CL18 vs CL16: The 5 Differences You Should Know

Every gamer knows that the secret behind the good performance of any PC lies in Random Access Memory, more commonly referred to simply as RAM.

The overall system performance largely depends on this temporary memory responsible for managing the computer applications and processes.

While it is clear that you should invest in RAM for maximum speed, you may be torn between CL18 and CL16, the two CAS latency modules that both have their advantages and flaws.

The main differences between CL18 and CL16 are speed and suitability for different processors.

What is CL18?

Let’s start by defining CAS latency (CL), which can confuse many people. It is important to note that CAS stands for Column Access Strobe Latency.

Your RAM receives orders from the processor, and the system performance will depend on how much time it takes for the RAM to process the necessary data.

This data processing speed is measured in clock cycles, which is CAS latency. While clock cycles are used for synchronous DRAM, nanoseconds are the unit of measurement for asynchronous DRAM.

The number of clock cycles will tell you how much time it took for the RAM to access the necessary information from a column, then gather the data and prepare it according to the orders from the processor.

In this case, a RAM kit operating on CAS latency of 18 is usually labeled CL18.

When it comes to memory speed, you want to look for a low number of CAS, as it provides lower latency and overall better performance for your PC – especially in complex, demanding video games.

It is also important to mention that CAS clock speed is not the same as data transfer rates.

The CAS range of 15-19 is mainly found in 3600 MHz RAM and is generally considered an excellent choice for gaming.

However, a lower CAS range of 14-16 is a better choice as it provides better RAM speed and less latency.

What is CL16?

As we’ve mentioned, when it comes to overall performance and RAM speed, CL16 is undoubtedly a better solution for gaming.

A CL16 kit is usually found in 3200 MHz RAM, providing more reliability and lower latency.

This difference in performance and latency may not be felt in simpler, more static video games, whereas this will be a game-changing factor in more complex games.

That being said, CL16 is a more affordable option, so the choice between the two will largely depend upon your game preferences and expectations.

What are the differences between CL18 and CL16?

Both of these CAS kits essentially have the same roles. Still, some crucial differences exist between them in some essential aspects of system performance (especially if you’re a gamer).

Let’s see what memory kit would be the best choice in your case, depending on what your priorities are in gaming.

1. Data transfer speed

While CAS latency is essential in system performance and RAM, it is not the main factor determining the RAM speed.

Data transfer speed plays a much more important role in overall RAM speed. It determines the rate and amount of the data transfer between RAM and CPU.

The RAM data transfer speed is measured in Megahertz (MHz), and not every memory module will be suitable for every RAM speed.

As we’ve mentioned, you’ll mostly find the CL18 module with 3600 MHz RAM, whereas a 3200 MHz RAM usually includes a CL16 kit, which is a very important difference between the two.

As we’ve mentioned, the goal is to keep the latency rate as low as possible. You will get more out of a CL16 3200 MHz RAM combination, especially if you’re a dynamic, complex video game fan. 

2. RAM latency

RAM latency is not the same as CAS latency, but these two factors are related. As opposed to CAS latency, RAM latency is calculated and measured in nanoseconds.

RAM latency is measured simply by determining how many seconds a clock cycle takes and how many cycles are necessary. When comparing the two memory modules in this aspect, the CL16 takes the win.

CL16 3200 MHz RAM has a clock cycle of 10 nanoseconds. To process the information from input to output, it needs to complete 16 clock cycles.

CL18 3600 MHz RAM, on the other hand, has to go through 18 of these clock 10-nanosecond cycles to access and process the information. 

That being said, the difference in speed and RAM latency between the two options is more than evident, as the latency of CL18 is 12% greater than what CL16 offers. 

3. AMD processors

Regarding RAM performance, on one side, we have the data transfer speed and the CAS latency rate, which determine how fast the data will be processed.

On the other side, the processor gives the commands and kick-starts the process. The compatibility level between the processor and the memory module is another vital factor in overall system performance. 

Regarding AMD processors (Advanced Micro Devices), the clock speed doesn’t make much of a difference in performance since these processors have their own clock cycle, which is limited to 1800-2000 MHz.

However, the CL rate can make a noticeable difference in overall performance, so you still want to gravitate towards CL16 for smoother gameplay.

4. Intel processors

With Intel processors, there is no set limit regarding the clock cycle. That said, the best solution for Intel processors would be to operate on 3600 MHz CL18, then modify CL16.

This way, you will get a higher frequency rate, completely transforming the gaming experience – especially in intense, dynamic video games. 

5. Price

As expected, the price of the system that provides higher speed and less latency in gameplay is higher. The cost gap can be minimal or rather significant, depending on many other factors.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to the video game style you prefer and the smoothness of gameplay you expect.

CL16 will provide a smooth, high-quality gaming experience at a higher price. However, many gamers will confirm that they haven’t encountered many issues with CL18, as their favorite video games don’t exactly belong in the complex, demanding category.

CL18 vs. CL16: Are they the same?

The difference between these two CL rates will be marginal for some people. Still, they cannot be considered the same, as the two have some key differences.

When it comes to data transfer speed and RAM latency, you’re less likely to notice the delays that latency causes by investing in a lower latency rate kit such as CL16.

As far as AMD processors are concerned, the clock cycle speed isn’t a deciding factor, but a lower latency rate can still grant overall smoother gameplay with fewer glitches during the game.

The best solution is to use an Intel processor operating on 3600 MHz CL18 and modify CL16 if necessary.

Finally, there is also a difference in price to consider in this comparison. CL16 is undoubtedly more of an investment, but if the quality of your favorite video games largely depends upon the latency rate, this will be your choice,

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