The best RAM for gaming in 2021
The best RAM for gaming will help you get the peak performance out of your brand new system. It can also be the easiest and quickest upgrade you can perform on your rig. Anyone can do it. And, though it may not be quite as satisfying as dropping the best graphics card into your system, it’s just as vital.
Our short and sweet sum-up is this: If you want to make a straightforward pick based on rough speed and capacity, then 16 or 32GB at 3,200MHz should see any Intel or AMD CPU perform admirably. However, if you want to make a more informed decision, you’ll find below a list of kits we’ve tested at differing price points so that you can spend your money well.
If you want a more deeper look at what difference gaming RAM can make to your system we cover all of this and more in our RAM speed for gaming deep-dive, including the slightly more technical memory latency metric. Today there are more affordable low-latency options around, many perfect for AMD Ryzen gaming PCs, so don’t be afraid to chase down a pair of swift sticks for maximum system optimization.
Whatever your specific needs may be, we’ve chosen some of our favorite options for PC gaming below.
Best RAM for gaming 2021
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With a CAS latency of 14, the Team Xtreem kit leads the way in low-latency RAM favored by gaming PCs, especially AMD Ryzen rigs. As such, it takes the top spot as our pick for the best RAM for gaming.
Not all that long ago, a kit as well-rounded on both price and performance would’ve been a distant dream. However, a recent DRAM price crash and an increasing process maturity in DDR4 production mean kits such as this can often be found for far less than they would’ve been only a couple of years ago.
That’s great news for those of you eyeing up AMD’s Ryzen 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 optimal for AMD Ryzen CPUs.
Even the RGB lighting on this kit is kept within moderation. Each 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.
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—just a shame about the name.
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The best high-end RAM for gaming.
Speed: DDR4-3200MHz | Timing: 16-18-18-36 | CAS Latency: 16 | Voltage: 1.35V | DIMMs: 2x 16GB
Ultra-bright Capellix RGB LEDs
Dominator DHX heat-spreaders
Advanced iCUE software
Corsair has outdone itself with the Dominator Platinum RGB. The original DDR4 kit has been our favorite high-end memory bundle for quite some time now. Its sleek exterior, patented DHX cooling technology, and unrivaled performance has made it a formidable flagship over the years, often topping our best RAM for gaming list. Now, the iconic Dominator Platinum is back with a stealthy new design and Corsair’s new Capellix LED technology.
The Dominator Platinum RGB takes the same best-in-class performance as the original, 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 both the best RGB and high-end performance kit.
The price doesn’t differ too much from the original non-RGB Dominator Platinum, but you’re still paying a hefty premium than some of the other kits mentioned in this guide. We still think it’s well worth every penny if you can afford it, whichever capacity kit you go for.
Read the full Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB review.
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3. G.Skill Trident Z Neo 32GB DDR4-3600MHz
The best RAM for gaming with an AMD motherboard.
Speed: DDR4-3600MHz | Timing: 18-22-22-42 | CAS Latency: 18 | Voltage: 1.35V | DIMMs: 2x 16GB
High speed and high capacity RGB kit
Optimized for AMD Ryzen builds
G.Skill’s Trident Z RGB RAM has dominated our 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. More importantly, the Neo series is optimized for AMD Ryzen builds, making this budget-friendly option the perfect choice for budget-conscious Ryzen PCs.
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 $200, which means you can also easily upgrade your machine to an (admittedly unnecessary) 64GB of high-speed DDR4 memory down the road.
Like its counterpart, the Trident Z Neo comes in various speeds and configurations ranging from 2,600MHz all the way up to 3,800MHz. Each module comes equipped with five individually addressable RGB LEDs that can light up any PC build beautifully.
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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.
Best suited to high-performance Intel builds, such as those built around the Core i9 10900K, 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. 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.
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.
Readout full G.Skill Trident Z Royal 16GB DDR4-4000MHz review.
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5. G.Skill Ripjaws V 16GB DDR4-2400MHz
The best RAM for mid-tier gaming PCs.
Speed: DDR4-2400MHz | Timing: 15-15-15-35 | CAS Latency: 15 | Voltage: 1.2V | DIMMs: 2x 8GB
Great overclocking headroom
The G.Skill Ripjaws V is the second generation of DDR4 memory from G.Skill, and it’s clear the company listened to the feedback and criticisms from the customers. The new series is more affordable, faster, and has a less tacky heatsink. We found the 16GB Ripjaws V kit to be the best option for a decent capacity kit that features great performance right out of the box.
Immediately, the Ripjaws V did exceptionally well in our benchmarks without any overclocking, beating several kits in the 2,400MHz range. Despite this, you can still achieve an overclock to 2,800-3,000MHz with a simple bump in voltage. You might even reach 3,200MHz or higher, though you’re likely to hit some stability issues. With a reasonable price, whether running stock or overclocked, G.Skill Ripjaws V is hard to beat.
6. Patriot Viper Elite 8GB DDR4-2400MHz
The best cheap RAM for gaming on a budget.
Speed: DDR4-2400MHz | Timing: 15-15-15-35 | CAS Latency: 15 | Voltage: 1.2V | DIMMs: 2x 4GB
Budget friendly upgrade
The Patriot Viper Elite 8GB may not be the cheapest DDR4 memory bundle you can find, but in our opinion, it holds the best value when you’re on a budget. This dual-channel kit is priced lower than competitors like the HyperX Fury and Corsair Vengeance LPX while also offering similar performance levels. And unlike cheaper kits, the Viper Elite features decent heatsinks and overclock ability.
For those looking to take full advantage of what the Viper Elite has to offer, simple overclocking pushes its performance to match that of much more expensive options. One of the awesome things about DDR4 is that it generally operates at 1.2V, and even the slightest voltage increases can give you quite a bit more clock speed while remaining cool. We hit 2,800MHz, and 3,000MHz speeds with ease, and 3,200MHz are possible.
Gaming RAM Q&A
Q. How much memory do I need in my gaming rig?
A. 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 a recent pricing crash. 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.
Q. What speed to do I need to go for?
A. Generally, we like to 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.
Q. Do I need to have RGB LEDs on my memory DIMMs?
Q. Will that make them perform better?
A. From a certain point of view…
Jargon buster – RAM terminology
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).
Dave has been obsessed with gaming since the days of Zaxxon on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. Thankfully it’s a lot easier to build a gaming rig now there are no motherboard jumper switches, though he has been breaking technology ever since… at least he gets paid for it now.