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Best RAM 2020: Desktop DDR4 Memory for Gaming and Productivity

Best RAM hero
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Whether you’re building a new PC or upgrading a system that now struggles to compete with today's best gaming pcs, the best RAM kit for your money depends on the platform you pick and the software you plan to run. Every desktop sold in recent years uses DDR4 RAM and supports at least DDR4-2133 speeds. That’s the easy part.

The hard part is understanding when faster memory matters when choosing the best RAM. If you’re running an Intel-based PC with an add-in graphics card, most programs won’t respond in a meaningful way to faster or slower system memory. A few will scale upward with data rate to the highest possible speeds, including some games and programs like the file compression program 7-Zip.

On the other hand, AMD’s Zen-based architectures are affected much more by memory speeds. The company’s “Infinity Fabric” (the internal bits that link various blocks of logic inside of Ryzen CPUs) is tied to the speed of the memory bus. You can read about this in detail here. So, increased memory speeds on Ryzen- and Threadripper-based platforms often translate to real-world performance gains. In games, that means faster frame rates at mainstream resolutions like 1080p, as well as smoother performance at higher resolutions.

Lastly, memory speed makes a big difference if you’re gaming on an integrated graphics engine using either Intel or AMD processors. Since the graphics silicon baked into CPUs doesn’t generally have its own dedicated memory (as discrete graphics cards do), upping the clock rate of your system memory also generally increases performance (though the ultimate speed-up varies greatly from game to game). So, the best RAM for those kinds of systems is faster RAM if mainstream gaming is important to you. Keep in mind, however, that if you have to pay top dollar for the fastest RAM to get playable framerates, you’re better off buying slower system memory and an add-in graphics card.

In short, the best RAM for you is faster memory if you’re gaming without a dedicated graphics card, if you’re running an AMD Ryzen system, and in some edge cases with Intel chips. But if you don’t care so much about squeezing the best performance possible from your hardware, DDR4-2133 memory should be drop-in compatible with any modern PC platform.

Quick Shopping Tips

  • For many people, 16GB is the current sweet spot. Programs get bigger and messier over time, 1080p and 4K video are now common, PC game files are always expanding, and websites get more complex by the day. While heavy multitaskers and power users may need 32GB to keep from tapping into much slower disk-based virtual memory, 16GB is far more affordable, and sufficient for gaming and mainstream productivity tasks.
  • Memory speeds advertised as part of an XMP profile might not be achievable on AMD-based motherboards. XMP is a sort of automatic memory overclocking setting that was designed for Intel motherboards. Some motherboard makers offer BIOS settings to help you achieve these faster speeds on AMD motherboards. But these settings aren’t present on all boards, and they don’t always work when they are present.
  • Want the fastest RAM speed on an Intel platform? Get a K-series CPU. Non-K-series Core i7 and Core i5 processors have the same DDR4-2666 limit as that imposed by Intel’s lesser H370 and B360 chipsets. Core i3 processors have a lower limit of DDR4-2400. While most boards lack XMP, those that have it will more easily configure XMP memory with enhanced timings. 

Best RAM You Can Buy Today

Patriot Viper Steel DDR4-4400

1. Patriot Viper Steel DDR4-4400 (2x 8GB)

Best High-Speed 16GB Kit

Model: PVS416G440C9K | Capacity: 16 GB (2x 8GB) | Data Rate: DDR4-4400 (XMP) | Timings: 19-19-19-39 (2T) | Voltage: 1.45V | Warranty: Lifetime

Superb 19-19-19-39 DDR4-4400 timings
Outperforms competing DDR4-4600 kits
Reasonably priced
RGB-free design
Pricier than the closest-performing RGB kit
Top XMP profiles require specially-selected motherboards

For those with a board that can handle its top speed and games or workloads that can take advantage of it, Patriot’s Viper Steel DDR4-4400 16GB kit is an excellent high-performance option that also skips RGB.

Keeping the kit simple has allowed Patriot to equip the Viper Steel with enhanced timings that dramatically boost the performance of certain programs, including some games. Since the market for pure gaming rigs and focused builds designed for singular tasks is still competitive, the Viper Steel DDR4-4400 sits comfortably in this niche.

Read: Patriot Viper Steel DDR4-4000 Review

Patriot Viper RGB DDR4-3600

2. Patriot Viper RGB DDR4-3600 (2x 8GB)

Best High-Speed RGB 16GB Kit

Model: PVR416G360C6K | Capacity: 16 GB (2x 8GB) | Data Rate: DDR4-3600 (XMP) | Timings: 16-18-18-36 (2T) | Voltage: 1.35V | Warranty: Lifetime

XMP timings at DDR4-3600
Overclocking capability
Excellent latency-tuning capacity
Compatible with motherboard RGB software
Patriot RGB software free for download
LED diffuser causes color merging/bleeding

Patriot bucks the trend of pairing cosmetic features with mainstream DRAM ICs, instead pushing data rates up to 4,133 megahertz (MHz) on its Viper RGB. This DDR4-3600 kit is only $10 more than the white-LED version and several dollars cheaper than competing products with similar latency. That makes it a great value at this speed, though slower kits have greater pricing advantages.

