Choosing the best RAM for gaming can sometimes feel like grasping at straws. It can be tempting to just find the largest sticks of RAM your motherboard can handle, but picking the right RAM has just as much to do with frequencies and timing as it does with speed and size. Our guide is here to give you the breakdown on the stats that really matter and give your PC the boost it needs.
RAM prices have thankfully remained relatively stable for the past 6 months, giving us a much-needed reprieve from the prices we were seeing about a year ago at this time. That means there has been no better time to buy. However, knowing what to look for can be another matter entirely. Your primary point of interest besides the actual storage space should be the RAM's frequency. The faster the base frequency is, the faster your computer can send and retrieve data from storage, and while manufacturers are slowly letting us overclock our RAM to increasingly ridiculous speeds, most DDR4 kits top out around 3200MHz.
Another, but slightly more finicky stat to pay attention to is the timing. While potentially not as important as the RAM's frequency, which is how fast the data can be transferred, the timing determines the number of cycles between requests. Bottom line is, lower numbers on your RAMs timing mean it can fulfill requests more often.
One final note on RAM is to consider how large the dimensions are. This isn't always a problem, but some kits like the Corsair Dominator Platinum can include RGB lighting or heat spreaders that drastically increase the footprint of a specific kit, potentially causing it to encroach on other components unless your motherboard has a generous amount of space between its DIMM slots and the CPU socket.
1. Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB 32GB DDR4-3200MHz
The best RAM for gaming
Speed: DDR4-3200MHz | Timing: 16-18-18-36 | Cas Latency: 16 | Voltage: 1.35V | Dimms: 2x16GB
Corsair has outdone itself with the Dominator Platinum RGB. The original DDR4 kit has been our favorite high-end memory bundle for quite some time now. Its sleek exterior, patented DHX cooling technology and unrivaled performance have made it a formidable flagship over the years. Now, the iconic Dominator Platinum is back with a stealthy new design and Corsair's new Capellix LED technology.
The Dominator Platinum RGB takes the same best-in-class performance of the original, adds higher clocked SKUs and 12 individually addressable Capellix RGB LEDs. The new LEDs are brighter and more efficient than previous iterations. Combined with Corsair’s formidable iCUE software, the Dominator Platinum RGB has become both the best RGB and high-end performance kit.
The price doesn't differ too much from the original, non-RGB Dominator Platinum, but you’re still paying a hefty premium compared to some of the other kits mentioned in this guide. We still think it's well worth every penny if you can afford it.
2. G.Skill Trident Z RGB 16GB DDR4-2400MHz
The best RAM for gaming for those that prefer a lightshow
Speed: DDR4-2400MHz | Timing: 15-15-15-35 | Cas Latency: 15 | Voltage: 1.2V | Dimms: 2x8GB
Light up RAM modules have been around for a while, and RGB-enabled options are now commonplace. G.Skill's Trident Z RGB is one of the most tasteful implementations of RGB lighting we've come across. The kit illuminates itself with five individually addressable RGB LEDs and a frosted diffuser that produces a soft glow that looks fantastic in just about any PC build.
The memory performance is just as good as the looks, with the Trident Z line available in speeds ranging from 2400 to 3600, and more. Overclocking performance is in line with other Trident memory, and with tuning and tweaking you can usually squeeze a couple hundred more MHz out of the kit. The Trident Z RGB line is well worth consideration for any build.
3. Ballistix Tactical Tracer RGB 32GB DDR4-2666 MHz
The best RAM for gaming for fully customizable RGB
Speed: DDR4-2666MHz | Timing: 16-18-18-36 | Cas Latency: 16 | Voltage: 1.2V | Dimms: 4x8GB
If you're into personalizing and modding your PC, Crucial's Ballistix Tactical Tracer RGB series is another worthy option. Available in 16GB-64GB configurations at 2666MHz and 3000Mhz, the latest Ballistix DDR4 memory is suitable for a wide range of builds without much of a premium. The main selling point here is the kit's 16 addressable RGB LEDs with eight controllable zones and an easily removable light bar that diffuses and enhances the RGB effects.
Crucial provides free 3D files that allow you to print different light bars to produce a wide range of aesthetics for any build. Power users can modify existing files to print their own gamer tag or custom designs. Alternatively, you can remove the light bar altogether for a blindingly bright effect. The Ballistix Tactical Tracer RGB provides the customization G.Skill's Trident Z RGB series lacks, and when you look at the advanced software and possibilities that come with the Ballistix kit, it's easy to see how this is a top choice for PC modders.
