Tech Talk - Processor vs. RAM vs. Storage 101 : What Are They, and How Are They Different?

  1. TonyTechBytes
    US Brand Ambassador Aug 27, 2019

    TonyTechBytes , Aug 27, 2019 :

    Hey everyone, this is Tony (@TonyTechBytes), Jason C. (@scotty137), and Randy (@Texasaggie1) from the U.S. OnePlus Brand Ambassador Program! In this post we’ll be going over the basic differences between RAM, storage, and the processor. Those three components are what power every smartphone in the world and it can be really helpful to know what they are, what they do, and why you need them.

    We all come from a tech background, Tony builds PCs, Randy owns a tech company, and I (Jason) have worked in the tech industry for several years. With the knowledge we have built up over the years, we want to try and share some of the differences between them and why you might want to pay attention to them when you’re buying a smartphone.

    We realize that this could get very technical very quickly so we will stick to the basics of these components and only talk about how they relate to smartphones at the top of the post. If you want to dive into the more technical, nitty-gritty details, and learn more about how they work in desktops and laptops, we’ll get more in depth towards the bottom of the post. Thanks!

    Here’s a list of topics we’ll cover in our post:

    Processor - Basic

    RAM - Basic

    Storage - Basic

    Basic Wrap Up

    Processor - Advanced

    RAM - Advanced

    Storage - Advanced

    Processor - Basic
    The central processing unit, or processor, of a smartphone, laptop, or desktop computer is essentially the brain of the system. The processor processes information by performing countless calculations to tell other components what to do. For smartphones, all the necessary parts for the processors are all built into one wafer called a “system on a chip”, or SoC.

    An easy way to think about this is to think about a library. If you are sitting at a table reading some books, the processor acts like the librarians in the library. For example, a processor with 2 cores would be like having 2 librarians that can bring you books. 4 cores would be 4 librarians and so on.

    The clock speed of the processor would be something like how fast the librarians can bring you the books. A processor’s clock speed, or frequency, is often measured in gigahertz, where one hertz is equivalent to one instruction, so a 5 GHz processor can handle an astounding 5 billion instructions per second. Most current processors also feature multiple cores along with virtual cores/threads to handle additional tasks at one time.

    At the time of writing this, the flagship SoC for smartphones is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ with a measly 8 cores (joking). The OnePlus 7 Pro uses the Snapdragon 855 which also has 8 cores. The only differences with the 855+ is a slightly higher clock speed and slightly higher GPU performance. The 855+ is mainly designed for gaming phones so don’t feel shorted that you’re not getting the absolute latest processor (it also came out after the 7 Pro was released). If you want a more detailed comparison, there’s a great writeup here.

    Central processing units with more cores are ideal for content creators since they tend to demand more cores for multi-threaded workloads such as video editing, rendering, photo editing, video game streaming, and more. Gamers, however; do not need that many cores at the moment since most games are optimized for pure frequency and single-threaded performance.


    Processors such as AMD’s desktop Ryzen 3000 series and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 series are built on TSMC’s 7 nanometer process which means the silicon can be packed with more transistors and perform faster with more power efficiency and less heat output. More power efficient chips are great for passively cooled smartphones since they won’t generate as much heat, and battery life will see major improvements.


    RAM - Basic
    RAM, or random access memory, comprises of super fast memory modules that temporarily store data for the CPU to fetch from. Think of all the tabs and applications that you open regularly. The processor loads all the information it needs now and in the future into RAM so that daily operations stay fast and snappy. Rather than retrieving information from slow long term storage options like solid state drives and hard drives, RAM is used to store data that the processor needs as quickly as possible.

    More RAM will generally allow for a smoother computing experience since more apps and tabs can be opened and remembered in the background for future usage. Having more random access memory also allows for more headroom in a number of tasks such as video editing and video game streaming.

    Going back to the example of the library, RAM would be like the number of books you could have open on the table at any one time. The more RAM you have, the more books you can access at once.

    The OnePlus 7 Pro can have up to 12GB of RAM which is a crazy amount of RAM for smartphones. For comparison, Apple still ships its entry level laptops and desktops with only 8GB of RAM.

    So yeah, your smartphone will likely have more RAM than a $2,300 iMac. (However, RAM is user upgradeable in some iMacs, whereas smartphones are not.)

