When it comes to low-cost PC upgrades that result in immediately noticeable performance gains, a newer set of higher-capacity RAM goes a very long way towards upgrading an older system. 8GB of memory used to be more than enough for most PC games, but modern games like Battlefield 1 now recommend 16GB or higher.
Best gaming motherboards
Need a new motherboard to match that RAM? Check out our guide to the best gaming motherboards.
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.
The best budget DDR4 kit
- Excellent value
- Sleek low-profile design
- Easy overclocking
- No color options like HyperX Fury DDR3
One of the oldest memory manufacturers on the market, Kingston has developed a very strong name for itself over the years. The company’s gamer-focused “HyperX” brand may be newer, but just about every product of theirs we’ve tested lives up to the company’s standards of quality. The new DDR4 memory kits backed by a lifetime warranty are no exception.
The HyperX Fury Black 16GB may not be the cheapest DDR4 memory bundle you can find, but in our opinion it holds great value when you’re on a budget. This particular kit comes in the lowest available DDR4 speed of 2133MHz, but as extensive testing has proven time and time again, higher speed RAM yields very little improvements when it comes to PC gaming.
The best mid-range DDR4 kit
- Affordable high capacity
- 42mm height for oversized CPU coolers
- Excellent stock performance
- Minor stability issues at higher speeds
When it comes to affordability and value, G.Skill’s memory kits frequently come to mind, as it’s typical to see their prices as the most competitive on Amazon and Newegg. While this kind of budget-oriented reputation often leads to disappointing performance and quality control, we’ve found G.Skill RAM to hold up exceptionally well over the years.
The G.Skill Ripjaws V is the second generation of the company’s DDR4 memory and it’s clear that they’ve listened to the feedback and criticisms from the customers. The new series is more affordable, faster and has been redesigned with a less tacky heatsink. We found the 32GB Ripjaws V kit to be the best option for a high capacity kit that features top performance out of the box.
The best high-end DDR4 kit
- Includes Dominator Airflow LED fans
- Light bar upgrade available
- Sleek aesthetics
- High profile may get in the way on air-cooled builds
Since its birth in 1994, Corsair has grown to become one of the leading brands in PC components and peripherals for both enthusiasts and gamers alike. The company has certainly expanded from its DRAM-making roots, but Corsair still manages to impress us with its innovation in memory.
The Dominator Platinum series has long held the crown as a premium choice for memory since it was introduced in 2012. Four years later and it looks like things are no different with the latest DDR4 modules. With patented DHX cooling, unmatched reliability and head-turning looks, the Dominator Platinum is our top choice for high-end memory kits.
How we test RAM and others we tested
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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