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Random Access Memory (or RAM) is arguably one of the easiest upgrades you can make to boost the performance of an existing computer. If your desktop or laptop struggles with multitasking or just doesn’t seem as zippy as it used to be, increasing the RAM is usually an affordable and easy-to-install option.
But which RAM should you buy? While it makes sense to try to get the largest amount of memory for your budget, there are other elements to consider. Does your motherboard support the latest DDR4 RAM? Can you fit standard-sized modules or do you need low-profile or laptop-friendly RAM? Do you care about RGB lighting elements or are you willing to sacrifice style for cost savings?
If you don’t already know the ins and outs of RAM upgrades, then don’t try to plug and play without doing a bit of research first. Our dedicated desktop RAM buyer’s guide and laptop RAM buyer’s guide can quickly get you up to speed before you reach for your wallet.
For our money, Corsair’s Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4 SDRAM (view on Amazon) is the best bet for most users, delivering stellar performance with overclocking capabilities, along with customizable RGB lighting techniques. And if you’re willing to spend for some seriously high-end RAM speed, the pricier Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB is also worth a look. However, there are many other worthwhile RAM options to consider, so read on to see the best RAM below.
Dazzling RGB lights
Can be a little pricey
RAM is often the key to boosting your system’s performance, whether it’s to amplify your multitasking capabilities or help empower higher-end games. When it comes to quality RAM kits, it’s hard to beat Corsair. The Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4 SDRAM is particularly excellent for the price. Although other capacities and configurations are available, this particular 16GB set has a pair of 8GB modules, with a 3200Mz speed and low CAS latency (CL) of 14 making it ideal for most users. You can also overclock this RAM to run even faster, with an aluminum heat spreader working to keep it cool all the while.
Performance and budget should be your main drivers, but like many PC hardware components these days, the Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro will also put on a bit of a show. This RAM is available in either black or white, both with customizable RGB lighting that dazzles with multi-zone colors and various animation patterns. Corsair’s iCue software will even synchronize the effects across multiple compatible components.
Strong build quality
More than average user needs
If you’re running a truly high-end system that demands the best of the best components, then you might consider shelling out for some seriously top-performing tech. When it comes to RAM, the Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB should be on your list of options. We’ve already established that Corsair is a strong brand in this space, and the Dominator Platinum RGB hits even higher heights than the Vengeance RGB Pro above… if you’re willing to pay for it.
This speedy, advanced DDR4 RAM comes in kits made up of 8GB and 16GB modules that can hit top overclocking speeds of 4800Mhz. That allows for low latency and tightening timings, suggesting minimal delays in how long it takes for the memory to respond to commands. It’s also a dazzling-looking number, with 12 of Corsair’s blinding Capellix LED lights across the top, each of which you can individually customize via the iCue lighting software. You can even get the real-time speed and temperature readings for the individual modules.
Gorgeous RGB effects
Can use other lighting software
Stays cool under pressure
A bit pricey
If a style is just as important as performance when it comes to your gaming PC, then the G.Skill Trident Z RGB has the flash to match your ambitions. The exposed light bar along the top delivers a full spectrum rainbow wave by default, but you can customize this RAM to display just about any color combination or animation effect you please. And you’re not locked to G.Skill’s own software either, as third-party options like Asus Aura can be used, assuming you have other RGB-equipped Asus hardware to synchronize with.
The vibrant LED color show matches well against the dark, brushed aluminum heat spreader, with a fin design that is optimized for improved heat transfer and lets the RAM reach soaring speeds without fear of overheating. Even with such performance-centric design elements, the dazzling look isn’t remotely diminished. Talk about a seamless pairing of style and substance.
Stays cool un use
Offers 32GB single modules
Lacks flashy RGB lighting
The Corsair Vengeance LPX is a popular DDR4 RAM option given its benefits for overclocking, letting power users make the most of their hardware. And part of its popularity comes due to its more compact size. Some CPU coolers simply won’t fit into your rig if there are standard-sized RAM modules positioned beneath, so low-profile options like this help reduce some of the bulk and generate clearance for a cooler.
These RAM modules stay pretty cool themselves thanks to the effective aluminum heat spreaders, available in red, blue, black, or white. And while these Corsair Vengeance LPX RAM modules have the added perk of low-profile design, they’re reasonably affordable, even for 32GB modules. That’s key if you’re looking to make a big RAM boost but don’t have a lot of DIMM slots to spare on your motherboard.
No RGB lighting
Higher performance peaks elsewhere
If you don’t see all the fuss around RGB lighting and high-end materials for RAM, then the Crucial Ballistix Sport LT might be your best option. This cost-effective alternative scraps the flash in favor of solidly reliable memory at a more appealing price. Crucial offers kits with up to 64GB total RAM and a speedy 3,200MHz peak without breaking the bank.
