Short for “Random Access Memory,” RAM may not be the most exciting of computer hardware specs to consider, but you certainly want to ensure that you have enough RAM to satisfy the demands of your laptop work and play. To find the right amount of RAM for you, think about how you tend to use your laptop.
What activities do you commonly ask your laptop to perform? What are your favorite platforms, programs, and applications? Your answers to these questions will determine just how much you need to spend on RAM.
8GB RAM and Below
Your laptop uses RAM to hold temporary data that facilitates immediate user access. For example, open applications, files, and browser tabs are all stored in RAM, not, as you may assume, on your hard disk drive (HDD) or solid-state drive (SSD). This means that wise shoppers comparing the websites of multiple retailers, graphic designers working on large Photoshop files, and gamers who gravitate towards elaborate and memory-intensive games may find their computers operating sluggishly and unresponsively if they don’t have enough RAM.
For the average laptop buyer on a moderate budget, 8 gigabytes (GB) of RAM are generally sufficient. While most high-quality laptop models currently offer 8GM RAM standard, budget shoppers can generally find 4GB RAM laptops to meet low-level needs such as basic internet surfing and word processing.
For very good reasons, few computer brands continue to manufacture and support laptops with 2GB RAM or less. At these levels of RAM, laptops may become overwhelmed with even lower intensity programs and having a few browser tabs simultaneously open. Fortunately, many laptops of any age and existing RAM can be upgraded with additional memory as needed or desired.
8GB RAM to 16GB RAM
Average computer users who are willing and able to spend at least $500 on a new laptop are generally quite happy with 8GB to 16GB RAM. Just consider how many apps, large files, and browser windows that you might want to have open at the same time. As these numbers go up, your RAM capability should follow accordingly.
Overall, even a fairly demanding laptop owner who might play the occasional game or two can maintain a highly responsive and consistent user experience with between 8GB and 16GB RAM. Many people choose RAM in the double digits as a hedge against unexpected but possible memory needs. For example, a company may only require simple Excel spreadsheets at the moment, but will be working with complex financial data on multiple documents and records in the near future. Likewise, a gamer may progress to more and more complicated games that take place in increasingly intricate and graphically rich worlds. As a gamer, it is important to check the minimum RAM requirements of the games that you most want to play.
16GB RAM and More
Beyond serious gamers, content creators who work on large files and anyone who benefits from keeping dozens of tabs open in multiple browsers will want to consider RAM of 16GB or more. From architects to animators, large numbers of people who use their laptops to plan, execute, and/or store professional projects tend to require more than 16GB of RAM. These professionals are typically quite willing to spend extra money on RAM if it enables them to slash the time it takes to complete tasks.