Random Access Memory, or RAM, is essential to the speed and performance of any computer. This short term easy-access memory is the workhorse for holding and instantly serving up all the temporary data the computer needs to run its operating system and applications. Matching your RAM to your actual computing requirements can help you achieve the optimum performance for your needs without overspending. The more RAM your PC or laptop has, the better its performance. In this article, we’ll compare 16GB vs 32GB RAM. Both are heavy hitters, but is 32GB the better? Let’s get some answers with this point-to-point comparison that explains when you should opt for 16GB RAM and where 32GB RAM will come in handy.

16GB vs 32GB RAM: Side-by-Side Comparison

16GB RAM32GB RAM
Form factor:DIMMDIMM
RAM technology:DDR3DDR3
Computer memory size:16 GB32 GB
Memory Speed:1866 MHz3200 MHz

16GB

Sale
Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4 DRAM 3200MHz C16 Desktop Memory Kit - Black (CMK16GX4M2B3200C16)
  • Hand-sorted memory chips ensure high performance with generous Overclocking headroom. SPD Speed-2133MHz
  • Vengeance LPX is optimized for wide compatibility with the latest Intel and AMD DDR4 motherboards.
  • A low-profile height of just 34mm ensures that vengeance LPX even fits in most small-form-factor builds.
  • A high-performance PCB guarantees strong signal quality and stability for superior Overclocking ability.
  • A solid aluminum heatspreader efficiently dissipates heat from each module so that they consistently run at high clock speeds.
ProsCons
Speedy execution of tasksExcessive for basic applications/ everyday office use
Freely browse with multiple tabs openAdditional cost to upgrade
Run multiple programs simultaneouslyIts form factor may interfere with the installation
Longevity of speed and performance
 Future-proofs your PC for intensive software applications
Supports demanding activities like 3D modeling, CAD, and multiple virtual machines
Lower power consumption

32GB

Sale
Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro 32GB (2x16GB) DDR4 3200 (PC4-25600) C16 Desktop memory – Black
  • Dynamic Multi-Zone RGB Lighting: 10 Ultra-bright RGB LEDs per module.
  • Take control in CORSAIR iCUE software and synchronize lighting with other CORSAIR RGB products, including CPU coolers, keyboards and fans.
  • Custom Performance PCB provides the highest signal quality for the greatest level of performance and stability.
  • Tightly Screened Memory: Carefully screened ICs for extended overclocking potential.
  • Maximum Bandwidth and Tight Response Times Optimized for peak performance on the latest Intel and AMD DDR4 motherboards.
ProsCons
Speedy execution of tasksMassive RAM capacity, which exceeds most current demands
Browse with multiple tabs openA tricky upgrade for many laptops which have two RAM slots
Run multiple programs simultaneouslyMore expensive
Faster speed, better performance Greater energy consumption than 16GB RAM
Load and run games quickly
Future-proofs your computer for more demand software applications
Supports 3D modeling, CAD, and virtualization

16GB vs 32GB RAM: Key Differences

RAM amount is not the only difference between 16GB and 32GB RAM modules. If you are buying RAM to add to your computer, the following differences may affect your purchasing choice:  

Type of RAM

RAM is incredibly diverse, and the type of RAM significantly affects any performance comparison. For example, 16GB of generic ‘system’ RAM has a different function than 16GB of visual RAM (VRAM). We can broadly divide system RAM into static and dynamic RAM. The Double Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic RAM (DDR SDRAM) is one of the fastest types on the market.  

Form factor

It will determine how much RAM you can add to your computer. This is the size, shape and physical specifications of the RAM. Understandably, 32GB RAM is also physically larger. Its size and arrangement of memory installation slots may make it difficult to install on certain PCs. Even 16GB RAM may have to be a high-density 2x8GB module to fit the available RAM slots in a laptop.

Memory speed

Memory speed determines how fast the RAM works rather than its capacity. You want the RAM to receive processor requests and read or write data quickly. Size means nothing if the RAM is not fast enough to transfer the information it holds temporarily to other components. Check the RAM speed, which is usually measured in Megahertz (MHz). Match RAM speed to the processor’s clock speed, as this determines the overall speed of the RAM.  

Weighing up 16GB RAM and 32GB RAM

Both 16GB and 32GB RAM are at the upper end of RAM capacity and can do heavy lifting when it comes to computing. To put things in perspective:

  • One byte is 8 bits of data, equivalent to holding a single letter or digit.
  • One kilobyte is 1024 bits of data, equivalent to a page of writing in a book.
  • One megabyte is 1024 kilobytes, equivalent to a novel.
  • One gigabyte is 1024 megabytes, equivalent to a set of encyclopedias! 

