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When building a PC, investing in the best RAM (Random Access Memory) is just as important as having the best CPU and GPU. RAM allows the processor to quickly access the data needed to perform its instructions. In a way, the greater the amount of memory available and the faster the processor can access that important data. If you really want to get the most out of your computer, especially when playing games or creating content, having fairly fast RAM will give you the performance you require.
RAM also plays a key role in keeping your computer snappy and responsive even when running the most demanding programs. Even a simple task, like having 20 tabs open on your browser, can result in slowdowns if you don’t have enough RAM. Having enough fast RAM, therefore, can mean the difference between a super smooth experience and a frustrating one.
The hard part is to understand how much difference RAM makes. If you’re using an Intel-based PC you won’t notice much difference between a faster and a slower module. However, computers based on AMD’s Zen micro-architecture are influenced much more by RAM speed. “Infinity Fabric” (the pieces that connect the various blocks of logic within the Ryzen CPUs) is, in fact, dependent upon the speed of the memory bus. Thus, the increase in RAM speed on Ryzen and Threadripper PC builds often results in real-life performance gains. In low-resolution gaming (such as 1080p) this means more framerate while in higher resolutions (1440p/4k) this results in a smoother performance — however, the number of extra frames that you’ll get with the fastest RAM varies greatly from title to title.
Finally, RAM speed makes a huge difference if you play games using the integrated graphics of Intel and AMD processors. Since the graphic part in these APUs (Accelerated Processing Units) generally doesn’t come with its own dedicated memory (as do discrete graphics cards), the increase in the system’s memory clock frequency also increases graphics performance — like before, the number of extra frames will vary greatly from game to game. Keep in mind, however, that if you have to spend a lot on a faster RAM kit (in order to get playable framerates) it’s always better to buy a slower kit and invest that money in a dedicated graphics card.
Whatever your specific needs, we have prepared a list of our favorite RAM modules for both AMD and Intel platforms, taking into account the budget and type of use. No matter if you are looking for a high-end gaming kit or a cheap one to just make your PC work, we have the perfect option for you.
RAM buying guide
How much RAM do I need?
In general, 8GB of RAM is all you need for most modern games. However, newer titles are starting to use more and more RAM, and the same goes if you plan to use “heavy” programs such as those for editing photos and videos. In addition, 16 GB of RAM will make your system more future-proof. However, if you’re building an inexpensive mid to low-end PC, you can definitely start with 8 GB of RAM and add another 8 GB along the way.
Installing more than 16 GB of RAM is a waste of money if all you do is gaming. The only reason to have 32 GB of RAM is if you are creative working with 3D models or 4K video content.
In short, the easy answer is to opt for a 16 GB kit with a clock frequency of 3,200 MHz.
What else to look for
After the initial question of “how much RAM do I need?” the next question is always “which RAM should I buy?”.
This is a difficult question to answer especially if you’re not familiar with RAM specifications and what they mean.
There is a series of numbers that play an important role and you need to know them all before you figure out why a RAM kit is better than another.
But let’s start with the simple things: first you need to consider your hardware limitations. Start by checking if your motherboard supports DDR4 or DDR3 memory.
Then you need to examine the specifications of your motherboard in order to find out the maximum clock frequency (the throughput at which the RAM memory operates, measured in MHz) that it can support. Spending extra money on a 3.200 MHz kit is completely useless if your motherboard can only support modules up to 2,400MHz, for example.
As a rule of thumb, it is advisable to purchase a DDR4 memory kit with a speed of at least 2,400 MHz. For DDR3 RAM you should instead look for a kit with a speed of at least 1,866 MHz. You don’t need to buy the fastest RAM there is since it is quite easy to overclock it via XMP support.
Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) are BIOS instructions that indicate which frequency, timing, and voltage to apply to the RAM. It is in all respects and purposes an easy and fast method in order to overclock your RAM without tinkering with every single setting.
