Home » Blog » Understanding memory speed vs latency Understanding memory speed vs latency

When it comes to processing capability of a computer, memory is one of the top components. RAM or memory stores data instructions, working data, programs, and machine codes. It is a temporary or short-term component that can provide data for the processor. When an input is entered into the system, a CPU can access the data from RAM and run it in order to provide the output. While talking about RAM, it is necessary to understand memory speed vs latency. Each of these factors can affect the overall processing.

It is important to consider the specifications so you can decide the right type of upgrade. RAM can influence the overall productivity as it handles the data necessary for any particular application. Unless you have enough available RAM, you can expect to run the programs. It is especially important for multi-tasking. In order to run multiple applications, you need enough available memory. After capacity, you must consider the speed. Measured in megahertz (MHz), it indicates millions of cycles per second. 

The latest type of RAM in most of the systems is the DDR4.  DDR4 or double data rate 4 is a type of dynamic random-access memory that features a high bandwidth interface. 

Understanding memory speed vs latency: What is Latency?

Latency refers to the time delay or time gap between entering the command and giving the data. When you enter a command, a CPU expects to obtain the data from the memory. Latency would refer to the number of clock cycles taken by the RAM to provide the data to the CPU. Ideally, lower latency would translate to better performance. Shorter latency would indicate that memory requires less time to make the data available to the CPU. Therefore, while understanding memory speed vs latency, we need to understand the significance of latency with respect to overall productivity. 

 It indicates the number of cycles a memory would take to find the information and give it to the CPU. Unless a RAM has shorter latency, it would not send the data to the CPU in a faster manner. This can affect the processing by the CPU. Usually, this process of finding the data and sending it to the CPU happens at an extremely faster rate. It is difficult to notice this fast speed. If there is an issue that increases the latency, you would observe a significant difference. 

Determination of latency

Latency depends on two parameters – clock cycle time and number of clock cycles. While finding about latency vs speed, each of these parameters can play an important role. 

Clock cycle time refers to the duration of each cycle. This is measured in nanoseconds. When the memory controller instructs the memory to go to a particular location for accessing data, the data must go through a certain number of clock cycles. It must complete the cycles in Column Address Strobe (CAS). After completing the cycles, the data is able to reach the location and complete the command. This parameter is the total number of clock cycles that the data must go through. It is measured in CAS latency or CL. 

With increase in newer upgrades, the speed of RAM has decreased significantly. This leads to lower clock cycle times. It can lead to higher latency values. But you would notice that the true latency values measured in nanoseconds remain the same due to the faster clock cycle. When you need to understand memory speed vs latency, you must look for an optimum balance between the two values. Ideally, you must look for a processor with maximum speed and lowest latency values. This balance between memory speed and latency would lead to a fast, efficient, and capable performance.

 What is memory speed?

Memory speed is one the most important specifications to measure the performance of RAM. It refers to the total number of cycles that a memory can make. It is measured by a unit called MHz. For example, if a memory has speed of 3200MHz, it refers to 3.2 billion cycles per second. It implies that when a CPU requests the data, the RAM accesses its memory 3.2 billion times before returning the value. 

If you use a memory with higher clock speed, you can expect much faster performance. The higher speed is useful while handling multiple tasks. As memory type is dual data rate or DDR, it means that the actual speed is half of what is indicated. But as it transfers twice the data each clock cycle, it is denoted by a double value. 

Memory speed is the amount of time it takes the RAM to read or write the data after receiving a request from the processor. While deciding the right kind of RAM based on memory speed vs latency, you would realize that faster speed leads to faster processing. It indicates how fast the data can be transferred by the memory to all the other components. If your work profile requires you to run multiple applications, you would realize the significance of faster speed. When you notice frequent slow down and lags, you can upgrade to a RAM with higher memory speed. It is easy to sell your used memory and use the value for an upgrade.  

Final analysis of memory speed vs latency

After understanding the significance and role of both memory speed and latency, you can find out that both carry almost equal weightage. Both the parameters can influence the processing capability of RAM, thereby affecting the productivity of the entire system. While deciding to upgrade your RAM based on memory speed vs latency, you must find the maximum speed that your processor and motherboard can handle. You should also look into overclocking potential in order to understand any future changes. Instead of discarding the used RAM, you can trade it and buy an upgrade. After finding the maximum speed, you can look for the lowest latency memory that fits your budget. A lower latency value gives faster results and superior performance. Hence, finding the lowest possible latency value is an important factor. 

A combination of high speed and low latency can be the right answer while looking for the perfect RAM. Whether you are building a custom PC or searching for a memory module upgrade, it is necessary to consider both the memory speed and latency.