    Storage - Basic
    Storage is the place on your device where every piece of information such as apps, contacts, music, photos, and everything else is stored long term. When you take a picture, it saves it into the flash storage of your smartphone. The same applies when you create a contact or download an app.

    Whenever you open an app or a photo or whatever, the processor goes into the storage on your phone and pulls it out to use. We already talked about how the RAM stores your most recent stuff to get quicker access to it but all the stuff still lives full time in your storage.

    Once again using the library example, the storage would be the amount of bookshelves in the library which determines how many books you can hold. Pretty straightforward.

    Interestingly enough, storage does have a speed component to it. This is called the read/write speed and basically it refers to how quickly your device can store (write) information and access (read) information. Further down in the post you can read more about the technical aspects of all this.

    Speaking of speed, Universal Flash Storage (UFS) 3.0 is the latest standard for flash storage in smartphones that is just recently being used in flagship phones, such as the OnePlus 7 Pro. It is noticeably faster than the previous standard (UFS 2.1) and makes the entire smartphone user experience a whole lot smoother.

    Basically, if you store a lot of things locally on your phone as opposed to in the cloud (or streaming) then you’ll want more GB of storage. The 7 Pro can get up to 256GB which is more than enough for most folks.

    Basic Wrap Up
    Whew! I know we covered a lot of stuff but we felt like it was an important topic to discuss. Every time a new phone comes out, there’s always a huge list of specs and sometimes it can be easy to get lost in the details. Hopefully this post has helped ease some confusion and made you a bit more informed about buying your next smartphone.

    As promised, in the rest of the post, we will go into much more detail about these components as well as discuss how they differ in desktop and laptop computers. Enjoy!

    Processor - Advanced
    Here’s the advanced part of a processor! At the time of writing this, the most cores a regular consumer can buy for the mainstream desktop platform is 12 cores with the Ryzen 9 3900X (though the upcoming Ryzen 9 3950X features 16 cores).


    Tony managed to snag a Ryzen 9 3900X minutes before it completely ran out of stock. If you’re interested in PCs, he made a video of his PC build:

    Desktop and laptop processors are similar to smartphones; in that they are they “brain” of the system. However, due to the larger size of these computers, they are able to pack larger and much faster processors with more complex cooling solutions, and less power limitations. Manufacturers generally pack these chips with more cores and threads than mobile counterparts, and higher clock speeds to perform faster. But with this extra performance comes more power draw and heat output. This is why both laptops and desktops require batteries/power supplies and multiple heat pipes and fans to cool the system down.

    Ram - Advanced
    Faster RAM generally makes an insignificant difference in performance, but with AMD’s Ryzen CPUs, faster memory of around 3600 MHz benefits performance. With other systems, especially with Intel CPUs, faster RAM will not make a noticeable difference in performance.

    Mobile devices such as smartphones tend to use LPDDR4, which is the current lower power variant of desktop double data rate memory. DDR4 DIMMs (dual in-line memory modules) are made for modern desktops, and smaller DDR4 SODIMMs (small outline DIMMs) are used for modern laptops. DDR5 is set to release to the mainstream market within a couple years which will bring a new DIMM slot design and faster speeds.

    Another point we’d like to make is about video memory or VRAM. This is different than system memory since this is dedicated to graphical processing units and is often in the form of GDDRx (GDDR6 is the latest iteration). APUs or accelerated processing units have both a CPU and a GPU built into one chip for a hybrid combination that uses system memory as video memory. This is why game consoles and desktops without a discrete GPU tend to need more memory than systems with a dedicated graphics card. This is also why modern game consoles use GDDR5 memory instead of the usual DDR4 system RAM.

    Because of its short term nature, RAM forgets everything it has learned when power is cut off. This is great for high-speed temporary data transfer necessary for video rendering and other content creation, but this is also why long term solutions like SSDs and hard drives are necessary to retain data.


    Corsair RGB desktop RAM from Tony’s timelapse PC build video:

    Storage - Advanced
    Since storage can be explained in very simple terms, we’ll go over the different types of storage smartphones and computers use in this portion.

    As mentioned above, the OnePlus 7 Pro, uses UFS 3.0 flash storage which is an incredibly fast interface to allow for significantly fast system performance. UFS is designed to give SSD-like transfer speeds on smartphones with sequential read speeds up to 2100MB/s and write speeds of up to 410MB/s. Most smartphones use flash storage since it doesn’t involve moving parts and is generally small enough to fit into a small device.

