Which is Better: More RAM or More Processing Cores?
If you’re stuck choosing between two gadgets, one with a higher amount of RAM and one with more CPU cores for processing, which do you pick? Don’t worry. We’re here to explain.
When you run applications, you’ll actually use both. RAM stands for Random Access Memory, which is simply the space / storage where you are allowed to run processes and is temporary in nature. We’re not talking about your internal storage here, so the moment you stop using your device, the RAM empties unlike your ROM (Read Only Memory).
To visualize how RAM works, think about three people in a room named Chrome, Skype and Explorer. If the three people have been given a small room to work in, and Chrome and Skype are really huge and loud types of people, their work would affect everyone else and would slow down. It only gets worse if they think about more things: for example, Chrome thinks about a 10-Tab YouTube project. In this case, the room represents the RAM.
Older computers may see performance improvements by adding more RAM, because some newer applications usually require more headroom to run efficiently. In this day and age, 2GB and 4GB worth of RAM have become a standard for entry-level notebook PCs and mid-range laptops respectively which are meant for browsing and light productivity.
High-end and gaming laptops, on the other hand, are usually equipped with at least 8GB of RAM because manufacturers assume that their target market for this kind of product will likely compose of power users that would run resource-heavy software on their machine, and/or would have multiple apps running both on the background and foreground.
The same can be said for smartphones and tablets. More RAM usually translates to better ability to handle multitasking and demanding apps. And thanks to 64-bit processors, 4GB of RAM will soon be a standard for high-end/flagship smartphones in the future.
More cores = better performance, right? Without dealing too much on the technicalities, the short answer is YES. However, performance is determined by more than one element, which is why we see companies promoting CPUs that possesses “better architecture”, “64-bit”, “3GHz” and more.
We can look at a certain multi-core CPU, say an Intel Core i7-4790 as a team comprising of four equally-skilled members (four processing cores). Each member of the team is given two (2) assistants (threads or sometimes referred to as logical cores) that will help them finish a task more efficiently.
Instead of working at a given task all the same time, the boss (operating system) can delegate different tasks to a member of the team which will allow the team to handle and finish more tasks at a given time.
PC and Laptop users benefit from this process because they can get more things done in shorter span of time. The same can be said for smartphone/tablet users, albeit apps are optimized for mobile use and therefore needs less horsepower to run smoothly compared to their desktop counterpart.
Now that we have a general overview of how RAM and multi-core processor affect the performance of device, the question remains; between a gadget with more RAM and more CPU cores, which one should you get?
If you’re a desktop or laptop user, it really boils down to how you intend to use your computer. What types of programs you’re likely to run on your computer more often? Do you usually have 10 or more tabs opened on your browser? Are you planning to edit videos/pictures on your notebook?
The former shouldn’t have any problems in choosing between the two since they can always upgrade their components at their convenience, provided that their motherboard supports the component they wish to upgrade. Portable computers, on the other hand, don’t offer the same flexibility in terms of hardware upgrades compared to desktop PCs. As such, it’s best to get a model with mid-tier or a high-end processor since you can (most of the time) upgrade your RAM capacity whenever you feel the need to do so.
Smartphones/tablets users are pretty much stuck with whatever configuration the maker provides on a particular model. With future upgrades now out of the equation, if you are faced with a decision between two similarly-priced devices, one has MediaTek MT6595 with 512MB RAM and the other has Snapdragon 410 with 3GB of RAM (for example), which one should you choose?
We believe that you’re better off getting the latter for two reasons. First, apps that can truly utilize all of the processing cores simultaneously are few and far in between. Second because users will likely need that additional RAM headroom on a daily basis than having seven cores that are, most of the time, just left unused.
Ronnie Bulaong contributed to this article