Everything you need to know before buying RAM
RAM is a fundamental component of any equipment. No matter if you are going to use your computer to play, work or do simple office tasks, the performance of the system will depend on it.
However we have good news that you do not need the same amount of RAM to work with video editing than to write in Word, and neither if you plan to surf the internet or play games.
Depending on the PC use, you will need a greater or lesser amount of RAM. Following a simple but effective classification, you can know the minimum levels for each application:
- I have only basic MS Office work, Internet browsing, and basic multimedia content: 2 GB of RAM is enough.
- I work with complex documents, web browsing with several tabs, multimedia content and moderate multitasking: The minimum is 4 GB of RAM.
- I work with any type of documents, web browsing with dozens of tabs, games, multimedia content and high multitasking: Require at least 8 GB of RAM.
- I work with intensive applications (photo and video editing), very demanding games, multitasking and multimedia content: It is recommended to have 16 GB of RAM.
Now that we have talked about quantity, it is important to remember that we must prioritize it over speed, that is, we should only worry about buying faster memory if we have a budget for the minimum amount we need. Just remember that DDR4 memory has higher performance over DDR3 and DDR2. Check your computer’s compatibility before choosing specific type.
We now turn to review the types of memory that exist. We will include those that have been discontinued so that the information is more complete:
- DDR memory: It is the oldest version and is used in computers that mount Pentium 4 and Athlon processors. They run the 400 MHz.
- DDR2: They are still quite widespread as they were used in equipment with LGA775 and AM2 sockets. They are sold with frequencies up to 1066 MHz and have a very high price compared to the current standard, the DDR4.
- DDR3: It was surpassed by the DDR4 but it is still commercialized and has a strong presence since it has been used with sockets LGA1150 (Core 4000) and AM3 + (FX). The maximum speed offered by the kits we find on the market is around 2,400 MHz, although some specific models get close to 3 GHz.
- DDR4: It is the current standard and the one with the highest performance. We can find kits with speeds of more than 4 GHz.
Latency, double channel and quad channel
In addition to the capacity, the type of memory and the speed you must take into account the configuration of modules that you are going to mount and the latency of them. Let’s start talking about memory channels since they are very easy to understand.
The double channel is achieved by installing two RAM modules in a compatible motherboard, for example, two 8 GB sticks. When installing a single stick we have a 64-bit memory bus, but when installing two modules the computer can access both at the same time and works in blocks of 128 bits thanks to a second memory controller.
In the most advanced platforms ( Intel Core Extreme and AMD Threadripper ) it is possible to enjoy configurations in a quadruple channel that follow the same approach that we have shown previously. They can access four RAM modules at the same time which results in a 256-bit block job and a higher bandwidth.
For a normal user, there is no significant difference in performance between the double and the quad channel, so this type of configuration gives the best of itself in professional environments.
We now turn to latency. The latency is the delay experienced by the memory when performing different operations, so it ends up having a significant impact on the performance.
To see it more clearly we leave you with two examples that allow you to clearly see its impact on modules at different frequencies:
- DDR3 at 2,000 MHz CL9: 9 nanoseconds.
- DDR3 at 1800 MHz CL8: 8.96 nanoseconds.
- It is advisable to look for RAM memory modules with balanced latencies and frequencies (CL10 or CL11 in DDR3 and CL14 or CL15 in DDR4).
- If we have integrated graphics that use the system’s RAM as graphics memory, the working frequency of the system and the use of dual channels will have a great impact on the final performance.
- It is fundamental to prioritize quantity over speed and latencies. If we are going to need 8 GB of RAM and we can choose between two 8 GB to 2,400 MHz modules or a 4 GB to 4 GHz module we should go for the first option without thinking.
- If you are not going to use integrated graphics, the double channel is not essential.
- A normal user does not need RAM modules more than 3 GHz.
