What is the best DDR4 RAM? We tested 15 kits produced by five manufacturers at three different price levels in order to find which ones are the best of the lot. Read on to learn more about RAM, or skip to the sections that concern you with the links below.
DDR4 – What’s the point?
The current generation of PC RAM, the DDR4, was introduced in 2013, and it will not disappear anytime soon: The official technical specifications of DDR5 will not be published until 2018 and the introduction of the modules will is not expected until 2020 at the earliest.
The progress made by DDR4 in relation to its predecessor concerns several areas. First of all, its speed is better: the DDR3 memory runs between 800MHz and 2133MHz, while the DDR4 starts at 2133MHz.
The capacity has also improved with a maximum of 512GB per module, rather than 128GB. For most users, this remains a theoretical limit, simply because they will never need such a large amount of RAM, but it’s nice to see progress on the way.
DDR4 memory modules consume less power than their DDR3 counterparts, but their latency is also slightly higher. In theory, this means that response times will be slower, but the increased speed of DDR4 eliminates this problem.
About a year ago, we also saw a host of aesthetic changes in the DDR4 market. The big mode is the RGB LEDs, which allow the bars to display any color among many patterns. These colors can be customized by software from Windows. Many high-end RAM kits now have built-in RGB LEDs in their designs to allow users to assemble coherent and choreographed machines.
In addition, there is more metal on the memory modules – thick aluminum and brushed metal DIMMs are now common, even on cheap products.
What do you need?
It’s always important to think about how much memory you need and how fast you need it.
Luckily, you just have to follow a few simple rules. In recent times, 4GB will not be enough for anything other than a basic system. 8GB is now the most common standard – enough memory for general use and gaming without serious speed or performance issues.
If you have the means, 16GB is the ideal. This will ensure you run all the latest games smoothly and that’s enough to handle just about any professional application.
It is not really necessary to install 32GB RAM unless you regularly use a high-end workstation or video editing applications; if you do not use this type of software, having 32GB of RAM is just wasteful.
In principle, it is better to avoid memory in 2133MHz if you can – at this reduced speed, you have chances to see performance fall, as shown by the tests. The memory clocked at 2400MHz will not be extraordinary either.
We always recommend that people buy 2666MHz memory – or more if budget allows – to get the best price-performance ratio. At this level, the performance reduction is much less and much more bearable when compared to real high-end kits.
On the other hand, most users do not need to go beyond 3200MHz. At this level, you will only get less and less interesting returns in terms of performance improvement, so this only concerns the most accomplished overclockers and benchmarkers.
For this test, we stayed on consumer kits, but in the future, we could be interested in the RAM clocked at more than 4000MHz …
What is this strange latency score?
Latency is an essential feature of RAM, but its rationale is rather mysterious when compared to other more obvious attributes such as speed and capacity. The latency indicator is the time it takes the processor to send an order and the memory to respond to it.
The memory kits indicate three or four latency indicators that will appear on the manufacturer’s or reseller’s website as “15-17-17-35”. These represent different types of operations that the memory will have to perform: the first number is the main CAS latency indicator, which corresponds to when the processor requests information and the memory provides them. Other numbers represent tasks such as switching to other lines of information or the time required for memory to activate and start working.
These numbers can be multiplied by the clock cycle speed of the RAM to obtain a result in nanoseconds, which corresponds to the time required for the tasks to be completed. DDR4 memory typically has clock cycles between 12.5ns and 15ns, so these are extremely small margins – tiny differences that will not produce any noticeable change for most machines. That said, in general, the lower the number, the better.
Consider your computer
It’s not just about choosing a few memory modules; you must consider the rest of your system before validating your choice.
On the Intel side, the DDR4 works with Skylake processors (Intel Core 6th generation) and Kaby Lake (Intel Core 7th generation), those of 8th generation to come as well as processors Haswell-E and Skylake-X. This means that with more mainstream consumer processors from the Pentium family to the Core i7 and beyond, you’re covered, including the powerful, high-end monsters that Intel produces for workstations.
All this is fine, but take a look at Intel’s chipsets as well; The silicone on your motherboard will sometimes determine the type of memory you can use. The chipsets used for the Haswell-E and Skylake-X processors are compatible with quad-channel memory, which means that you can use four arrays at the same time. The chipsets for Skylake and Kaby Lake processors only support dual channel DDR4. We only tested here two-channel memory.
