Oppo releases its Reno 6 and 6 Pro with “virtual RAM”: what is it?

Oppo’s brand new phones want to compete with ultra high-end phones with a much more aggressive price tag. The mobiles even have a virtual RAM feature that is supposed to offer more power. A feature far from new.

Announced at the end of May in China, the Oppo Reno 6 and Reno 6 Pro will land in France at the end of September 2021. The two smartphones marketed by Oppo want to tackle high-end mobiles with a much lower price since the Reno 6 will be sold 499 euros and the 6 Pro 799 euros.

When presenting the devices, the brand did not hesitate to describe the Reno 6 as a “flagship killer”, ie a phone that does 90% of what the iPhone or the Galaxy S do, but at a much lower price. And, it must be admitted, the technical sheet is rather well supplied.

Technical sheet

Both mobiles have a fairly similar technical sheet (and design)

Oppo reno 6 Oppo Reno 6 Pro
Screen Oled 6.43 inch FHD + (2400 x 1080 px) Oled 6.55 inch FHD + (2400 x 1080 px)

Main: 64 Mpx.

Wide angle 8 Mpx.

Macro: 2 Mpx

Main: 50 Mpx.

Wide angle: 16 Mpx.

Zoom: 13 Mpx.

Macro: 2Mpx

Processor Mediatek Dimensity 900 (8 cores, 2.4 GHz) Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 (8 core, 3.2 GHz)
Memory 8 GB of RAM + 128 GB of storage 12 GB of RAM + 256 GB of storage
Drums 4300 mAh 4500 mAh
Connectivity USB-C port, 5G compatibility, Wifi 6 USB-C port, 5G compatibility, Wifi 6

Beyond the photo that Oppo puts forward (including a whole bunch of AI-boosted options that allow you to create visual effects, improve focus or bokeh), the Reno 6 and 6 Pro are also positioned as phones with enough power to follow you in all your daily activities. In particular thanks to large amounts of RAM… which can be increased thanks to “virtual RAM”.

The different colors of the Reno 6 (straight edges) and Reno 6 Pro (curved edges) // Source: Photo Numerama

What is virtual RAM?

To put it simply, virtual RAM consists of using part of its storage memory (which you use to save your photos, videos, etc.) as an extension of RAM. The principle is far from new since it was developed in the 1960s and is often referred to as “swap space” (which means “exchange space” in good French).

As we have already explained, RAM is a type of ultra-fast volatile memory (which loses its information when it is no longer supplied with power). Its purpose is to keep within reach of the processor the data most critical to the good reactivity of your machine (such as the state of software or certain operating data). But in the event that the amount of available RAM is not sufficient to ensure the correct functioning of your device, the computer may decide to write certain critical data to the mass memory of the device (in the case of a phone is flash storage). This lightens the RAM workload a bit without losing any data.

On paper, the idea is pretty good and most current operating systems have a dedicated swap partition, just in case. But in practice, this virtual memory is often a solution of last resort. The storage memory of a device, whether on a computer or a smartphone, is considerably slower in reading and writing than RAM memory. We are talking about a few tens or hundreds of microseconds even on the best of flash memories against a hundred nanoseconds (one billionth of a second) for RAM.

As a result, this expansion of the RAM does not offer at all the same performance or the same advantages as a real RAM. It is a troubleshooting solution in case of emergency.

8 or 12 GB of RAM is sufficient

In the case of the Reno 6 and 6 Pro, the RAM boost feature can allocate up to 5 GB of your storage space in addition to the 8 or 12 GB of RAM. What to reach up to 17 GB of dedicated space in the best case.

The option to add RAM on the Reno 6 // Source: Photo Numerama

However, it is very unlikely that you will need so much RAM in your daily use of the smartphone. The 8 or 12 GB natively present on the Reno 6 should be more than enough to meet your daily needs. For comparison, the iPhone 12 Pro only has 6GB of RAM and does very well (in part, because running background tasks is more limited on iOS than Android).

The addition of a “RAM increase” feature is therefore more of a commercial argument than a real technical advantage on these new Oppo phones. The mobiles are not uninteresting, however, we will give a full update in a test that will appear soon.

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