As for the amount of gigas, as we explained in this article, usually 8 GB is enough. If you want to have more margin, you can reach up to 16 GB, but beyond that, you will not notice any improvement, unless you perform tasks such as heavy-duty video editing or high-end graphics gaming.
In the following list, you can find the models that according to our criteria are the best RAM for gamers and graphic designers, taking into account various factors such as speed, price, capacity, and performance.
We have divided the list into two sections, DDR3 and DDR4, so you can easily find the one you need. In some cases, there are several versions of the same model, which differ mainly in memory speed (the amount of MHz).
We list here those that we believe have a better value according to their price and specifications, or directly those of standard speed (1600 Mhz, for DDR3, 2400 Mhz for DDR4), but if you need more or less speed, you can always look for the version that is more convenient for you.
Best DDR4 RAM
The memory of type DDR4 is the newest and the one that 90% of the people need today. When it appeared, its price was much higher than that of the DDR3, but this has already changed, and there are hardly any differences.
In terms of performance, the DDR4 is faster than the DDR3 and is easier to reach higher capacities, although it is true that in no case the difference becomes very large.
Who should opt for a DDR4 memory module? Anyone who wants to configure a computer based on the latest Intel processors, such as the Skylake (i3-6xxx, i5-6xxx, i7-6xxx) and also the Haswell-E. As we have already mentioned, the price difference is minimal, so in these cases, it does not make sense to choose DDR3.
In any case, it is important to make sure that your motherboard is compatible with this type of memory, something that can easily be seen in the description or specifications of each model.
Ballistix Sport LT
Few options are better in the market for those looking to save as much as possible than this Crucial Ballistix Sport LT kit. The kits can be found in versions from 4 GB to 32 GB, and their speed is 2400 Mhz, with the capacity to be overclocked with some stability, and their dissipation system is excellent for such a cheap memory.
Therefore, it is an excellent option for those who wish to have a system based on the DDR4 memory, and it is more than enough for less demanding gamers and for day-to-day tasks. However, if you are one of those who seek to squeeze all the FPS of the games to the maximum, it is better you look at some of the most expensive alternatives.
Corsair Vengeance LPX
The Corsair Vengeance LPX line, without reaching the level of Crucial’s Ballistix Sport, is another of the most economical options among the best RAM for gamers. It also offers a good variety to choose from, as well as an attractive aesthetic. It has versions of 2400 Mhz, 2666 Mhz, 2800 Mhz, 3000 Mhz and 3200 Mhz. You can also choose between latencies of 14, 15 and 16. If you do not have special needs, we recommend opting for the kit that you find most economical, which will be 2400 Mhz.
Its effective aluminum heat sink is one of its strengths and makes it a very suitable memory to do OC, something that can be done automatically by activating the XMP mode from the BIOS of the motherboard.
Kingston HyperX Fury
The Kingston HyperX Fury is available in speeds of 2133, 2400 and 2666 Mhz and has the capacity for automatic overclocking, adjusting the frequency to the maximum supported by the system (up to 2666 Mhz). The latency is 14-15, less than the CL16 of the Crucial Ballistix Sport, one of its main rivals. If the price difference is important, it may not be worth paying, since the difference in real performance will not be important in any case. But at the time of writing this, the price of HyperX Fury is even lower in its version of 2133 Mhz, so it seems an excellent purchase.
It is optimized for Intel’s new X99 chipset and just like the Corsair Vengeance LX is designed with a low profile to fit smaller spaces.
G.SKILL Ripjaws V Series
The G.Skill RAMs tend to be somewhat more expensive than those of Crucial and Kingston. They aim at more enthusiastic gamers, so they are ideal for medium-high range configurations. The V series, the latest to join the G.Skill Ripjaws range, are optimized for the latest Intel chipset and have a variety of versions: from 2133 Mhz to no less than 4000 Mhz. And with a capacity of up to 128 Gb!
