This guide will tell you about the TOP-7 best RAMs for gaming. Today, we’re going to learn the basics of how RAM works, the many factors that determine how effective a given design is for gamers, and we’re going to look at 7 of the best options available presently. I’d also like to share an experience with RAM that will drive one of these points home very powerfully.

What You Will Learn From This Guide:

What is RAM and Why It is Important for Gamers

RAM is a crucial part of a computer, and unfortunately, those with minimal experience in computer science often don’t realize this, or why it’s the case. RAM (Random Access Memory) is basically the equivalent of counter space available for a cook to create an elaborate meal with various independently-timed and constructed dishes.

It’s the space where active programs reside, and any data they’re displaying or working with. On top of being occupied by open programs and loaded data, RAM must also facilitate the numerous components of the resident operating system, which itself consists of services, applications, and a vast amount of temporary data.

For gamers, RAM has a slightly different significance than to people building multimedia or general-use computers, simply due to its role. While a lot of graphics displayed go into VRAM (video RAM) which is stored on board the GPU (graphics processor unit, aka “video card”), this doesn’t mean that gaming doesn’t need a significant level of system RAM as well.

VRAM is very specialized, storing pixels and vertices alone, which means all the other complex data such as game logic, precaching, multiple subprocesses and so forth, must still reside within the system RAM. It must share this with the imported API libraries any given game depends on, as well as that resident OS and its various needs and concerns.

Long story short, the more RAM you can pack into a gaming computer, the bigger demands it can handle, and the faster it can perform these feats. Unfortunately, a problem that most people succumb to when it comes to RAM is, “does it match the RAM architecture of my motherboard and CPU? Then we’re good!”, and leaving it at that. But, within a given architecture (DDR2, DDR3 etc.), not all RAM is created equal, and there are a host of variables that can make some RAM more performant for gaming, than others.

How Do RAMs for Gaming Work?

This is probably one of the more complicated products we’ll ever break down in a “how it works” sense. Still, the concept isn’t as difficult as it might initially seem. We must first understand the very basic idea behind transistors. Transistors, long story short, are solid-state (no moving parts) components that can either be on or off. Their first applications were in radio and amplifiers, where this on/of worked to create a higher-powered copy of an incoming signal.

Their use for logic rather than signal boosting came along in the 1960s. They became immediately used in CPUs, and of course, system memory. The on and off states, which are represented by 1 and 0 respectively, are the famous binary everyone’s seen but most never directly deal with. Series of these 1’s and 0’s ca equate to decimal numbers, which in turn can represent characters or more complex data structures.

In a CPU, these 1’s and 0’s being fed in through complex logic pathways, produce operations and results. In the case of RAM, it stores these 1’s and 0’s, feeding them into the CPU upon request, and storing results it wants to hold onto. In short, RAM is a box of transistors whose sole purpose equates to the computer’s short-term memory.

Volatile vs. Non-Volatile Memory

In the vein of how this concept works, let’s take a moment to clarify the difference between volatile and non-volatile memory. While it sounds explosive, what volatile actually means, in this case, is, when power is no longer provided to a volatile memory storage component, all data contained within it ceases to exist. Non-volatile memory persists even when power is cut.

Hard drives, optical discs and SD cards/SDDs are non-volatile memory, not requiring a constant voltage. RAM is volatile memory, which is wiped upon a reboot or shutdown. This is in fact why computers need to be rebooted periodically. Systems cannot perfectly optimize RAM, and when programs are kicked out of memory, the sections of RAM they’re using aren’t always freed properly, resulting in fragmented space that just exponentially compounds until the computer becomes inoperable slow, needing a reboot.

The more RAM you have, the longer, on average, this slowdown takes. This also increases, proportionally, the size of data which can be loaded, the complexity of programs which can be run, and the level of multitasking a machine can handle. The speed of RAM directly impacts the speed of a computer as well, because a blazingly fast CPU and GPU pair are only able to be as fast as their access to memory permits, in the long run.

What To Look For When Buying A Product?

When it comes to choosing RAM for your gaming rig, there are a lot of things to keep in mind, and all of these are pretty crucial. Let’s take a moment to go over the key aspects, and why they matter so much. RAM isn’t cheap in general, so you really don’t want to have to find out the hard way that you’ve bought the wrong kind or a subpar solution for your needs!

