Today, we’re releasing our top picks for the best RAM for gaming. We’re going to cover all kinds of different capacities, budgets, and even generations of RAM technology. In addition to the main selection, we’re also going to include a detailed buying guide below in order to help you make the most informed buying decision possible.
Even if you don’t buy anything today, we’re hoping that this article gives you all of the information you need to know in order to make an informed decision regarding buying RAM in the future.
Let’s dive into it!
Best RAM For Gaming
Capacity: 8GB | Standard: DDR3 | Speed: 1600 MHz | CAS: 10 | Configuration: 2×4
The Kingston HyperX FURY 8GB DDR3 kit is our pick for best budget DDR3 RAM kit, for a few different reasons. For one, it’s one of the cheapest DDR3 RAM kits still available on the market, retailing for just under a cool $50 at the time of writing.
Secondly, it’s also clocked at a nice 1600 MHz, which is decently beyond the basic 1333 MHz expected of most consumer DDR3 RAM kits, and should serve as a nice addition to any low/no-RAM DDR3-based system.
In addition to the aforementioned benefits, it also has a sleek black aesthetic thanks to the installed heatsinks. Realistically this shouldn’t make a performance difference, but chances are the aesthetic will add just a little bit of visual flair to your system without looking or feeling overly gaudy.
Verdict: Best Budget DDR3 RAM Kit
Capacity: 16GB | Standard: DDR3 | Speed: 1866 MHz | CAS: 10 | Configuration: 2×8
The Patriot Viper III 16GB DDR3 RAM kit is our pick for best gaming DDR3 RAM. It offers a nice 1866 MHz frequency, which is a great improvement over the base 1333 MHz spec most DDR3 chips use. It’s 16 GB for not much more than what you’re currently paying for 8GB DDR3 RAM kits, and considerably cheaper than most 16 GB DDR4 kits currently on the market.
It also has a nice black heatsink but leaves some of the green PCB exposed. This should be hidden once properly installed into your DIMM slots, but is worth noting for the particularly eagle-eyed consumer. While we’d still recommend those who are building new systems to stick to DDR4 RAM and DDR4-compatible motherboards, this is a great pick for those who are upgrading their old PCs or turning a prebuilt into a gaming machine.
Verdict: Best Gaming DDR3 RAM Kit
Capacity: 8 GB | Standard: DDR4 | Speed: 2666 MHz | CAS: 19 | Configuration: 2×4
The Patriot Signature Premium 8GB Kit is our pick for best budget DDR4 RAM kit, because dear lord it is cheap. It also boasts a nice 2666 MHz clock for around the same price as most other 2400 MHz DDR4 RAM kits, which should manifest as a subtle performance bump on most systems, or a not-so-subtle performance bump on Ryzen-based systems.
The high CAS latency may be concerning on the outset, but for the vast majority of users, it’s unlikely to be an issue. If you’re concerned about that high spec, take a look at the buying guide below and we’ll break it down for you- we wouldn’t be worried about it, though.
Verdict: Best Budget DDR4 RAM Kit
Capacity: 16GB | Standard: DDR4 | Speed: 3200 MHz | CAS: 16 | Configuration: 2×8
The Patriot Viper 4 Series Extreme Performance 16GB Kit is our pick for best gaming RAM kit. In terms of pure performance-per-dollar, any improvements past this point are fairly marginal, at least on current-gen hardware and software.
This is a 16 GB RAM kit for a surprisingly low price, boasting a whopping 3200 MHz of speed- over twice as fast as base DDR3 RAM- and a low CAS latency, to boot. There’s also a red heatsink, which is nice but shouldn’t actually impact performance in any meaningful way. Ryzen users are also reporting great results with this kit!
