You don't have to spend much on the best DDR4 RAM for gaming. That's something that's shocked us during the past few years of testing DDR4 kits: a 16GB or 32GB DDR4 kit will cost you relatively little today versus a few years ago. There are a few reasons for that, but namely this memory technology is coming to the end of its life, and DDR5 is already dropping in price consistently itself.
We have tested and chosen the best DDR5 RAM if you're looking to build a new PC with one of AMD's or Intel's latest processors. If you're looking to upgrade an older system, however, you should check out the best DDR4 RAM in our estimations, TeamGroup's Xtreem ARGB DDR4-3600 16GB kit. It runs with a super low latency and is available for a great price nowadays.
It's a good time to pick up any DDR4 kit, actually. You can get 16GB for relatively cheap, and it's a good investment over 8GB of the stuff. Over 32GB is considered overkill because most games won't make any use of it, but if you're big on editing or work with massive files, 32GB can be a worthy investment. You will also want to prioritise dual-channel kits (kits with two sticks of RAM) to ensure you're getting the most out of your system.
When it comes to speed, you want to look for DDR4 RAM that runs around 3,600MHz/3,200MHz for modern CPUs. This should give your CPU enough bandwidth cushion to handle gaming and work-related tasks. The other important stat to consider is CAS latency. When it comes to CAS latency, lower is better. Look out for CL16/CL18 or better, as these kits offer the responsiveness we want for gaming. We've tested a bunch of DDR4 RAM kits and picked out the best ones for gaming considering all the above factors, which you can find below. Want to optimize your PC and get the most out of your RAM once you've got it? Our handy RAM speed for gaming deep-dive should be the first thing you read.
Chris has tested more memory sticks than he'd like to admit. In fact, I think he secretly does it in his spare time, too. He's our resident memory expert, and has gone through the RAM gamut, testing speeds against latency, and capacity, and DDR4 vs. DDR5. The lot. That makes him perfectly placed to advise us all on what the best RAM is for our gaming rigs.
Best DDR4 RAM
The best overall
DDR4-3600 is pretty much the sweet spot for a last-gen gaming PC, and the mixture of low latency, good looks, and solid price point makes the Team Group memory kit an base for any system and a good upgrade, too.
The best budget
Repeat after me: RAM doesn't need RGB. If you just want a solid set of pretty speedy DDR4 memory that isn't going to break the bank then G.Skill's well-priced Ripjaws V modules will be all the RAM your rig needs.
The best high-end
You don't need RGB with your RAM, but when it looks this good, and you want to really make a statement with your machine, Corsair's Dominator Platinum sticks are the best-looking high performance modules around.
Best for AMD
The best AMD RAM
Optimised for Ryzen DDR4-based systems, this affordable 32GB memory kit is perfect for gamers and content creators alike. They look good, and that DDR4-3600 set is the ideal companion for an AMD AM4 setup.
The best high-frequency
Yes, they are almost unforgivably blingy, but the super-shiny TridentZ Royal modules are also the best sticks if you're after high frequency DDR4 for your rig. It's best suited for Intel builds, but the low latency is always welcome no matter what.
Best DDR4 for gaming
The Team Xtreem ARGB RAM kit we’re got here isn’t your standard DDR4 RAM, it’s one of the very few 3,600MHz kits that come with a CAS latency of just 14. That puts it at the forefront of low-latency RAM favored by gaming PCs, especially AMD Ryzen 5000-series (Zen 3) rigs, which are ostensibly AMD's last to support DDR4.
Not all that long ago, a kit as well-rounded on both price and performance would've been a distant dream. However, a DRAM price crash and an increasing process maturity in DDR4 production mean kits such as this can often be had for around $100. Less if you're lucky.
DDR4 memory really is maturing nicely into old age. Just a couple of years ago, a decent DDR4-3200 kit was regarded as high-end, but as time ticks on, 3,200MHz is now the baseline for a decent gaming system. You could even argue that 3,600MHz is the baseline for Ryzen 5000 and Intel 12th Gen systems, for decent performance without any significant price premium, with 4,000MHz and above the new high-end.
That's great news for anyone eyeing up AMD's Ryzen 5000-series CPUs, which favor 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 pretty much optimal.
