Right now, everyone is talking about upgrading their gaming PCs. After a long stretch of relative stability when it comes to hardware demands, the world of PC gaming has been kicked into high gear. With demanding titles like Microsoft Flight Simulator and Cyberpunk 2077 hitting the market, many PC gamers are looking at their aging home systems and considering ways they can get the most performance bang for their upgrade buck. Although GPUs and CPUs tend to get most of the upgrade attention, it?s a mistake to overlook some simpler ? and cheaper ? changes you can make to your hardware to see some immediate gains. Depending on the rest of your system and the types of games you play, upgrading your storage and your RAM can give you a noticeable boost to things like loading times and frame rates. As a partner for this video looking at what you can get out of upgrading to better RAM and an M.2 NVMe SSD, we worked with Crucial, one of the foremost names in these specific kinds of components.
Crucial has a full line of hardware designed specifically for gamers, and offers memory and storage to fit a variety of budgets. And because Crucial is part of Micron, they?re the only gaming memory and storage brand that totally engineers, tunes, and manufactures their own products. For the backbone of our testing build for this video, we?re using a custom gaming system we put together in March of 2019, themed around The Division 2. We?ll keep the theming as-is, because it?s awesome, and focus on getting the most bang for our buck with some small but significant internal upgrades ? all brought to you by Crucial. Prior to any upgrades, our testing system runs an Intel i5-9600k 3.7 GHz CPU, an ASUS Prime Z370 motherboard, a 1 terrabyte SATA hard drive, and an NVIDIA GTX 1060 GPU from Gigabyte. For our ?pre-upgrade? RAM we?re working with two sticks of 8GB DDR4-2400 memory from Crucial, for 16 gigs total.
Before we dive into the testing, let?s cover the basics. What do RAM and SSDs actually do, in terms of your gaming performance? For SSDs, it?s pretty simple. Faster storage means shorter loading times. Generally speaking, an SSD is going to load your operating system and your games faster than a traditional hard drive like the one we have in our testing system, and an NVMe M.2 SSD like the Crucial P5 going to be even faster than a standard 5-inch SSD. For the fastest M.2 SSD speeds you?ll specifically want to make sure you get a drive that uses the NVMe protocol.
That?s the latest tech when it comes to SSDs ? for more information on that, check out the link to our explainer video in the description below. If you play a lot of games with long loading times, like Civilization or the aforementioned Microsoft Flight Simulator, you?ll see less down time by making the jump to more advanced storage technology. The relationship between RAM and gaming is a little more complicated. There are a few different important numbers when it comes to RAM. First, ?DDR4? – that refers to the current ?generation? of RAM, and that?s the type nearly all PC gamers are going to be using.
After that, we need to consider how much RAM you have in your system. For gamers, 16 Gigs is a good target right now. You can often survive with just 8, or you can upgrade to 32 if you do a lot of multitasking, but 16 Gigs will get most people into the Goldilocks zone ? where things are just right – without spending more than you need to. Another important number when it comes to RAM is frequency, which is what is also referred to as RAM speed. Frequency is measured in megahertz, and indicates how many commands your RAM can handle per second. For our video, we?re going to be upgrading from 2400 Mhz RAM to 4000 Mhz RAM ? nearly doubling the speed at which our RAM can process information, under ideal conditions. When it comes to gaming, you can expect to see the most significant performance boost by getting your system up to the right amount of RAM, like 16 gigs for many games. Adding more RAM beyond that point will give you diminishing returns. Once you have the right amount of RAM, then you?ll want to consider frequency. Upgrading to higher higher speed RAM can give you improvements in game benchmarks like framerates ? but the real-world impact will depend on the rest of your system.
To start things off with our testing, we ran DOOM Eternal on our pre-upgrade system with one stick of 8 gigs of 2400 MHz RAM. 8 Gigs is the minimum required to run DOOM: Eternal, though 16 gigs is the recommendation for higher resolutions. We ran the game in 1080p on ?High? graphics settings, which is the 3rd highest of 6 total options. Even with a modest 1060 GPU, the High setting gave us a good combination of visual quality and smooth framerates that stayed reliably above 60 FPS. With just 8 gigs of 2400MHz RAM, our FPS average was around 75. Now of course this varied pretty widely, and RAM is going to have its most significant impact when the game is loading new areas and new information, but this was the average we saw over time during typical gameplay conditions. When we added an additional stick of the same RAM, we saw an increase of about 5 FPS, on average, bringing us up to 80. We saw both higher peaks and less significant dips as the FPS value varied, which all added up to a modest improvement in average frames-per-second. To take another step up, we switched over to 16 gigs of the Crucial Ballistix Max Gaming RAM, rated for 4000 MHz.