  • Form Factor – RAM comes in two basic form factors, depending on your device. Standard RAM for desktops is larger, with an asymmetrical pin layout (which keeps it from being possible to insert it backward). However, while the architecture and technology for laptop RAM is identical for the most part, it’s smaller and different in shape. Desktop RAM cannot be plugged into a laptop, and laptop RAM cannot be plugged into a desktop machine.
  • Architecture – RAM architecture is a less complicated thing than CPU architecture because there’s less use of logic transistors. However, they do have onboard chips that take incoming I/O (input/output) requests from the CPU, and access/manage the data stored in a smarter way. This has resulted in something of specific access “languages” being developed across the years, with specific CPUs and motherboards speaking a specific I/O “language”. This, in turn, means that a given CPU/board pairing requires a specific architecture of RAM. Examples of this are DDR2, DDR3, and sub-attributes such as SDRAM, DRAM, DIMM and so on.
  • Speed – The dispatching chip on RAM and the I/O from the transistor blocks (ICs) on RAM can vary, with a steady increase over the years in overall performance. Many CPUs and boards have a range of speeds they can work with, and the faster you can go, the better. As we said a moment ago, you can have the fastest GPU and CPU in the world, but if your RAM is slow, you will feel massive slowdowns consistently.
  • Size and Distribution – A given board or laptop will have finite slots for RAM sections. They will also have a scoping limit (or, the maximum size of memory they can see). This creates something of a strategy challenge in trying to get the maximum amount of memory your machine can handle while getting it to fit in the finite slots available. While expansion boards do exist for extra RAM, this makes that RAM slower by a significant factor, due to having to communicate with the PCI manager. A solid example is, buying 8GB of RAM does not mean, necessarily, that you’re getting a stick with 8GB on it, but possibly 2 sticks with 4GB, or 4 sticks with 2GB. A single stick becomes more costly, in general, with more memory shoved onto it. If you can have, for example, 64GB of RAM, but you’ve only four slots, you may find yourself paying out the nose for 16GB single sticks.
  • Cooling – CPUs and GPUs get hot because electricity surging through transistors produces waste heat. This is also true with RAM, which is worked very hard and can in fact sometimes get at least half as hot as a CPU. The hotter it gets, the slower it becomes, and if it overheats, it will stall or be damaged. Thus, with gaming being a high-demand computing field, you’ll want to choose RAM with a good heat sink or possibly even onboard cooling if possible.

My Personal Experience with RAMs

I want to talk a moment about how important RAM speed can be. A computer I built about ten years ago (which is a long time ago in computing), I’d intended to run then current-generation emulators on. Emulators, which run console games through an interpretive layer for use on PCs, are very strenuous on CPUs and RAM.

DDR3 was a novel RAM architecture, and it was very expensive. Despite knowing better, I opted for the cheapest reputable DDR3 DRAM I could buy, confident that the speed of the RAM, by that advanced stage in computing, was but a number. Well, joke’s on me.

I experienced constant slowdown even running really primitive games such as 2600 or NES, and it baffled me. My CPU was at the time blazing fast at four 2.1GHZ cores, and I had the latest Nvidia GPU. There was no possible way even a poorly-coded 8-bit emulator would crawl on that kind of hardware.

I went as far as to complain to Intel and to Nvidia that their components were faulty – an argument that only served to make an ass out of me, and go nowhere. Finally, I decided to try swapping out the cheapest component – the RAM, with some higher end memory I’d gotten hold of. Sure enough, that did the trick.

This just goes to show, skimping on RAM speed is disastrous. For gaming especially, you really want to go for the fastest RAM your board and CPU can permit. You’ll regret it if you don’t, trust me!

TOP-7 Best RAMs for Gaming

This review covers models within the price range from $50 to $250. The size of each model varies from 8GB to 32GB, with the speed ranging from 1600MHz to 3200MHz. Some items are faster and higher in capacity while others are more affordable. Among other advantages that a product can offer are compatibility, cooling, zero-delay management and other features.

Affordable 8GB Kit (2x4GB) 1600MHz DDR3 CL10 DIMM | HyperX

Affordable 8GB Kit (2x4GB) HyperX: photo

This DDR3 kit isn’t the fastest in the world, and it’s not the highest in capacity. However, for those with a budget they’ve already blown on a high-end CPU, board and GPU, this is a viable solution.
Kingston isn’t as prestigious a brand as some others we’ll look at, and the pricing reflects that, but it is a reputable brand often recommended to those who want quality without breaking the bank. This isn’t a perfect solution, though.

Features

  • Size: 8GB.
  • Distribution: 2x4GB.
  • Architecture: DDR3 CL10 DIMM.
  • Cooling: Standard heat sink.
  • Compatibility: AMD and Intel x86/64.
  • Speed: 1600MHz.

