Feeding your PC with the best RAM for gaming can make a difference to in-game framerates, and can pay dividends elsewhere by making your system snappier to respond.
How much RAM you need is a constant question faced by the PC gamer. 8GB should be considered the absolute minimum nowadays; 4GB just doesn’t cut it any more, even if you buy the fastest and best RAM available. Many games are beginning to recommend 16GB. Those intending to use their PCs for video editing or 3D rendering alongside their gaming should consider 32GB.
It’s important to install matching sticks of RAM, and check your motherboard manual for which slots to use - all motherboards have at least two memory channels, but some have four and placing RAM sticks in the right channels will improve performance. If you’re upgrading the RAM in a pre-built machine, try to match the brand, speed and timings of what’s already there, or consider swapping the whole lot out if you’re buying a faster speed. You’ll always be forced to run at the speed of the slowest sticks, so mixing speeds offers no advantage.
DDR4 speeds are measured in megatransfers per second (MT/s), commonly but incorrectly shown as MHz. However, this largely doesn’t matter, as you know what you’re getting when you buy 3200MHz RAM, for example. An important factor in the guts of the RAM is timing. This is shown as a row of four numbers, commonly something like CL16-18-18-38 or CL14-14-14-34. The important number is the first one, known as the CAS latency. This is how long, in cycles, the RAM takes to respond, and the pertinent thing to remember here is that smaller numbers mean faster responses. Which is what you want to make your gaming machine run quicker and repond snappier, running your games, on the whole, better.
RAM speed also plays a big part – CL16 is faster at 3200MT/s than it is at 2400MT/s because the cycles are shorter and faster. As speeds increase, so does latency, meaning these figures often even out. RAM that has both a high speed and low latency is highly sought after, and consequently more expensive.
If some of this terminology confuses you, no worries, just head on over to our hardware glossary for a breakdown of some of the jargon. Or you can skip this sort of granular upgrading completely and just check out our best gaming PC or best gaming laptop roundups.
1. Ballistix Sport Gray 8GB DDR4-2400
The best budget DDR RAM
This is a great RAM to start with on a budget, especially if you’re building a PC for the first time. This will manage the minimum specifications for games from 2012 onwards, and while most modern games are ok with 4GB of RAM, you're probably better off starting out with 8GB to avoid having to replace it too soon in the future.
It also is compatible with the Intel® XMP 2.0 standard, which means, if you felt daring, you could try and overclock the memory bandwidth speed. But only do this if you’ve had experience in this. It has been known for PC’s to fail even at the boot-up process when the wrong overclock figure is attempted with RAM. It’s also a great upgrade opportunity, as you can buy another of the same module, have double the memory, but also in ‘dual channel’ mode. It comes with a limited lifetime warranty (except for Germany, which is a 10-year warranty from the date of purchase), alongside great documentation on Crucial’s website to correctly install it if you’re unsure.
2. Trident Z RGB 16GB (2X8GB) DDR4 PC4-34100C19 4266MHZ Dual Channel
The best for serious gaming PCs
While the recommended RAM specifications for a game are fine, there also needs to be room to think of the RAM you’ll be using when you’re streaming with friends, capturing, running multiple apps, or putting any other strain on your PC, so this should be a big factor in your purchase. Streaming applications and capturing your game can be taxing on memory, which is why I recommend always ‘doubling’ the amount of RAM if you’re looking to use a PC just for gaming. You may not even be interested now, but you may need it in the future.
Also, more RAM can’t hurt for a gaming PC, especially with the amazing games coming in the fall. This Trident RAM has an incredibly high bandwidth of 4266Mhz, so you’ll have no trouble running the likes of Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Battlefield 5. Even though the resolution you can choose is mainly down to the power of your CPU and Graphics Card, the RAM is how all that information goes from one component to another, so you need quality stuff. If you have an AMD Ryzen in your system with this RAM, you should have no problems in playing games in native 4K resolution.
Another big factor of setting up a great gaming PC, I’ve found, is that people want to show how nice the actual PC unit looks, not just in how it renders the games. This RAM gets full marks for making a visual impression: it can light up your rig nicely, and there’s even an application where you can individually assign lights to each of the modules. A lot of fun can be had with this but, of course, it depends if you have the right case to look at the components.
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3. Night Hawk RGB 16GB (2X8GB) DDR4 3200MHZ DUAL CHANNEL KIT
The best RAM for showing off your PC and video editing
Not as expensive as the previous, but they’ll still make an impression if you wanted to show off some colors again. The Night Hawk still brings some fast performance, where ‘dual channel’ mode of 16GB and a bandwidth of 3200MHz will result in next-to-no lag (dependent on your graphics card and CPU).
These will be for a PC where you’ll be doing a lot of editing for your YouTube channel, but you’ll also be playing games a few times a week. You’ve got the option of streaming, but you’d rather play a great MMORPG inbetween editing. For just under £190 / $200 you will get your money’s-worth, and 16GB in a PC will be future-proof on the RAM side for the next few years to come.
Of course, it has the colors as mentioned, with the software to boot, so you can again customise it as you wish. It also has the heatsinks on each, so it can better siphon off any heat when under extreme load and rendering the 4K videos you’ve been working on.
4. Corsair Vengeance LED 32GB (2 x 16GB) DDR4 DRAM 3600MHz
If money is no object, may I introduce the insane 32GB RAM from Corsair and its Vengeance line. An incredible amount of memory, where the modules show a soft glow of lights when slotted in and the PC is running, where it almost ‘pulses’ off and on. Running in ‘dual channel’ mode with a massive 3600MHz of bandwidth speed, you will have no problem meeting the required specifications of most games in 2019 and, I suspect, for many years to come. With Corsair this RAM has a lifetime warranty, which I had experience of a few years ago, where they replaced my DDR2 RAM after a week, which was a great touch.
In all honesty, 32GB of RAM is overkill for a lot of use cases, though it's becoming more and more common. It’s venturing into RAM that a beginner Server needs but, on the other hand, it does future-proof one part of your PC. And being able to overclock the RAM only adds to this.
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