The fastest DDR4-3600 kit we’ve tested, Patriot’s Viper RGB DDR4-3600 kit provides great value to buyers who want both go (overclocking capability) and show (RGB LEDs).

Read: Patriot Viper RGB DDR4-3600 Review

Patriot Viper 4 DDR4-3400

3. Patriot Viper 4 DDR4-3400 (2x 8GB)

Best Overclocker Value 16GB Kit

Model: PV416G340C6K | Capacity: 16 GB (2x 8GB) | Data Rate: DDR4-3400 (XMP) | Timings: 16-18-18-36 (2T) | Voltage: 1.35V | Warranty: Lifetime

Top overclocking from a mid-priced 16GB two-DIMM kit
Still pricier than budget kits

It may not have fancy software-controlled RGB lights, and there are faster kits on offer for higher prices, as well as budget-priced kits that cost less. But for many who don’t want or need their memory to glow like a rainbow, Patriot's Viper 4 DDR4-3400 C16 16GB (PV416G340C6K) sits in a sweet spot of price and performance.

The kit includes two 8GB modules rated with XMP values of DDR4-3400 CAS 16-18-18-36. Those last three number aren't great, but it's important for DDR3 lovers to remember that 16 cycles at 3400 MHz data rate have the same latency time as 8 cycles at 1700 MHz data rate. This kit is an excellent DRAM overclocking value, while also providing some stylish red heatsinks to make sure your memory looks good enough to show off in your windowed case.

Read: Patriot Viper 4 DDR4-3400 Review

Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4-3200

4. Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4-3200 (4x 8GB)

Best 32GB RGB Kit

Model: CMW32GX4M4C3200C | Capacity: 32GB (4x 8GB) | Data Rate: DDR4-3200 (XMP) | Timings: 16-18-18-36 (2T) | Voltage: 1.35V | Warranty: Lifetime

Excellent performance at rated (XMP) settings and across multiple data rates
Supports both Corsair and third-party RGB utilities
Reasonably priced
Didn’t reach DDR4-4000
White light diffusers cast pastel hues

Builders who put a premium on aesthetics often face a tough choice between the best-looking and best-performance parts. Corsair brings a bit of both in its Vengeance RGB DDR4-3200 kit, providing four 8GB DIMMs (32GB total) at CAS 16 timings for a price that’s reasonably moderate given recent market trends. And this kit isn't all about looks; it has the goods where benchmarks are concerned, too. 

Superb performance and moderate pricing earns the Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4-3200 our Editor's Choice Award for RGB-equipped memory, though its pastel colors might be off-putting to a few builders.

Corsair’s kit beat our previous favorite, the HyperX Predator RGB, in overall performance at every speed, barring the DDR4-4000 setting that it didn’t reach. Corsair also provides a better-performing XMP value and a lower price than the competition, making the Vengeance RGB Pro the uncompromised winner here, and an excellent addition to your next RGB build.

Read: Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4-3200 Review

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

5. Patriot Viper Steel DDR4-3200 (2x 16GB)

Best Two-DIMM 32GB Kit

Model: PVS432G320C6K | Capacity: 32GB (2x16) | Data Rate: DDR4-3400 (XMP) | Timings: 15-15-15-36 | Voltage: 1.35V | Warranty: Lifetime

Supremely inexpensive DDR4-3200
Competitive performance
Some buyers want RGB

Buyers within the performance PC market really have only two excuses to stop at DDR4-3200: Either they’re trying to save money, or they’re trying to coax good performance from a system that really can’t be pushed much farther.

For those in either camp, but the former in particular, Patriot Patriot’s 32GB Viper Steel 3200 kit slams the competition on price, undercutting its closest rival in our analysis by nearly 18%. And that’s without any performance penalties, beyond those of having the same mid-market timings as its competitors.

Even though the Patriot Viper Steel’s performance victories are less than 1% overall, its low price puts it well ahead of even the least-expensive competitor in our basic performance-to-price comparison.  Value seekers within the performance PC market have just found their new champion.

Read: Patriot Viper Steel DDR4-3200 Review

Patriot Viper Steel DDR4-3600 C18 (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

6. Patriot Viper Steel DDR4-3600 C18 (2x 32GB)

Best Two-DIMM 64GB Kit

Model: H5ANAG8NMJR-VKC | Capacity: 64GB (2x 32GB) | Data Rate: DDR4-3600 (XMP) | Timings: 18-20-20-40 (2T) | Voltage: 1.35V | Warranty: Lifetime

Superb all-around performance
Great capacity for content creators 
Perfect for boards with two RAM slots
 Little headroom for performance improvement

The Viper Steel DDR4-3600 C18 is a terrific memory kit for content creators or professionals that don't have the luxury of many DDR4 memory slots. Performance isn't a problem because the memory kit excels at everything that you throw at it. 

