Are you building a gaming rig but don’t know which RAM to get? Or maybe you’re looking to upgrade but are completely overwhelmed by the options available? Whatever your scenario may be, one thing that’s common between both is that buying RAM can become quite difficult.
To answer all of your questions and more, Tech4Gamers brings you the ultimate buying guide for RAM. It covers everything from your budget to RGB, and once you have read this guide, you will know exactly which RAM is perfect for you.
We have also covered thorough buying guides for Motherboard, CPU, Graphics Card, and CPU Cooler. If you’re in the market for any of these components, read our guides to ensure that you get the best product.
Here are the key takeaways from this guide:
- Go through your motherboard’s specifications to see which RAM is compatible with it.
- Outline your budget and only check RAM that falls within your price range.
- Go through the RAM’s specification and check whether it aligns with the performance you expect and whether it is compatible with your system or not.
Factors To Consider Before Buying RAM
When it comes to buying RAM, you need to consider various factors, and each one of those factors can completely change your decision. Therefore, in this section, we will walk you through everything you need to consider before buying RAM.
Also Read: How We Test RAM
First of all, you need to go over your motherboard’s specifications and figure out which RAM is compatible with it. If you’re building a new rig, then we recommend you purchase your motherboard first and then move toward the RAM.
By going over the motherboard compatibility, you will know whether you need to go for DDR4 or DDR5 RAM, and this alone can make all the difference in the world. Furthermore, you will know the maximum capacity and frequency that your motherboard supports.
If you want to future-proof your rig and get the best possible performance, then you should go with a motherboard that supports DDR5 RAM and pick yourself up a few DDR5 sticks. However, if you are on a budget and you just want a casual gaming rig, then DDR4 should suffice.
How Much You Are Willing To Spend?
On the topic of budget, you also need to outline exactly how much you can spend on RAM. DDR5 RAM is generally priced a bit higher than DDR4, but its high performance makes up for the higher price tag.
As expected, the more performance, looks, and bells and whistles you go after, the more you will have to spend. Therefore, it is best if you keep your budget in mind throughout the buying process to ensure that you don’t overspend on RAM.
How Many Memory Modules?
You might have noticed that RAMs are available in kits of various configurations, like a kit of 2 or a kit of 4. Basically, what it means is that if you buy 16GB of DDR5 RAM, which is a kit of 2, then you will get two RAM sticks, and each of them has a capacity of 8GB, giving you a total capacity of 16GB.
Before you decide how many memory modules you should go for, you should again glance over your motherboard and see how many DIMM slots it comes with. This way, you will know how many RAM sticks you can equip on your motherboard.
Nevertheless, you should try to go for a kit of 2 RAM. This way, your RAM will perform via dual-channel, and you will get the optimal performance. One additional point you need to go over is that if your motherboard has 4x DIMM slots, then before installing the RAM, you should refer to your motherboard’s manual and determine which DIMM slots support dual-channel.
AMD EXPO vs. Intel XMP
Both AMD EXPO and Intel XMP focus on the same thing, that is, to swap out the default memory profile that your RAM comes in with a more performance-centric profile that offers higher clock speeds and lower latency.
Therefore, in a nutshell, these AMD EXPO and Intel XMP profiles allow users to effortlessly overclock their RAM without diving deep into the world of manual overclocking. Hence, you don’t have to fine-tune the input voltage, clock speed, and latency yourself; instead, by just enabling these profiles, your RAM will be performing at a significantly higher speed.
So, the question is, should you go with AMD EXPO-supported RAM or an Intel XMP one? Well, neither one of these should affect your purchase decision. Yes, there are a few differences between the two, like AMD EXPO is royalty and license-free; however, to get an Intel XMP badge, manufacturers have to get Intel certification.
Despite that, you can pair your Intel rig with an AMD EXPO RAM or your AMD rig with an Intel XMP RAM, and in either case, the RAM will work just fine; you can head over to the BIOS setting and enable the respective profile and get a boost in performance.
Specifications To Consider
When you’re in the market to buy RAM, then you must have noticed that every RAM has a bunch of specifications attached to it. Let’s go over what they are and how much they matter.
First and foremost, you need to decide how much capacity is enough for you. For instance, if you plan on doing casual web browsing and nothing intense, then 8GB should suffice. However, if you want to play games on your rig, then you need to go for 16GB.