Performance

This RAM isn’t the fastest, but it’s fast enough to keep up with the random access demands of gaming once something is loaded. However, due to its distribution being two sticks, and the just above average speed, load times may be increased.

The distribution is also an issue if you have a small board with only two or four slots, thus limiting the amount of memory you can use if you go with 2x4 for 8 GB. However, the average gamer on a budget won’t have any problems beyond those load times, which most are used to due to consoles having far less capable ram than this, at a higher price.

Overall Rating: 7

Pros Cons
  • Affordable.
  • Decent cooling. 
  • Reputable budget brand. 
  • High compatibility. 
  • Fast enough.
  • Distributed across two sticks.
  • May increase load times.

Conclusion

While not perfect, budget gamers who want to spend most of their money on a good CPU and GPU (which is wise) will find this a good solution. I recommend it in that case.

HyperX: Check the current price

Solid Mid-Grade Solution — 8GB Kit (4GBx2) DDR3 1600 MT/s | Ballistix

Solid Mid-Grade Solution — 8GB Kit: photo

Ballistix used to be one of the leading names in gaming-optimized RAM, as well as being popular for high-end graphic designers. It has lost that title to some of the other names we’ll see shortly, but that doesn’t mean Ballistix RAM isn’t solid.

If you want a little more speed than the Kingston can provide, but still have a budget to contend with, a little bit higher of a price for this RAM will reduce those load times.

Features

  • Size: 8GB.
  • Distribution: 2x4GB.
  • Architecture: DDR3 PC3-12800 UDIMM.
  • Cooling: High-end aluminum spreader heat sink.
  • Compatibility: AMD and Intel x86/64 (intel profile optimized).
  • Speed: 1600 MT/s.

Performance

This still isn’t the fastest RAM in the world, by any means. At one time, it would have easily held that title, and I’ve had Ballistix RAM like this, which I put into a set-top box I built, and it works great for a media machine.

For gaming, it’ll function fine, but again, the distribution occupies slots which, if you’re building a budget gaming rig, could handicap you. It won’t have quite the loading times the Kingston will, though.

Overall Rating: 8

Pros Cons
  • Affordable.
  • Decent cooling. 
  • Reputable budget brand with a rich history. 
  • High compatibility. 
  • Fast enough.
  • Distributed across two sticks.
  • UDIMM can have stability issues if memory management in a program is sloppy.

Conclusion

If I were building on a budget, I’d probably opt for this RAM, as I did for my set top box. My only concern is UDIMM can occasionally go insane if memory and page management in a given piece of code isn’t written right.

Ballistix 8GB: Check the current price

High-End Budget 16GB Kit (8GBx2) DDR4 3000 MT/s | Ballistix 

High-End Budget 16GB Kit Ballistix: photo

Another Ballistix offering, this is a higher-end budget RAM with a significantly-increased speed and a better memory distribution. If you’re on a budget, but don’t’ want to skimp on speed or slot availability, this is a compromise you can definitely live with.

Features

  • Size: 16GB.
  • Distribution: 2x8GB.
  • Architecture: DDR4 PC5-24000 DIMM.
  • Cooling: High-end aluminum spreader heat sink.
  • Compatibility: AMD and Intel x86/64 (intel profile optimized).
  • Speed: 3000 MT/s.

Performance

As far as budget RAM goes, this is the top of the line, getting you 16GB out of only two slots, a good speed, and modern architecture. However, if you’re in need of DDR3 (which is possible), this RAM may not work. It is possible for some boards and some RAM to reverse-support DDR4 on a DDR3 board, but this is a coin toss and a risky venture.

Overall Rating: 8

Pros Cons
  • Affordable.
  • Decent cooling. 
  • Reputable budget brand with a rich history. 
  • High compatibility. 
  • Very fast.
  • DDR4 may not work with DDR3 boards.
  • CL16 argues with legacy games and programs from time to time.

Conclusion

This may require a newer board, but if you can support DDR4, but still have that budget concern, this is about the best you can do, without moving to higher-end RAM. That said, I recommend this for its slot optimization alone.

Ballistix 16 GB: Check the current price

Affordable High-End 32GB (2 x 16GB) DRAM 3000MHz C15 Memory Kit for DDR4 Systems | Corsair

High-End 32GB Memory Kit for DDR4 Systems Corsair: photo

Now we’re starting to roll out the big guns a bit. Corsair is one of the leading brands for RAM and motherboards, and Vengeance is their current high-end line of RAM. It’s not cheap, but within the realm of very high-end RAM, it’s one of the more affordable lines.