Timing and latency are two other specs that you should keep in mind. Timing essentially indicates the total number of memory clock cycles required for the RAM to send the required data. You can find these timings listed in the form of four sets of numbers interrupted by dashes, such as 16-18-18-36 for example; the first number usually indicates the CAS/CL latency (Column Access Strobe Latency, i.e. the delay between the memory controller that requires data from the RAM and the moment this data is actually available) thus in the above example the CAS is 16.
The thing you need to know is that lower values indicate a faster RAM. However, you should also know that higher speeds almost always involve a higher latency. So you should be wary of incredibly fast RAM kits but with very high latency since they will deny this advantage.
With all this in mind, you should look for RAM with a frequency of 3,200 MHz if you have an AMD Ryzen 1000 or 2000 series CPU (Zen and Zen+ respectively), a frequency of 3.773 MHz if you own a Ryzen 3000 series CPU (Zen 2) and a frequency of 4,000 MHz for the new Ryzen 5000 series CPUs (Zen 3), and a CAS latency of 17. If instead, you have an Intel CPU, you can simply buy the best kit you can afford regardless of frequency or latency.
It is also important to install corresponding RAM modules (a kit) and check the motherboard’s manual for which slots to use – all motherboards have at least two memory channels, but some have four, and placing the RAM modules in the right channels (dual-channel memory) will improve performance.
- 16 GB is more than enough for most users. While more experienced users may need 32 GB, 16 GB (2 modules 8 GB) are much more convenient and sufficient for both gaming and productivity tasks.
- Always buy RAM in a kit (2 or 4 modules). Never combine two different modules or kits even if they belong to the same supplier and product line. Mixing modules can produce an undesirable effect (incompatibility), and sometimes manual adjustment is required to achieve system stability.
- If in doubt, always check the specifications of the system and the motherboard.
These are the best RAM kits you can buy today
Corsair Vengeance LPX: best low profile RAM
The Corsair Vengeance LPX (Check on Amazon) RAM is made for users who need maximum performance in a more compact body. This module is essential for PC builds featuring huge CPU heat sinks. While having such a low profile, it does not sacrifice performance and is still equipped with an integrated eight-layer heat sink that can effectively keep it cool during overclocking.
And although its slim design does not allow for RGB LEDs, it comes in four colors: white, black, red, or blue. In addition to the fact that many of us like its more sober design, this RAM also offers one of the most competitive prices in its performance range.
Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB: best premium RAM
There are RGB RAM kits and then there is this RGB RAM kit.
If you want the best RAM ever, regardless of cost, Corsair’s Dominator Platinum (Check on Amazon) has always been at the top of this list. This is a stylish kit, with unparalleled performance, super reliable thanks to Corsair’s excellent quality control, and very stable thanks to DHX cooling technology.
Now, this iconic module has been updated with an even nicer design and the best RGB lighting available, with unique lighting effects made possible by the combination of the new Capellix RGB LED technology (denser LED formation – 12 RGB addressable LEDs in total – resulting in brighter lights but without increasing power consumption which in turn allows for a higher memory speed) and Corsair’s iCUE software.
For the rest, this is the same premium RAM that we know and love, with speeds up to 4,800 MHz (out of the box, without any overclocking) and superior cooling performance thanks to the taller heatsinks.
You will be paying a hefty premium compared to some of the other kits mentioned in this list and it’s way more than most people need, but it could be perfect for an extreme, future-proof build.
We think that it’s worth every penny if you can afford it.
G.Skill Trident Z RGB: best RAM for a gaming PC
By now, we all know G.Skill and its Trident Z RGB series (Check on Amazon). These are fast RAM modules, with average CAS latencies (between 14 and 19), clock speeds of up to 4,266 MHz, and support for XMP 2.0 profiles, which result in quick and easy overclocking. The aluminum heat sinks complete a design that combines style with functionality.
However, this is the best PC gaming RAM not only because it is fast, but also because it features a fully customizable multi-zone RGB light bar along the top of each module, which makes this kit stand out, adding some style and color to the system.
