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Are you confused by the terminology – MT/s vs MHz – used by RAM manufacturers?

Most non-tech-savvy people face this issue every time a PC component manufacturer tries to hide certain details about the configuration to keep things plain and simple. Although they want the customers to pick the right component for their PC, often, customers end up befuddled.

Instead of displaying the data transfer rate of a RAM in MHz (Megahertz), you will often come across the unit MT/s (Mega Transfers per Second). I’d also like to call your attention to the fact that all DDR (Double Data Rate) RAM manufacturers use MT/s as the unit for data transfer rate.

Ordinarily, SRAM (Static RAM) is not capable of producing more than one operation per second. Hence, it makes total sense to use Mhz as a unit for speed. On the other hand, DDR memory was invented to enhance the speed of operations. They operate at multiple cycles per second.

The Difference Between MT/s and MHz

mt/s vs mhz

The DDR memory performs two operations per second. Meaning, two processes are running simultaneously, each operating at one cycle per second. Hence, it is fair to say that the device frequency is two cycles per second. However, it should be noted that a DDR3 RAM stick has “DDR3 2133” written on it. What does 2133 signify? Is it frequency?  

A DDR3 RAM stick operates at 1066.6 MHz. Since two processes are running at the same time, manufacturers label the component with its total frequency (which is 2133 Mhz). However, instead of using the unit MHz (which is a universal unit for frequency), the memory stick is listed as 2133 MT/s.

Technically speaking, both MT/s and Mhz are the same. Both signify cycles per second or number of occurrences of something per second. However, due to the change in operation DDR RAMs, component manufacturers are forced to consider the device frequency rate instead of the frequency of each process.  

What Does MT/s Stand For?

MT/s stands for Mega Transfers per Second. In a report by PCMag, MT/s is defined as “the measurement of bus and channel speed in millions of ‘effective’ cycles per second.”

As you can see from the diagram above, one wavelength consists of rising and falling edges. One falling and one rising edge make one cycle. When we measure the rate of data transmission of a PC component such as a RAM or a Microprocessor, the combination of the falling and rising edges result in one cycle–as it should.

Such is not the case with DDR3 memories. The transfer of one unit is said to be done after the occurrence of one falling or rising edge. Hence, instead of listing the frequency of the RAM, the manufacturers show effective cycles per second.  

What Does 2400 MT/s Mean?

A RAM with 2400 MT/s speed signifies that there are two processes, each operating at 1200 Mhz. The device does not operate at 2400 Mhz, but it offers a data transfer rate of 2400 Mhz. In other words, the user does not need to know what goes on inside the component. Hence, manufacturers mention 2400 MT/s instead of 2400 Mhz. 

Which is Better: 2400 MT/s or 2133 MT/s Ram?

Overall, a RAM chip with 2400 MT/s is faster and performs better than the one with 2133 MT/s. However, you need to make sure that your GPU allows you to experiment with RAMs with different rates of transfers. Generally, 2133 MT/s RAMs have lower latencies but fail to compete with 2400 MT/s RAM in a one on one battle.

Furthermore, it’s not like 2133 MT/s RAM is way slower than 2400 MT/s RAM. The difference is almost negligible for most gamers–20 to 30 frames per second. If you are a pro gamer and minutiae details matter a lot to you, then go ahead and get yourself a RAM stick with 2400 MT/s speed.

At Which Frequency is a DDR3 RAM Clock Speed?

The bandwidth of a RAM can also be indicated by Memory Clock (in frequency). Instead of terminologies like MT/s and Mhz, some RAM manufacturers mention the bandwidth or data transmission rate by Memory Clock. 

To answer your question, the Memory Clock frequency of a DDR3 RAM falls between 100 Mhz and 266 Mhz. RAMs with different DIMM Types operate at different speeds. By the way, DIMM stands for Dual In-Line Memory Module.

Conclusion

MT/s and Mhz are two of the most popular units to indicate the bandwidth or the maximum data transfer rate of a RAM. There is no single standard by which RAM manufacturers can abide by. Factors like customer location, marketing strategy, RAM type, etc. determine the terminology.

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