There are so many PC parts to think about when you’re building or upgrading your gaming 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 that 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 – and click here to find them in the UK.
TL;DR – These are the Best RAM Kits:
1. Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro SL
For a great kit of straight-shooting, high-performance RAM that should work well with most modern machines from budget builds to high-end rigs, the Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro SL is a strong package. This kit offers up 16GB of memory split between two sticks, so you can go for a dual-channel configuration to increase your memory bandwidth.
The two sticks operate at an effective 3,600MHz, which is easy to get up and running thanks to support for XMP 2.0. If your motherboard doesn’t automatically kick these DIMMs into high gear, it should be as simple as flipping a couple switches in BIOS. And plenty of motherboards and processors support this memory speed. That speed doesn’t come with a huge sacrifice to timings as you’ll get a CAS latency of 18. For some extra flair, the Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro SL offer RGB lighting along the top of the modules, but they actually don’t take up too much space, letting the DIMMs stand up just 44mm from the motherboard to offer plenty of clearance for your CPU cooler.
2. OLOy Owl
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. 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.
4. Teamgroup T-Force Dark Z
Best DDR4 RAM
For a DDR4 straight-shooter you’ll get good value out of the Teamgroup T-Force Dark Z. You can get 16GB of memory for under $100, and it comes with a stylish, metal heatsink that’ll shield the memory chips while staying fairly low profile at just 43.5mm. Given the price, this set also makes it fairly affordable to go for an upgrade to 32GB of memory, in case you hate closing Chrome when you’re gaming.
These DIMMs offer a decent overclock to 3,200MHz right off the bat, and that’s paired with a CAS latency of 16 clocks to stay speedy. You can get these memory modules running up to speed on both AMD and Intel motherboards as long as the board and CPU support speeds up to 3,200MHz. And, you might be able to push the speeds even further if you’re comfortable overclocking, as the starting voltage is 1.35V, so there’s a bit of headroom.
5. Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB
Best DDR5 RAM
Your eyes don’t deceive you. DDR5 is here and you can get your hands on it. The Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB series of RAM has already made the leap to the new generation of memory, and it is ready for speed. This 32GB, dual-channel kit can cruise at 5,200MHz, and though that CAS latency of 38 and the extended timings might look a little slow, DDR5 handles memory a bit differently, so you can still see serious performance. Of course, Corsair tops these DIMMs off with a bit of flair, adding a bunch of RGB lighting to the heat spreader.
You’re going to need a motherboard and processor that can support DDR5 to use this kit, which at present is just Intel’s Alder Lake chips and Z690 motherboards. But, if you’re trying to get ahead of the rush to build out a system on these cutting edge components, you’ll want to act fast.
6. PNY XLR8 Gaming Epic-X RGB
Best AMD RAM
AMD Ryzen processors love fast memory, but unless you’re comfortable tinkering with overclocks in your system BIOS, it may be either difficult or expensive to give those fast memory speeds to your PC. The PNY XLR8 Gaming Epic-X RGB takes a bunch of the guesswork out of the equation and takes out a surprising amount of the cost, too, at just $120.
This dual-channel kit offers a total of 16GB of DDR4 memory, and it’s ready to blaze a trail with memory speeds of 4,000MHz. You better make sure your motherboard can handle those speeds, as some budget models actually have a limit for how fast memory can run. With the PNY XLR8 Gaming Epic-X RGB modules running at 4,000MHz, your Ryzen processor is going to be plenty happy. And, if you don’t mind a bit of tinkering, you can still hop into BIOS and see about setting your chip’s Infinity Fabric clock speed to synchronize with the memory’s clock speed to eke out every last bit of performance.
7. 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 3,200MHz with a low CAS latency of 14.
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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
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 @baggingspam
Mark Knapp is a regular contributor to IGN and an irregular Tweeter on Twitter @Techn0Mark