Choosing The Right Parts For Your Build (Part 6) - Picking the right RAM, Picking the right cooling, SLI and CrossFire

5/18/2012 5:27:32 PM

Picking the right RAM

With RAM pricing currently at historically low levels, now is a great time to invest in some extra memory. It’s very unlikely you actually need any more than 8GB of RAM – even in the highest-spec gaming system – but with modern motherboards supporting between 16 and 32GB, there’s little harm in buying some extra if you have the budget available. If you do lots of work that involves multi-tasking, or make use of virtual machines, obviously extra RAM is an important consideration, but for most PC users, any extra memory over 8GB probably isn’t going to be used.

Description: Corsair Vengeance RAM

Corsair Vengeance RAM

The performance of a PC isn’t enhanced by having extra RAM. This additional capacity will simply sit unused until required, but it won’t harm performance either. Rather than going for an excessive amount of cheap, slow memory, you should instead consider investing in faster 1600MHz RAM. This will enhance the performance of your PC and is a well-established any highly compatible speed of memory. At speeds above 1600MHz you generally get diminishing returns in terms of performance, and are much more likely to run into problems – especially if installing more than the mandatory two modules of memory.

When choosing your RAM, you should always double-check that is has a lifetime warranty. Most good-quality name-brand memory has a lifetime warranty, and it’s worth paying a few extra pounds for this piece of mind. Flashy gaming RAM like Corsair’s Vengeance series have attractive heat spreaders. In all truth, these do little for cooling, but they look great and do protect the memory when you’re handling it. Before investing in these taller-than-average memory modules, make sure your choice of CPU cooler doesn’t preclude their use!

Picking the right cooling

Description: Thermolab Tranquillo

Thermolab Tranquillo

Although most CPU coolers come with a CPU fan, you probably shouldn’t use it unless you want your system to be unnecessarily noisy and hot. have a wide selection of third-party coolers, any of which will greatly reduce your noise levels and improve temperatures to boot. If you’re not planning to overclock, a modestly priced heatsink like an Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro or a Gelid Tranquillo would be a great choice. These are compatible with all current socket types. If overclocking is something to factor in, then spend a little more and choose a premium cooler designed with this in mind. Some of the best models we’ve used are made by Corsair, Titan, Thermolab and Thermaltake, each of which offers products to cater for a variety of budgets.

SLI and CrossFire

Description: SLI dual-GPU

SLI dual GPU

Both AMD and NVidia offer the facility to increase the performance of your video card setup with CrossFire or SLI dual-GPU solutions respectively. SLI requires use of a motherboard with a special SLI certification (for which the firm charges a royalty), whereas CrossFire works on any current motherboard with dual PCI-Express slots. When multi-GPU works well it can increase performance by as much as 50% over a single GPU, but as both technologies require game-specific support, not all games show any benefit and your mileage will vary hugely from title to title. Whichever solution you choose, you should think long and hard about whether you actually need all this power. Unless you have a screen capable of at least 2560x1440, we would argue there’s absolutely no point in having a high-end multi-video card setup, and that a single more expensive GPU will invariably give you a more consistent and predictable gaming experience than two mid-raged solutions.

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