RAM or Random Access Memory is now a staple component in our daily lives. We have it on our phones, computers, tablets, and TVs, among many other smart devices. Did you know that the first space shuttle only used 1 MB of RAM? Nowadays, most mobile phones come with at least 4 GB of RAM, while Desktops come with around 8 GB.
We’ve definitely come a long way. The size of your RAM determines how many processes it can store and work on, while the speed determines the rate at which the data can be read. Although both of these aspects are important when choosing your RAM, today, we’re only going to be talking about the speed.
Desktop and PC RAM Modules
Modern desktops and laptops currently use DDR4 RAM modules. The minimum speed of these modules should be 2133 MHz, while the fastest have insane speeds like HyperX’s 5333 MHz RAM.
However, these insane 5333 MHz speeds aren’t exactly widespread yet. Most people usually max out at either 3200 MHz or 3600 MHz. Now, we’ll be talking about the differences and advantages of having a 3200 MHz vs. 3600 MHz RAM kit.
3200 MHz vs. 3600 MHz RAM
First of all, let’s get the obvious differences out of the way. In general, a 3600 MHz kit will be faster and more expensive than a 3200 MHz kit. Most cheaper RAMs have slower speeds than the more expensive RAM sticks. It’s just how it is.
It’s no surprise that the RAM with a faster speed is more expensive. If you’re simply looking for what’s cheaper, then by all means, just go with 3200 MHz RAM. Heck, you can even just buy a standard 2400 MHz kit if you’re looking for something cheap.
Aside from price and speed, there are still a few key differences between a 3200 MHz RAM stick and a 3600 MHz RAM stick. We’ll discuss each one below.
CAS Latency or Clock Cycles
CAS latency or Column Access Strobe latency tells us how many clock cycles it takes for that specific RAM module to access a specific set of data and feed it to the processor. In other words, it’s how long that RAM module can give your CPU the data that it’s asking for.
Generally speaking, the lower the CAS latency, the better. Because the lower the CAS latency, the less time it takes for the RAM to feed your CPU the data. If you’re looking for the CAS latency on your RAM, it could also be labeled as “CL.”
Even if RAM modules have the same speed, their CAS latency or CL can still be different. For example, a 3200 MHz RAM kit with a CL 16-18-18-38 will be relatively slower than a 3200 MHz RAM kit with CL 14-14-14-34. A RAM stick’s CL can also contribute to the overall RAM’s latency and its performance.
RAM sticks that are rated DDR4 3200 MHz have a CAS latency range between 14 and 16, while DDR4 3600 MHz sticks have a CAS latency between 15 and 19. This means that 3200 MHz is better than 3600 MHz because of lower CAS latency, right? Well, not exactly.
The overall latency of RAM sticks depends not only on CAS latency but also on the clock speeds. If they had the same clock speeds with different CAS latencies, one would definitely be better than the other. However, at a higher clock speed, the 3600 MHz can still be better than the 3200 MHz, even if it has a higher CAS latency.
This is why CAS latency alone isn’t enough to tell which speed is better.
Maximum Memory Capacity
Another important factor to consider is the maximum memory capacity of each module. I’d take 16 GBs of 3200 MHz RAM over an 8 GB kit of 3600 MHz RAM any day. Nowadays, the recommended minimum is around 16 GB for desktops, but you can probably get away with 8 GB for budget builds.
High-end builds usually end up having 32 GB of RAM, with anything beyond that usually reserved for specific use cases such as content creating, design software, and others.
Luckily, both 3200 MHz and 3600 MHz RAM modules support up to 64 GB of data. If you’re simply looking for sheer size, then they’re equally matched.
Nowadays, most decent hardware can support high clock speed RAM kits. Both Intel and AMD make compatible processors that can take advantage of higher clock speeds. It all boils down to the maximum RAM speeds that your processor and motherboard can support. So make sure to do your research before spending a lot of money on any high-speed RAM kit.
Usually, high-speed RAM benefits AMD users more than Intel users. This is because of the Infinity Architecture found in AMD chips. You can usually see more gains in daily use, such as higher FPS and a smoother experience overall.
However, Intel still supports high-speed RAM, and there are still some benefits that you can gain from it.
Pricing and Availability
Like we’ve mentioned above. Generally, 3600 MHz RAM kits are more expensive than 3200 MHz RAM kits. But, there are obviously other factors such as CAS latency, brand, the store you’re buying from, and sales that can affect prices as well.
There are also more choices when it comes to 3200 MHz RAM kits than 3600 MHz RAM kits. This is because most mid-range hardware maxes its support at 3200 MHz. 3200 MHz is also more than enough for most people’s daily needs. While 3600 MHz RAM kits are suitable for hardcore/ enthusiast PC builders.
So, if you’re looking for more variations, a wider availability, and a usually cheaper price, then 3200 MHz RAM kits are perfect for you. However, if you prefer sheer speed and performance, try your luck finding a great 3600 MHz RAM kit.
Now, it’s time for us to come to a conclusion. Which is truly better? A 3200 MHz kit vs. a 3600 MHz kit. Well, if you were to ask me, it depends on a number of factors. If you’re forced to choose between a higher capacity 3200 MHz kit and a lower capacity 3600 MHz kit, I’ll definitely take the 3200 MHz modules, no doubt.
If they’re of the same capacity at a negligible price difference, then a 3600 MHz kit is just going to be better. Honestly, you should just take whichever is cheaper and is available in a look that you like.
At the end of the day, if you aren’t a hardcore user or an enthusiast, the 3200 MHz RAM kit will be more than enough for your daily needs. It’s cheaper and more widely available. You’re probably better off taking that extra money and spending it elsewhere in your PC build.