Articles: Memory

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Performance during Multi-Tasking

The situation with the performance dependence on the RAM size seems to be more or less clear by now. Most contemporary tasks should be satisfied with 1GB of memory. Only some heavy professional applications and the latest games can benefit a little bit from 2GB of RAM, because their high-quality graphics may require additional memory space for data storing.

However, we won’t make any final conclusions just yet. Let’s find out how we could benefit from additional system memory during multi-tasking. Usually you run more than one application on your PC, and altogether they might eat up more than 1GB of RAM. To evaluate the system performance in the most common multi-tasking models we resorted to SYSMark 2004 SE benchmarking suite that contains six more or less standard working patterns.

In this test we have an image rendered by 3ds max 5.1 into a bmp-file, while the user is preparing web-pages in Dreamweaver MX. Then the user renders some 3D animation into vector graphics format.

The obtained results show that when we have two “heavy” applications running at the same time, the second gigabyte of RAM can actually ensure some performance improvement. Although the improvement we observed in this case turned out quite small, I should say.

Now the test is emulating the user’s work in Premiere 6.5, when he is creating a video movie in raw-format from a few other movies and separate sound tracks. While waiting for the operation to be completed, the user is also modifying and saving to the hard drive a picture in Photoshop 7.01. When the video is finished, the user does the necessary editing and adds special effects to it in After Effects 5.5.

Just like in the previous test, the performance of test platforms equipped with 2GB of memory turns out higher than that of a system with just 1GB of RAM. And again the performance improvement is no bigger than 2%.

Here, our hypothetical user extracts from the zip-archive the web-site content and at the same time opens an exported 3D vector video in Flash MX. Then the user modifies it by adding some new pictures and optimizes it for faster animation. The final video with applied special effects is then compressed with Windows Media Encoder 9 so that it could later be broadcast via internet. The created web-site is then composed in Dreamweaver MX, while the system is scanned for viruses with VirusScan 7.0.

This work pattern is less demanding to the amount of system memory. However, the additional Gigabyte of RAM does have its positive effect here, too. Although I have to admit that the performance advantage in this case is hardly comparable with the price you will have to pay for one more gigabyte of system memory.

Here the test is emulating the user’s work when he is receiving an e-mail in Outlook 2002 with a number of documents in a zip-file attached to it. While the files are being scanned for viruses with the VirusScan 7.0, the user is looking through the e-mails and makes notes in the Outlook calendar. After that the user checks a corporate web-site and some documents through Internet Explorer 6.0.

This test uses a relatively simple set of tasks. So, it is not at all surprising that 1GB of RAM appears more than enough here.

In this test the hypothetical user is editing some text in Word 2002 and uses Dragon NaturallySpeaking 6 to convert an audio file into a text document. The document is then converted into pdf-format in Acrobat 5.0.5. After that the prepared document is used to create a PowerPoint 2002 presentation.

Here I can only repeat what I have just said about a previous diagram. No additional RAM is required in this case.

In the next test we see the following situation: the user opens a database in Access 2002 and creates a number of requests. The documents are archived with WinZip 8.1. The request results are exported into Excel 2002 and a diagram is created.

Summing up, I would like to say that most usage patterns dealing with office applications running simultaneously can do perfectly well with only 1GB of RAM. At the same time, digital content creation and processing tasks running in parallel can benefit from additional system memory. However, if you are not working with any super high-resolution data, the advantages gained from additional RAM in your system will be quite tiny: the results of SYSMark 2004 SE indicate a 1-2% performance improvement, not more than that.

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