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The best RAM for gaming in 2019

(Image credit: Future)

Buying the best RAM for gaming can be a mix of frustrating and infuriating at times. If you're just blindly buying the largest RAM kit you can afford, you're likely not getting the most performance for your dollar. Besides whether or not a particular kit has RGB, the first thing you are likely to notice is how much memory you're getting. Most kits range from 8 to 32GB, but 16GB is typically enough for most gaming. 

While memory size does matter, another important factor is the frequency and latency of the particular kit. So yeah, size isn't exactly everything. It won't matter if you have 64GB of RAM if they're only running at 2133MHz. We are slowly creeping into the territory of DDR5, with some kits producing ridiculous speeds, but the vast majority of DDR4 kits pin the throttle around 3200MHz. The latency of a particular RAM kit can also affect speed as this number determines how long it takes to send or retrieve data from your memory, the vast majority of RAM kits generally have a CL of 15 or 16, but some higher-end kits, like the G.Skill Trident Z Royal Series have a Latency of just 14. This does have a bearing on how fast your RAM is, but with only a couple of truly viable options for gaming, just remember that the lower the number is, the faster your RAM will go.

Another less apparent factor can also be the physical size of the kit, while this is less of an issue with AIO coolers as they tend to have a smaller footprint on the motherboard, even the best CPU coolers will necessitate a solid amount of real estate to function. This becomes a problem with especially large RAM kits with massive heat spreaders and RGB lighting like the Corsair Dominator Platinum. While having 4 sticks side-by-side does look pretty cool, they may not exactly fit if you have an excessively large cooler.   

Buying the right memory kit can equate to a night and day difference in the performance of your PC and thankfully we're free from the oppressively high prices that were once an inevitability when it came to buying new RAM kits. And with regular deals, especially around Black Friday, you can easily expand your memory and give your PC a solid boost.   

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(Image credit: Corsair)
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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

Ultra-bright Capellix RGB LEDs
Dominator DHX heat-spreaders
Advanced iCUE software
Module height may cause clearance issues

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.

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(Image credit: G.Skill)
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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

Beautiful RGB patterns
Same height as non-RGB models
Still no custom lighting profiles

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.

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(Image credit: Ballistix)
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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

3D printable and removable light bar
Robust RGB software control
RGB software doesn't work on X99

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.

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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

Decent pricing
Great overclocking headroom
Minor stability issues at higher speeds

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.

Best CPU for gaming | Best graphics card | Best gaming motherboards
Best SSD for gaming | Best PC cases | Best gaming monitors

Patriot Viper Elite 8GB DDR4-2400MHz

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

Budget friendly upgrade
Easy overclocking
Possible clearance issues with large CPU coolers 

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.

Jargon buster - RAM terminology

DIMMs

Dual In Line Memory Module, the physical slot on a motherboard (actually a small circuit board itself) where RAM is inserted.

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.

Frequency

The measure in MHz of how many commands a RAM kit can process in a second.

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.

Timings

The measure in number of clock cycles that an operation requested by the memory controller will take for the RAM to complete. 

XMP

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.