Difference between Buffered and Unbuffered Memory
By Theydiffer - January 4, 2016

Looking to upgrade or get a new memory for your system? Well depending on what your system is, a work station, a server, or just an ordinary system, then you might want to know what to buy and of course the ‘why’.


Buffered Memory

Also known as your registered memory, it is a memory that has a register between your DRAM (a random-access memory storing each bit of data) modules and your system’s memory controller (Contains logic necessary to write and read to DRAM). It is used generally to lessen electrical load on your memory controller and make it more stable.

While it does appear to be a durable memory, it is rather more expensive than your unbuffered ones. This is because it has a fewer number of units that are being sold, and also has more additional circuitry required. That being said, a buffered Memory is usually the choice for workstations and/or servers. Other than that, the performance also has a penalty because each read and write is buffered for one clock cycle. This means it performs one cycle fewer than your standard or unregistered DRAM. Take note however, depending on your system, the cycle penalty may or may not be in effect.

Some buffered memories currently out there are your KOMPUTERBAY 32 GB (8x4GB) that costs around $280, and Adamanta 32 GB (1x32GB) that’s around $280. Also, motherboards need to have compatibility with buffered memories.

Unbuffered Memory

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Also known as your unregistered or your conventional memory, it is a memory that has no register between your DRAM and your system’s memory controller. This would now result in a direct access to your memory controller (Normally integrated to your motherboard) and would now be more efficient than your registered ones. It does however accumulate more electrical load and will have a lesser ‘reliability’ on data stored.

For a standard PC system, unbuffered memory usually is the better choice not just because it is cheaper, but it also performs faster. But while an unbuffered memory may have an advantage with speed, it does have its own penalty in terms of stability and reliability.

Some Unbuffered memories out there are your Corsair Vengeance 32 GB (4x8GB) DDR 3 that costs around $180 and Crucial 32 GB (4x8GB) DDR 4 that’s around $160.

Buffered vs Unbuffered Memory

What’s the difference between a buffered memory and an unbuffered memory? Taking each one’s definitions, the main difference lies in their effectiveness on a system. While an unbuffered memory may work fine with a workstation, it has its drawbacks on stability and reliability. That’s when a buffered memory comes in handy. It may have a small issue with your memory speed, but being a workstation or a server, stability is of higher priority for data stored.

Some small differences would also be their prices. Technically, unbuffered would be cheaper while a registered one would cost extra, but depending on the brand and the system’s compatibility, prices still vary.

Comparison Chart

Buffered MemoryUnbuffered Memory
Costs moreCosts less
Recommended for servers and workstationsRecommended for home systems
One Clock cycle fewerNo clock cycle penalty
More stability and reliabilityStandard stability and reliability
Less electrical loadMore electrical load