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Single Channel vs Dual Channel vs Quad Channel Memory

by Lisa Hayden
Single Channel vs Dual Channel vs Quad Channel Memory

Can't decide between single channel vs dual channel vs quad channel for your memory needs? Let us help...

When customizing a PC, you’ll often be confronted by the question on memory. Specifically, if you want a Single, a Dual, or a Quad Channel memory in your PC. The question is – what makes each one different? If you read on, you’ll find out exactly what this means and how it can affect your computer use. More importantly, you’ll have a fairly good idea of how to make your choice between the different types.

What Do You Mean by Single, Dual, and Quad Channels?

What is Single, Dual, and Quad Channel memory

These are called memory channels and the 1, 2, and 4 configurations are the most common ones found today. The channels basically refer to the stack of sticks known as the RAM. Each stick is a RAM and your memory channel classification depends on how many sticks are stacked against each other. If there’s just one, then you have a Single Memory Channel. If there’s two then you have a Dual Memory, and so on.

But why isn’t there a name for a 3 Memory Channel? There’s not one yet so if you have three sticks in your PC, then the two runs as a Dual and the remaining one runs as a Single. 

What do these memory channels do exactly?

Think of these memory channels as roads that the data passes through. With more roads available, the data process becomes faster because there’s not much competition there. 

How does this work with the Gigabytes in RAM?

Okay – so lets’ say you have a brand-new phone and it says 32GB RAM. This 32GB RAM can be a single channel, a dual channel, or a quad channel. Hence, it can be one stick of 32GB, two sticks of 16GB, or 4 sticks of 8GB. Hence, the two things aren’t exactly interchangeable. Just because you have a 32GB RAM doesn’t instantly mean you have a quad memory channel and vice versa.

What does RAM do exactly?

RAM is the computer term for “memory” and talks about the amount of data that can be quickly accessed during the use of the PC. You have to differentiate this from ROM which is the total available space of your PC. Hence, if you open a computer with a storage space of 500GB, that’s the ROM and it contains every program file and item you want to keep safe.

How do we differentiate this with RAM? Imagine yourself playing an online game like PUBG or World of Warcraft. This is where RAM comes in. While you play, there’s a rapid interchange of data between your computer and the game’s server. The RAM takes care of this exchange by storing data that needs to be quickly accessed to keep the game running.

Note though – the benefits of RAM go beyond PC gaming. If you like to keep several applications open or use multiple programs at the same time – the RAM also kicks in and make sure that all these programs run seamlessly at the same time. It follows that a bigger RAM means you’ll be able to run multiple applications without any problems. What happens if the RAM is not sufficient? Well, the PC can slow down or worse – it can crash.

So, does the number of channels even matter?

number of ram channels

This is where things can get a bit confusing, but we’ll try to explain this as thoroughly as possible. Remember, the RAM refers to the memory and the channels talk about road that those memories pass through.

Now imagine if you have one 32GB RAM stick installed in your PC. That’s a single memory channel. Next, you also have a two 16GB RAMs which means that there’s a dual memory channel. Both have 32GB RAMs in total, but in terms of performance, you will find that the dual memory channel runs better. Why? Because a dual setup doubles the bandwidth, giving the memory more space to move around. In the same vein, a Quad Memory Channel with a total of 32GB RAM would perform better than the Dual Setup because this time, the roads for information are quadrupled. You have more bandwidth running around that space.

What does this mean for gaming?

Questions about memory channels and RAM is often an important concern for gamers. After all, nobody wants to experience freezes in the middle of the game. Most games today are configured to run via a 32GB RAM. But what about the FPS? In terms of frames per second, there’s really not much difference when it comes to using different memory channels. 

Whether you’re using a Single, Dual, or a Quad, the FPS for most games runs around 92 frames/second which provides literal one second differences between each one. If you’re the kind of gamer who wants only the best when it comes to your screen play, then it makes sense to get a Quad Channel Memory type for the best experience. The difference however is barely noticeable and should not ruin the gaming experience.

What about for other computer processes?

Of course, you’re not just playing games on your PC. There are those who use it to edit movies, make songs, edit images, and render 3D images. There are tons of things you will be doing on a PC that could require heavy data process. If you fall under this category, it would be best to get a Quad Memory Channel for 4X speed in any situation. Basic computer uses – like documents, playing movies, listening to music, and web browsing – do not really require multiple memory channels. Nowadays however, Quad Memory Channels are fairly standard inclusions in top laptop and PC brands. 

Which one is the cheapest?

Single Channel vs Dual Channel vs Quad Channel Memory cost

Believe it or not, in terms of pricing, the Quad Memory Channel is often the better choice. Typically, a 4-piece 8GB stick in total would cost less than a 1-piece 32GB stick. The prices however tend to vary so you’ll need to pay close attention to the pricing. There’s no straightforward “better” when it comes to cost so it’s important to make point by point comparisons. Getting a unit from a trusted brand also goes a long way in giving you excellent results with PC use.

Are there other benefits to a multi-channel setup?

Price isn’t the only important factor here though. Most PC builders opt for a dual or quad memory channel because it’s more convenient in the long run. Imagine if one of the sticks fail during its use. With several memory channels, you can just change the damaged stick and the PC will run as good as new. With a single channel memory however, there’s a need to change it, often at a more expensive price.

In addition, if one sticks malfunctions in the PC, the other three can take up the slack. There’s really no need to replace it as soon as possible, especially if you don’t have the money for it yet. With a single stick however, you really don’t have a choice.

So how do I choose between Dual and Quad Memory Channels?

By now, we’ve fairly made it clear that multi memory channels are the better choice. The question now is – which one should you get? The dual or the quad? The answer really depends on how you will be using the PC. For day to day needs, a Dual Memory Channel is good enough to meet all your requirements. For heavier tasks, go straight to the Quad type. This should avoid the need for future upgrades, just in case you find yourself using more and more of your PC’s RAM capacity. Dollar for dollar, the Quad Memory Channel will give you better performance at a lower cost.

Are there Memory Channels more than four?

There are actually six channels and eight channels available for memory architecture. However, they’re not yet commonly used and need to be specially ordered for use.

Is it possible to do a straight swap of memory channels?

can you swap memory channels

The answer to this really depends on the computer itself. You will need to take a good look at the inside of your PC and locate the DIMM slots. There should be four of them, giving you the option of slotting in four sticks at 8GB each. When doing so, make sure that the rest of your hardware are compatible or would work well with the new RAM.

Also take note that memory channels are often incorporated in tandem with certain processors. Simply put, if you’re using a Quad Memory Channel, you need to make sure that your processor can support it. Fortunately, there are tons of quad-ready processors today like the Intel Core i9-7900X and the Intel Core i7-7800X. This will guarantee that you’ll be able to experience the speed that comes with the memory architecture.

An important and often considered plus of Quad and Dual Memory channels is the aesthetic appeal. With open CPU cases, the multi memory channels makes for a better viewing, especially if all the DIMM slots have been filled. For those who keep their PC cases opened to promote circulation, this is an added benefit.

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