We plugged it in, started up DOOM Eternal once again…and only saw a tiny increase in frames-per-second, up to about 83. Now, this RAM should run at a much higher speed than what we just had in the system ? so what?s going on here? Well, the answer lies in the wonderful world of Extreme Memory Profiles, also known as XMP. XMP is an Intel-developed technology that comes standard in many gaming motherboards, and it allows you easily set your high performance RAM to pre-determined ?overclocked? settings.
If you?re new to overclocking RAM, this is where you should start. XMP has two built-in profiles, 1 and 2, with 1 usually being the advertised baseline of your RAM, and 2 pushing things further if your system can handle it. The way you access XMP settings will vary depending on your motherboard, as you?ll need to get into the BIOS or UEFI menu of your system, before Windows boots up. This is what it looks like on our ASUS Z370 board. The reason we didn?t see more of an improvement with the Ballistix Max RAM when we first installed it is because high-speed memory like this is actually designed to be run with XMP Profile 1 turned on ? but your system won?t automatically make that switch when you install the new hardware. With XMP properly enabled, we started up the system and DOOM Eternal once again…and started seeing average FPS scores of around 90. There we go! Not bad, right? That?s an average of 15 more frames per second in DOOM: Eternal, with nothing in our system changed except our RAM hardware and settings.
And this RAM will only cost you about $170 on Newegg right now – that?s a pretty small price to pay for the extra frames-per-second that might make the difference between life and death. For further testing, we ran Minecraft at 1080p with ?fancy? graphics turned on, a 16 chunk render distance, and 9×9 biome blending. Of course Minecraft is a much easier game for our system to run than DOOM: Eternal, so frame rates were overall much higher ? but that also makes the difference that came from upgrading our RAM even more apparent ? from 317 all the way up to 503 frames per second with XMP properly enabled. It?s also worth looking at the minimum frame rates we saw in Minecraft, since FPS dips when loading new content in games results in a choppy and disappointing experience. Our best RAM setup had a minimum FPS rating of almost double that of the single-stick setup, which translates into smoother and more reliable gameplay ? again without changing anything about our system other than the RAM. For most people, enabling XMP will be plenty of overclocking ? but of course it is possible to go further.
If the rest of your system can support it, you can manually adjust more advanced RAM settings, including timings and voltage, to get even greater performance from the same hardware. With our testing system, further RAM overclocking beyond XMP proved to be limited by our i5 9600K CPU. That gives us a clear path forward for future improvements and upgrades in our system, since we know that if we moved to a more powerful CPU, we would be well-positioned to push our RAM further, too. Now, let?s talk about storage. When upgrading from a hard drive to an SSD, or from a 5 inch SSD to an M.2 NVMe model like the Crucial P5, you?ll be expecting to see shorter load times, rather than FPS gains.
For our testing, we started with all of our data on a traditional hard drive, and timed the loading of Windows from a cold boot. We then booted into Microsoft Flight Simulator, a game that is already becoming well known for its long loading times. Once we had all our load times recorded, we installed the Crucial P5 M.2 drive ? which is a very easy process, as you can see. We cloned Windows and Microsoft Flight Simulator onto our new drive ? and once again started things up from a cold boot. After repeated tests, the difference was clear ? the Crucial P5 saved us an average of 5 seconds booting into Windows, and a full minute and 30 seconds loading Flight Simulator.
All together, that adds up to about a 35 percent reduction in waiting time. How about that? An extremely simple upgrade, costing less than $150, saves us nearly two full minutes every time we go from a cold boot to jumping into a game. And you can expect to see similar loading time improvements with just about everything you do, which means you’ll be saving valuable minutes all day long ? and who couldn?t use a little more time in their days to do what?s actually important? As you can see, it?s important not to neglect some of the smaller components in your gaming PC when it comes time to upgrade. With two affordable and easy-to-install new components from Crucial, we were able to see significant improvements in frames-per-second and load times. Whether you prefer fast-paced shooters or more relaxing simulator games, upgrading your RAM and storage can make for a better PC gaming experience ? especially if it?s been a few years since you?ve done so. Check out the links in the description below to browse all of Crucial?s high performance PC components on Newegg, including the Ballistix Max RAM and P5 SSD featured in this video.