There are so many PC parts to think about when you're building or upgrading yourgaming PC, and amid that mountain of specs, few parts are more puzzling than memory (or RAM). At the baseline, it may seem simple, as there's the RAM's capacity to think about, with 8GB to 16GB generally being acceptable for mid- to high-end systems. But, once you start digging deeper, RAM gets astoundingly complex.
Beyond the capacity, you'll have to consider things like whether you want to take advantage of dual- or quad-channel memory, the memory speed you want to run at (yes, RAM has a clock speed much like a CPU), and perhaps the even more complicated CAS latency and memory timings. All of these things will vary between different memory kits, so you can't expect one 16GB kit of DDR4 memory to be the same as another.
We'll help make picking RAM easy for you, though. We've selected a number of excellent RAM kits, ranging from stalwart DDR3 RAM to fit in an older system up to high-end DDR4 RAM than can overclock to insane speeds, plus a handful of sharp-looking RGB kits that complement their own speeds with killer looks. If you're hoping to learn more about RAM, we've also got explanations of some of the main details below our product recommendations. If you're browsing in the UK, click here to find out where you can find the best RAM to speed up your PC.
TL;DR – These are the Best RAM Kits:
- Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro
- OLOy Owl
- G.Skill Ripjaws V
- Kingston HyperX Fury
- HyperX Predator DDR4 RGB
- Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB
- Teamgroup T-Force Xtreem ARGB
- Corsair Vengeance LPX
- Crucial Ballistix MAX
1. Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro
Corsair is making some of the very best memory kits around, so it should be no surprise that one of its kits has managed to snag the top spot on our list. The Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro leads the pack by offering a touch of everything. Our selected kit gives you 16GB of RAM in two sticks for dual-channel memory support. The DIMMs run at 3,200MHz with a low CAS latency of 16, though overclocking could provide even higher speeds if you're up to tinkering.
Beyond those specs, the Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro also offers (as the name probably made clear) RGB lighting that you can control to match the rest of your setup, especially if you have other Corsair peripherals. In spite of the high performance and fancy RGB strips, the 16GB kit actually stays reasonably affordable at about $85. Of course, you could always bump up to a faster or higher-capacity kit. Corsair offers kits up to 128GB in size and up to 4600MHz speeds. Just make sure there's plenty of clearance next to yourCPU cooler, as the RAM's 51mm height is on the tall side.
Best Budget RAM
RAM has been pretty affordable in comparison to the steep prices seen during shortages a couple of years ago. And, with the OLOy Owl, you can see some of the lowest prices yet. This set of two sticks offer surprisingly fast, 3,200MHz memory speeds for RAM that costs less than $60. And, they even have fairly low latency for such an affordable option. If you want to make sure you're taking advantage of the full speeds available on these sticks, you'll just need to ensure your motherboard supports XMP and DDR4-3200. You should also make sure your CPU cooler provides clearance for the slightly tall heat spreaders on these RAM modules.
3. G.Skill Ripjaws V
Best DDR4 RAM
G.Skill is known for its quality and its Ripjaws V series value model will help you save money on a RAM kit without losing out on performance. This 16GB (3,200MHz) set of memory, for example, is more affordable than most other RAM kits offering the same capacity and speed.
Alternatively, you can easily buy yourself a 16GB G.Skill Ripjaws V (2,400MHz) RAM kit and save some dough, and then easily overclock it to 3,000MHz without an extra drop of voltage. The G.Skill Ripjaws V also features a fairly reserved and short heatsink, so it should work well with most PC builds.
4. Kingston HyperX Fury
Best DDR3 RAM
If you’re building or upgrading an older system that isn’t compatible with DDR4 memory, the Kingston HyperX Fury is your best choice for a DDR3 RAM kit. It’s a little slow by modern standards with its 1,866MHz speed, but this smart DDR3 can auto-detect your system components to overclock itself to the highest speeds possible. Best of all, it’s fairly inexpensive, so nab this memory kit before it eventually sells out.
5. HyperX Predator DDR4 RGB
Best Gaming RAM
HyperX Predator DDR4 RGB is an amazing kit of RAM engineered for gaming. Unlike other DDR4 memory kits, it doesn’t start at a 2,400MHz or 2,666MHz base, this memory kicks off at 2,933MHz. It can even be found operating at a native 4,000MHz speed, and we haven’t even started talking about overclocking potential yet. Of course, it has addressable lighting as any other good, modern memory kit should, but HyperX has taken RGB a step further by integrating Infrared Sync tech to ensure lighting effects are always synced across all the DIMMs. Overall, this gaming RAM performs just as well as it looks.
6. Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB
Best High-Performance RAM
If you’re looking for the absolute best memory money can buy, it’s the Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB. This memory comes at a higher premium than most RAM kits, but they also offer the highest speeds, next-level cooling with those extra-tall heat spreaders, and arguably the best RGB lighting available.
