When looking into purchasing computers, whether you are buying a laptop, a desktop, or building a rig yourself, there are many different components and aspects to consider. A question you may ask is, should you put more of your money towards your processor or your RAM?
The processor, or CPU, handles all processing power and coordinates the other components working together. A more powerful CPU means a more robust and faster computer overall.
Random Access Memory, or RAM, handles most of the memory for the computer. It stores all short-term data, whether it is saved to a hard drive or not. The larger and faster the RAM is, the more programs the computer can run and faster.
Naturally, better processors will cost more money; larger and faster RAM sticks will cost more money. Of course, if the processor is too much more powerful than the other components, they will slow it down or bottleneck it. The same goes for the RAM. So, which is essential.
However, their importance generally depends on the computer user’s needs. For example, some people may find a processor more useful if they want a super-fast processing time. On the other hand, others may find the RAM more useful if they run numerous applications and software on a single processor. The RAM is essentially the memory storage of the processor, and it limits the number of applications that can run on it concurrently.
In this article, we will explain how CPU and RAM performance is measured and finally leave you to decide which is more important based on your computer tasks requirements.
How CPU Performance Is Measured
Processors are measured by core count and clock speed. Both should be taken into account when considering a processor. The amount of cores determines the power of a processor, but the clock speed is how fast the cores can operate.
How RAM Performance Is Measured
RAM is measured in storage size and memory speed. Storage size is how much a stick of RAM will have. Usually, RAM is sold in pairs. So, for example, 32 GB of RAM is typically in the form of two 16 GB sticks.
The storage size determines how much RAM will be available, and the speed is how fast the RAM can move the data around. Both must be considered for performance.
Compatibility of a RAM and CPU
Seasoned computer builders have likely already encountered issues where they purchase RAM and a CPU only to find that they are not compatible with the motherboard or not compatible with each other. This incompatibility causes the computer not to POST and thus not even get to the BIOS screen.
This goes beyond having too powerful RAM for the CPU or vice versa. Certain brands and builds of RAM simply will not work with the CPU. In other words, the RAM or the CPU will not be compatible with the motherboard for one reason or another. These things need to be checked so the computer will POST and boot.
When upgrading a computer, either fresh out of the store or one you already have, ensuring compatibility is still an issue.
Upgrading the RAM is more accessible and cheaper, but you may run into issues. Some computers will not accept more than a certain amount of GB of RAM, either because there aren’t enough slots or the slots cannot handle higher than a certain GB.
You’ll then find yourself with problems ranging from the computer simply not booting to getting stuck in boot loops to random crashes.
Upgrading the processor is a trickier business, and most times, it is not possible. If the new processor does not work well with the other components, the computer will not turn on.
Thankfully, manufacturers of both processors and RAM will list what other computer components theirs are compatible with. It takes a bit of research, but you can find parts that are all compatible with each other.
This also goes back to buying a CPU and RAM of roughly equal measure. Too powerful of a CPU, you get bottlenecked by not powerful enough RAM. Too much RAM means your CPU doesn’t even know what to do with it and thus does not utilize the RAM to the best capacity, if at all.
When considering where to put your money, if you’re looking for a budget PC, buy the minimum requirements necessary that all work together and don’t think too much harder about it. If you’re looking to future proof, buying a step up on the processor and the RAM will get your computer lasting several more years.
What Is More Important: Processor or RAM?
Once you have factored in RAM and a processor that will work together, you’re now back to which one is more important. It ultimately comes down to what you’re looking for in the computer.
A more powerful processor will help with running large programs, multiple programs at once, or streaming a lot of videos.
More RAM will also help run multiple programs simultaneously, but it is primarily responsible for improving performance within large programs.
Notably, the cost of the CPU will be more expensive than RAM on average. If you are paying more for your RAM than you are paying for your CPU, you should triple-check compatibility not only with the CPU but also with the motherboard and other components in the computer.
(This mainly applies to building your rig rather than buying a complete computer from the store.)
Buying the most expensive parts isn’t always the answer either. You can look for good deals while still attempting to future-proof yourself. If you have to pick one to splurge more money on, pick the processor not because it is more important but because it is the harder one to upgrade in the future. Plus, as mentioned earlier, processors tend to run more expensively.
RAM, at least, can be easily slotted out and upgraded. Or, you can choose only to use half the slots the motherboard offers to begin with.
Ultimately, both the CPU and the RAM are essential to the overall build of the computer. They both handle different tasks but work together to create asynchronous processes of computer functions. However, we may choose a larger size of one over the other, mainly when we have limited options due to our purchasing power. In such a situation, we should learn from the benefits of the RAM and processors given in this article. And use the knowledge to decide which is more important to us based on the task we want our computers, laptops, or phones to perform.