PC makers skimping out on RAM


10 years ago, 2 or 4 GB of RAM was decent and very good. Over the years, applications have become bigger, and so has the need for more RAM. Now, 16GB is not even enough for some. People are putting 32GB or even 64GB of RAM, which is crazy!

Now, with Windows becoming less resource intensive. PC manufacturers have been shipping lower end PCs with only 2GB of RAM. This has to end, now! PC Makers should be putting a minimum of 4GB of RAM in low end PCs. 2GB of RAM just will not cut it anymore. Even with web browsing, having multiple tabs, will consume a lot of memory. Some (small) Windows tablets had a shocking 1GB of RAM, which is inexcusable. I still see some new Windows tablets, with only 1GB of RAM.

Just imagine, someone who bought a brand new laptop, last black Friday, with only 2GB of RAM, loaded with crapware. Then they try, web browsing. Then down the road, install other programs. It would be horrible experience.

Manufacturers need to stop shipping out 2GB of RAM, in low end laptops. How much does it truly cost, to add 2GB more of RAM? Many laptops have RAM soldered in, so something with so little RAM, is old right out of the gate. There is really no excuse to shortchange PC buyers with such measly RAM installed. If adding 2GB of RAM increases the price by $20, so be it..

Even though Windows now can technically run on 2GB RAM, and run acceptably for web browsing. Microsoft should increase the requirements of Windows to 4GB, to make for a pleasurable, and flawless computing experience. By increasing the requirements, it will force PC manufacturers, to stop offering 2GB of RAM in low end $200 laptops.

Comments (20)

20 responses to “PC makers skimping out on RAM”

  1. arunphilip

    I agree.

    The base OS itself runs admirably on 2 GB and has done so since Windows 7, I'd say.

    However, browsers have been increasing process isolation, content processes and making similar technical design decisions that warrant higher memory usage. In that respect, I'd say that only lightweight web browsing itself can get by with 2 GB. Once you start throwing in various responsive apps like Facebook, Twitter (i.e. that class of apps that dynamically load content as you scroll further down) into the fray, the per-tab memory usage also increases.

    Microsoft might not have initially wanted to raise the base specs as they were trying to make a push into the small tablet category (remember the glut of tablets running on the Intel Z3735 and specced out with 1-2 GB RAM and 32 GB eMMC?); but having now seemingly abandoned that segment it is worth a rethink, as you've suggested.

    Microsoft should realize that by raising the base spec to 4 GB, it's not going to cause grief or internet angst the way it might have done a decade ago. It's in their interests to do so, to offer a better user experience out of the box.

    • lvthunder

      In reply to arunphilip:

      Don't you think it's up to the OEM to decide what is acceptable to have their name on and what's not?

      • arunphilip

        In reply to lvthunder:

        Microsoft already has the Windows logo program that certifies a minimum hardware spec that OEMs need to meet.

        The OP's and my suggestion is not to bring about some new process, just a revision to the existing process - to improve the user experience.

  2. ErichK

    What I think is interesting is that the highest-end phones right now come with more RAM than my laptop that is only about three years old!

    • arunphilip

      In reply to ErichK:

      It probably also points a bit to the fact that:

      a) It's a spec war

      b) Custom skins from manufacturers tend not to be optimized as well as stock Android, so its quicker/easier to just throw more RAM at the problem than engineer a better solution (while also benefitting from point a above)

  3. Nic

    I think the bigger issue is the artificial restriction manufacturers are putting on the maximum amount of RAM you can throw in a system. 8GB? 16GB? C'mon, let's get real here. If I have a laptop, and I need to run a couple of VMs on it then that's going to get me nowhere.

  4. joeaxberg

    I also think it is because RAM is expensive right now. It takes a minimum of about $700 to get 64GB of Desktop DDR4. Easily $800 to a $1000 if you want better stuff.

    The raging smartphone businesses of companies like Apple and Samsung, means they're eating up lots of RAM as well. Used to be that RAM was a cheaper component of a system, now its becoming one of the more expensive. I just built two towers for a lab and was shocked at what 32GB for each cost me.

    A new laptop that comes with 2GB of RAM is indeed low-end, but the people buying these laptops are not power-users. These are "I do most everything with my phone, but I kinda still need a laptop unfortunately, and don't want to spend any money on one" kind of people.

  5. wunderbar

    As has been stated, you get what you pay for. When you buy a windows computer with 2GB of ram it's a low end machine. When you buy a cheap thing, you get cheap components. That is true of PC's, and everything else.

    if i'm going to a car dealership with $13,000 to spend and I want a brand new car, I'm not getting a car with a 6 cylinder engine and every bell and whistle. a PC is no different.

  6. rameshthanikodi

    if it was a cheap celeron/bay trail machine running 32-bit windows then it's normal to see those with 2gb of ram. There are better machines for the same price. Just don't buy these machines based on old platforms.

  7. jimchamplin

    These systems with 1 GB are absolutely fine with Store apps, particularly pure UWP software.

    Again, another one of the issues with legacy Win32 software, they don't play as well with low-RAM systems.

