Sure, picking the best RAM for gaming isn't as sexy an endeavour as trying to bag the best graphics card, but if you want to get the peak performance out of your system making sure you get the memory right can be vital.
But our short and sweet guidance is this: If you just want to make a straightforward pick based on rough speed and capacity, then 16 or 32GB at 3,200MHz should see any Intel or AMD CPU perform admirably. If you want to make a more informed decision, you'll find below a list of kits tested by us, at differing price points, that will help you spend your money well.
When selecting the best DDR4 RAM for gaming there are several things you have to take into account. First consider the total capacity of memory you’re looking for. We recommend a minimum of 16GB for most serious gaming PCs (it's what we use in our high-end PC build) but it isn’t too costly to upgrade to 32GB these days thanks to a recent pricing crash. That capacity will provide a hefty buffer if you’re inclined to multitasking, creative or intensive apps, or, y'know, heavy Chrome tab usage—check out our handy guide if you’re wondering how much RAM you actually need.
The second thing to consider is the speed of your memory. Generally, we like to stick with two DDR4 modules, each with a minimum of 3,000MHz clock speed. That should ensure you're getting the most out of the best CPUs for gaming. With Intel, you can essentially settle for whatever the best kit you can afford is, while AMD Ryzen patrons will want to look a little deeper.
We cover all of this and more in our RAM speed for gaming deep-dive, including the slightly more in-depth metric of memory latency. Today there are even more affordable low-latency options around, many perfect for AMD Ryzen gaming PCs, so don't be afraid to chase down a pair of swift sticks for maximum system optimisation.
Whatever your specific needs may be, we’ve chosen some of our favourite options for PC gaming below.
Best RAM for gaming
With a CAS latency of 14, the Team Xtreem kit leads the way in low-latency RAM favoured by gaming PCs, especially AMD Ryzen rigs. As such, it takes the top spot as our pick for the best RAM for gaming.
Not all that long ago a kit as well-rounded on both price and performance would've been a distant dream. However, a recent DRAM price crash and an increasing process maturity in DDR4 production means kits such as this can often be found for far less than they would've been only a couple of years ago.
That's great news for those of you eyeing up AMD's Ryzen CPUs, which favour a memory clock around the 3,600MHz mark—thus ensuring the Infinity Fabric clock is kept at a 1:1 ratio with your memory and your chip ticking over happily with minimal latency penalties. A kit such as the Team Xtreem is optimal for AMD Ryzen CPUs.
Even the RGB lighting on this kit is kept within moderation. Each DIMM features diffused RGB lighting that creates a glow-in-the-dark effect. And while that doesn't sound great on paper, it's surprisingly smart in the flesh.
If you want to eke out all your CPU has to offer, and ensure your system looks fresh in the process, the Team Xtreem ARGB kit is a great option—just a shame about the name.
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, often topping our best RAM for gaming list. 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, and are only available from Corsair. Combined with Corsair’s 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, whichever capacity kit you go for.
Read the full Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB review.
G.Skill’s Trident Z RGB RAM has dominated our guide for years now, and it’s no surprise the company’s Trident Z Neo series has also earned a spot here. Similar to the original Trident Z RGB series, the Trident Z Neo comes equipped with brilliant RGB lighting done in a very tasteful manner. More importantly, the Neo series is optimized for AMD Ryzen builds which make this budget-friendly option the perfect choice for budget-conscious Ryzen PCs.
Similar to the overall performance of your Ryzen PC build, the Trident Z Neo offers fantastic bang for your buck. You can get a 32GB kit for under $200, which means you can also easily upgrade your machine to an (admittedly unnecessary) 64GB of high-speed DDR4 memory down the road.
Like its counterpart, the Trident Z Neo comes in various speeds and configurations ranging from 2,600MHz all the way up to 3,800MHz. Each module comes equipped with five individually addressable RGB LEDs that can light up any PC build beautifully.
Known for superb binned memory and high speed kits, G.Skill's Trident Z Royal blends 4,000MHz (effective) operation with a highly stylised design. These DIMMs are just asking to be put center-stage in a showpiece gaming PC build—and it would be far from a slouch either.
Best suited to high-performance Intel builds, such as those built around the Core i9 10900K, the Trident Z Royal makes for the perfect high-speed pairing. This kit will keep your CPU fed with the data it needs at a rapid rate, and it comes out among the top in every benchmark we could throw at it.
There's also room to overclock this kit, if you see fit. We managed to push it to 4,400MHz without an increase in voltage, although we were forced to lower the latency a touch for the kit to capitulate to our OC demands.
Whereas you may want to choose a slower 3,600MHz kit for AMD Ryzen, the Trident Z is a great option for most other high-end PC builds.
Read out full G.Skill Trident Z Royal 16GB DDR4-4000MHz review.
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 2,400MHz range. Despite this, you can still achieve an overclock to 2,800-3,000MHz with a simple bump in voltage. You might even reach 3,200MHz 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.
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 cool. We hit 2,800MHz and 3,000MHz speeds with ease, and 3,200MHz is possible.
Jargon buster - RAM terminology
DIMMs - Dual In-Line Memory Module, the physical circuit board that holds the RAM chips that plugs into the slots on your motherboard.
ECC Memory - 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. Typically only used and supported on servers and workstations, though most desktop boards can run it as non-ECC.
Frequency - The effective speed at which the memory operates, measured in MHz.
CL/CAS Latency - 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.
SO-DIMM - More compact DIMM slots typically deployed in laptops, although these can turn up on very small machines as well.
Timings - The measure in number of memory clock cycles that an operation requested by the memory controller will take for the RAM to complete. Lower is generally better.
XMP - eXtreme Memory Profile, instructions for the BIOS that tell it what frequency, timings, and voltage to access RAM at, a shortcut for overclocking without tinkering with each setting individually. Officially for Intel platforms, unofficially many AMD boards readily support reading XMP data (though it may go by another name like A-XMP or DOHC).