We also recommend going around motherboard sites before finalizing your purchase. All motherboards are compatible with DDR4 at its standard speed, but the more expensive models also support overclocking of memory – so you can sometimes run DDR4 at speeds well above 4000MHz.
The last time we tested DDR4 in 2016, AMD hardware was going through a cloudy period, but now the situation has improved a lot. AMD has now released its Ryzen processors that offer full compatibility with DDR4 memory at speeds up to 2666MHz – although this amount will be increased by motherboard manufacturers to reach more conventional limits.
All new AMD Threadripper processors use Zen architecture, and all are compatible with quad-channel memory. The red team’s conventional Ryzen processors handle dual-channel DDR4, just like their Intel counterparts.
How we test DDR4 memory
We tested all these kits on a machine equipped with an Intel Core i9-7900X processor, an Asus ROG Strix X299-E Gaming motherboard and a Nvidia Geforce GTX 1080 Ti graphics card. It’s an incredibly powerful PC that could normally turn quadrichannel memory; the technical characteristics of this machine are such that RAM will always be the bottleneck of its performance, which is ideal to test it.
Assessments start with SiSoft Sandra, which passes on to each memory kit a lot of synthetic tests to evaluate its bandwidth, latency, and cadence in a wide variety of scenarios.
After that, we use Cinebench and Geekbench, which offer a complete evaluation of the system for its single and multi-thread performance. We can thus determine the difference that these memory kits bring in these real scenarios. We also did tests with 3DMark and Ghost Recon: Wildlands to determine the best kits for the game.
Crucial Ballistix LT Sport White 2 x 8GB (BLS2C8G4D26BFSC)
Price during the test: 159.99 € for 2x 8GB (9.99 € / GB)
Also available: 92 € for 2x 4GB (11.5 € / GB)
Excellent DDR4 for small budgets
Crucial Ballistix Sport LT White memory is one of the most economical kits of this test, only 9.99 € gigabits, but that does not mean that you lose in terms of aesthetics. The compact bars are made of white metal with camouflage patterns and are topped with elegant cutouts.
You do not lose in terms of characteristics either. They have a capacity of 16GB and the Ballistix Sport runs at 2666MHz, just in the middle of the speed range of the DDR4 and fast enough to ensure that this DDR4 does not lose much ground against more expensive kits.
This kit offers latency of 16-18-18 and does not have ECC certification – which is no surprise for a cheap consumer kit.
The Crucial’s 15.3GB / sec and 32.48GB / sec bandwidth scores under Sisoft Sandra are slightly lower than the Corsair Dominator Platinum Special Edition and Team Group Dark Pro kits, but both models are more expensive. ; and in this category, I’m interested in value for money. Also, keep in mind that the Corsair kit is not a 16GB model but 32GB.
The 13.6ns latency of the Crucial is one of the best of my selection of affordable memory kits, and its 51.32GB / sec result for single-threaded cache bandwidth is also very impressive.
The theoretical results of the Ballistix were decent and its speed of application was even better. Its multi-core Cinebench 2181cb score is one of the best of all cheap kits, while none could offer such fast, balanced speed in Geekbench tests.
The Ballistix kit is perhaps one of the most affordable in terms of price, but evaluations indicate that it offers however comfortable performance in most tasks – this 16GB kit at 2666MHz will handle applications and work, with little software really requiring more on an average consumer system.
There is a reserve, however, and that’s the video game. The average of 37.14fps under Crucial’s Ghost Recon is the worst of all economy kits, and more than one frame per second behind the Corsair and Team Group models. This will not have major consequences on a gaming platform, but it deserves to be taken into account.
However, this is the only flaw of these attractive RAM modules. They are consistent and fast during application tests and get good results with the theoretical evaluations, in addition to being a little cheaper than other cheap kits that are sometimes a little faster. This makes it the ideal choice for cheap DDR4.
Team Dark Pro Team 2 x 4GB (TDPRD48G3000HC15ADC01)
An excellent choice for small budgets
Strangely the best midrange kit is also one that offers one of the smaller capabilities of the entire test group – a modest 8GB amount split between two barrettes.
Rather than increase their size, Team Group has increased their speed. Its 3000MHz ranking places it at the very top of the mid-range DDR4 kits.