On the performance end, those fancy and tall heat spreaders allow this RAM to run at up to to 4,800MHz out of the box, and that's without any overclocking. The Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB is the perfect memory kit for going all out on a future-proofed gaming rig and they’ll likely outlast everything else in your gaming PC, so you can use it in your next one!
8. Teamgroup T-Force Xtreem ARGB
Best RGB RAM
As just about every other piece of your computer can turn on the light show, why not include the RAM? Teamgroup has the dazzle on display with the T-Force Xtreem ARGB DIMMs, and it's not making you trade off performance for pizzazz. This RAM kit includes two 8GB DIMMs that can run at up to 3,600MHz with a CAS latency of 18.
The RGB lighting effects are even more extreme than this RAM's clock speeds, giving you control of the colors across all sides of the DIMM. And you're not even locked into one color at a time. Just make sure you've got room for this RAM next to your CPU cooler, because it's fairly tall.
9. Corsair Vengeance LPX
Best Low-Profile RAM
In case any of the RAM kits I’ve recommended here are too tall and would interfere with that heatsink tower cooler you’ve been eyeing, you might be better off with some low-profile Corsair Vengeance LPX memory. It’s short enough to work with any setup, but hardly sacrifices any performance to do so. Despite the Corsair Vengeance LPX’s lower height, it still offers an integrated heatsink to help it achieve great performance.
10. Crucial Ballistix MAX
Best Overclocking RAM
There's fast RAM and then there's fast RAM. While just about everything over 3,000MHz is going to qualify as speedy, Crucial's Ballistix MAX takes it to another level. These DIMMs are capable of hitting a zany 5,100MHz. You don't even need to do any of the overclocking work yourself, as they can be set to 5,100MHz simply by using the XMP profile.
Of course, what's the fun in settling for stock speeds, even when they're this high. Overclockers can try to push it even further. It's worth noting that these DIMMs already start out at 1.5 volts though. But what overclocker doesn't love a challenge.
Where to Get the Best RAM in the UK
What to Look for in the Best RAM
Below we've broken down a few things you should consider in your search for the best RAM kit and how much memory you’ll need for PC gaming.
Before you even begin looking at memory kits you should consider what your hardware limitations will be. Start by checking if your motherboard supports either DDR4 or DDR3 class memory. DDR4 class RAM has been the most prevalent form of memory for more than five years now, however, if you’re running an Intel 5th Generation Broadwell or older system you’ll need to find DDR3 memory.
You’ll also want to look at the specs on your motherboard and figure out the maximum memory speed it can support. Spending some extra money on 3,200MHz RAM is completely pointless if your motherboard can only support 2,400MHz, for example.
8GB of RAM is pretty much the minimum and it should let you play most games without any problems.
As for how much memory you need to game, 8GB of RAM is pretty much the minimum these days and it should let you play most games without any problems. Meanwhile, 16GB of memory will give your system a little bit more room to stretch itself and ‘future-proof’ your rig. Adding any more memory on top of 16GB would honestly be a waste if you're just gaming. However, if you're working in a creative field like video editing, 3D model rendering, and creating other types of visual media, then 32GB or more memory would be useful.
In terms of memory speed, you should look for DDR4 memory that operates close to or above 2,400MHz—or 2400MT/s as it’ll appear on the packaging and online. Users purchasing DDR3 RAM should look for memory operating at 1,866MHz at least, and the closer to 2,000MHz the better. You don't necessarily need to buy the fastest RAM either as it's easy enough to overclock your memory.
Memory Timings and CAS Latency (CL) is one other figure you should keep in mind about the memory you choose it. Timings essentially denote the total number of cycles it takes for the RAM to send data. You can find the timings listed in the memory specs as four numbers interrupted by dashes such as "16-18-18-36" and the first number usually denotes the CAS Latency—so it would be CAS 16 in this case.
The basic thing you need to know is the lower the numbers are the faster your memory is. However, you should also know that faster memory speed results in higher latency. So you should also be wary of RAM that's incredibly fast, but throws in a lot of latency that negates it.
With all of that in mind, you should stick to RAM with at most a memory speed of 3,773MHz and CAS 17.
Whether you’re building a new system or upgrading your computer, adding one of these best RAM kits is a sure-fire way to make it operate a bit faster. A bit of extra memory can do wonders for improving your PC’s responsiveness and multi-tasking capabilities. Plus, adding better or more memory is usually the cheapest way to improve the performance of your rig.
Kevin Lee is IGN's Hardware and Roundups Editor. Follow him on Twitter @baggingspamMark Knapp is a regular contributor to IGN and an irregular Tweeter on Twitter @Techn0Mark