Remember that the RAM is only the volatile or short-term memory, so you can see just how much capacity you’re dealing with. 

You need this agile and fluid memory to fetch, read and write information from any part of the memory module quickly. And it’s essential for every task you perform on your computer. With more RAM, your central processing unit (CPU) can operate quickly. 

Every computer application requires some amount of RAM to perform correctly. Having an ample amount of RAM (16GB+) enables you to run multiple applications and operations smoothly. For most folks, 16GB is more than enough to run additional applications. Programs shouldn’t be slowing or freezing up. And 32GB? Most people will hardly use a quarter of this vast capacity.

Our Hands-On Experience

16GB RAM is incredibly easy to work with, especially if you open multiple tabs, stream movies, or listen to music. If you drop tasks, you can pick them up right where you left off without having to refresh screens, as basic applications will still run smoothly. However, hardcore gamers and high-end multimedia users, as well as content creators, may need to look seriously at 32GB for their advanced applications.

16GB vs 32GB RAM: Which Is Best?

The lazy answer is always more RAM, but let’s look at this differently. 16 and 32GB RAM will be the best memory solution for different users and situations.

Buy 16GB RAM if you want to futureproof your computer…

Computers brands are increasingly offering 16GB RAM with mid-range laptops, so a 16GB RAM computer or laptop is well within reach of most buyers. Additional RAM is always a plus. However, if you’re not running advanced software applications, it’s unlikely you won’t need that much RAM. Even 8GB would seem generous. 

A 16GB RAM will benefit you if you use your computer to:

  • Browse the web
  • Handle emails
  • WordProcess or run Office suite
  • Creating databases/ large spreadsheets
  • Running line of business (LOB) applications that apply to your work. 
  • Streaming video
  • At most running software like Photoshop for some light (non-technical) design work/

Go for 34GB RAM if you want to do virtualization or run multiple advanced apps…

To be honest, purchasing 32GB of RAM because ‘it’s a lot’, is not a primary motivation for most computer users. 8GB to 16GB RAM is more than adequate for basic computer use, including browsing and streaming content. 

Go for 32GB RAM in any of these situations:

  • Running several Microsoft HyperV VMs (virtualization) on a single server
  • Using multiple computing resource-intensive software programs for visual or design work like Adobe Creative Suite, Lumen5, Premiere Elements
  • Advanced audio production or running a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) using software like Ableton Live or FL Pro. 
  • Running 3D modeling or rendering software

16GB and 32GB are more than enough for most computing tasks. For many, 32GB will be a waste of money as much of the memory would go unused. However, if you run advanced design or audiovisual applications or play FPS games, 32GB RAM is worth considering. 

Last update on 2022-09-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

16GB vs 32GB RAM: Is Bigger Always Better? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How does my operating system affect RAM performance?

Before you head out and buy that 32GB RAM module, you need to think carefully about operating system (OS) limitations. The vast majority of today’s computers have a 64-bit operating system, with some older models using a 32-bit system (X86). It is vital that the OS supports the amount of RAM you are going to add. You can find out the OS physical memory limits from the OS producer.

What applications use the most RAM?

If you are considering upgrading your RAM because of slow speeds, you’d be surprised to know what is actually using up your RAM. Here are some software programs that are infamous eaters of RAM:

  • Google’s Chrome can really hog your RAM, up to 2GB for 15 open windows. Other browsers are offenders too, including Safari (300MB on just three tabs) and Firefox. 
  • Visual Studio Code (VS Code), a popular code editor can consume up to 1GB of your RAM on just a few scripts. 

MS Teams and Skype are also notorious for using up available RAM. MS Teams specifies a minimum of 4GB RAM to operate, buts users report that this popular collaboration tool can hog up to 8GB of RAM all by itself. Many MS Teams users upgrade their RAM to 16GB to have the performance to run the program properly alongside other applications.

Is there a noticeable difference between 16GB and 32GB?

The improvement in performance that you would expect with increasing the amount of RAM depends on the RAM consumption of the applications you use. If you’re struggling with 8GB, upgrading to 16GB will boost performance. If your software places a heavy demand on 16GB RAM, an upgrade to 32GB should make your computing easy. With large amounts of RAM, ‌you should notice improved reliability, especially if programs were freezing up when you used them. Running multiple programs and browser tabs also becomes smooth and fast, because the programs can access the RAM they need.

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