Quad-channel RAM vs. dual-channel RAM: The shocking truth about their performance

Stop arguing. Benchmarks don't lie. We tested both kinds of RAM in the same PC. Check our charts to find out more.

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Encoding performance

Synthetic tests measuring the theoretical performance is one thing, but just where does it show up in real tasks? To find out, the next test I threw at the system was Handbrake. A popular and free video encoder, it’s a CPU-heavy test. As video encoding is something that’s believed to be bandwidth-sensitive, I thought doubling the memory bandwidth would pay off big-time. Unfortunately, if you look at the chart below, I saw zippo. I was quite surprised, as I’ve long believed memory bandwidth helps encoding performance. I’ve actually seen it in the past on older hardware platforms, too, so this was a shocker. I will say: This isn’t the last word, as different encoders and different encoding loads could favor the increased bandwidth. But today, I’m pretty disappointed.

memory bandwidth handbrake

I saw virtually no difference in our encoding test between dual-channel and quad-channel RAM.

PCMark 8 Creative

My next task was PCMark 8’s Creative Conventional test. This synthetic test attempts to simulate a workload of photo editing, video encoding, light gaming and browsing. I run the conventional portion rather than the GPU portion to keep the workload restricted to the CPU itself. The result was, again, pretty surprising and disappointing. 

memory bandwidth pcmark8 work conventional

PCMark 8’s Creative Conventional test shows minimal impact too.

PCMark 8 Home

I also ran PCMark 8’s Home and Work Conventional tasks to change up the workload. Again, nearly double the system memory bandwidth made no difference. I’m not even going to bother wasting Internet bandwidth with the chart of PCMark 8 Work’s result, because it’s the same.

memory bandwidth pcmark8 home conventional

PCMark 8 Home Conventional test also shows a tie between dual-channel and quad-channel memory.

WinRAR

Like video encoding, file compression is one of the tasks that typically benefits from boatloads of memory bandwidth. To find out, I reached for WinRAR 5.21 and used its built-in compression benchmark. Finally I saw the increased memory bandwidth paying off—but not by much. 

memory bandwidth winrar521 multi threaded

Despite file compression normally benefitting from memory bandwith, the difference in WinRAR is pretty tiny.

7Zip 

I also fired up the beta version of 7Zip and ran its internal benchmark. I actually saw a decent boost from 7Zip, but again, I really expected more. I was almost ready to hang it up but decided to run some gaming tests, too, so keep reading.

memory bandwidth 7zip 938

We do see an improvement from 7Zip’s internal benchamrk but not as much as I’d expected.

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