In today’s competitive high-tech world, every person is glued to their smartphone. It’s their portal to the outside world. As such, smartphone manufacturers try their best to outdo their competitors at each and every price point – using marketing tactics and specs to prop themselves up. But how much of these beloved smartphone advertising terms really contribute to a more refined experience? Today, we’ll discuss RAM and Dynamic RAM (or virtual RAM, whichever you want to call it) in order to reveal the truth about these concepts.
What is RAM?
To begin, RAM stands for Random Access Memory and is present not only in smartphones but every computer in existence. Oftentimes, the word “memory” immediately brings our mind to storage which we use to store apps, files, photos, and everything else. However, RAM is wholly separate from the storage in your device. Instead, it’s used to keep applications running.
Simply, just think of a guy carrying some stuff while walking along. A smaller individual, despite their fitness level, will be more limited in things they can bring along with them. Add enough items to his carry and you’ll find him struggling and moving much slower than with fewer items. Meanwhile, pass these on to a significantly larger person and they’re likely to bring items along more easily. Now switch out the carried items for applications. Phones with less RAM will inevitably slow down when you open too many applications. Once it reaches the breaking point, either the phone closes applications in the background (or the person puts the item on the ground), or the phone crashes (the lifter falls to the floor in exhaustion).
It tends to become a hassle because applications inherently take some time to reboot when they’re closed, and sometimes you forget to save important progress as well. That’s why the amount of RAM, as well as the software’s efficiency/optimization often have a direct impact on the device’s multitasking capability.
Back in the day, less than 1GB of RAM was considered enough. Obviously, this number grew and grew due to the increasing complexity of modern-day applications and the drastic rise in processing power. In 2015, 4GB of RAM was groundbreaking, and a few years later 6GB became the norm in flagships. Now we’ve reached the point where extreme entry-level devices come with at least 4GB of RAM, entry-level to midrange phones are given 6-8, and flagship-level devices come with 8-16GB of RAM.
The Basics of Dynamic RAM
So what is Dynamic RAM? Also called virtual RAM or extended RAM, depending on which company is advertising it, it is the allocation of a certain amount of phone storage to be converted into RAM. As such, let’s say you have a device with 8GB of static RAM and 128GB of storage. Activating this feature will take 4-8GB (depending on the manufacturer) from the storage and add it to your amount of static RAM, resulting in a hybrid total of 12-16GB.
Since RAM memory is much faster than what’s in your storage, your most important apps like games and media playback will be kept on static RAM. Meanwhile, less intensive apps running in the background like social media and the weather will be kept on virtual RAM.
When you’ve reached a certain limit to your storage use (from taking too many photos or installing too many apps), the Dynamic RAM automatically deactivates to give the borrowed allocation back to storage. That sounds very smart and magical! But, does it actually work?
How Can You Test This?
Figuring out how to test this was tricky. We’ve seen others haphazardly perform benchmarks with vRAM on and off – but searching around the internet has convinced us that the amount of RAM doesn’t affect scores on Geekbench 6. Benchmarks assess memory speed, not capacity.
Another possible method was to open a bunch of apps, go back to the home menu, and re-open them to see what had been kept running. While this is definitely a well-recognized way to test RAM capability, various phone manufacturers handle background apps differently. Some will close heavy apps in the background even if there’s more than enough RAM capacity to handle them, simply for the sake of efficiency.
So… Does Dynamic RAM Really Help?
Given these reasons, it is difficult to make any definitive statements about the effects of Dynamic or Virtual RAM on smartphone performance. That’s why we’ll have to defer to our personal experiences.
Based on our usage, virtual RAM expansion barely affects multitasking capability. We decided to ask around and discovered that some have even turned it off. The reason? They felt that their devices were bogged down by the feature. We’d expected the placebo effect to work here, but perhaps these users really felt the negative impact of Dynamic RAM on their device performance. If we were to hypothesize, then we’d speculate that Dynamic RAM places additional stress on the gadget.
To conclude, Dynamic RAM only has a marginal effect on smartphone multitasking, depending on how well-optimized the manufacturer has programmed the feature. It even has a less significant impact on overall smartphone performance since there are so many other things to consider, namely: chipset performance, software optimization, app compatibility, and a bevy of other factors. While RAM is not the be-all and end-all of how happy you’ll be with your smartphone, though, we’d advise going for something with at least 4GB of static RAM in 2023. That’s the bare minimum number – but power users will be better off with more.