The 8GB Team Team costs 90 € which equates to an interesting price of 11.25 € per gigabit. It’s a bit more expensive than some of its rivals, but not enough to make a hole in your wallet.
This kit offers latency indicators of 15-15-15-35 and has the look that goes with it. It comes in a luxury box, and the barrettes themselves are made of black metal, with a large sink on top and red hexes milled on each side. However, there is no lighting – you will have to pay a little more for this type of option.
The Team Group kit is aesthetic and offers good performance. Its single-threaded bandwidth score of 16.08GB / sec is the best of the mid-range model group and is the only kit to exceed 16GB / sec. In addition, its global latency and training results are the fastest in the batch, which implies short response times.
None of the other mid-range kits offer better cache bandwidths than this model, and its multi-threaded processing capability is just as good.
Team Group’s Cinebench multicore test team’s 2200cb score is the best in the mid-range model group and is also leading the OpenGL test for this app. She was also in a dominant position in both tests on Geekbench.
It is more mixed in the game, but it’s our only problem. If it’s important to you, then the Corsair Vengeance RGB is a better choice among mainstream models.
That being said, it’s going to have a hard time ruining your gaming experience, because we’re talking about very small margins of difference in these evaluations – and the Team Team memory is super impressive in our other tests. Despite its capacity of 8GB is the fastest mid-range kit in most tests, which is clearly the first place.
Corsair Vengeance LPX 2 x 8GB (CMK16GX4M2B3200C16)
The best high-end DDR4
This kit is our favorite high-end DDR4 model, although it must be admitted that it looks like nothing. The Corsair memory modules are covered with simple slatted heatsinks, solid aluminum, and they have a low profile – these DIMMs are among the smallest I’ve seen.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing. The absence of RGB LEDs means there is more room in the budget to make memory faster and the reduced design means that it will be easier to install large cooling equipment without being bothered by memory. This type of design clearly goes against the current trend of large memory modules with a lot of lighting, but I’m happy to put an end to the RGB LEDs if it means that the memory is faster and more reliable.
The Corsair kit is designed for performance rather than aesthetics, so it’s not surprising to see it running at 3200MHz – one of the highest frequencies in this group. In addition, the latency is 16-18-18-36 and the kit is available in variations of white, blue or red to match your computer.
This kit of 16GB Corsair costs € 177, which brings it to € 11 per gigabit – just in the middle of my selection of high-end models. It is also available in different capacities. The version with two bars of 4GB costs 114 € and it takes no less than 335 € for a 32GB kit.
The decision to focus on speed rather than performance paid off. The single-threaded bandwidth score of 15.45GB / sec is one of the best and its overall latency is 28.9ns at the top of the box with the Team Group RGB Night Hawk kit.
Corsair memory provided the band’s best results when evaluating single and multi-thread cache bandwidth, and its 2194cb multi-core Cinebench score is the best of all the high-end kits in this group.
His results on Geekbench were just behind those in the Team Group kit, but better than my other three high-end selections. His score of 6817 on 3DMark: Fire Strike was good and better than Night Hawk memory.
The Corsair kit provided an average of 37.26fps under Ghost Recon. This places it right in the middle of the group of high-end models. Other kits in this group are a little faster, but they tend to be slower in many other tests – which is not good for overall performance.
The Corsair kit is not only fast – it is also constant. His theoretical results are often the best in the high-end group and no other expensive kit can offer the balance and speed that Corsair has provided in real-life applications and game tests. It may not have flashy RGB LEDs or other eye-catching features, but it’s the best kit when it comes to high-end speed and performance.
The best of the rest – entry level
Even though we chose Crucial’s Ballistix Sport LT as our favorite low-cost kit, this product is not the only one worth considering if you need affordable memory. The second best is the Team Team Dark Pro (TDRPD416G3200HC14ADC01), a 16GB kit running at 3200MHz. At 160 €, it’s a bit more expensive than the Ballistix kit, but it has better performance for the game – which is the only area where Ballistix memory has been distanced.
The Team Group kit offers the best scores of the entry-level group under Ghost Recon and also came first in the Cinebench OpenGL test. It is more uneven in theory and application tests, but it deserves the second place in this group.
