One of the biggest misconceptions of laptops is that the more RAM (random access memory) you have, the more happy you’ll be with your device. While RAM is important, there are other factors that determine power, especially the CPU and GPU. Many customers who are spending $200 extra to get the laptop with 16GB instead of 8GB are misguided.
RAM is about having your computer operate smoothly. Those who use plenty of programs without closing windows use more RAM. Graphic designers who use 3D creation programs need a lot of RAM. Most designers I know have 16GB of RAM on their laptops, and some even have 32GB. However, for 90 percent of people using laptops won’t need 16GB of RAM.
Let’s take the most popular version of the new Surface Pro, for example. It has 8GB RAM, runs an Intel Core i5 processor, and has a 256GB SSD. While having Word, Excel, and three windows open in Chrome, I can easily open up Photoshop, edit a photo, and add several filters. There is barely any slowdown. However, if I opened up two new huge-sized photos in two different windows with all the programs open, there would be some lag. But this is barely a typical situation.
However, when you get into video editing, the situation gets more complex. 8GB RAM is more than enough for 90 percent of people who edit videos, but for those who edit 4K videos and add all different types of effects, 8GB will not be enough. If you are an AutoCAD user, it is recommended that you have at least 8GB RAM, though most AutoCAD experts say that’s not enough.
Five years ago, 4GB was the sweet spot with 8GB being extra and “future proof.” Now, the amount has doubled. The processor also determines how smoothly things go when you use several programs. For advanced designers and video editors, an Intel Core i7 processor is recommended, even though an Intel Core i5 processor will do the job. In fact, there are several virtual reality-ready laptops and desktop systems that have Intel Core i5 processors and run without a hitch, even though the i7 processor is recommended for computers that run virtual reality hardware and software.
When you get a laptop, it’s important to choose the one with the right amount of RAM right away instead of thinking you can upgrade later. In most cases, you will not be able to. Desktop systems are different and allow easy RAM upgrades for relatively cheap prices.
For now, 8GB RAM is the sweet spot. You will pay more for a laptop that has 16GB of RAM, and most people will never need the extra RAM — at least for now. In the next few years, operating systems will likely get complex enough to a point where 16GB of RAM becomes the new norm.