  8. bharris

    I think under-powered systems are what have given Windows a bad name with normal users. People assume "Well, they would not sell this computer with 10 on it if it wasn't powerful enough" and well, that simply isn't true. About 4 years ago, I just got tired of dealing with crappy machines and I dropped about $2300 on what was at the time a top of the line Dell. Granted, a lot of money but I am in IT and need to run 7 in a VM for work so I felt like I could justify it and feel like it has been a wise investment. I have used this machine nearly everyday & am still very happy with it. I don't think my mother needs a $2000 machine....not my point. Point is you get what you pay for. If you don't mind waiting, go buy the $199 laptop on black Friday. But don't complain. Like most things, you are balancing cost versus headaches.

  9. Lauren Glenn

    I think Windows tablets come at a lower cost when the machine is spec'd to a minimum of 2GB for 32-bit and 4GB for 64-bit.... at least I think so. The Win8 tablets I used to buy always had 1GB for a 32-bit system and 2GB for a 64bit one.

    Just get a laptop with expandable memory, I guess. Those $200 machines are usually not expandable and with the ones I've bought in the past, they often come with piece of crap eMMC SSDs that require constant trimming. If you only have about $200 to spend, pick up a used laptop on eBay and do a clean install of Win10 on it. I just got one that came with 2 batteries and 4GB of RAM. I fortunately had an old 4GB DDR3L memory so I put that in it to get 6GB of RAM which seems to be enough.

    I don't play Rocket League or anything on it since I have a Nintendo Switch, but it's good enough for iTunes music management, iPod Classic syncing, and emails/low CPU work in a pinch or as a thin client for an RDP session.

    Avoid those cheap PCs with 2GB/32GB because they're often made with cheap components anyway and aren't worth the money.

    • monkeyboy

      In reply to alissa914g:

      I've bought TWO low-end $200-300 laptops this year -- Celeron 4GB and Pentium 4GB from Asus and HP, respectively -- and they're both HORRIBLE w/ Windows 10. Meanwhile, an old Core 2 Duo laptop from 2008-era w/ 3GB and Vista ran circles around both. Want to know the secret? ONLY CORE CPUs ARE WORTH OWNING. Seriously, it's absolutely ridiculous that Celeron/Atom/Pentium are even on the market nowadays when they are all so, so lousy at Windows. I would say Win10 is even more demanding on these lower end chipsets, because the system is constantly doing updates and running apps and services behind the scenes that Vista, 7 and 8 never did, by default. Even removing built-in manufacturer software barely helps. On the Pentium I even swapped out the HDD for an SSD and doubled the RAM to 8GB and it still chokes under most things.

      The CPU is the true bottleneck, period. Memory isn't. Core or higher, always. No compromises there.

      10 years ago, 2 or 4 GB of RAM was decent and very good. Over the years, applications have become bigger, and so has the need for more RAM.

      10 years ago was 2007...hmmm...No, 1Gb and 2GB were the norm on most PCs back then. Even into late 2008 2GB was the norm on mid-range PCs in the $600+ range.

      • dhr2018

        In reply to monkeyboy:

        I assume those low-end laptops had HDDs (and probably slow ones) instead of SSD.

        That is going to s*ck, definitely. On the other hand, I'm typing this from an Intel G4500 (Cel) powered desktop with 8 GB RAM and a HyperX SSD - no problems at all with Win 10.

        Even the Dell desktop we bought for the office this time last year (back-then current gen Core i5 w/ 8 GB RAM) had speed issues with Windows until we threw out the HDD and put a good SSD in.

        PS. I have chosen a Celeron CPU for my desktop in order to minimize cooling needs (have no dGPU either), not so much because of price.

      • arunphilip

        In reply to monkeyboy:

        I have a netbook from 2010 with an Atom N450 CPU, and using it is - heh - "fun".

        Are even current-gen Atoms/Celerons/Pentiums quite poor performers? (Not relative to equivalent generation Cores, but in relation to Atoms/Celerons/Pentiums from the last 7-10 years).

        • monkeyboy

          In reply to arunphilip:

          Yes they are poor performers.

          The ONLY reason Chromebooks w/ 2GB/4GB of RAM feel snappy as they do is due to Google's extremely slimmed-down Gentoo distro which powers a single app really -- the Chrome browser. Windows doesn't have that luxury, and when you put even a single running program on it -- a browser -- it chokes.

  10. hrlngrv

    Consumers have the power NOT to buy low-end systems with too little RAM. If they can't afford anything else (well, anything else new), there are alternatives like buying refurbished or even charity.

    The only effective way to oblige OEMs and retailers to adopt new spec floors is to let them build up unsustainable inventories of machines which dip below those floors.

    Flip side: if some people indeed want to buy 2GB mini PCs for US$129 or netbooks for US$159, no one else should try to tell 'em they can't/shouldn't.

    • arunphilip

      In reply to hrlngrv:

      Good point about voting with our wallets. The only thing that comes to mind is that customers might not have the knowledge to make that decision, so its better to restrict the entry-level to a meaningfully specced out configuration.

      • hrlngrv

        In reply to arunphilip:

        I'm a bit of a libertarian elitist about this. People should pay for their ignorance, and smart companies will ALWAYS test the market's level of ignorance. I don't see any long-term good for humanity restricting the low-end. US$500 is a small price to pay to teach some people the costs of ignorance.

  11. dave0

    I'm not a developer and even I find anything less than 4GB to be a travesty. The modern business user has so many things running at once that 4 is comfortable, anything less is basically redlining it.