 3 GB is still usually enough.

We remember days when having multiple Internet Explorer windows open could cause a system to become sluggish. But even that scenario has become unrealistic, as all the configurations we tested in this review supported over 100 open windows simultaneously.

If 3 GB worked so well, why do we continue to recommend 4 GB to 6 GB triple-channel kits for performance systems? Perhaps we’re just a little too forward-looking, but we can certainly imagine scenarios a typical “power user” could encounter where 3 GB might not be enough, even if today’s tests didn’t reveal any of them. For those folks, stepping up to a 64-bit operating system at the same time is undoubtedly the best course of action.

We can only recommend larger capacities of 8 GB to 12 GB for professional applications where its usefulness has already been documented and for servers. None of our tests required high-memory capacities and wasted RAM is a burden both financially and ecologically.

Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • EQPlayer
    I run 8GB in my rig because... having open memory slots doesn't jive well with my OCD. Haha. /facepalm
    Reply
  • Try opening a PSD file from a 21-Megapixel camera with 3 or more layers in Photoshop and see the difference.
    Reply
  • Great info for the Vista crowd. What about DDR2 and XP? Betcha there are more of us than youse guys.
    Reply
  • whitewhale1
    can someone help me with what apps will utilise more ram?

    im currently researching building a workstation for photoshop and some 3d modelling to be imported and rendered in CS4

    any help much appreciated im no hardware guru :)
    Reply
  • Crashman
    Great info for the Vista crowd. What about DDR2 and XP? Betcha there are more of us than youse guys.

    It's generally accepted that XP uses less RAM than Vista, so you should be fine with 4GB (which, with 32-bit XP, will yield around 3GB of usefull address space).
    Reply
  • shades_aus
    @Thomas Soderstrom
    What the heck is that image on the front with all the memory modules!
    Can you supply a link with a bigger pic??? That's just insane!
    Reply
  • curiousgeorgieo
    Hey guys I was wondering: What if you had a 9g game loaded completely on a ramdrive (64bit+software) then kept the remaining 3 for regular ram?
    Reply
  • Tindytim
    I got 12 for all your application pleasure baby *wink*
    Reply
  • Crashman
    shades_aus@Thomas Soderstrom What the heck is that image on the front with all the memory modules!Can you supply a link with a bigger pic??? That's just insane!
    It looks like a memory testing machine or burn-in rack to me...I'm not sure where the site found it.

    curiousgeorgieoHey guys I was wondering: What if you had a 9g game loaded completely on a ramdrive (64bit+software) then kept the remaining 3 for regular ram?
    That's a great idea! Because it takes sooo long to copy an entire game from the hard drive to "anything" (even RAM), most users won't even try it. But you would get super-fast map loads!
    Reply
  • Try using several VMs in parallel and you'll be happy to have more than 3 GB. I'm using one VM for work (image of my work notebook with VPN etc.) and one for online banking (mainly because my old smartcard isn't supported in 64bit OS, little bit of a catch22).
    Reply