So, how does it perform? As is always the case with high-performance memory, the benefits are application-specific. When compared to a common DDR4-3200 kit you do get the odd bump, though any benefit is hidden when you move to higher resolutions and graphical details. You will see the benefits if you want to extract every last frame with a high refresh rate monitor.
High-performance memory is really only desirable when paired with a similarly high-spec system. That’s not to say a kit like this is a waste of money. If you’re going to drop $1,000+ on a graphics card, why not splash an extra $50 or so on some quality RAM to minimize any potential bottlenecks? We think it’s a no-brainer, especially as this kit isn't that expensive.
Though there is another path to consider: DDR5 memory. This next-gen memory won't be much help if you've already bought a CPU and motherboard with only DDR4 support, but consider DDR5 if you're looking to build a high-end machine from scratch. Both Intel and AMD's latest CPUs support DDR5.
If you're resolutely DDR4, these RAM sticks are the way to go for maximising performance. Plus they look absolutely gorgeous. 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. Each DIMM has a covering that diffuses the lighting across most of the module and the result is a subtle and understated look. Team doesn’t have its own RGB control app, but the kit can be controlled simply using various motherboard manufacturers’ software suites.
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. Its DDR4-3600 speed and 14-15-15 timings offer a great blend of decent speed and low latency, without the steep price often associated with top-tier memory kits. Throw in the modules' appealing visual design and Team has a winner of a kit that deserves your consideration, particularly for older-gen AMD users.
Read our full Team Xtreem ARGB DDR4-3600 C14 review.
Best budget DDR4 RAM for gaming
The G.Skill Ripjaws V is a much more mundane set of sticks for your PC. That's not necessarily a bad thing, sometimes you simply want to stuff your budget system with some RAM and close it back up, never to be seen again. These Ripjaws are great for a capacity upgrade, or if you don't care much for flashing lights inside of your build.
The G.Skill Ripjaws V is a second-generation DDR4 kit from G.Skill, and it's clear the company listened to the feedback and criticisms from the customers. This series is more affordable, faster, and has a less tacky heatsink than its predecessor.
We initially reviewed the 16GB 2,400MHz version of the Ripjaws V, but nowadays we've bumped up to the far speedier 3,600MHz kit. It's still just as affordable but much faster for today's CPUs. The original 2,400MHz kit performed exceptionally well in our benchmarks without any overclocking, beating several kits in the 2,400MHz range. That performance is why we've stuck with the Ripjaws as our budget recommendation for such a long time.
You can expect superb performance out of the 3,600MHz Ripjaws V as well. We've gone with the 3,600MHz kit with a CAS latency of 18 here, as opposed to the 3,200MHz kit with a CAS latency of 16 for mostly the same price. The reason being that the higher-clocked kit will pair nicely with Intel's processors and AMD's Ryzen 5000-series—parts of AMD's CPU benefit from higher-clocked RAM. Ultimately, there's little actual difference between the two kits.
With a reasonable price, whether running stock or overclocked, G.Skill's Ripjaws V is hard to beat. Providing you don't care about RGB LEDs, of which there are none.
Best high-end DDR4 RAM for gaming
Corsair's Dominator Platinum has been one of the best gaming DDR4 RAM kits for quite some time now. Its sleek exterior, patented DHX cooling technology, and unrivaled performance has made it a formidable flagship over the years. Corsair's most up-to-date Dominator Platinum RGB DDR4 RAM now comes with RGB lighting using the company's Capellix LEDs, and they're pretty lovely to look at.
The Dominator Platinum RGB takes the same best-in-class performance as the original, and 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 the best RGB option out there and also the best high-end performance kit.
At a quick glance, the new design may look similar to Corsair's black Vengeance RGB series, but there are major differences in the lighting. The original Vengeance RGB features non-addressable LEDs, meaning the entire light bar could only be one color at a time. The newer Vengeance RGB Pro, on the other hand, features 10 individually addressable LEDs.
Like the rest of the RGB lineup, the Dominator Platinum RGB is controlled via Corsair's iCUE software suite. If you have any other Corsair RGB products, you'll be able to import and synchronize your lighting profiles across all devices. We had some issues mirroring our custom keyboard lighting profiles, but the 11 different predefined lighting link settings worked perfectly.