Verdict: Best Gaming RAM Kit
Capacity: 16 GB | Standard: DDR4 | Speed: 4000 MHz | CAS: 19 | Configuration: 2×8
Our pick for best high-speed gaming RAM kit is the Patriot Viper 4 Blackout Series 16GB kit. As the same implies, its heatsink design is pure black. More importantly for performance, though, it’s clocked at a whopping 4000 MHz- beyond what most motherboards can support, but definitely good for running with modern Ryzen chips, thanks to being built on Samsung B-die chips. (Samsung B-die chips are known to perform well with Ryzen.)
In addition to the high speeds and quality B-dies, this is also a 16 GB kit! All your needs for modern gaming + multitasking and next gen gaming should be met at this capacity.
Verdict: Best High-Speed Gaming RAM Kit
Capacity: 16GB | Standard: DDR4 | Speed: 3200 MHz | CAS: 16 | Configuration: 2×8
The G.Skil Trident Z RGB series is our pick for the best RGB RAM. It doesn’t overcharge as much as other RAM manufacturers do for RGB functionality, it looks fairly nice, and it boasts high speeds and low CAS latency. What’s not to like?
The only real downside is that you’re still paying a price premium for RGB here, just not nearly as high as the premium from most other manufacturers. We aren’t too fussed about it, though, all things considered.
The 32 GB alternative linked below has the same specs, by the way. It’s just more expensive, and higher capacity. Go for it if you want 32 GB instead!
Verdict: Best RGB RAM Kit
Capacity: 32GB | Standard: DDR4 | Speed: 3200 MHz | CAS: 16 | Configuration: 2×16
If you want 32 GB of RAM that’s fast enough for your gaming needs, get the G.Skill Aegis Series 32GB Kit. Its pricing is genuinely excellent for its performance, and we’re hard-pressed to complain about it in any way. If you demand higher speeds and higher capacity…and don’t mind paying a lot extra for it, we’ve also linked one of the cheapest 4000 MHz 32 GB kits below, but note that it will come at a great price premium.
(For 32 GB of the fastest-possible RAM- provided you have 4 RAM slots available on your motherboard- you may also want to consider buying two of our #5 RAM kit pick, which may be cheaper than getting a 2×16 GB kit, at least at the time of writing.)
Verdict: Best 32GB RAM Kit
The Best RAM For Gaming: FAQ and Selection
In this section, we’re going run through frequently-asked questions and everything else you may need addressed in order to make an informed buying decision.
DDR3 vs DDR4 RAM: Which is better for you?
The short answer is DDR4 RAM.
The more detailed answer goes as follows:
Since 2014, which is six years ago at the time of writing, DDR4 RAM has been the standard for RAM in PCs. Every motherboard manufactured since then has only been compatible with DDR4 RAM- only motherboards manufactured prior to that year use DDR3 RAM. Since DDR3 RAM has fallen out of active production, it has also become much more expensive than it used to be, and is no longer competitive with DDR4 for the speeds or capacity at the same prices.
In addition, the increases in raw speed must also be noted. Consumer-facing DDR3 RAM kits topped out at around 2133 MHz. DDR3 RAM’s cheapest kits started at 1333 MHz.
Today, the cheapest DDR4 RAM kits start at 2400 MHz, and on the high-end, can exceed 4000 MHz. That’s a fairly big leap in speed, and one that becomes more important as the industry moves toward more and more CPU-intensive gaming experiences.
Unless you are upgrading an older PC that is only compatible with DDR3 RAM, get DDR4 RAM instead. It is cheaper and objectively better.
How does RAM speed impact your experience?
It depends on the game, and also your CPU.
Of all the other components in your system- besides the motherboard, which we aren’t sure counts as a “component”- RAM is the one that is most connected to your CPU. While your GPU has its own onboard RAM, called VRAM, in order to handle graphics…your CPU uses your RAM in order to manage everything else happening on your system, including the real-time calculations the game engine needs to make every millisecond.
A RAM speed bottleneck, especially on a high-end CPU, can result in your CPU being bottlenecked. A GPU bottleneck can be worked around by lowering settings and resolution, but a CPU bottleneck cannot be- a CPU bottleneck is a hard limit on the maximum performance you can achieve in your games, regardless of any adjustments you make. [Click here to learn more about that.]