This ram is fast, powerful, and very legacy-friendly.

Features

  • Size: 32GB.
  • Distribution: 2x16GB.
  • Architecture: DDR4 C15 UDIMM.
  • Cooling: High-end aluminum spreader heat sink.
  • Compatibility: AMD and Intel x86/64 (intel profile optimized).
  • Speed: 3000Mhz.

Performance

This is the more affordable of the high-end stuff, with overclockable features and auto-profiling allowing serious gamers to calibrate their system to get the most possible out of it. This isn’t the top of the line for Corsair Vengeance, which we’ll see shortly, but it’s a force to be reckoned with.

Be careful with the overclocking though, as it doesn’t have the most amazing cooling.

Overall Rating: 8

Pros Cons
  • Overclockable.
  • Blazing fast. 
  • High capacity. 
  • Corsair reputation. 
  • Rapid paging. 
  • Auto-profiling. 
  • Zero-delay management. 
  • Onboard garbage collection.
  • DDR4 may not work with DDR3 boards.
  • CL15 doesn’t like pre-Windows 8 OSes very much. 
  • Expensive.

Conclusion

If you’re serious about gaming, but don’t quite want to spend the funds for the end-all, you can’t go wrong with this RAM. Be very careful with overclocking, though!

Corsair 32GB: Check the current price

High-End | RGB PRO 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4 3200MHz C16 LED | Corsair

Corsair RGB PRO 16GB: photo

This is currently Corsair’s magnum opus – the top of the Vengeance line of RAM, with blazing speed, RGB illumination, and a serious heat sink that makes the overclocking much safer a prospect.

Features

  • Size: 16GB.
  • Distribution: 2x8GB.
  • Architecture: DDR4 C16 DIMM.
  • Cooling: High-end aluminum spreader heat sink, RGB system, vents.
  • Compatibility: AMD and Intel x86/64 (intel profile optimized).
  • Speed: 3200Mhz.

Performance

Don’t let the lower price fool you – that’s because of the lower size per stick with this. This is the most powerful RAM Corsair has to offer at the moment, and it outperforms the most expensive gaming consoles without breaking a sweat.

Overall Rating: 9

Pros Cons
  • Overclockable.
  • Blazing fast. 
  • High capacity. 
  • Corsair reputation. 
  • Rapid paging. 
  • Auto-profiling. 
  • Zero-delay management. 
  • Onboard garbage collection. 
  • RGB. 
  • Serious cooling.
  • Less memory per stick.
  • Bulky. 
  • RGB causes additional heat.

Сonclusion

Corsair loyalists who want the end-all gaming experience available in 2019, will want to go with this RAM. It’s what I have in my machine, and I emulate the Wii U at full speed.

Corsair 16 GB: Check the current price

Best for Online Gaming 3000MHz (PC4 24000) 8GB Dual Channel DDR4 | Patriot

Best RAM for Online Gaming: photo

Patriot is another leading name in RAM, and their Viper series’ dual-channel management makes data-swapping needs for online gaming much faster, thanks to the parallelism it provides.

Features

  • Size: 8GB.
  • Distribution: 2x4GB.
  • Architecture: DDR4 PC4 2400 DIMM.
  • Cooling: High-end aluminum spreader heat sink.
  • Compatibility: AMD and Intel x86/64 (intel profile optimized).
  • Speed: 3000Mhz.

Performance

If you’re mostly into online games, you need more parallelism and faster data swapping ability, which this Viper RAM provides. It’s not the most optimal for current-generation single player games, but it will work fine for it, albeit with some load times and the occasional (very occasional) frame skip due to a pointer delay or two.

Overall Rating: 8

Pros Cons
  • Fast data swapping.
  • Decent speed. 
  • Reputable brand.
  • Less memory per stick.
  • Pointer management can be slow.

Conclusion

Quite simply, the parallelism this one affords makes it the best for heavy online gaming, so MMO, RTS and FPS players, rejoice, this is the RAM for you.

Patriot: Check the current price

Best for Large-Scale Games RGB Series DDR4 16GB (2 x 8GB) (PC4 25600) | G.Skill

TridentZ RGB RAM by G.Skill: photo

This TridentZ RGB RAM by G.Skill is the fastest for large scale loading and unloading, which means large, open-world games will see the most performance from this. It performs excellently for smaller games, legacy, and online, but giant maps are where it shines.

