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I would like to know how much of a difference is attainable by using RAM with lower timings and whether that difference is justified by the price. Phrased differently, will lower latency RAM also have lower value-for-money and should be sought ought only by enthusiasts?

In which applications (browsing, multimedia editing, gaming, etc.) would a difference be noticeable, if any?

I am currently on a Windows laptop with 4GB of 9-9-9-24 and am planning to upgrade and have only 2 RAM slots. Should I go for RAM with higher capacity or lower latency? 8GB at 7-7-7-18 or 16GB at 9-9-9-24?

I did research on RAM timings, but I do not know how much of a performance gain is there because the price of the lower latency RAM is 1.5 times that of its higher latency counterpart.

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    Why don't you keep an eye on your actual RAM usage right now? If you're not short on it, then you have nothing to gain from the extra capacity. – Jason C Jun 28 '14 at 5:06
  • I max out on 85-90% with regular browsing as I open links in new tabs. and web development patterns, so I am looking to upgrade with an eye to the future and playing next gen games. – ValarMorghulis Jun 28 '14 at 5:19
  • No need to edit your answer. If you're running out of physical memory and thus swapping all the time, same capacity @ lower latency will do nothing. – Jason C Jun 28 '14 at 5:27
  • @JasonC - In the question it is stated that the amount of RAM would be a 400% increase. My problem is I would have to answer with opinion about if the RAM is worth the price. Since I do not know the value of the time that would be consumed with higher latency RAM, I can not provide and objective answer. Since all I can give in an answer is opinion, I am recommending closure. – Everett Jun 30 '14 at 4:46
  • @Everett : I had stated that the price of lower latency RAM is at least 1.5 times that of one with similar capacity but higher latency. Most of us have 4GB RAM in our systems, which is slowly proving to be insufficient and it is only a matter of time before people upgrade. Given this situation and the price difference between both types of RAM (which might be slightly different in different places), it now becomes a real-world situation. My confusion over what to buy is genuine. – ValarMorghulis Jun 30 '14 at 13:23
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Latencies basically don't matter these days.

Here is a set of benchmarks done by Tom's Hardware.

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ddr3-1333-speed-latency-shootout,1754-21.html

If you read the text below the graphs on all the benchmark pages (keep clicking Next on the page I linked to), they all basically say, latency made no difference, except maybe video encoding. The only test where latency made a noticeable difference was on a RAM-specific test. So basically, latency just doesn't matter for every-day performance, especially if the price difference is +50% for the low-latency RAM.

"Memory-only benchmarks might be the only place any of us ever see a noticeable performance improvement from minor changes in latency"

You could always google for benchmarks of the various RAM options you're considering, in order to find a direct comparison.

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  • Thank you for taking the time to answer. I needed the detailed information. Yes the price difference is over 50%. And you're right, the difference is negligible. Guess I'll go with the high-latency one. Maybe more capacity. – ValarMorghulis Jun 30 '14 at 13:26
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If you're not currently pushing your memory usage to the limit, then you have nothing to gain by increasing capacity.

If you are currently pushing your memory usage to the limit and find that you lose a lot of performance swapping, then you have nothing to gain by decreasing latency at the same capacity.

So check what you actually need first. Obviously there wouldn't be an objectively correct "higher capacity vs. lower latency" answer because it depends on what you are doing. It's like asking which is better in a car: higher speed or bigger trunk. Only you know that; and you'd probably purchase the car based on what you actually need.

Also, Windows Explorer and web browsing are negligible here and aren't even worth taking into account.

You can find a decent overview of how to monitor memory and swap activity here. I suggest you look at your system's behavior during normal activity first. If you are not short on physical memory and you believe your task performance is memory bound rather than CPU bound then you may want to consider saving your money for something else; e.g. a solid state / hybrid drive will likely increase system performance far more than this upgrade in your case.

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