Best RAM 2019: Desktop DDR4 Memory for Gaming and Productivity



Credit: ShutterstockCredit: Shutterstock

Whether you’re building a new PC or upgrading an older system, the best RAM kit for your money depends on the platform you pick and the software you plan to run. Pretty much every desktop sold in recent years uses DDR4 and supports at least DDR4-2133 speeds. That’s the easy part.

The hard part is understanding when faster RAM matters. 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 current architecture is 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, you want faster RAM for those kinds of systems if mainstream gaming is important. 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, you want faster RAM 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.
  • Think thrice About 32GB-per slot. While 32GB DIMMs have been around for a year, poor availability has given firmware developers an excuse to deprioritize its support. That makes it essential to check each motherboard model's compatibility list (at the manufacturer's website), and to be certain that compatible motherboards have the correct firmware installed.
  • Heat spreaders look nice, but often aren’t necessary. Unless you’re running RAM at high overclocked data rates, RAM generally doesn’t generate enough heat to require serious cooling. At most speeds and settings, so long as there’s airflow in your case, bare RAM sticks should be fine. With that said, if your case has a window, you may want to pay a few dollars extra for a metal-clad kit for aesthetics alone.
  • 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 Memory

Patriot Viper Steel DDR4-4400Patriot Viper Steel DDR4-4400

1. Patriot Viper Steel DDR4-4400 (2x8GB)

Best High-Speed 16GB Kit

Rating: 4.5/5 (Editor's Choice)

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

Pros: Superb 19-19-19-39 DDR4-4400 timings • Outperforms competing DDR4-4600 kits • Reasonably priced • RGB-free design

Cons: 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 Review: Patriot Viper Steet DDR4-4000

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Patriot Viper RGB DDR4-3600Patriot Viper RGB DDR4-3600

2. Patriot Viper RGB DDR4-3600 (2x8GB)

Best High-Speed RGB 16GB Kit

Rating: 4.5/5 (Editor's Choice)

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

Pros: XMP timings at DDR4-3600 • Overclocking capability • Excellent latency-tuning capacity • Compatible with motherboard RGB software • Patriot RGB software free for download

Cons: LED diffuser causes color merging/bleeding

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 Review: Patriot Viper RGB DDR4-3600

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Patriot Viper 4 DDR4-3400Patriot Viper 4 DDR4-3400

3. Patriot Viper 4 DDR4-3400 (2x8GB)

Best Overclocker Value 16GB Kit

Rating: 4/5

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

Pros: Top overclocking from a mid-priced 16GB two-DIMM kit

Cons: 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.

This dual-DIMM is 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 Review: Patriot Viper 4 DDR4-3400

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Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4-3200Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4-3200

4. Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4-3200 (4x8GB)

Best 32GB RGB Kit

Rating: 4.5/5 (Editor's Choice)

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

Pros: Excellent performance at rated (XMP) settings and across multiple data rates • Supports both Corsair and third-party RGB utilities • Reasonably priced

Cons: Didn’t reach DDR4-4000 • White light diffusers cast pastel hues

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 Review: Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4-3200

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

Best Two-DIMM 32GB Kit

Rating: 4.5/5 (Editor's Choice)

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

Pros: Supremely inexpensive DDR4-3200 • Competitive performance • No RGB

Cons: Some buyers want RGB

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 Review: Patriot Viper Steel DDR4-3200

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HyperX Predator RGB DDR4-2933HyperX Predator RGB DDR4-2933

6. HyperX Predator RGB DDR4-2933 (4x8GB)

Best Overclocker Value 32GB Kit

Rating: 4.5/5 (Editor's Choice)

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

Pros: The best-overclocking 32GB kit we've tested  • IR-synchronized RGB  • Compatible with leading motherboard-based RGB utilities

Cons: 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 Review: HyperX Predator RGB DDR4-2933

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19 comments
    Your comment
  • 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
  • TONSCHUH
    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
    Quote:
    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 ;)
  • hannibal
    I would like to know which one of these memories Are good in AMD systems... amd and Intel handles ram differently. I would like to see two gategories. One for Intel based systems and one for amd based systems!
  • InvalidError
    Quote:
    I would like to know which one of these memories Are good in AMD systems... amd and Intel handles ram differently. I would like to see two gategories. One for Intel based systems and one for amd based systems!

    AMD memory compatibility has mostly fallen to the wayside since post-AGESA 1.0.0.6 and Ryzen 2000, it would indeed be nice to have a broader update on the current state of things nearly two years later and see whether it should still be something people need to worry about.
  • Crashman
    Quote:
    I would like to know which one of these memories Are good in AMD systems... amd and Intel handles ram differently. I would like to see two gategories. One for Intel based systems and one for amd based systems!
    Unfortunately there is nearly zero consistency between AMD boards, so recommending a memory kit for AMD without specifying the board would be foolish. The reason we're currently using Kingston's Hynix DDR4-2933 in our Intel motherboard reviews is because of an issue with our G.Skill B-Die DDR4-3866 on an AMD board that I was testing right before staring the Z390 reviews.
  • hannibal
    Well that is most unfortuned...
  • kenzy9
    Quote:
    Unfortunately there is nearly zero consistency between AMD boards, so recommending a memory kit for AMD without specifying the board would be foolish. The reason we're currently using Kingston's Hynix DDR4-2933 in our Intel motherboard reviews is because of an issue with our G.Skill B-Die DDR4-3866 on an AMD board that I was testing right before staring the Z390 reviews.

    Yes I'd like to know more about "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."

    I'd have thought this thing would've been more clear and refined in this day and age :(
  • InvalidError
    Quote:
    I'd have thought this thing would've been more clear and refined in this day and age :(

    The joys of vendor-specific standards in a multi-vendor environment. XMP is Intel-specific, XMP profiles are based on Intel memory controller model and motherboard design rules, AMD's CPUs have different memory controller models, different motherboard rules so XMP mileage may vary wildly... especially with the first-gen memory controller and early BIOSes.
  • Crashman
    Quote:
    Yes I'd like to know more about "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." I'd have thought this thing would've been more clear and refined in this day and age :(

    It's called "Intel XMP" for a reason :)

    The Hynix memory worked well on most AMD and all Intel boards, and our previous Samsung-based memory didn't work well with some AMD boards, so we picked the kit that had better compatiblity with both.
  • 13thmonkey
    Do you recall the Anandtech articles from the haswell days comparing memory speed and timings, to the performance gains and losses, it'd be really nice to see something like that again for at Ryzen 3000 given the sensitivity to memory speeds that Ryzen in general seems to display, especially given Intels general insensitivity to memory speeds.

    https://www.anandtech.com/show/7364/memory-scaling-on-haswell
  • Crashman
    Quote:
    Do you recall the Anandtech articles from the haswell days comparing memory speed and timings, to the performance gains and losses, it'd be really nice to see something like that again for at Ryzen 3000 given the sensitivity to memory speeds that Ryzen in general seems to display, especially given Intels general insensitivity to memory speeds. https://www.anandtech.com/show/7364/memory-scaling-on-haswell

    I wish you hadn't suggested it, because I was planning to sneak one in without telling the bosses and surprise everyone.