Patriot practically binned these modules to the max, so overclocking headroom is almost non-existent, even if you're willing to go crazy on the voltage. But running the Viper Steel at the advertised frequency should be more than sufficient in the majority of scenarios.


Patriot prices the Viper Steel DDR4-3600 C18 64GB memory kit very attractively, too. At $239.99, the memory kit is neither cheap nor expensive. The Viper Steel finds itself right in the middle of the competition. Given it stands tall in terms of performance, that makes this kit easy to recommend for those who need speed and density in a dual-DIMM scenario.

Read: Patriot Viper Steel DDR4-3600 C18 2x32GB Review 

HyperX Predator RGB DDR4-2933

7. HyperX Predator RGB DDR4-2933 (4x 8GB)

Best Overclocker Value 32GB Kit

Model: HX429C15PB3AK4/32 | Capacity: 32GB (4x 8GB) | Data Rate: DDR4-2933 (XMP) | Timings: 15-17-17-39 (2T) | Voltage: 1.35V | Warranty: Lifetime

The best-overclocking 32GB kit we've tested
IR-synchronized RGB
Compatible with leading motherboard-based RGB utilities
RGB control requires compatible motherboard-based utility
Comparatively high price for its DDR4-2933 rating
Ultimate value depends on overclocking skill and compliant hardware

Incredible overclocking capability in our testing drives our recommendation of HyperX Gaming’s HX429C15PB3AK4/32 kit to our most-enthusiastic enthusiast readers. But we'd need to see a higher XMP rating to expend our recommendation to those who don’t overclock manually. And it’s possible of course that you won’t see the same level of manual overclocking we achieved on other motherboards or with a kit that isn’t as overclocking-capable.

So those who are looking for guaranteed speeds above this kit’s DDR4-2933 spec should pay more for one that’s rated higher using standard XMP profiles. But even without guaranteed manually tuned speeds, there’s a lot to like about this colorful kit from Kingston.

Read: HyperX Predator RGB DDR4-2933 Review

Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2666 (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

8. Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2666 (2x 8GB)

Best 16GB Kit for H370 And B360

Model: CMK16GX4M2A2666C16 | Capacity: 16GB (2x 8GB) | Data Rate: DDR4-2666 | Timings: C16-18-18-36 | Voltage: 1.20V | Warranty: Lifetime

Big performance benefit from dual-rank DIMMs
No secondary XMP for DDR4-2400-limited motherboards
Top non-XMP setting is DDR4-2133

Intel’s H370 and B360 chipsets instruct its Core i5 (and above) processors to lock out any memory settings above DDR4-2666, which is particularly unfortunate in a market that’s moved way past that setting. DDR4-3200 is now mainstream within the enthusiast PC market, and is often treated as such by the memory sellers that cater to enthusiasts and gamers. Thus, the best way to get a top-performing brand new DDR4-2666 kit would be to dial the way-back machine to 2016 and get the high-performing kit from that time. Barring that, Corsair has a workaround.

Corsair's easy workaround for the performance problem that is Intel's DDR4-2666 limit was to use older, low-density chips to populate its 8GB DIMMs with two rank, rather than the single rank of its competitors.  The best part is that they did this without a significant increase in price. We recommend it for anyone whose XMP-compatible platform has a maximum DDR4-2666 data rate, which includes most retail boxed H370 and B360 motherboards.

Read: Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2666 Review

  • abryant
    Archived comments are found here:
  • CRO5513Y
    Completely agree with the first choice, i found the same kit a few weeks ago on Newegg, Viper RGB 3600 Mhz that was cheaper than Corsair Vengeance RGB, G.Skill Trident Z RGB & GeIL RGB kits and they were all only 3200 MHz! I'd argue the Viper looks the best of the RGB sets too, didn't know it existed until i came across it on Newegg. Strongly recommend for the price + speed + aesthetic combination.
  • rantoc
    Most above need Con: RGB =P
    I have 2x 8gb G.Skill TridentZ RGB @4266MHz and they are really great.
  • nyhcbri
    Thought i would see gskill trident z F4-3200C14D-16GTZR
  • gone_skye_diving
    This backs up what I've seen on other sites in that 2x8GB DDR4 memory is the best for stability and overclockability and performance, 2x16GB DDR4 memory cannot be overclocked as high.
  • david90009
    You don't need a K CPU to overclock ram on an Intel platform. You just need the Z chipset. Yeah kind of confusing when the memory controller is on the CPU. But that's what happens when everything is artificially limited.
  • Karadjgne
    Memory controller might be part of the cpu, but the cpu parameters are set by the bios, which is part of the mobo. Cpu jumps, bios tells it 'how high'.

    Umm why is this posted as Best Memory: March 2015? Musta missed sumptin...
  • dorsai
    Not rocking low latency fast memory like FlareX C14 3200mhz memory on Ryzen 2 is leaving performance on the floor...
  • Crashman
    dorsai said:
    Not rocking low latency fast memory like FlareX C14 3200mhz memory on Ryzen 2 is leaving performance on the floor...
    We have Patriot's DDR4-3600 C16 though ;)