There are modules with better performance but the G.Skill Trident Z RGB offers a great value and saves you money to use when buying other important components, such as a more powerful graphics card.
We have recommended and installed this RAM in dozens of gaming PCs (including ours), and we have never had any complaints.
G.Skill Trident Z Neo: best RAM for an AMD gaming PC
The G.Skill Trident Z RGB (Check on Amazon) has dominated the rankings for years, so we are not surprised that the company’s Trident Z Neo series (Check on Amazon) has also earned a spot on our list. Similar to the Trident Z RGB series, the Trident Z Neo is also equipped with very refined RGB lighting. More importantly, the Neo series is optimized for AMD builds, making this RAM the perfect choice for “budget” Ryzen PCs.
The Trident Z Neo offers, in fact, an excellent performance/price ratio. You can get a 32 GB kit for “just” (Check on Amazon); a very competitive price compared to most other memory kits of similar specifications.
This RAM is available at various speeds ranging from 2,600 MHz up to 3,800 MHz. And each module also comes with five addressable RGB LEDs that can beautify your PC case.
But the real value is hidden under the built-in heat sink; these memory modules use Samsung’s B-die integrated circuits. With a little patience, you can optimize their timings and thus further improve performance. In fact, these memory modules come with XMP timings of 16-16-16-36, which are not bad in itself; however, with our DRAM voltage set to 1.45 V, we were able to reach values of 13-14- 14-35, before the kit became unstable.
Whether you’re about to build or want to upgrade an AMD Ryzen gaming PC, the G.Skill Trident Z Neo (Check on Amazon) is a perfect choice.
G.Skill Trident Z Royal: the fastest
Finding the RAM module that fits perfectly into your RGB build is easy with G.Skill, and the Trident Z Royal kit (Check on Amazon) features the most beautiful design on the market. It is in fact equipped with a crystalline light bar, that disperses the light coming from eight RGB LEDs, creating a brilliant and unique effect. The module itself is equipped with aluminum heatsinks in gold or silver color. Of course, this RAM is not limited to style but offers great reliability and cutting-edge performance as well.
The 4,800 MHz G.Skill Trident Z Royal (Check on Amazon) sits on top of all our benchmarks and is ideal for any high-performance PC build. This memory kit will surely keep your high-end CPU fed with all the data it requires. And if 4,800 MHz seems slow to you, it can also be overclocked!
Sadly, its design will not be for everyone and the same applies to its premium price (Check on Amazon).
Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro: best high-end RAM
If a PC’s aesthetics matter to you, then we bet that you often have to make a difficult choice between the most beautiful component or the one with the best performance. Corsair eliminates this doubt with its Vengeance RGB Pro kit (Check on Amazon). This RAM is beautiful to look at, boasts high-end performance, and has a reasonable price to boot.
A clock speed of 3600 MHz is easily achievable with the latest AMD Ryzen processors, and should also be easy to reach even on Intel chips thanks to XMP 2.0 support. In addition, this Corsair kit manages to achieve this performance despite being priced lower than the competition, making the Vengeance RGB Pro an excellent choice for a high-end PC build.
The only thing that we don’t like is its pastel colors that may not please everyone.
TeamGroup T-Force Xtreem ARGB: best RGB RAM
For those looking for cutting-edge performance and ARGB lighting, the TeamGroup T-Force Xtreem kit (Check on Amazon) is a perfect choice. This RAM is not only fast but also sports a CAS latency of 14.
This makes it our favorite low-latency RAM — especially for AMD Ryzen systems that favor a memory clock around 3,600 MHz, ensuring that the Infinity Fabric clock is maintained at a 1:1 ratio.
In addition, these RAM modules support overclocking and use an aluminum alloy heat sink that manages to disperse heat very efficiently.
However, the truly stunning feature is the way in which this RAM delivers its RGB lighting. Words can’t do it justice but it is a surprisingly intelligent solution when viewed closely. Make sure that you have enough space between the RAM and the CPU cooler, though, since these modules are quite tall.
