If you’re buying RAM for a new computer or even considering upgrading, you’ll probably want to know how to squeeze more speed out of your memory sticks.
DDR4 3200 MHz and 3600 MHz are two common memory frequencies, so it’s a good baseline.
I’ll cover RAM clock speed, capacity, latency, and everything else you should account for before picking up new RAM for your computer.
How Are 3200MHz and 3600MHz Different?
The main difference between DDR4 3200 and 3600 MHz RAM is their rated clock speeds, but it doesn’t make a significant difference in practice.
Despite the 400 MHz frequency gap, you’ll unlikely feel the speed difference unless you require finely-tuned RAM.
In a nutshell, DDR4 3200 MHz RAM is an adequate speed for casual browsing, professional use, and gaming. You’ll only need DDR4 3600 RAM if you want to game faster.
RAM, RAM Speeds, and Other Terms Explained
I’ll start with their meanings. In case you didn’t know, RAM stands for “Random Access Memory” and is a vital system component.
RAM makes your computer run, whether running DDR4 3200 or 3600. This short-term data storage holds data and uses it to display things quickly, like when you’re switching between tabs.
Next, there’s your RAM’s “speed.” If you hear “speed,” it refers to your RAM’s frequency. For simplicity’s sake, many people combine the words when discussing.
RAM frequency is typically measured in MHz or Megahertz. If your RAM runs at 1 MHz, it processes 1 million cycles/second.
MHz is not to be confused with MT/s, though they’re sometimes used interchangeably.
What About Mega Transfers?
MT/s stands for “Mega transfers per second” and is a more modern definition. MHz and MT/s were the same with older memory modules, but this changed with DDR RAM.
Because of the “Double” in DDR, its MT/s is twice the MHz. I’ll try to explain to make it easier.
RAM marketed as “3600 MHz” is running at 1800MHz, but is capable of 3600 mega transfers per second. Since 1800 X 2 = 3600, that’s how the memory speed is listed.
Clock speed measures how much data your RAM can process at once, regardless of what you’re doing, whether gaming, browsing, or streaming videos.
RAM with faster clock speeds can process more data quickly. Clock speed is typically measured in Hz and indicates how quickly RAM accesses data from your computer’s Central processing unit.
3200MHz is a perfectly acceptable speed for most users unless you’re overclocking your rig or need tight memory timings.
While clock speed will affect your system’s performance, there are other factors to consider, like whether you’re running your memory in dual or single-channel, the rest of your hardware, and more.
TIP: If you’re upgrading your RAM, ensure your motherboard can handle the clock speed of your new memory sticks. Otherwise, you won’t achieve your RAM’s rated clock speed.
If you look closely at a RAM module, you’ll see its top-rated speed (3600 MHz) and “CL” with a series of small digits afterward, like CL 40-40-40-84.
CL stands for CAS latency, which is how many clock cycles your RAM needs to access data once given the command. means Column Address Strobe because RAM accesses the data in columns.
Low latency is typically better because it means your RAM can access data in fewer clock cycles, which is faster.
Different memory sticks will have different latencies, depending on their rated speed. CAS latency can even differ between two modules with the same data transfer rate!
“CAS latency” is often used interchangeably with RAM latency, which isn’t wrong but may also lead to an incorrect definition.
The CAS latency listed on spec sheets and memory speed listings refers to the total number of clock cycles but not the duration of each cycle.
However, you can get “true” latency with a quick formula.
Total number of clock cycles X Duration of 1 clock cycle = Latency
Lower latency is preferable because it means your system is quicker to respond. High latency is unlikely to affect your computer’s performance noticeably.
Inspect the module’s latency readings if you’re shopping for new memory sticks. Go for smaller numbers because they indicate a lower latency.
Look for memory with low latency and high speeds for the best performance.
TIP: Despite the formula above, the listed “CAS latency” is a decent measurement of your RAM’s speed and is more than enough for almost everyone’s needs.
Memory capacity refers to how much data an individual memory module can store at once. Capacity is measured in GB, and I recommend looking for modules with a larger memory capacity.
When picking up new RAM, read its listed storage space carefully and only get what you need.
You’ve probably heard that “more memory leads to better performance.” While that’s generally true, your computer’s other hardware will better complement your capacity.
Since DDR4 3200 and 3600MHz use the same standard, both frequencies have the same maximum capacity: 64GB on a single module. I recommend getting 16 or 32GB in total.
NOTE: If you plan to upgrade your RAM, ensure your sticks have the same capacity. Mixing is possible, but you won’t fully utilize the extra speed of the faster module.
What Does DDR4 Mean?
Before explaining anything else, it’s apt to discuss what DDR means. DDR stands for “Double Data Rate,” which means it can transfer data twice in a cycle.