Features

  • Size: 16GB.
  • Distribution: 2x8GB.
  • Architecture: DDR4 PC4 25600 UDIMM.
  • Cooling: High-end aluminum spreader heat sink.
  • Compatibility: AMD and Intel x86/64 (AMD profile optimized).
  • Speed: 3200Mhz.

Performance

The management onboard with this RAM makes it able to load large bursts of data, and unload them, very quickly. It may actually be slower for a lot of random recaching, causing the occasional stitch in the screen if pointers are so wildly mismanaged, but for giant-scope games, this is the RAM you want.

Overall Rating: 9

Pros Cons
  • Swift I/O
  • RGB onboard. 
  • Good cooling. 
  • Multi-channel. 
  • Onboard garbage collection.
  • Argues with some legacy things unless in high-compatibility mode.
  • Pointer management can be slow.

Conclusion

I am not into open world or roguelike games myself, but I know the need they have to hold huge batches of data and dispose of them quickly. This isn’t as fast for small scale operations, but for sweeping creation and destruction of worlds, this fits the bill.

G.Skill: Check the current price

Comparison Chart of RAM for Gaming Effectiveness

Product Features

HyperX

  • Size: 8GB.
  • Distribution: 2x4GB.
  • Architecture: DDR3 CL10 DIMM.
  • Cooling: Standard heat sink.
  • Compatibility: AMD and Intel x86/64.
  • Speed: 1600MHz.

Overall Rating: 7

Ballistix, 8GB

  • Size: 8GB.
  • Distribution: 2x4GB.
  • Architecture: DDR3 PC3-12800 UDIMM.
  • Cooling: High-end aluminum spreader heat sink.
  • Compatibility: AMD and Intel x86/64 (intel profile optimized).
  • Speed: 1600 MT/s.

Overall Rating: 8

Ballistix, 16GB

  • Size: 16GB. 
  • Distribution: 2x8GB.
  • Architecture: DDR4 PC5-24000 DIMM.
  • Cooling: High-end aluminum spreader heat sink.
  • Compatibility: AMD and Intel x86/64 (intel profile optimized).
  • Speed: 3000 MT/s.

Overall Rating: 8

Corsair, 32GB

  • Size: 32GB.
  • Distribution: 2x16GB.
  • Architecture: DDR4 C15 UDIMM.
  • Cooling: High-end aluminum spreader heat sink.
  • Compatibility: AMD and Intel x86/64 (intel profile optimized).
  • Speed: 3000Mhz.

Overall Rating: 8

Corsair, 16GB

  • Size: 16GB.
  • Distribution: 2x8GB.
  • Architecture: DDR4 C16 DIMM.
  • Cooling: High-end aluminum spreader heat sink, RGB system, vents.
  • Compatibility: AMD and Intel x86/64 (intel profile optimized).
  • Speed: 3200Mhz.

Overall Rating: 9

Patriot

  • Size: 8GB.
  • Distribution: 2x4GB.
  • Architecture: DDR4 PC4 2400 DIMM.
  • Cooling: High-end aluminum spreader heat sink.
  • Compatibility: AMD and Intel x86/64 (intel profile optimized).
  • Speed: 3000Mhz.

Overall Rating: 8

G.Skill

  • Size: 16GB.
  • Distribution: 2x8GB.
  • Architecture: DDR4 PC4 25600 UDIMM.
  • Cooling: High-end aluminum spreader heat sink.
  • Compatibility: AMD and Intel x86/64 (AMD profile optimized).
  • Speed: 3200Mhz.

Overall Rating: 9

FAQ

How many RAMs do I need for gaming?
You need at least 16GB to play modern games.

What are the top RAMs for gaming?
It depends on what kind of gaming, but you can’t go wrong with anything by Corsair or Patriot.

Does it improve gaming?
It doesn’t make graphics prettier – that’s the GPU’s job. But it makes them faster.

How can I make my RAM faster?
Some of it is overclockable, through included tools by AMD or Intel. But, don’t do this. Just buy the fastest RAM your board supports. Overclocking can go horribly wrong.

Can you mix RAMs?
It’s not a good idea, but within limits, yes. If it’s all the same type, you can do it, but it’ll be a mess.

Conclusion

RAM is critical, and you really need to pick the best RAM with the right speed and sufficient amount, to get the most out of gaming. Any of these will work fine for modern games, but knowing your budget and the type of games you love most, will help you get the absolute most out of your gaming rig.