From a performance standpoint, the Dominator Platinum RGB lives up to its name. Each kit goes through a very tight screening process with hand-sorted memory chips to ensure maximum stability out of the box and generous overclocking headroom. This is a process Corsair has excelled at over the years, particularly with the Dominator series. The Dominator Platinum RGB is no exception.
We received an 8x8GB test kit from Corsair for our quad-channel X299 bench and ran various tests using AIDA64, MaxxMEM, and games such as Metro Exodus and Apex Legends. Using the stock XMP settings at 3,600MHz, our kit performed right in line with the original Dominator Platinum and G.Skill's Trident Z. In general, there was only a small margin of difference in performance up to 5 percent between competing kits, but overclocking was much more successful with the Dominator Platinum RGB.
We were able to achieve a stable 4,000MHz with ease while manually overclocking the kit. With a bit more tweaking and minor bumps in voltage, we saw upwards of 4,200MHz, something most competing kits have struggled with. This isn't too surprising, considering Corsair's plans to sell XMP-ready kits up to 4,800MHz. Even with higher voltages and under heavy load, the Dominator Platinum RGB never broke 60 degrees celsius.
The price doesn't differ too much from the original non-RGB Dominator Platinum, but you’re still paying a hefty premium over some of the other kits mentioned in this guide. If you don't want flash or the overclocking headroom, you're better off buying the lower latency Team Xtreem kit than the Dominator, but we still think it's well worth a consideration if you're in the memory tweaking game.
Read our full Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB review.
Best DDR4 RAM for AMD
G.Skill’s Trident Z RGB RAM has been a mainstay of our memory guide for years now, and it’s no surprise the company’s Trident Z Neo series has also earned a spot here. Like the original Trident Z RGB series, the Trident Z Neo comes equipped with brilliant RGB lighting done in a very tasteful manner. Each module has five individually addressable RGB LEDs that can light up any PC build beautifully.
But the real sell for this memory kit is how it's optimized for AMD Ryzen 5000-series chips.
This set of Neo RAM from G.Skill runs at 3,600MHz, which puts it in the sweet spot for red team gaming PCs for low latency operation. As a result, this is definitely a more budget-friendly option for mid-range builds with some flair, especially if you can't afford to stretch to the Corsair Dominator kits.
Similar to the overall performance of your Ryzen PC build, the Trident Z Neo offers a fantastic bang for your buck. You can get a 32GB kit for under $150, which means you can also easily upgrade your machine to an (admittedly unnecessary) 64GB of high-speed DDR4 memory down the road. If you're using your PC for more than gaming then perhaps that large pool of memory will come in handy, just don't expect much out of it for gaming alone.
The Trident Z Neo comes in various speeds and configurations ranging from 2,600MHz all the way up to 4,000MHz. We recommend the 3,600MHz kit but you may find faster ones going for only a little more money.
Best high-frequency DDR4 RAM
Known for superb binned memory and high-speed kits, G.Skill's Trident Z Royal blends 4,000MHz (effective) operation with a highly stylized 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.
At DDR4-4000 with 15-16-16 timings, the Trident Z Royal kit is probably the perfect combination of high frequency, low timings, and broad platform compatibility. It does require 1.5V to operate at that spec—which is at the high end for a default voltage—but fear not, it will be able to run year after year.
Best suited to high-performance Intel builds, 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. This G.Skill Trident Z Royal kit comes equipped with the highly regarded Samsung B-Die IC, known for its ability to scale with voltage. If you have a good CPU memory controller and a capable motherboard, you’ll be able to push this kit well beyond its rated specification. We managed to push it to 4,400MHz without increasing voltage, although we were forced to lower the latency a touch for the kit to capitulate to our OC demands.
The base Trident Z design hasn’t changed all that much in recent years, but it's never looked as good as this. The modules demand to be shown off in a windowed case and look every bit the premium kit with their stunning mirror-like silver or gold finish. Atop the modules are sparkling crystalline light bars with the requisite RGB goodness and the colors are especially bright and vibrant. Some might even say it’s too bright.