The materials used in its manufacture are first class, and the performance, with the use of the XMP 2.0 profile, is surprising. And all without the temperature rising to more than desirable or even fully functioning. Aesthetically, it is also in the lead, thanks to its aggressive design since it can be found in five different colors.
Corsair Dominator Platinum
90% of users have everything they need in the previous models, but if someone wants a little bit more, the Corsair Dominator Platinium has a high-end memory but is a bit expensive. The speeds range from 2400 Mhz to 4000 Mhz, although paired with the right base plate the possibilities go much further thanks to its great potential for OC.
Its exclusive DHX cooling system makes it maintain a good temperature even in the most demanding conditions, and at all times we can monitor all parameters through Corsair Link software. It is even possible to change the LED indicators with which the modules are equipped.
Best DDR3 RAM
Although this type of memory has been replaced by the DDR4, there are still people who opt for a cheap configuration, with an AMD AM3 + or an old Intel, such as a Haswell or an Ivy Bridge, in order to save enough. You also need this RAM if you want to update and improve the performance of your old equipment which is based on DDR3.
If you are in any of these cases, do not worry, because the difference in most cases will be minimal, and you still have a lot of models to choose from, and what is better, at a great price.
And above all, remember to make sure if the memory is compatible with your processor and motherboard.
Crucial Ballistix Sport
As in the DDR4 memories, the Crucial Ballistix Sport series is firmly established as the best option for tight budgets also in the case of DDR3 systems. Despite its low price and simplistic design, it has some capacity for OC, thanks to its support for XMP.
It is available only in 1600 Mhz and CL9 versions, and its capacity reaches up to 32 GB (4 x 8 GB). While you will not beat any speed record with it, it is more than suitable for most users who want to build a system based on AMD AM + or an old Intel processor. Of course, if you are one of those who give importance to aesthetics, surely this is not the best RAM.
This is another of the most popular RAM memories on the market, especially among the gamers. Its price is usually slightly higher than that of the Ballistix Sport, although only a few dollars, and in return provides a better heat sink. Regarding the performance of this Corsair Vengeance , the speeds range between 1666 Mhz and 2133 Mhz, with latencies between 9 and 11. However, it is the most basic version that really has a great value for money, since for higher specifications we prefer other models.
It has a slightly higher height than other models, so if you are tight space, or if you are going to use a fan that is not the one that comes standard with your processor, you must ensure that it does not hinder it. The kits can be found in capacities between 4 GB and 32 GB and in four different colors: black, red, blue and gold.
Kinsgton HyperX Fury
The Kingston HyperX Fury offers excellent performance at a surprisingly low price, and thanks to its automatic overclocking, without having to configure anything in the BIOS, it reaches speeds of up to 1866 Mhz, in the case of opting for a kit with a base speed of 1600 Mhz.
Its cooling system is quite effective and is built with an asymmetric design that also favors its aesthetics. On this same aspect, it is also very easy to combine it with the rest of your configuration, since it is available in four colors: red, blue, black and white.
Corsair Vengeance Pro Series
Going one step further, the Pro version of the Corsair Vengeance is one of the fastest DDR3 RAM memories on the market, with a base speed of 2400 Mhz but with ample margin for overclocking thanks to its compatibility with XMP 1.3 and its heat sinks made of high-quality aluminum.
The kits can be found in versions ranging from 1600 Mhz and CL9 to 2800 Mhz and CL12, although we are left with this model, which enjoys a good balance and makes it perfect for gamers and professionals.
To close this list, we go with a low-voltage RAM, the G.Skill Snipper, which operates at 1.25V and still offers 1866 Mhz with the XMP profile activated. On some boards, it does not recognize this speed, and the system starts at 1600 Mhz, but it can be easily activated from the BIOS and thus enjoy a fast, reliable and very stable RAM.
The design of the heatsink mimics the shape of a sniper rifle, which is sure to delight the most hardcore gamers. But its benefits not only remain in appearance since it also keeps temperatures very low hour after hour.