April 1, 2023

Once was, RAM had little effect on your system performance as long as you had enough of it. Today, it can cause serious bottlenecks for your system’s responsiveness and gaming performance if you aren’t pairing the right RAM with the right hardware. Whether that’s equipping a massive multicore processor with the bandwidth to match, having not enough memory or using memory that’s too slow, picking the right type of RAM for your system is important.

The best RAM for you doesn’t have to the fastest RAM, or even the best RAM money can buy, but it should be quick enough and large enough for your needs to ensure you’re making the most of your system. Most people will be able to get away with almost any kit of DDR4 memory of at least 8GB in capacity and between 3,000MHz and 4,000MHz of clock speed for anything you need, including gaming and light multimedia work. If you anticipate heavier computing tasks entering your workflow—like photo and video editing—you’ll probably want to step up to at least 16GB.

Modern RAM isn’t just about performance though. There are also great looking memory kits with unique heat spreaders and RGB lighting. If you want a certain type of RAM to fit in with your PC’s new color scheme, there are plenty of options to pick from. Here’s the best RAM you can buy in 2021.

Best RAM Overall

G.Skill Trident Z Neo 3600

  • Capacity: 16GB (2x8GB)
  • Speed: 3,600MHz
  • Timings: 16-18-18-38

G.Skill’s Trident Z range of memory covers the gamut, from affordable memory kits to some of the most eye catching and expensive modules money can buy. Most of them are high-performance though, and sitting at the apex of speed and value is the G.Skill Trident Z Neo range of kits. In particular, this 16GB pairing of 3,600MHz sticks.

The performance sweet spot for AMD Ryzen 3000 and 5000 CPUs is 3,600MHz, as it’s the highest performing memory you can have without needing to mess with the Infinity Fabric ratio, giving you the option of maximum performance without diving into more complicated memory overclocking. Intel CPUs don’t benefit quite as much from high-speed memory, but 3,600MHz is still plenty fast to enjoy your high-speed Intel CPU without leaving much performance on the table.

With reasonably tight timings along with its high frequency, this 16GB kit is great for gaming or more general computing, and it comes at a much more affordable price than some of the fastest memory kits out there, all without sacrificing much performance to do so. For the best all round memory kit right now, these G.Skill Trident Z Neo sticks are hard to beat.

Fastest RAM

G.Skill Trident Z Royal 4400

  • Capacity: 16GB (2x8GB)
  • Speed: 4,400MHz
  • Timings: 18-19-19-39

Speed isn’t everything with memory, but if you want the maximum bandwidth possible, then the fastest RAM you can buy at a somewhat reasonable price is G.Skill’s Trident Z Royal 4400 kit. There are kits that can technically reach higher frequencies with their XMP profiles (this kit can be manually overclocked too), but this pair of gorgeous memory modules offers some of the fastest memory performance you can find in real world testing.

If you want even greater speeds, there are modules at this frequency with slightly tighter timings, and 32GB modules can give better gaming results in some cases, but you’ll have to pay far, far more for those and that gives steeply diminishing returns for your investment. For a super fast memory kit that looks great, performs well, and even has some overclocking headroom for when you want to push them further, this G.Skill Trident Z Royal Silver kit is the best RAM for the job.

Best Budget RAM

OLOY 3000 16GB

  • Capacity: 16GB (2x8GB)
  • Speed: 3,000MHz
  • Timings: 16-18-18-36

Although we’ve hit the bottom of DDR4 memory pricing and are now starting to ease back up again thanks to a global shortage of just about everything built on silicon, that doesn’t mean you can’t find extremely affordable memory out there. In fact, the 16GB 3,000MHz kit from OLOY is one of the best budget RAM kits that’s ever been released.

At less than $80 in a recent sale, this memory is stupendous value, packing not only high speed memory modules with relatively tight timings, but the sticks even have an understated heat spreader. It won’t do anything for performance at these speeds and there’s no RGB lighting to speak of, but these sticks won’t stand out compared to many other gaming memory kits. And at this price? They’re an absolute steal.


Corsair Dominator Platinum

  • Capacity: 16GB (2x8GB)
  • Speed: 3,200MHz
  • Timings: 16-18-18-36

The Corsair Dominator Platinum memory kits feature some of Corsair’s best hand-picked memory chips for improved stability and overclocking headroom, and offer tight timings at high speeds. Where they really stand apart, though, is in their RGB lighting. There are 12 ultra-bright, individually addressable Capellix LEDs in each stick, guaranteeing long life, low power draw and versatile memory lighting.

Making the best RGB RAM isn’t just about having great LEDs and light dispersers on the memory itself though—it’s about the backend software that powers it too. For years the Corsair Utility Engine (iCUE) and Link software have been some of the best ways to control memory lighting (among other peripherals) and that’s true today too. Combined with the Dominator Platinum’s versatile LEDs, you have near infinite color options with heaps of lighting effects to pick from.

Best Big RAM Kit

G.Skill Trident Z Neo 128GB

  • Capacity: 128GB (4x32GB)
  • Speed: 3,200MHz
  • Timings: 16-18-18-38

Few applications can take advantage of 64GB of RAM, let alone 128GB, but there are some that can, and if you need that much memory, it might as well be fast too. The G.SKill Trident Z Neo 128GB kit is the expanded brother of the best RAM you can buy right now, so it makes sense that it’s the best big RAM kit too.

The rated speed of 3,200MHz will be harder to hit across four big memory modules than it would be with just one or two sticks, but using four 32GB sticks gives you a better chance than eight 16GB DIMMS. The timings are relatively tight too, giving you some room to loosen them if that helps reach the frequencies you’re chasing.

As with the fantastic 16GB Neo kits, this 128GB version looks pretty great too, with some attractive black and silver heat spreaders, plus addressable RGB if you want to truly beautify your monstrous memory configuration.

Best Low Profile RAM

Corsair Vengeance LPX

  • Capacity: 16GB (2x8GB)
  • Speed: 3,200MHz
  • Timings: 16-18-18-38

Big, fancy heat spreaders are a nice touch on any memory kit, even if they only offer any kind of performance advantage at ultra high frequencies and voltages. But if you’re building a compact MATX or Mini-ITX system, you don’t need all that extra metal getting in the way of your low profile cooler or casing. That’s where low profile RAM kits like the excellent Corsair Vengeance LPX series come in.

This pair of 8GB modules offer great speed, tight timings, and most importantly, a compact heat spreader that barely pushes above the PCB. There’s still a little extra fin area for heat dissipation if you decide to push them through overclocking, but at 3,200MHz there isn’t much extra performance to be found unless you really want to tweak your system to the n’th degree.

Along with being low-profile, these memory modules are also understated and come without RGB lighting. That helps them blend into the background for builds that are dark in tone, or don’t need fancy lighting augmentation. It also keeps power draw and the price low, which is never a bad thing.

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