Especially as the next generation of games come along, you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of high-capacity, high-speed RAM to keep up with their higher CPU requirements.
Fortunately, standard DDR4 RAM speeds should do the job for the foreseeable future. We’re confident that all of our picks are good enough in that category, even our budget DDR4 RAM pick.
…as long as you’re running them in dual-channel, that is.
Single-Channel vs Dual-Channel vs Quad-Channel
So, funny thing about RAM: did you know that it doesn’t actually run at full speed unless its friends are around? It’s kinda like your “funny” friend, who is fairly quiet and reserved when no one else is around.
The “DDR” in DDR3, DDR4, and every other RAM standard actually means something. It means “Double Data Rate”. That “double” matters, because for every DDR RAM stick, it cannot run at full speed unless an identical RAM stick is being used side-by-side. This is called a Dual-Channel configuration.
Without a Dual-Channel configuration or better, your RAM will be running at half speed, which is bad for DDR4 and atrocious for any DDR3 or lower standard.
- Single-Channel (Single RAM stick) – Half rated speed
- Dual-Channel (Two identical RAM sticks) – Full rated speed
- Quad-Channel (Four identical RAM sticks) – Full rated speed- may be slightly faster in some scenarios, but not for gaming
And before you ask, don’t worry- all of the RAM kits we’ve selected in this article are Dual-Channel. We wouldn’t recommend a single RAM stick to you like some kind of monster.
How much RAM do you need?
Ah, the question of the century.
Or…decade, we guess. This question comes up again and again every few years, and for good reason, since the answer changes with the times. An alleged Bill Gates quote on the matter from 1981 insists that 640K (KB- we’re talking one thousandth of one megabyte of RAM, which itself is one thousandth of one gigabyte of RAM- you couldn’t even run a modern word processor on that!) is more than anyone would ever need, and that obviously isn’t true today.
For the decade of 2020, here’s how much RAM you need:
- 4 GB or lower – Destitute for all but the most basic computing functions and retro gaming. No-no for any modern titles. Many games will refuse to even run with this limited amount of RAM.
- 8 GB – Ideal for modern games, for now. Poor multitasking performance, though. May not be enough for the PS5/Xbox Series X generation of games, though, since these consoles are shipping with 16 GB of RAM.
- 12 GB – Ideal for modern games for now + some decent multitasking on the side. Since the consoles won’t be using all of their RAM purely for games and will support advanced suspend functions, this may even be enough for games optimized for them- but we wouldn’t bet on that.
- 16 GB – More than any modern game needs, and the baseline for the next generation of gaming experiences. We doubt next-gen games will need much more than this, but chances are high- especially as the generation proceeds- that more and more of this pool will be used on PC.
- 32 GB – Overkill for today, but potentially ideal for tomorrow’s gaming.
- 64 GB – Overkill for tomorrow’s gaming, and pretty much anything short of a server setup. Unless you’re doing that or something similarly intensive, don’t bother getting this much RAM.
What does CAS latency mean? Will it impact my experience?
CAS Latency is…complicated, but the short answer is no, not to any noticeable degree.
Raw capacity and speed are far more important for gaming than CAS latency, and the reason that some CAS latency numbers seem so unreasonably high is a part of manufacturing limitations that come with higher-speed DDR4 modules. If your choice is between two otherwise identical RAM kits, obviously go with the one that has lower CAS latency…but practically-speaking, it’s not something you really need to worry about.
How does RAM speed impact AMD and Intel processors?
So, this is an interesting point, and it boils down to the following sentence:
RAM speed impacts the performance of AMD processors than Intel processors, due to differences in how they are manufactured.
This applies especially to AMD’s APUs, which use main system memory as graphics memory. If you’re running an AMD CPU, faster RAM is more important!
And that’s it!
We hope that you learned everything that you need to know about buying the best RAM for gaming. If you have any questions left, feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below, and we’ll be happy to help.