The PC components market right now is chock full of different generations and specifications of RAM technology. For a regular PC build for everyday use, you can probably get away with any compatible RAM within the 4-8gb capacity bracket. But gaming PCs are an altogether different breed.
When you plan a PC gaming build, the chances are high that you will be using that PC to play the latest AAA games, and not Solitaire or Minesweeper! And if you have seen the latest AAA games, you will definitely know that they have very steep system and memory requirements. A good selection of RAM sticks is essential to build a viable gaming desktop.
Lucky for you, the current PC RAM market is so mature and developed, there is a RAM stick out there for all kinds of budgets. So, even if you don’t have too much cash to splurge, you can still get your hands on a decent pair of RAM sticks for that budget PC build of yours. After all, this is exactly the allure of PC gaming: you get an incredible amount of choice and flexibility when it comes to each part and component. And it is no different in the case of the best RAM for gaming as well.
Before we get around to the nitty gritties of reviewing our selected list of RAM sticks, lets take a short tour of the current landscape of PC gaming and RAM technology. In the following sections, we will explore the different types and configurations of RAM and their suitability for your gaming PC build.
RAM: How Much Is Too Much?
Generally, the more the merrier is the way to go when it comes to computers and memory capacity. The larger the memory size, the easier it is for your PC processor to handle data and do all the important number crunching. Still, there is after all a concept of overkill.
Just a couple of years ago, the baseline bare minimum RAM for a gaming PC was 4GB. But that is probably on the lower side these days, considering the requirements of some recent game titles. 8GB is fast becoming the new baseline. You will probably need it in 2017 to play the latest AAA games smoothly.
16 GB is a bit of an overkill if all you want to do with the PC is gaming. But it is nevertheless nice to have a little extra on the side just to make things future proof. But if you are also into other intensive stuff like video editing and such, you definitely need that extra juice, so get at least 16GB.
More than 16GB RAM at present is required only if you plan to play a lot high graphics games, do video editing and graphic design, and run a bunch of virtual machines as well. But hey, if you have money to spare, go ahead and get 32GBs. Decent RAM sticks retail at very cheap rates these days anyway.
DDR3 vs DD4: Which Should I Choose?
DDR4 is the new standard for desktop RAM. It is newer and faster than DDR3. And its prices have also fallen quite considerably since it is no longer a cutting edge tech. There is not much difference in price between a DDR3 stick and a same capacity DDR4 stick, so the only reason to not choose DDR4 would have to be your processor architecture.
If your have an older Intel Haswell rig, or if you are planning a budget friendly AMD AM3+ build, (or if your PC has anything older than these two), you should stick with DDR3 as DDR4 will be incompatible with older processors. If you have the latest Intel Skylake or a Haswell Extreme, it is DDR4 all the way for you.
RAM Frequency: Is Faster Always Better?
The frequency of a RAM stick is the speed at which data is transferred, measured in cycles or MHz. 1333 and 1600 are two common frequencies that you see in the market. But with ever evolving technology, manufacturers are building RAM with higher and higher frequencies going all the way over 3000Mhz these days. Once again, more is not necessarily better, if your rig is exclusively for Gaming. RAM frequencies above 2000Mhz are undoubtedly faster, but the increase in performance will be negligible in gaming. They will offer better performance in multi-threaded applications and coding. But if you are looking for a RAM for gaming PCs 1600Mhz is still the sweet spot.
Spending a lot of bucks on RAM in a gaming PC is the worst way to throw away money, even if you have a lot to spare. There are many other components in a gaming build where more is definitely merrier, like a more expensive dedicated graphics card for instance. So just buy 1600Mhz RAM for best results, be it DDR3 or DDR4.
Best DDR3 RAM for Gaming
DDR3 memory sticks are available incredibly cheap at the moment and HyperX Fury is an excellent choice from an ever dependable brand like Kingston. They come in kits ranging from 4GB to 16GB in size. The frequency is the very much desirable 1600MHz. At around $40 for the 8GB set and $70 for the 16GB set, they offer fantastic value for money. Their understated design and offered choice of 4 vibrant colors are a nice added advantage.
Another perennial favorite for hardcore PC gamers, these RAM kits usually stand out with their bright neon decals and design. Looks aside, they are very dependable components that should last you in good stead for years. But they do tend to have rather bulky heat spreaders. If you are planning a custom build with third-party coolers for your CPU, these sticks may get in the way. Otherwise a great option, with kits running all the way up to 32GB.
You can often spot a dedicated gaming brand by their flashy names and RipJaws certainly has oodles of menace in the name to go with all that performance. They may cost a few bucks more than some of the other options in our list, but RipJaws have a dedicated and wide fan following among PC gamers. But their looks and design are a bit of a hit and miss at times.
The reptilian inspired series from Patriot is another dependable option in the arena of PC gaming RAM kits. They are also a nice upgrade on Patriot’s Signature series, with better looks and performance on offer. Retailing at around the same price as the Kingston, and with the same memory options (4-16GB), if you are on a budget, Patriot is a good option.
For a not too flashy budget gaming build, the Crucial Ballistix Sport is a no frills option. The plain Jane of the pack, this kit has no remarkable design elements of color schemes to catch the eye. But you do get reliable performance in the bargain. And they are also available in kits of up to 32GB RAM, so if you want to go the whole hog, these could very well be the RAM for you.
Best DDR4 Ram for Gaming
The DDR4 variants of the Viper family offer frequencies starting from 2400 all the way to 3000MHz. Though Patriot is not a top tier brand like some of the others in our list, they offer good products at great price. Even if they often fly under the radar, their products are in no way inferior to the others in terms of performance or reliability. The Elite series is available from 8Gb, 16GB to 32GB kits. The available colors include red, blue and gray.
Again, you simply cant do a top 10 list of gaming RAM kits and not mention RipJaws at least once, if not twice or more. Available from 2133MHz to maximum of 3200MHz, and a max size of 32GB, these kits are a PC gamers component of choice. You can have a 16GB kit for around $100, making them a decent choice, if you can put up with the rather beefy and busy looking design.
Another underdog brand in the PC gaming RAM arena, PNY are not exactly newcomers in the PC hardware business. It is just that they don’t receive the same kind of attention the big dogs get. A bit unfair, considering the fact that they also make rather pleasing looking RAM kits with excellent specifications and speed. You don’t get 32GB kits, but with 16GB being more than enough for gaming, that is not too big a fault.
Available in black or while shades, with minimal stickers and decals, the Vengeance LPX is a quiet looking kit from Corsair. Though not as affordable as the other kits in the market, they are good value for money, especially if available on a discount sale online. You can get them in kits ranging from 8GB to 32GB in size. The frequencies start from 2400Mhz and peak at 3200MHz.
If you really want to go overboard with RAM size for that brand new Skylake build, you need the DDR4 variant of the Fury series. They have a 64GB kit for all those for whom 16 or even 32GB RAM is insufficient. They are commonly available in the 2133, 2400 and 2666MHz speeds.
When you are looking for the best RAM for gaming builds, there is not much to differentiate the top brands in terms of performance and reliability. Our list looked at both the DDR3 as well as the DDR4 categories and found virtually the same brands and same series dominating. There is some variations is RAM frequencies and latency among the products, but for gaming at present 1600MHz is still the maximum required and anything beyond that will show little if any improvement. So the only thing that effectively sets apart the top models seems to be their looks and design features. In such a situation the only yardstick to evaluate these RAM kits are their prices. Our advice would be to buy whichever has the cheapest price tag at the time of your purchase.