Our only complaint concerns its availability which makes it a real challenge to find the right kit (Check on Amazon) for every configuration.
Crucial Ballistix MAX: best RAM for overclocking
There’s fast RAM, and then there’s really fast RAM. While almost anything over 3,000 MHz qualifies as fast, Crucial’s Ballistix MAX (Check on Amazon) takes speed to another level. This RAM is capable of reaching a speed of 5,100 MHz simply by using the XMP profile. Obviously, avid overclockers can try to push it even further!
AMD’s 5000 series processors are the only ones capable of making the most of these crazy speeds, which is why we only recommend this RAM to those who use the latest top of the range Zen 3 CPUs and motherboards range — the only ones capable of handling this type of power — and only to those that they intend to overclock their PC to the max.
However, keep in mind that if we talk about gaming rigs, you can expect only a small increase in framerate — usually in the range of 5-10 FPS depending on the title.
Last but not least, the Crucial Ballistix MAX (Check on Amazon) also comes with built-in RGB lighting, that can be synchronized with lighting software from different motherboard manufacturers such as Asus, MSI, and Gigabyte.
Patriot Viper Steel: best high-performance RAM at a reasonable price
For those with a motherboard that can handle high-speed RAM and that use software (content creators or creative professionals) or games that can benefit from it, the Patriot Viper Steel (Check on Amazon) is an excellent high-performance option and one without unnecessary distractions such as RGB lights.
Keeping the RAM simple has allowed Patriot to equip Viper Steel with improved times that dramatically increase the performance of some programs, including games (gains of around 5-10 FPS).
In addition, Patriot beats the competition on price, undercutting the Viper Steel from 9% to 18% — depending on which kit (16 or 32 GB) you intend to buy. And that’s without compromising on performance.
Be careful, though, as these modules are already running at their maximum speed, thus there is no headroom for further overclocking. That said, running the Viper Steel at the advertised frequency should be more than enough for most users.
While the Patriot Viper Steel (Check on Amazon) won’t win any direct comparisons against rival kits — in terms of performance — it costs less than all the others at similar speeds and this fact makes it the new undisputed champion of performance/price ratio.
Kingston HyperX Fury: best cheap RAM
The Kingston HyperX Fury (Check on Amazon) is a cheap RAM capable of automatic overclocking. This intelligent DDR3 or DDR4 module automatically detects system components and overclocks itself at the highest possible speed, optimizing performance for all the latest Intel chipsets. It comes with latency between CL14 and CL16 and a speed between 1,866 MHz and 2,666 MHz. Despite being a tad slower than modern standards, it can have a huge impact on your system’s performance.
The Kingston HyperX Fury (Check on Amazon) is an excellent choice especially if you’re upgrading an older system that is not compatible with DDR4 memory or if you’re building a cheap PC.
G.Skill RipJaws V: best RAM for a mid-range gaming PC
G.Skill is a popular brand among PC manufacturers. The company is known for its quality and its “budget” RipJaws V (Check on Amazon) series modules will help you save money without sacrificing performance.
It is clear that G.Skill listened to the feedback and criticism of its customer base. The new G.Skill RipJaws V series (second generation) is more affordable, even faster, and uses a rather compact heat sink that should not cause any problems with most other PC components (like big heatsinks and CPU fans). We think that the RipJaws V 16GB kit is the best option since it offers good capacity and solid performance right out of the box.
With no overclocking, the 2400 MHz RipJaws V module got outstanding scores in various benchmarks, beating several other 2400 MHz kits. Furthermore, it is possible to overclock it up to 3,000 MHz by simply bumping up the voltage slightly. And you can reach 3,200 MHz, although this is where stability problems are often encountered.
The same also applies to the 16 GB and 3,200 MHz kit, which is cheaper than most other RAM kits that offer the same capacity and speed.
If you prefer an AMD Ryzen build this 3200 MHz kit is just perfect since only AMD Ryzen chipsets can take advantage of this speed.
With a price of (Check on Amazon) the value of G.Skill RipJaws V is hard to beat.