    Modern desktop and laptop computers use SSDs and HDDs. An HDD, or hard disk drive, is a large storage solution that can store loads of data for a cheap price. They usually aren’t very expensive due to the somewhat outdated architecture involving moving parts, but they are great for mass storage options.

    SSDs, or solid state drives, are flash storage solutions that do not have moving mechanical parts. SSDs are faster than hard drives, but are often more expensive. SSDs can have transfer speeds for both read and write up to 5GB/s (or 5,000MB/s) with PCIe 4.0 SSDs.

    Samsung 970 Evo Plus M.2 PCIe 3.0 NVME SSD

    Thank you all so much for reading! Hopefully we've thoroughly explained the differences between the processor, RAM, and storage. We like to end it off with a quick question: Which of these 3 components do you prioritize more of in your smartphone/computer, and why?
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2019

  2. akshayr723
    Honeycomb Aug 27, 2019

  3. SeaRefractor
    Froyo Aug 27, 2019

  4. Zackeroo
    Donut Aug 27, 2019

    Zackeroo , Aug 27, 2019 :
    I already knew all this... But I gotta say that this is one of the best explanatiosn I have seen

    In class, we are required to have a complete knowledge of all this, but some people don't understand it... all they really need is an explanation like this [e]1f602[/e]

    Eclair Aug 27, 2019

  6. MikhailTheItalian
    Honeycomb Aug 27, 2019

  7. gneitingable
    Gingerbread Aug 27, 2019

    gneitingable , Aug 27, 2019 :
    As a techie, I really appreciate this article. The "library" is a good way to explain how these components work together. I might have to steal that next time I have to describe the difference between memory and storage.

  8. Discostu
    Jelly Bean Aug 28, 2019

    Discostu , Aug 28, 2019 :
    Fantastic read and the analogy to a library / books / librarian was not only easy to understand but genius to relate to (well, for those of us old enough to remember going to a library ;) )

    Thanks for taking the time to write this, it should be mandatory reading for anyone joining the forums & community.

    Texasaggie1 and TonyTechBytes like this.
  9. O1559833974720
    Cupcake Aug 28, 2019

    O1559833974720 , Aug 28, 2019 :
    Great article... explained things really clearly... waiting for more such articles[e]1f44d[/e][e]1f44d[/e]

    Texasaggie1 and TonyTechBytes like this.
  10. akshayr723
    Honeycomb Aug 28, 2019

    akshayr723 , Aug 28, 2019 :
    I was joking man. AMD is the best as of now.

    TonyTechBytes likes this.
  11. Abdul Basith2
    Gingerbread Aug 28, 2019

    Abdul Basith2 , Aug 28, 2019 :
    I would probably give importance to the processor as it is what generally can be said of the brain of the system and also storage and ram has less impact in its increase when compared to a processor in my view.

    Texasaggie1 and TonyTechBytes like this.
  12. G_plusone
    Marshmallow Aug 28, 2019

    G_plusone , Aug 28, 2019 :
    A welcome improvement From the previous thread.
    Keep it up

    Texasaggie1 and TonyTechBytes like this.
  13. Irshad77
    Cupcake Aug 28, 2019

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  14. femiuex
    Honeycomb Aug 28, 2019

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  15. Helder_DAlmeida
    Honeycomb Aug 28, 2019

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  16. QueenAnighty
    Froyo Aug 28, 2019

    QueenAnighty , Aug 28, 2019 :
    Excellent article. Explanation had taken place step by step so beginners could understand more efficiently.

    I would prioritize on RAM and storage when buying an electronic device because of my excessive download of music and intensive graphical games.

    Texasaggie1, TonyTechBytes and Achman like this.
  17. QueenAnighty
    Froyo Aug 28, 2019

    QueenAnighty , Aug 28, 2019 :
    Yeah the comparison to a library was really nicely thought out

    Texasaggie1 and TonyTechBytes like this.
  18. Song Misao
    Cupcake Aug 28, 2019

    Song Misao , Aug 28, 2019 :
    Great [e]1f44d[/e][e]1f44d[/e][e]1f44d[/e]. This is a good reason why I love Oneplus Community.

    Texasaggie1 and TonyTechBytes like this.
  19. G_Aniket_dubey
    Eclair Aug 28, 2019

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  20. Pranay!
    Donut Aug 28, 2019

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