Similarly, if you are a gaming enthusiast and want the best out of your PC, then you need 32GB of RAM. If you are a video editor, then you will also need to spend a lot on memory capacity.
Basically, the RAM capacity you are going to need depends totally on your usage. Obviously, this goes without saying that the more capacity you go after, the more you will have to pay.
Whenever you check a RAM, you must have noticed that its frequency is always associated with its name. For instance, consider the name CORSAIR Vengeance RGB DDR5-6000. Here, 6000 represents its frequency, which is actually 6000MHz. This number denotes how many times the RAM can perform a read/write cycle on the loaded data in a second.
Basically, once the data is loaded onto the RAM, it will perform a cycle where it reads data from it or writes on it, and the number of times it can perform this cycle in a second is its frequency. Hence, the CORSAIR Vengeance RGB, with its 6000MHz frequency, can do around 6 billion read/write cycles in a second.
As you can guess, the higher the frequency, the faster the RAM is. However, that’s not all, just the frequency alone cannot dictate how fast the RAM is; you also need to check its timing latency.
The Column Access Strobe (CAS) latency denotes the delay between RAM receiving a command from the CPU and RAM performing the said command on some data. The CAS latency, along with the rest of the timing latency, is denoted by a string of numbers separated by a dash. Considering the example of CORSAIR Vengeance RGB DDR5-6000, its timing latency is 36-36-36-76. Here, each number represents a different latency, which is generally the following (left to right):
- Column Access Strobe Latency
- Row Address to Column Address Delay
- Row Precharge Time
- Row Active Time
When you are buying RAM, make sure to consider both its frequency and latency to evaluate its performance. RAM with high frequency but also high latency will not perform well; you need to go for RAM that offers the perfect blend of low latency and high performance.
With the release of DDR5 RAM, the worries of input voltage are no more. After all, DDR5 RAM is quite power efficient as compared to its predecessor. Regardless, when you’re buying RAM, you should go over the input voltage as well, especially if you are planning to overclock your memory.
When you’re overclocking RAM, you need to crank up its input voltage to get better performance, so the RAM’s input voltage should give you enough headroom to crank it up safely.
Some Extras To Consider:
Apart from these factors, there are a few additional things that you should also keep in mind when buying RAM.
As you can guess by the name, the job of the heatspreader is pretty simple; it spreads the heat generated by the memory chips evenly, and this way, the ventilation of your rig dissipates the heat quickly and efficiently.
Therefore, the heatspreader brings down the temperatures of the memory chips, which ensures that the RAM will not automatically reduce its performance to prevent overheating, also known as thermal throttling.
Apart from being a thermal solution, manufacturers also use the heatspreader to give their RAM sticks a unique and distinct look. For instance, look at how Kingston has used the heatspreader on their Fury Renegade here:
Unless you are looking for a budget solution, you will find most RAM comes with a heatspreader, which is really good.
It may seem unimportant, but in reality, gauging the height of the RAM you are about to buy is crucial, especially if you are building a compact Mini-ITX rig with a huge cooler. That’s because if you don’t have enough physical clearance to install the RAM, then you will have to go back to the shop and return it.
Therefore, always check the height of the RAM to see whether it’s compatible with the rig you are building or not. If you are building a small form factor PC, then we recommend you go for low-profile RAM. They don’t cut down on the performance by any means, but they are about 32 to 33mm in height, making them perfect for such rigs.
Pictured above is the Ripjaws S5 by G.Skill, a low-profile RAM with a height of just 33mm.
Even though looks aren’t nearly as important as the other factors we have talked about, they still mean a lot to some gamers, and if you aim to build a visually appealing gaming PC, then you need to consider the RGB and overall design elements of the RAM you are buying.
This goes without saying that going after RGB will undeniably increase the price, but if you like the looks, then it’s worth it. Apart from RGB, many gamers prefer to build their PC with a specific theme, like an all-white gaming PC. If you plan on building such a rig, then you will have to go with RAM that uses a white heatspreader to fit in your PC.
Pictured above is the CORSAIR Vengeance RGB DDR5, a white RAM that also features a beautiful translucent RGB bar.
Read our full article on RGB in Gaming.
We have mentioned overclocking in the voltage section. However, if you plan to overclock your RAM, then it should have the potential to be overclocked. As we know, by overclocking, we feed additional power to the RAM and expect them to perform better than before.