As always, looks are subjective, but it’s difficult to describe this kit as anything other than stunning. The mirror finish might be a fingerprint magnet, but that’s only if you really must touch it, not that there’s anything wrong with that! The silver version we have here would add a touch of class to almost any build.
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 still run on DDR4 memory.
Read our full G.Skill Trident Z Royal 16GB DDR4-4000MHz review.
DDR4 RAM FAQ
How much RAM do I need?
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 prices stabilizing lately. 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.
How fast should RAM be for a gaming PC?
Generally, we'd recommend you stick with two DDR4 modules for a dual-channel build, 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.
Essentially you want to aim for 3,600MHz memory for Zen 2/3 (Ryzen 3000/Ryzen 5000) chips. Though for Ryzen 5000-series chips it has been suggested that 4,000MHz kits are your best bet.
When it comes to the actual performance you need, well, that's a whole different story. Bandwidth tests easily show the relative benefits of running faster memory (well, duh) but really that’s not what’s important. What matters is does faster RAM makes a real difference to your PC experience. The true answer is both yes and no, depending on what kinds of tasks you perform and the individual application or game.
Generally, file compression sees a big benefit. Rendering doesn’t, but then some encoders, like our Handbrake test, show very decent gains. The gaming benefits when using faster RAM, however, are specific to the individual game. Some see benefits while others gain nothing.
If you’re interested in the highest FPS, then you’ll definitely want to add some fast RAM to your system, otherwise you could be leaving a chunk of performance on the table.
Why do I see MHz and MT/s when referring to RAM speeds?
DDR stands for double data rate, which means technically your RAM doesn't run at its advertised speed in megahertz, but rather operates as if it was. For every clock (cycle), DDR RAM transfers data twice. Some people prefer to use MT/s when talking about RAM speeds for this reason, as that's more accurate.
If you're a stickler for semantics, this matters. Otherwise it's basically fine and well-understood both ways.
What DDR4 CAS latency should I look for?
A CAS latency (often noted as 'CL' followed by a number) is the delay for a RAM module to access a required set of data. Latency is incredibly important—while high clock speeds help make RAM a lot quicker, if the CAS latency is too great then the RAM kit could still perform sluggishly, impacting your games or work.
It's for this reason that you should look to real-world latency for your RAM.
To throw a brief bit of maths at things, the real-world CAS latency is measured as (CAS Latency x 2,000)/Memory Speed, which in the case of the DDR5-5600 CL28 kit comes in at 10ns. For reference, that's the same as DDR4-3200 with a CAS latency of 16.
To compare a few popular DDR4 speeds:
DDR4-3600 CL18 delivers a real-world latency of 10ns.
DDR4-3200 CL16 also delivers a real-world latency of 10ns.
Yep, they're exactly the same in terms of actual latency, but since the 3,600MHz kit is faster that's the one we'd recommend.
What is the difference between DDR4 and DDR5?
The simple answer is: DDR5 is faster. Where the top DDR4 kits plateau around 5,000MHz, maybe a little quicker, DDR5 can run up to 8,000MHz and beyond. We've not yet seen the maximum of what DDR5 can achieve in terms of speed, but DDR4 has maxed out its potential.
DDR5 is not backwards compatible, even though it looks pretty similar, and you will need a DDR5-compatible CPU and motherboard to use it.
The other benefits to DDR5 are that it also runs more efficiently as a baseline, offers onboard power management, delivers higher die density for larger overall capacities, and has more XMP profiles, courtesy of XMP 3.0.
Will DDR5 work in a DDR4 motherboard?
No, it won't. Even though both types have 288 pins, DDR4 and DDR5 memory is electrically incompatible. The two types have a different notch position, to prevent anyone from inserting a DDR5 module into a DDR4 motherboard, or vice versa.
That means you'll need a newer motherboard and compatible CPU to run faster, newer DDR5 memory. Essentially you have to build a new PC for the new memory specification.
Do I need RGB LEDs on my memory DIMMs?
No. Absolutely not. But RGB can make your machine look that little bit cooler, and we all know PCs need to run cool.
Jargon buster - RAM terminology
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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, 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 available data; 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 tiny machines as well.
Timings - The measure in several memory clock cycles 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, many AMD boards readily support reading XMP data (though it may go by another name like A-XMP or DOHC).