You can even overclock it with support for Intel XMP 2.0 memory profiles, and it plays nice with AMD Ryzen processors, where speedier RAM can make a very noticeable difference. The Ballistix Sport LT works great for gaming setups too, despite the accompanying light show that you might expect from top-end rigs, and the low-profile design means you should have clearance for larger CPU coolers. And while it’s not RGB lighting, at least the digital camo design (in white, red, or gray) is something distinctive in this space.
Modest clock speeds
Don’t be scared off by the price: the Patriot Viper Elite DDR4 RAM has a trustworthy record with dependable hardware and a fair bit of speed on board. The best deals come on the lower end of the size spectrum, such as 8GB RAM, but even the higher-capacity Viper Elite memory kits still deliver an appealing deal.
They’re limited to a maximum of 2800Mhz, but you can overclock them to 3000Mhz or higher with Intel XMP profiles or otherwise. That will be fast enough for many users and is on the higher end of that spectrum when it comes to this kind of price point. On top of that, Patriot offers a limited lifetime warranty—so you don’t have to worry about low-quality components given the affordable price point.
Good DDR3 speeds
Slower than DDR4 RAM
If you can use DDR4 memory, then you definitely should as it provides much faster speeds. However, if your motherboard tops out at DDR3 support, then you won’t have much of a choice without a larger-scale computer upgrade. Luckily, Kingston’s HyperX Fury provides great DDR3 performance that could convince you to avoid the larger overhaul (for now).
Kingdom’s HyperX Fury RAM is available in up to 16GB kits (that’s 8GB x2), and it will even overclock automatically to 1866Mhz if your system supports it. Also, the 1.35-volt power consumption is more efficient than the 1.5-volt DDR3 default. The design here isn’t mind-blowing, but at least you can get it in white, black, blue, or red to align with the rest of your PC components.
Strong overclocked speed
Infrared lighting sync
Some LED quality variance
Kingdom’s HyperX Predator RGB 3200Mhz DDR4 RAM is another great all-around option that pairs excellent performance with mesmerizing RGB lighting effects. In particular, HyperX’s RAM has been lauded for strong overclocking performance, letting you make the most of your modules by potentially reaching new heights when it comes to memory speeds.
The HyperX Predator RGB RAM also has a unique hook in the form of using infrared technology to sync up the lighting effects between modules, saving you the extra cords in the process. We’ve seen some customer reviews point out potential quality control issues when it comes to the LED lights themselves, however, so be mindful of that once you’re up and running.
Right fit for Macs and most latops
Easy to install
Not peak performance
Macs and laptops might not normally be gaming beasts, but any computer can benefit from a RAM boost regardless of what you’re using them for. And if you do have a laptop or a Mac, then Corsair’s Vengeance Memory Kit is one of the best options on the market.
These slim SODIMM modules are much smaller than your average RAM kit, making them ideal for compact PC form factors and notebooks. It’s sold in various configurations ranging up to 64GB (2x 32GB), and these compact chips are particularly well suited to MacBooks and Mac desktops as well. They’ll even auto-overclock based on your system’s settings. Just make sure to pick the kit that’s compatible with your motherboard.
You really can’t go wrong with Corsair’s Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4 SDRAM (view on Amazon) , which delivers excellent power for the price and has stellar RGB lighting onboard. It’s the best overall RAM option for most users, although serious power players may opt to invest in the pricier and more capable Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB instead (view on Amazon).
Speed- While there’s plenty more nuance that you can dig into, bigger numbers still essentially provide better overall performance. For example, 16GB RAM will probably have you smooth sailing through multitasking and demanding computing needs, while 8GB RAM isn’t likely to deliver the same results. The more RAM, the better, assuming you can fit it. Clock speed also plays a role. A smaller amount of high-performing RAM will serve you better than a large amount of low-performing RAM.
Compatibility - DDR4 RAM is much faster than the old DDR3 standard, but your existing motherboard might not support the newer stuff. When buying new RAM, you’ll need to make sure that your PC can actually handle the RAM you want to buy.
Size - We’re talking about physical size here. RAM is already pretty compact, but if you’re trying to pack your PC tower with high-end gaming components, standard-sized RAM may not give you enough room for a sizable CPU cooler, for example. In that case, you might opt for low-profile RAM, which can provide extra overhead to comfortably fit other components around it. Meanwhile, Macs and most laptops use a differently-sized RAM called SODIMM.
About our Trusted Experts:
Anton Galang has been covering technology for more than 10 years, including for PC Magazine, and has a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.
Andrew Hayward has been writing about technology, games, and esports since 2006, and his work has been published in more than 100 publications around the globe.