It’s 2021 and I wonder why 8GB of RAM seems to be the unwritten norm in laptops
Is as an unwritten rule. You are looking for a laptop and the normal thing is that there are a lot of specifications that change: screen, resolution, capacity and type of storage, processor, dedicated graphics (if they have it), and other components and aspects that offer different alternatives to users.
However, there is one characteristic that seems to repeat itself over and over again in all of them: 8GB of RAM has become the norm of a segment in which to move to larger amounts such as 16 GB is rare and usually quite expensive. Fortunately, the prices of RAM memories have not stopped falling in recent times, and that is finally beginning to be noticed in a segment that needs a twist in this regard.
Some things (like 8GB of RAM) seem to never change
A look at Xataka’s own newspaper library allows us to see how most laptops have been for years they already had those 8 GB of memory quite often. In this hunting bargains April 2016 we were talking about a couple of MSI and Lenovo computers that had that configuration.
The same thing happened some time later, in July 2017, where on Prime Day We recommended a team from ASUS and another from Lenovo with that amount of RAM.
You’d expect the offerings to have changed by now, but they haven’t. In one of our last Hunting Bargains There were certainly teams already armed with 16, and fortunately that option is becoming more accessible and there were laptops that were around 800 and 900 euros with that amount of RAM.
Even so, it seems as if having 16 GB of RAM memory was an option for high-end equipment when prices are no longer what they were. As we will see below memory module pricing is almost like a roller coaster, but that roller coaster is now falling. That should make affordable laptops with 16GB of RAM a lot easier … and luckily it starts to do so.
Crazy prices in a faltering segment
Buying RAM at the beginning of 2016 was a bicoca. DDR4 memory prices were at all-time lows, and according to a joint study of Gamers Nexus and from PCPartPicker, which tracks price trends for various components, a pair of 4GB DDR4-2133 modules was priced at about $ 40.
At the beginning of 2018 that price (on average) was almost triple. The Gamers Nexus analysis revealed that the limited number of manufacturers and the extremely high market demand for DRAM chips – not only for laptops, but for mobiles caused a spectacular price rise.
The consolidation of the manufacturers has been reducing the market to a group of companies that has basically allowed those that share the cake currently they are Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron. And a few controlling the market has led to worrisome situations.
For example, research on potential pricing offenses That ended, for example, with Samsung paying a fine of 300 million dollars in 2005 and another of 110 million in 2014.
Those accusations reappeared in June 2018 in a market that has become in a whole vein for those who master it.
Those uploads stopped during 2018, and since then the price drop has been noticeable. Not as spectacular as its rise – that DDR4 cost the same in 2018 as it was firecracker when it began to be sold in mid-2014 – but enough to make us wonder why we are still anchored in that de facto standard. which makes many laptops on the market have 8 GB of RAM.
In fact, the situation is much more evident in the PC market: today it is easy to find really cheap prices in this sense, and 16 GB of DDR4-2400 memory is around 60 euros. Assembling a desktop computer with this amount of memory is often much easier (and cheaper) than achieving something similar in the world of notebooks. And prices, analysts advanced months ago, will continue to decline thanks to excess supply and limited demand.
Manufacturers don’t help too much
There is another key factor in the situation we are living in: the manufacturers of portable equipment each time they leave less freedom to the user when it comes to getting their hands on these equipment. We are living a situation in which it turns out that we are fighting for our right to repair our devices, something that probably would have made us laugh a few years ago.
The situation has caught on from the mobile market –what times those of the replaceable batteries, eh? – And now manufacturers leave few loopholes for possible future expansions. In recent times we have seen how some do allow, for example, access to the M.2 slot to be able to change or expand the SSD, but things are especially difficult in other sections.
Memory is one of them. It’s been a long time since the trend among manufacturers is to solder memory —As well as other components— directly on the motherboard, something that allows to limit manufacturing costs and probably improves the quality of the process, but which has as a consequence the impossibility of expanding this section a posteriori. If you buy a laptop with 8 GB, that will probably be what you will have for the life of the product.
There are exceptions, of course. The Dell XPS 15, the Alienware Area 51m or the Lenovo Legion Y740 are some recent examples of laptops in which we can expand both RAM and storage via SSD drives. And yet the tendency to find computers with soldered-on-board RAM is evident.
The option to solder the RAM not only provides manufacturers with a more automated and cost-saving manufacturing process, but also makes allows brands to better control their product ranges.
Fortunately many of these brands they offer an 8 GB version and a 16 GB version which usually also has some additional improvement (more capacity of the SSD, for example). The 8GB 512GB ASUS ZenBook 14 (UX425EA-HM038T) currently costs 899.99 euros in Amazon. The version with 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB costs 1.089,99 euros in Amazon.
The difference of 190 euros is high, but it can compensate and there are several teams in which that difference in the configuration does not imply a difference in price of more than 100 euros. The offers are starting to be interesting, and of course if I had to choose between those options I would opt for some editions with 16 GB of RAM that will give more room for maneuver in all kinds of solutions.
Wait, I still don’t need more than 8 GB (or yes)
Bill Gates said -although later he was dismissed- what “640 KB of memory was enough for anyone“It was 1977, so it was certainly difficult to think that anyone would need much more in the medium term. But of course, things have changed dramatically in the world of computing, and today the recommended amount of memory is much higher .
There is actually no official figure, but the 8GB of many notebooks has become the de facto standard. It is also a common amount on desktop computers, and seeing it even on mobile phones is almost common.
Can we continue to work with 8 GB? Of course: is certainly a decent amount to work and play smoothly in many scenarios, but new demands on websites, apps, and games make all of them more gluttonous in this section.
We have already explained it in the past: having more memory helps everything we run on the computer to use that memory, which is much faster in read and write accesses than the fastest SSD on the market. One DDR4-3200 module You can reach 25.6 GB / s peaks, while the latest PCIe 4.0 SSDs hit around 5 GB / s. Nothing negligible, but still very far from conventional RAM memories.
If your programs or games don’t have enough RAM swapping to disk is used -with the paging file in Windows- that allows to use a storage unit (HDD or, preferably, a good SSD unit) as a helper of the RAM memory, storing there those portions that are evicted from main memory to “make room” to those who need it most urgently. So by having more memory we reduce that risk and allow us to always have plenty of RAM.
In fact for a long time experts recommend 16GB of memory for those users who demand more from their equipment, both in productivity and web browsing – remember that Firefox or Chrome consume RAM as if there were no tomorrow – as in streaming content and of course in demanding games that, due to their visual realism, generate a particularly heavy load high in this regard.
The truth is that in this aspect the reality is clear: the more RAM, the better. The manufacturers still seem to want to convey the idea that the offer is completely dominated by the 8 GB equipment, but I would do a little searching for you: the 16 GB computers are fortunately beginning to be available at attractive prices, and perhaps little by little become (finally) the new market norm. Hopefully yes.