Memory technology advancements helped practically double the speed of data transfers and required a new descriptor, hence the “Double” Data Rate.
DDR4 is the 4th generation of these memory sticks and is more power efficient than its predecessor, DDR3.
A standard DDR4 RAM module runs on a 1.2V power voltage, but some faster modules may run on higher power voltages like 1.35V.
DDR4 3200 vs DDR5 3200
It’s worth noting that DDR5 RAM is now available and can achieve even higher speeds than DDR4 3200 RAM, like 4800 MHz. While that may sound like a dream come true, the of these modules isn’t.
DDR5 stock is more expensive than its predecessor, so the lower latency and increased frequency aren’t worth the increased cost, even for gaming enthusiasts.
I’ll use Corsair Vengeance as an example: two DIMMs of Corsair Vengeance-branded DDR5 5200 MHz RAM cost twice as much as two DDR4 3200 MHz DIMMs [R].
COMPATIBILITY ISSUES: DDR5 RAM is fast, but only high-end CPUs can use the additional performance. You can’t use the extra speed unless you’re running a killer PC rig.
Should I Upgrade From 3200 MHz to 3600 MHz?
You already have a few DDR4 3200 MHz RAM DIMMs, but you’re considering upgrading your computer for a performance boost.
I’d advise saving your money and using it for something else. Despite being a higher speed, installing 3600 MHz RAM won’t be noticeably different from DDR4 3200 MHz RAM.
More RAM Sticks vs. Higher Speed RAM
Another great question is, “Should I get more or faster RAM modules?” I’ll always recommend getting faster RAM over more modules.
Whether gaming or editing videos, faster RAM will provide a more practical, perceptible benefit than additional RAM unless your computer’s chugging along with only 4GB of DDR3 memory.
This doesn’t apply to (for example) 16GB of DDR4 3200 vs. 16GB of DDR4 3600 because they’re so similar already that neither module will net you more performance.
Other Components to Consider
Your random access memory isn’t the only part of your computer that affects speed and performance. There’s other hardware to consider, like your CPU and motherboard.
Before you install more RAM on your motherboard, ensure it has enough slots to accommodate the additional sticks.
Some motherboards only have enough slots for two sticks, while others can fit more. However, note that these models will normally command a higher price tag.
Unfortunately, computers are fairly complex, and it isn’t as simple as installing a new module or two. You’ll also have to ensure your motherboard is compatible with the new RAM.
The best way to check if your RAM kits are compatible with your current rig is to check your motherboard’s manual.
Otherwise, remember that most modern motherboards should have compatible chipsets with DDR4 3200 MHz RAM or higher.
DDR4-compatible motherboards have been available since 2014, so you will unlikely have compatibility issues.
Are You Running in Dual Channel Mode?
Modern motherboards can handle more modules than before, and you can use this to speed up your system.
If you have only one DIMM installed, you can pick up a matching one and install it in dual-channel mode on your motherboard.
Running in dual channel mode doubles the bandwidth your processor can use simultaneously, effectively doubling your memory’s speed.
Your choice of processor is also relevant here, as different processors have different maximum RAM capacities and frequencies.
If you have an Intel CPU like the Intel i9 13900K, you can run at a max speed of 5600 MHz, but most users won’t need that.
Or if you have an AMD Ryzen 7 5700X, you can’t run 3600MHz modules. You’re capped at 3200MHz because of the CPU’s constraints.
If your system has an Intel processor, you can increase your memory speed for the low price of free! Intel chips have a built-in technology called XMP, or “Extreme Memory Profiles.”
By opening your BIOS and selecting an XMP profile, you can stably overclock your DIMMs to run at a higher frequency, and your system will add the extra voltage required.
AMD chips can also use this technology with their competitor EXPO, which means “Extended Profiles for Overclocking.”
Any hardcore gamer will tell you RAM’s only part of the picture. Whether you have four or two modules of RAM, they won’t take you far unless you have a high-performance GPU.
The graphics card is much more important if you want a smooth gaming experience since it’s the primary rendering component of any system.
Your GPU will also lighten your CPU’s load if gaming at higher screen resolutions, like 1440p or 4K.
I’ve covered most if not all the details you’ll need to know about how DDR4 3200 RAM differs from 3600 DDR4 3600 RAM.
While 3600 (the higher RAM speed) is faster, it won’t give a massive performance boost like you might assume. Depending on the games you play, you may not feel the difference at all!
For most users, DDR4 3200MHz is fine for their computers, and you won’t feel a speed improvement by upgrading to 3600 MHz.
Follow this quick guide if you still struggle to pick between these speeds.
Get DDR4 3200 MHz RAM If:
- You want to save some money while building your computer
- You don’t need the faster memory
Get DDR4 3600 MHz RAM If:
- You want to future-proof your computer
- You had faster memory