DRAM still a focus, even in a barebones PC

by Community Manager Community Manager on ‎07-01-2011 12:12 PM

Often, technology publications will dabble at the inexact science of building a barebones gaming PC. In one of the latest attempts at this, a recent ZDNet project created a gaming rig that costs less than $550 and emphasizes the importance of DRAM when building, customizing or upgrading a gaming computer.

The benefits of a barebones PC outline

The idea behind a barebones gaming PC project is to create a computer that is capable of playing contemporary games with relatively moderate graphics settings, quality performance and minimal cost. While ZDNet's experiment clearly shows that gamers can get by with a computer costing less that $550 if they build it themselves, it also provides some deeper insights into a gaming computer's equipment needs.

By establishing the lowest possible spending necessary to still obtain the performance needed to play games, a barebones gaming PC establishes a clear baseline of what a computer needs to function while performing almost any video-intensive tasks.

Beyond displaying the baseline that high-performance computers should start from with any component options, the ZDNet barebones PC also establishes how to prioritize spending on any components when building, customizing or upgrading a computer.

The barebones PC and DRAM

The ZDNet barebones gaming PC featured 8 GB of DDR3 1600 memory. The particular product selected cost just $85. This choice tells us a few important things about PC DRAM for high-performance environments.

The first lesson is that the DRAM needs to be high-capacity. Running the operating system along with games and other applications requires significant DRAM capacity. This project gives users important insight into DRAM capacity needs that cannot be obtained by simply looking at a game's specification requirements.

The ZDNet report recommended 8 GB of DRAM simply because a gaming computer needs that much memory to store the large quantities of short-term data used to run games. However, most game specifications simply tell you what you need to run that game on reasonable settings, and do not typically take maximizing performance into account. For example, Dungeon Siege III, a highly-anticipated action role playing game that released on June 21, claims to require at least 1.5 GB of DRAM, while recommending users have at least 2 GB of memory. The Dungeon Siege III recommendations give users a clear idea of what will let them play the game, while the ZDNet barebones PC gives insight on what will help users get the most out of the game.

The report also goes out of its way to show that DDR3 memory with speeds of at least 1600 Mhz is important for gaming. It may be tempting to skimp on memory and purchase a cheap DDR2 unit with slower speeds, but the report said such speeds are necessary to make the RAM fast and stable enough for quality gaming use.

The DRAM unit's price is also worth noting. Users can purchase high-performance memory that is four-times greater than the recommended requirements of a current game for just $85. In many ways, DRAM is the most cost-efficient upgrade simply because memory has become so inexpensive in nature. The report shows that DRAM is not an area to skimp, even when building a barebones PC, because high-performance memory can be purchased at a relatively low cost.


Gamers need to invest in high-performance and high-capacity DRAM to get the most out of their games, but this barebones PC shows what non-gamers should consider as well. In many cases, current barebones gaming PCs are an image of what average computers and laptops will be in just a year or two. Therefore, every user should take DRAM seriously when building, customizing or upgrading a computer.