One of the common questions we ask ourselves when building a PC is how much RAM will be needed to fit our usage requirements. Before spending our money in the first shiny thing (and suspiciously expensive) you see out there, be sure to check out this guide so you can avoid the common pitfalls.

 

If you see errors, misleading information, or you just don’t agree with me I would really appreciate your comments so we all can improve this post together. Try to be nice with each other and be collaborative.

How To Choose The Best RAM Modules

Basics

  • To take advantage of the motherboard’s Dual Channel architecture, you should buy an even number of modules (2 or 4).
  • Nowadays, the minimum recommended amount of RAM is 8 GB, so I will start the buying guide with 8 GB configurations (a pair of 4 GB modules).
  • For a gaming build, I recommend an amount of RAM between 8 GB and 16 GB.
  • Always double-check the heatsinks height. Overclocking RAM modules are very big and their heatsinks could hit the CPU’s fan so you couldn’t install them. You can usually figure this out by looking at the product images.

Max RAM Speed

  • Intel Haswell chips support DDR3  modules up to 1600 MHz. To increase the speed beyond that, you will need to overclock the RAM.
  • Intel Skylake chips support DDR4 modules starting at 2133 MHz, which works better for gaming. To overclock the RAM you will need a Z170 motherboard.
  • If you buy a faster module that your motherboard doesn’t support do not worry, the RAM max speed will be limited to the motherboard speed limit.
  • If your CPU, motherboard and RAM are compatible with Intel XMP technology (it is the common case nowadays), you can use the real RAM speed without the hassle of overclocking it. To do that you will have to activate it in the BIOS. AMD’s equivalent technology is called AMP.

The performance difference between different frequencies modules can be very significant, especially when talking about FPS. The difference between a 2133 MHz module and a 1333 module can be of up to 7 fps. But, and here is the tricky thing, the difference between a 2133 MHz module and a 1600 module is just of 2 or 3 fps.

The best performance/price modules are the 2133 MHz, both for DDR3 and DDR4. You won’t feel any big difference if you buy higher frequency models.

Latency

When talking about choosing RAM modules, the speed is not the only thing that matters. There is another parameter closely linked to the speed called Latency. This parameter indicates how fast a module is to access the memory inside itself. As a rule of thumb, the lower the latency the better.

The latency parameter is usually represented like 9-9-9, or similar, in the module’s specs. If you want to know what exactly mean each of those numbers you can read this article from AnandTech. Just remember, the lower the values are, the better.

So how this value is used to determine your next purchase? It is used only to compare two modules of the same frequency speed. So, between a 1600 MHz with 9-9-9 latency module and a 1600 MHz with 11-11-11 latency module, I would choose the first one. It makes no sense to compare a 1600 MHz module with a 2133MHz module. The frequency speed will be always more important in our final decision.

Wrapping Up

Follow the next instructions to decide what RAM you should buy:

  • Check your available space between your motherboard and the CPU’s fan. Will you need low-profile or high-profile modules?
  • Check the max ram speed your motherboard supports. You will be searching modules with that max speed.
  • Always use a combination of two or four separate modules. For instance, if you want 16 GB, you should buy 2 modules of 8 GB each.
  • If you can’t decide between two or more models with the same frequencies, choose that with the lower latency.

Buying Guide

DDR4 Modules

2133 MHz

2400 MHZ

2666 MHZ

2800 MHZ

3000 MHZ

3200 MHZ

DDR3 Modules

1600 MHz

1866 MHz

2133 MHz

2400 MHZ

 

Changelog

Added Products

  • December 27, 2017: Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB DDR4-2666 CL16
  • October 31, 2017: Ballistix Sport LT DDR4-2666 4GB and 8GB
  • July 20, 2017: Crucial 8GB DDR4-2133 CL15
  • March 18, 2017: Kingston HyperX Savage 8GB DDR4-2400 CL12 (updated)
  • January 30, 2017: Avexir Impact Series 8GB DDR4-2666 CL15, Crucial Ballistix Sport LT 16 GB DDR4-2400 CL16, G.SKILL Ripjaws V 8GB DDR4-2400 CL15

 

How did you find this guide? How much memory have you installed? Is that enough for your needs? Do you have any cool looking ram module that want to share with us?

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Adrian Benavides

I've been always an avid gamer with limited resources. This led me to learn how to build the best gaming computers within tight budgets. Now, I want to share the knowledge I've acquired over the years with the world!

2 thoughts on “The Best RAM by Price (April 2018)

  1. I was lucky to buy my RAM back in February of 2017 since prices have more than doubled since then. $450 for 32GB, 2×16 CL 16 memory today is insane when I paid maybe $190. 32GB may be overkill, but with high RAM prices, in another four years, my machine won’t have a substandard amount of RAM.

    1. You were lucky indeed! RAM prices are getting crazier month after month. Worst thing is that it doesn’t seem to stop anytime soon…

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