RAM is the fast-acting temporary memory storage that processes commands from the CPU and relays them to the rest of the system, rapidly storing and dispersing data and memory. There are two types of RAM: SS (single-sided) and DS (double-sided).
The difference between Single-Sided and Double-Sided RAM is how many RAM modules are on the PCB (process control block). With SS RAM, the chips are only on one side and can store a maximum of 512MB. With DS RAM, the chips are dispersed across both sides and typically don’t exceed 1GB. There is no difference in performance.
However, the RAM options available today vary widely by more than just how many sides the modules are located on. In this article, I’ll discuss in detail what SS and DS RAM are, as well as some other differences between SIMM and DIMM RAM, and between Dual-Channel and Dual-Rank RAM.
Let’s get into it.
SS RAM stands for single-sided, but will be referred to as SS for convenient reading. SS RAM has the RAM modules, or chips, located on just one side of the PCB. The purpose of these modules is to store and access data on a temporary basis for your CPU.
SS RAM has a much lower data storage capacity than DS with a maximum of 512MB. This is enough for most purposes if you have a couple of RAM sticks to split up the workload, but with DS RAM you can get even more performance with fewer sticks.
SS RAM sticks are typically 1mm thinner than DS RAM sticks, which doesn’t make much of a difference in performance. The main difference in performance depends on whether the stick is single-rank or dual-rank, which I’ll get into later in the article.
DS RAM, or double-sided, has the RAM modules dispersed on both sides of the PCB. By utilizing both sides, the sticks have more RAM modules, which increases the storage capacity.
DS RAM typically doesn’t exceed 1GB of storage, but some manufacturers have found ways to squeeze a little more storage out of them for commercial purposes. While the storage capacities differ between SS and DS, with DS sticks you can have more storage on each side, which can help access the data faster if single-ranked.
The most powerful RAM setup you can have is at least two DS RAM sticks with dual-channel configurations. The maximum storage of 1GB is more than enough storage per stick for most tasks and games, and having at least two allows you to utilize dual-channel configurations.
Can There Be More Than Two Sides?
Since a RAM stick only has two sides to it, you can’t get RAM with anything higher than a DS configuration. There are a variety of ways to maximize the performance of your DS RAM, though, such as getting RAM with a dual-channel configuration and single- or dual-rank data banks.
If you’re worried that two DS sticks won’t be enough to handle your tasks or games with any type of channel or rank configuration, you can always opt for additional sticks. You’ll need to make sure all the sticks match each other and your motherboard can fit them all to fully utilize their potential.
Here’s where the main differences between SS and DS RAM come into play. Single-rank and dual-rank are indicators of how the modules are laid out on the RAM stick.
Single-rank has the chips arranged in just one row per usable side, which means the RAM only needs to cycle through the module track once. This means it can access the necessary data faster.
Dual-rank RAM has the RAM chips placed in two rows per usable side of the stick, which means the RAM has to cycle through twice and can result in slower access to the data your CPU needs.
The difference is slight and hard to notice when not fully exercising the potential of your RAM, so gamers will likely not notice the difference. If you play extremely heavy-duty games that require fast data throughputs and storage, you’ll want a dual-rank configuration with dual-channel access.
It’s important to note that your RAM sticks all should have the same rank configuration to prevent unnecessary delays in data access. The same goes for making sure they all have the same channel configuration and, ideally, the same storage capacities.
Single-Rank vs. Dual-Rank for Gaming
Single-rank gives you the fastest data access for any application due to the memory controller only needing to cycle through once to access all the data. Dual-rank can give you a higher storage capacity, but most modern games don’t require that much storage. Thus, opting for a single-rank configuration will give you the best performance for gaming.
Often mistaken for dual-rank, dual-channel can double the bandwidth of your RAM, thus increasing its performance. You can get single- or dual-channel RAM with either single- or dual-rank chips.
With single-channel RAM, the memory controller can only use one of the typical two 64-bit data channels to access memory. This limits the overall speed to your slowest RAM stick, which can have a negative effect on high-performance gaming.
With dual-channel RAM, the RAM uses both of the 64-bit data channels, effectively doubling your bandwidth and increasing the performance of all of your RAM. It’s important to note that in order to utilize dual-channel RAM functionality, you need at least two of the same RAM sticks. Ideally, both will have the same speed, manufacturer, and data capacity for maximum performance.
Single-Channel vs. Dual-Channel for Gaming
Dual-channel will give you the best gaming performance since it doubles the bandwidth of your RAM. Single-channel can run most games pretty well but, if you prefer playing on high or ultra settings, you’ll want dual-channel and at least two sticks of RAM.
As I mentioned above, the difference between SS and DS RAM is negligible until you factor in rank and channel specifications. For gaming, you want the fastest RAM speed you can manage and, for heavy-duty games and applications, you’ll want the highest storage capacity you can get.
As such, two DS RAM sticks with dual-channel performance and a single-rank layout. This will allow your CPU and memory controller to utilize the most amount of data storage at the fastest speed. This performance increase will help with graphics-heavy games or diverse worlds that require quick memory access.
If two DS RAM sticks are outside of your budget, you can get by with a couple of SS RAM sticks, but you’ll still want dual-channel and single-rank for the best performance.
Does CPU Manufacturer Make a Difference in Performance?
The difference between Intel and AMD CPUs doesn’t really affect whether or not SS or DS RAM will perform better. As I mentioned above, the difference is how many sides the RAM sticks use doesn’t affect performance much at all.
That being said, getting DS RAM sticks gives you a higher threshold for data storage, so you can improve performance on either brand of CPU. With dual-channel RAM, you’ll maximize performance regardless of whether it’s SS or DS RAM.
In the end, your budget will dictate what you should get, so don’t worry too much about the number of usable sides. Opt for dual-channel if you can and you should see an increase in performance either way.
To summarize, there is no difference in performance between SS and DS RAM until you introduce single- or dual-channel and single- or dual-rank setups. To maximize performance for heavy-duty gaming, you’ll want dual-channel configuration since it utilizes more of your modules, which effectively doubles your bandwidth.
How Many Ranks Can There Be?
There are three different types of ranks on most RAM sticks: single-rank, dual-rank, and quad-rank. Quad-rank gives you the most storage, but with the extra rows, or banks, of modules, your RAM needs to cycle through twice as many times as a dual-rank to access all of the data.
Dual-channel quad-rank RAM is the best for extremely heavy-duty tasks, but for most gamers and everyday computer users, it’s not necessary and not worth the price.
Does RAM Speed Affect FPS?
RAM speed does affect FPS in that the faster your RAM can access memories, the higher your bandwidth is. With higher bandwidth, your RAM can process more frames per second, which will make graphics-heavy games play smoother and look better.
The total storage of your RAM doesn’t necessarily affect your FPS unless you’re playing demanding games that require the additional storage to run smoothly.
Is 32GB RAM Overkill?
For most purposes, 32GB of RAM is indeed overkill. You get the most data storage, and with dual-channel sticks, you can access all of that memory faster. However, most games on the market today won’t utilize nearly that much storage; you really only need 32GB if you’re running heavy-duty applications or crypto/data mining.