Therefore, for a RAM to have good overclocking potential, it should have a reliable input voltage that can be safely increased. Furthermore, since we are increasing the power, the RAM will consequently generate more heat. Hence, the RAM sticks should also use a high-quality heatspreader that can handle the extra heat.
With that said, when it comes to the OC potential of a RAM, it depends heavily on the input voltage and the heatspreader. In addition to that, it also depends on the motherboard you are using, as they only support RAM frequency up to a certain extent.
When we tested the Kingston FURY RENEGADE 32GB 6400MT/s CL32 kit, we managed to get it up to a whopping 7000MHz frequency by increasing the voltage to 1.49V. However, our motherboard wasn’t built to support such high overclocking, so we toned it down to 6800MHz @ 1.40V, and the kit performed exceptionally well without any issues. For perspective, the kit, with just the XMP 3.0 profile enabled, was clocked at 6400MHz @ 1.40V, meaning we got a +400MHz bump without increasing the voltage.
Whenever you’re buying RAM, if you plan to overclock it, then make sure it has adequate room for increased input voltage and a good heatspreader. Along with that, also make sure that your motherboard actually supports the frequency you plan on going up to.
Some Best RAM Recommendations
Let’s go over a few RAM recommendations from Tech4Gamers:
Best DDR4 RAM For Ryzen 5000 Series
If you are building a Ryzen 5000 series PC, then you should consider going with one of these RAMs:
Kingston Fury Renegade 32GB DDR4-3600
If you want a good bang-for-the-buck RAM that offers great performance, then the Kingston Fury Renegade is for you. With its 3600MHz frequency and CL16 latency, it is a very powerful RAM. However, it does not come with RGB.
G.Skill Trident Z Neo 32GB DDR4-3600
If you want RGB as well, then the G.Skill Trident Z Neo is for you. It packs the same powerful punch as the Kingston Fury Renegade, but it looks significantly more beautiful. As you can guess, it also costs a bit more.
Best RAM For Ryzen 7000 Series
Similarly, if you’re building an AMD rig with the latest Ryzen 7000 Series processor, then here is the best RAM for it:
G.Skill Trident Z5 Neo RGB 32GB DDR5-6000
With great performance, overclocking potential, and RGB, the G.Skill Trident Z5 Neo RGB is the perfect RAM to complement a high-end rig built with the latest AMD processor. It has a frequency of a whopping 6000MHz and a CAS latency of just 30 clocks. It is hands down the best RAM to go for.
Best DDR4 RAM For Intel 12th and 13th Gen
Since the Intel 12th and 13th gen processors are compatible with both DDR4 and DDR5 RAM, let’s go over the best DDR4 RAM for them:
Corsair Vengeance RGB RT 32GB DDR4-3600
Packing a 3600MHz frequency, CL16 latency, and gorgeous RGB, the Corsair Vengeance RGB RT is the perfect DDR4 RAM for Intel builds. Given its price, it also offers quite the value for money.
Best DDR5 RAM For Intel 12th and 13th Gen
Similarly, here are a couple of the best DDR5 RAM for Intel 12th and 13th gen processors.
Kingston Fury Renegade 32GB DDR5-6400
The Kingston Fury Renegade is a no-nonsense RAM that cuts down on the bells and whistles like RGB and focuses on sheer performance. With its 6400MHz frequency and CL32 latency, it is one of the best gaming DDR5 RAMs out in the market.
Read our review of the Kingston Fury Renegade 32GB DDR5-6400 for more information.
Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB 32GB DDR5-6400
Fan of the RGB? The Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB has got your back. It is also quite a beast when it comes to sheer performance, and the RAM sticks have beautiful RGB lights to glow up your PC. However, keep in mind that you will have to drop heavy dollars on it.
Also Read: Best DDR5 RAM
Even though buying the perfect RAM may seem difficult at first, it is actually fairly simple with the right guidance. For this reason, we at Tech4Gamers, have created this thorough guide to assist you in buying RAM. Our guide walks you through every factor, like motherboard compatibility, your budget, the number of memory modules you need, AMD EXPO or Intel XMP, RAM specifications, and some extra factors that you should consider to ensure that you are left with the right RAM.
If you are looking to buy other PC components, then make sure to go through these guides:
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