4. G.Skill Ripjaws V 16GB DDR4-2400MHz
The best RAM for gaming for mid-tier machines
Speed: DDR4-2400MHz | Timing: 15-15-15-35 | Cas Latency: 15 | Voltage: 1.2V | Dimms: 2x8GB
The G.Skill Ripjaws V is the second generation of DDR4 memory from G.Skill, and it's clear the company listened to the feedback and criticisms from the customers. The new series is more affordable, faster, and has a less tacky heatsink. We found the 16GB Ripjaws V kit to be the best option for a decent capacity kit that features great performance right out of the box.
Immediately without any overclocking the Ripjaws V did exceptionally well in our benchmarks, beating several kits in the 2400 MHz range. Despite this, you can still achieve an overclock to 2800-3000MHz with a simple bump in voltage. You might even reach 3200MHz or higher, though you're likely to hit some stability issues. With a reasonable price, whether running stock or overclocked, G.Skill Ripjaws V is hard to beat.
5. Patriot Viper Elite 8GB DDR4-2400MHz
The best RAM for gaming for those on a budget
Speed: DDR4-2400MHz | Timing: 15-15-15-35 | Cas Latency: 15 | Voltage: 1.2V | Dimms: 2x4GB
The Patriot Viper Elite 8GB may not be the cheapest DDR4 memory bundle you can find, but in our opinion it holds the best value when you're on a budget. This dual-channel kit is priced lower than competitors like the HyperX Fury and Corsair Vengeance LPX while also offering similar levels of performance. And unlike cheaper kits, the Viper Elite features decent heatsinks and overclockability.
For those looking to take full advantage of what the Viper Elite has to offer, simple overclocking pushes its performance to match that of much more expensive options. One of the awesome things about DDR4 is that it generally operates at 1.2V, and even the slightest voltage increases can give you quite a bit more clockspeed while still remaining cooler than DDR3. We hit 2800MHz and 3000MHz speeds with ease, and 3200MHz is possible.
6. G.SKILL Trident Z Royal Series 128GB DDR4-3200Mhz
The best RAM for gaming for the machine that has everything
Speed: DDR4-3200MHz | Timing: 14-14-14-34 | Cas Latency: 14 | Voltage: 1.35V | Dimms: 8x16GB
First, let's be clear—spending well in excess of $1,000 on RAM isn't something we'd recommend for the casual gamer, or even for most power users. But if you're interested in building a RAM drive (a ridiculously fast virtual hard drive that lives in your RAM, that dumps its data every time you power down your rig), or need to lean into a massive stock of RAM for intensive workloads like server virtualization or video/photo editing, G.Skill's Trident Z Royal series is a great option. It's especially appealing if you crave the hot bling of sparkling 8 zone RGB-lit diamonds enticing guests to gaze longingly into your PCs innards and be hypnotized. Or perhaps you've got a millionaire PC gamer on your list and are at your wits end trying to shop for them.
Luckily, this high capacity Royal kit pairs substance with flash. Its boasts an excellent aluminum heat spreader to dissipate temps under load, and a rock solid frequency (at 3200Mhz) paired with some killer timings to ensure lightning quick performance. Yes, it's a tremendous investment, but if you've got the cash and the DIMMs, it's hard to go wrong with this ultra-luxurious package.
Jargon buster - RAM terminology
Dual In Line Memory Module, the physical slot on a motherboard (actually a small circuit board itself) where RAM is inserted.
Error-correcting Code Memory, RAM capable of automatically detecting and correcting errors on the fly, generally used in highly sensitive applications, like scientific data collection or banking.
The measure in MHz of how many commands a RAM kit can process in a second.
Column Access Strobe Latency, the delay between the memory controller requesting data from the RAM and the data being available; the first number listed in a kit's timings.
More compact DIMM slots typically deployed in laptops.
The measure in number of clock cycles that an operation requested by the memory controller will take for the RAM to complete.
Extreme Memory Profile, instructions for the BIOS that tell it what frequency, timings, and voltage to activate RAM at simultaneously, a shortcut for overclocking without tinkering with each setting individually.