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The 5 best RAM: Top memory upgrades for your PC

What is the best RAM available? The Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB is my top choice. Whether you're browsing the web, playing games, editing videos, or carrying out heavy workstation workloads, RAM can make the difference between the job being slow and tedious or fast and snappy. Check out my picks for the best RAM options.
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Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributor on

After the question "how much RAM do I need?" the next big question I get asked is, "what RAM should I buy?"

That's a tough question to answer because there are a bewildering array of PCs and Macs out there, and things can get super complicated and in-depth if you are someone who wants the fastest, most cutting-edge RAM in order to squeeze the last drop of performance from your system.

Swapping RAM in most PCs (even laptops) isn't that hard, but finding the right RAM can sometimes be challenging, especially if you aren't familiar with the specs and what things like DDR or speed mean. If this is you, I recommend that you check out RAM suppliers such as Crucial or Kingston. These sites will guide you to the right RAM for you.

As for fitting instructions, the web -- in particular, YouTube -- is full of great information. Rest assured, replacing RAM is the easiest upgrade you can do.

But, if you are a bit more comfortable with knowing what ARM you need, I've pulled together a compilation of my favorite RAM. This is hardware that I've tried and tested and offers great performance and value for money.

corsair-dominator-best-ram.png
Amazon

Tech specs:

  • 64GB (4 x 16GB)
  • 288-Pin DDR4 SDRAM
  • DDR4 3600 (PC4 28800)
  • 18-19-19-39 timings
  • CAS Latency 18
  • RGD lighting

Things don't get much better than this! Super-fast RAM modules, super reliable chips thanks to Corsair's excellent quality control, and super stability thanks to testing and excellent heat spreaders.

And also, cool LED lighting, which is fun, right?

This RAM is not cheap -- you're looking at around $400 if you want 64GB of high-speed RAM, but you will be getting the very best out there.

Pros:

  • Tons of memory
  • RGB lighting
  • Dual-channel cooling

Cons:

  • Expensive
G-Skill Trident Z RGB Best Ram

Tech specs:

  • 32GB (2 x 16GB)
  • 288-Pin DDR4 SDRAM
  • DDR4 3200 (PC4 25600)
  • 16-18-18-38 timings
  • CAS Latency 16
  • Compatible with AMD 3000 series

At the more restrained end of the performance (and price) spectrum we have the G-Skill Trident Z RGB. I've fitted (or recommended) this RAM into dozens of gaming system, and never had a word of complaint.

Highly rated RAM, and a firm favorite of mine for gaming systems.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Lots of memory
  • RGB lighting

Cons:

  • May not be compatible with older CPUs
Crucial Ballistix

Tech specs:

  • 16GB (1 x 16GB)
  • 288-Pin DDR4 SDRAM
  • DDR4 3200 (PC4 25600)
  • Timing 16-18-18-36
  • CAS Latency 16

We're now into what I consider "mainstream" RAM. This is RAM for everyday systems. Systems that will run day in, day out, where I'm not concerned about benchmarks or tiny speedbumps from having the fastest RAM possible.

It's hard to go wrong with Crucial Ballistix. It's the RAM that I use and recommend for systems where reliability is more important than performance.

Pros:

  • Very affordable
  • Works with AMD and Intel CPUs
  • Aluminum heat sink

Cons:

  • Not as much memory as other options
OWC RAM upgrades for Macs

Tech specs:

  • 16GB (1 x 16GB)
  • SO-DIMM 260-pin
  • DDR4-2666 (PC4-21300)

If I'm buying RAM for Macs, OWC is the brand I go for. Yes, you can buy cheaper, but it's hard to buy better.

The advantage of dealing with OWC is that this is a company that knows what works in which Mac and makes no-compromise RAM that is 100 percent compatible.

The company even has DIY install videos to make the upgrade as painless as possible.

Pros:

  • 16GB option under $100
  • Compatible with older Mac models
  • DIY videos available

Cons:

  • Pricey at higher capacity
  • No heat sink
Timetec RAM

Tech specs:

  • 16GB (2 x 8GB)
  • DDR3 1600MHz ( PC3L-12800 / PC3-12800)

I want to call this budget RAM, but that doesn't do it justice. You're getting good quality RAM modules at a sensible price.

Timetec offers a good selection of RAM modules -- desktop, gaming, laptop, server, and Mac -- at a price that's hard to beat.

This is the perfect RAM for dropping into a system and forgetting, and a great choice for upgrading an older system.

Pros:

  • Very affordable
  • Decent memory capacity

Cons:

  • Older RAM model
  • No heatsink

What is the best RAM?

Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB

Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB is ZDNet's top choice. It's not cheap, but it's top of the line.

RAM

Price

Memory

Speed

Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB

$390

64GB

DDR4 3600

G-Skill Trident Z RGB

$146

32GB

DDR4 3200

Crucial Ballistix

$76

16GB

DDR4 3200

OWC RAM

$70

16GB

DDR4 2666

Timetec RAM

$48

16GB

DDR3 1600

Which RAM is right for you?

It's always a case of how much do you want to spend. Performance RAM is only worth fitting into systems that are kitted out with performance hardware, otherwise you won't get the benefit from the money you're spending.

If you are building a new PC, I always recommend checking the with motherboard manufacturer for what RAM is recommended (I highly recommend doing this if you plan of overclocking the RAM in a performance system).

For most applications, budget RAM from a reputable vendor is the ideal choice, offering the best bang for the buck.

How much RAM do I need?

For a basic system, I recommend 16GB (8GB if you're really saving money). For basic photo and video editing, or gaming, you will benefit from adding more RAM. 24-32GB is good, 64GB is probably overkill for most.

Is buying faster RAM for a PC a worthwhile upgrade?

In my experience, unless you're running a PC that's tuned right to the bleeding edge of performance, no. While you might be able to squeeze more performance from benchmark testing, real-world performance gains will be limited. 

My PC has four RAM slots. Should I fill all four or fill two and leave two empty?

Say your PC can take 128GB of RAM across two slots, and you only want to fit 32GB, then I'd buy two 16GB modules, and that way I can add more RAM in the future without having to throw any away.

How did we choose the RAM options?

All products and services used here have been tested in real-world PC builds and upgrades. 

All product specifications have been provided by the manufacturer and are correct at the time of publication.

  • Budget RAM: I chose these options because they deliver the best possible bang-for-the-buck while still delivering stable performance.
  • High-performance RAM: I added stress and overclocking testing to check that the RAM remains stable when pushed to the limits, something that is important in high-performance PC builds.

RAM tips

  • 16GB (2 x 8GB modules) is the sweet spot in terms of price and performance.
  • Mixing and matching different RAM is a recipe for problems.
  • If in doubt, check the specs of your system with the manufacturer of the system or the motherboard.

Are there alternative RAM picks worth considering?

Rather than choose alternatives, what I recommend if you don't want to take the chances of tracking down the right RAM for your system is to go to a specialist RAM supplier. These suppliers will guide you to the correct product for your system, and also have a choice between budget and higher-end offerings.





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