The Corsair Dominator Platinum Special Edition (CMD32GX4M2C3200C14T), meanwhile, is one of the cheapest ways to get 32GB of DDR4 with bars at only 12 € per Gigabit. It is relatively affordable and is very aesthetic, with hot-worked metal on the top and brushed metal underneath. The Corsair kit performs well in most theory tests and is good for games too. However, when it comes to application testing, it’s the worst of the group, so from my point of view it’s not a winner. I tested two kits even cheaper.
The G.Skill Ripjaw V Series (F4-2400C15D-16GVR) is a 16GB model clocked at 2400MHz, which costs 10.8 € per Gigabit. A price that seems decent, but the model was one of the worst during theoretical tests and only mediocre in real tests.
The cheapest kit I’ve tested was the Kingston HyperX Black Fury (HX421C14GBK2 / 8) , which is a 2x 4GB set that only runs at 2133MHz. Although it is extremely cheap, at 10 € per gigabit, it has always been one of the worst – so it’s only worth it if your budget is very tight. Find below the performance graphs of five of the models tested.
The best of the rest – midrange memory
My choice of the best midrange kit was on the Dark Pro Team Group, which proved that it was not necessary to have more than 8GB of RAM to get high levels of performance in a range of tests. However, as always, some will need more capacity – and there is no shortage of alternatives. The second place public kit comes from Corsair. His kit Vengeance RGB ( CMR16GX4M2C3000C15) is decorated with RGB LEDs and metal, and the price of 190 € for a 16GB kit in 3000MHz places it firmly in the middle of the group. Its performance is consistent with good results in all tests, especially impressive speeds in Cinebench application tests. It’s also the best choice to play with reasonable speed under Ghost Recon and decent results everywhere else.
I could also recommend the Kingston HyperX Fury Black 16GB ( HX426C16FB2K2 / 16 ) to play because its stats under Ghost Recon were the best of all midrange kits – but that does not completely reflect the situation. Indeed, if it is fast during these tests, it is by cons of the worst midrange kit in almost all others – it is not surprising that its speed of 2666MHz leaves it far behind rivals. The remaining mid-range kits do not have much to distinguish themselves.
The Crucial Ballistix Tactical ( BLT2C8G4D30AETA ) is attractive with its nickel-plated bronze design and small size and has a very good theoretical speed. However, its real performance is slow and erratic, and its price of € 10 per gigabit is the highest in the mid-range group. The G.Skill’s Trident Z ( F4-3200C16D-16GTZR ) has a moderate price of 9 € gigabits and displays a frequency of 3200MHz and a shiny metal design, but behind this appearance, it does not stand out in any way – it is totally trivial in almost all tests.
The Kingston’s HyperX Predator ( HX424C12PB3k2 / 32) costs 11 € per gigabit, so it falls in the middle – but it’s the only mid-range kit to offer the significant sum of 32GB of memory. Its frequency of 2400MHz is that it is unable to shine in any of the theoretical tests, its application scores were slow and it was irregular in the games – its minimum fps therefore under Ghost Recon was undermined by the fact that it offers worst average fps of the group. That said, it’s a decent choice if you want 32GB of memory without spending a fortune.
Best of all – DDR4 high end
The kit that gets the second place in the group of high-end models comes from Team Group. Its Dark Night Hawk RGB kit (TF1D416G3200HC16CDC01) mixes an oddly angular design with RGB LEDs and its price of € 200 equals € 20 per gigabit – a good price for a kit with such a design and a frequency of 3200MHz. He scored high scores in exactly half of my theory tests and was also excellent on Geekbench. However, he was far behind in game testing and was disappointing in Cinebench tests. As a result, he found himself behind the more constant Corsair memory.
The Ballistix Elite kit from Crucial, meanwhile, did not live up to its name. Its memory has a high frequency of 3466MHz and a solid metal design but, in terms of performance, it occupies the middle of the scoreboard for all tests. It’s far from bad, but it could never exceed the other kits in terms of speed. And at 12 € of gigabit, it is not given.
Another particularly expensive kit is the G.Skill Trident Z RGB (F4-3200C14D-16GTZR) which has a lot of lighting and very good design in brushed metal. At 260 € for 16GB of DDR4 3200MHz, it is the most expensive high-end kit, but its performance was less regular. He got first place in some tests and was well placed in others, but most of the time he was average.