What is Virtual RAM? How Does it Work on Smartphones? Is It Really Effective?

Vivo X60 Series brought up virtual RAM to the mainstream. Here's how it works.

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What is Virtual RAM?

You must have heard the term ‘Virtual RAM’ a few times in the past few days. The all-new Vivo X60 series which includes Vivo X60, Vivo X60 Pro, and Vivo X60 Pro+ is advertised to offer an additional 3GB ‘virtual RAM’. OnePlus also claimed it’s using a similar technology to make the smartphones faster. But what does virtual RAM mean? How different is it from your regular RAM on phones?

As the name suggests, it’s virtual i.e it is not a physical entity or anything tangible. Let us break it down in simple words –

What is Virtual RAM on Vivo X60 Series?

Virtual RAM is a concept like ‘Virtual Memory’ that’s used in PCs. It refers to the ability to expand the temporary (volatile) memory i.e. RAM by taking resources from the internal flash storage. It is a very basic memory management approach where secondary memory can be used as a part of the main memory. On the Vivo X60 Series, Virtual RAM makes use of up to 3GB space from the internal UFS 3.1 storage primarily to keep more apps cached in the background. Vivo claims up to 20 apps can be cached simultaneously using the technique, but there are more benefits to this –

How is Virtual RAM Useful?

Virtual RAM doesn’t really cut short the work of the physical RAM module in the smartphone, but aids it in clearing the pipeline of tasks faster. In that way, Virtual RAM is basically additional storage space for volatile tasks like keeping apps ready in the background – One tap and it will spring to action without the usual load times. This helps give an impression of a speedy experience. By using virtual RAM, the phone can keep your most used apps always ready in the background so you don’t waste time waiting for it to launch.

In our review of the Vivo X60 Pro, we saw this happening in real time. Heavy games like Call of Duty: Mobile which wouldn’t ideally occupy space in the 8GB RAM offered in it, was cached for more than a day, so when I logged in again a day later, the game started off right from the lobby, sans the long loading time.

So faster app launch is definitely a good use for virtual RAM. But how does it work?

How Does Virtual RAM Work On the Vivo X60 Series?

Gaming on the Vivo X60 to explain virtual RAM

It is very similar to the functioning of virtual memory in PC/Computer. This technique uses the device’s internal memory to increase the storage capacity of RAM. Your smartphone will store some amount of storage into RAM and treat it as actual RAM to make the functions more efficient. But this is not going to convert your smartphone RAM from 8GB into 11GB, as Vivo claims. Instead, the additional 3GB will only aid the 8GB RAM module in keeping this flowing smoothly.

During a product briefing round, Vivo explained in detail to Mysmartprice how the technology works. According to Vivo, virtual RAM on the X60 Series relies on algorithms to make part of the storage space to assume the function of RAM operations in order get the “+3GB” RAM effect on the new offerings. Doing so, the number of app caches on a phone with say, 8GB of RAM can be increased up to 20.

But someone even a little familiar with how computers work will counter saying the two storage types are completely different. While RAM is a volatile memory with ultra fast data speeds, flash storage is much, much slower. RAM is basically a clearing house for the CPU, but storage is the godown where everything is sorted and stored. So how do they work together?

Is Virtual RAM Really Effective or Just a Marketing Gimmick?

Vivo said traditionally, memory management tech can only exchange small scattered data with external storage, but on the X60 Series, instead of allocating small amounts of data, the smartphone relies on algorithms to identify the processes of low importance and transfers it to storage for caching. This greatly reduces the load on the RAM and frees it up for more critical operations, like keeping the UI running smooth. So by all means, virtual RAM doesn’t increase the amount of RAM available on a smartphone, but makes it a lot more efficient in managing a task. You can consider Virtual RAM as an intern for the main RAM module. In that sense, the technology is super useful and doesn’t seem like a gimmick at all. Having said that, there’s no real way for you or I, as a consumer, to verify whether this is indeed working as advertised. But then again, if the smartphone is working like it did on Day 1, you can thank virtual RAM for that.


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