When it comes to upgrading an older system, a new set of higher-capacity RAM is a low-cost upgrade that can result in immediately noticeable performance gains. 8GB of memory used to be more than enough for most PC games, but modern games like Battlefield 1 now recommend 16GB or higher.
PC gamers know how important RAM is when it comes to upgrading or building a new system. But with one of the most complicated technical spec sheets of all PC components, shopping for it can prove to be daunting. Beyond simple capacity, users have to worry about cooling, RAM channels, CAS latency and clock speeds too.
We’ve spent a great deal of time testing RAM kits to find the best options for PC gaming. If you’re looking to upgrade and reap all of the benefits of a newer platform like the Z170 or X99, here’s our top choices for DDR4 memory kits. Read our “How We Tested” section at the bottom to learn more about RAM and why we chose these winners.
Contrary to what you might expect, RAM speed actually has very little effect on gaming performance. As many studies and tests such as this one conducted by The Tech Buyer’s Guru will show you, there is virtually no noticeable FPS improvement from a 2133MHz kit to a 3200MHz one.
Additionally, CAS latency (CL) which refers to the delay time a memory controller experiences when accessing RAM, can also be tricky for gamers. Measured in nanoseconds, lower memory latency is not something you’d even notice while gaming.
CPU: Intel Core i7-5960X
Motherboard: MSI X99A Godlike Gaming Carbon
GPU: Nvidia Geforce GTX 780
SSD: Samsung 850 Evo 250GB
Power Supply: Corsair CS850M PSU
As Crucial simply recommends, “Optimize your system by installing as much memory as possible, using the latest memory technology, and choosing modules with as much speed as is cost-effective and/or relevant for the applications you're using.”
Since this guide is focused exclusively for PC gaming, we didn’t want to bombard you with largely meaningless benchmark results and instead judged our winners on a blend of performance, overclocking stability, features, and overall value. (But if you're wondering, the benchmarks we used included AIDA64, MaxxMEM and RealBench.) Since most of the kits we tested scored nearly identical benchmark results, we’ve omitted the charts to keep focus on the important stuff. Of course, we also stress tested each build with hours of Battlefield 1 and Overwatch in true PC Gamer fashion.
We completed all of our testing using quad-channel configurations on an X99 motherboard, but our recommendations still stand for dual-channel and even single-channel configurations. If you’re unfamiliar, memory channels refer to the number of communication paths between the CPU and the RAM. Like roads on a highway, the more channels there are the higher bandwidth is available for the CPU and RAM to work together.
Dual-channel requires two or more RAM modules while quad-channel requires four or more. Most modern CPUs support dual-channel memory while X99 models support quad-channel. But when it comes down to gaming, the differences between dual and quad channel memory are basically nonexistent. Here’s a great piece on the (lack of) performance differences from our friends at PCWorld.
A final note when purchasing RAM, keep in mind that mixing modules can work, but we highly recommend purchasing identical modules or a full kit for better stability.
HyperX Fury DDR4 2800 16GB
Priced just a tad higher than the 2133MHz option, the 2800 kit is also a great choice but both options reach similar overclocking thresholds so we’d recommend going with the cheaper of the two. If you aren’t comfortable messing around in the BIOS, go with the 2800 kit if the price difference is small enough.
HyperX Predator DDR4 3200 16GB
Like the Fury DDR4 series, the Predator offers killer stability and overclocking headroom. Unfortunately, the high price point makes it more worthwhile to get a 32GB kit of Ripjaws V or a 16GB kit of Dominator Platinums.
Corsair Vengeance DDR4 3000MHz 16GB
While Corsair’s Vengeance series still holds a great reputation for reliability and performs great, the kits are often priced pretty close to the Dominator Platinum. We’d highly recommend saving up a bit more to invest in the better bundle.
G.Skill Ripjaws V DDR4 2400MHz 16GB
Priced similarly as the HyperX Fury DDR4 2133 kit, the Ripjaws V don’t offer quite the same overclocking headroom and flexibility. However, we often find deals on the 2400 Ripjaws making them a really competitive choice on a budget.
G.Skill TridentZ DDR4 3200MHz 64GB
The top of the line G.Skill TridentZ series was a very close second to the Dominator Platinum. Overall, they’re excellent modules with high stock speeds at reasonable price points, but we were able to overlook the small difference in cost for the additional benefits the Dominator Platinum offers.
ADATA XPG Z1 DDR4 2133MHz 16GB
Priced higher than the HyperX Fury 2133MHz kit while offering slightly less performance, we’d find it hard to recommend the XPG Z1 series from ADATA. We still need to get our hands on the XPG Dazzle and its flashy LED bar which might be a better contender.
Crucial Ballistix Elite DDR4 3000MHz 32GB
While Crucial’s M.O.D. memory monitoring utility is a huge plus for the Ballistix Elite series, mediocre overclocking stability had us preferring the more affordable Ripjaws V.
While we may have covered some of the more popular memory brands, this guide is by no means a complete one. We still need to test kits from Klevv, Team Dark, Avexir, Patriot, PNY and more. We’ll be sure to keep you updated as we continue to receive new test kits. Be sure to let us know what your favorite DDR4 RAM is if we haven’t tested it yet.
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