Wondering whether or not RAM brand really matters? We’ve done the research to help you figure that out!
Adding more RAM to your computer is as easy as fitting it into an open slot in your motherboard, but deciding which RAM to buy can be a lot trickier.
Generally, RAM brand doesn’t matter nearly as much as the tech and parts that make up an individual stick. There are, however, plenty of important things to note from one brand to the other and mixing brands can lead to potential problems.
Brands also often set themselves apart by emphasizing customer service, compatibility, and nonessential features like heat spreaders and lighting effects.
A quick search will tell you that you have tons of choices when it comes to buying new RAM sticks. So many, in fact, that it can be a bit overwhelming trying to sift through the manufacturers, models, and types of RAM on the market.
This quick guide will walk you through everything you need to know about what matters with RAM and what doesn’t, including brand comparisons and the important features you’ll want.
Does RAM Brand Matter?
As different and diverse as the RAM market is, every RAM maker shares the same secret: Almost none of them make their own DRAM chips (RAM’s main ingredient), and almost all of them buy their DRAM chips from the same places.
This isn’t hyperbole, either; Samsung, SK Hynix, and the Micron Group produce around 95% of the world’s DRAM chips, and no other RAM “manufacturer” actually makes their RAM in-house.
While the CPU and GPU markets are dominated by a couple of giant firms (Intel and AMD and NVIDIA and AMD, respectively), the RAM market is much more fragmented.
There are a few big names—CORSAIR, Kingston, Crucial, etc—but there are also tons of smaller firms vying for a piece of the pie.
These companies are located all around the world and are staffed by a diverse array of talented professionals from a rainbow of different backgrounds, so you’d think they’d all make very different products, right?
Not as much as you may think.
Instead of competing on specifications or proprietary technologies, most firms in the market compete on things like customer service, price, and bells and whistles like built-in RGB or ARGB lighting.
So while there are differences between brands, they aren’t as important as you might think. That being said, there are some differences between brands, and it’s worth knowing what they are before making your decision.
Top RAM Brand Comparison
Even though all RAM is relatively similar from maker-to-maker, there are a few brands that stand out from the pack.
CORSAIR is one of the top names in computer components and peripherals, and it’s easy to see why. In addition to excellent quality control and competitive prices, CORSAIR’s RAM comes with lifetime warranties and access to some of the best customer support in the industry. No matter what you choose from their wide array of products, you can feel fairly secure knowing that CORSAIR will be there to fix any problems quickly, kindly, and without charge.
Kingston’s HyperX brand is known for its rigorous quality standards, reasonable prices, and low RAM failure rates.
HyperX RAM is also compatible with a very broad range of motherboards and processors, so you should be able to find a compatible model for just about any system you’re putting together.
Kingston’s products tend to come with lifetime warranties and their customer service is almost on par with CORSAIR’s.
Like Crucial, G.SKILL gets first pick of semiconductors and DRAM chips (though theirs come from Samsung, not the Micron Group), so their products are consistently higher in quality and performance than many of its competitors.
In addition to computer peripherals and some other internal components, G.SKILL offers RAM memory kits in all sizes and speeds, so you’re almost guaranteed to find one that fits your needs.
G.SKILL is also known for its customer service and limited warranties, though they don’t have as many English-speaking customer service personnel as American firms like CORSAIR, Kingston, and Patiot. They’ll still go out of their way to help resolve any issues- it just might take a few extra days.
Crucial is owned by the Micron Group (one of the three major DRAM producers), so it has a few distinct advantages over its competitors. Not only does it get to pick the best chips from the batch before they’re sold to CORSAIR, Kingston, and other companies, it can sell its RAM at a lower price point than most other sellers.
Crucial is also one of the oldest RAM brands, and the fact that it has a sterling reputation after all this time is very telling.
They might not have quite the same stellar customer service as some other brands, but Crucial’s products are so reliable that you may not need customer service in the first place.
Patriot combines low-cost, high-performance RAM with excellent customer service and limited lifetime warranties. Their Viper Series RAM may have slightly higher latencies and less tight timings than their competitors’, but the extremely reasonable price points are more than enough to make up for any deficiencies.
Patriot’s RAM is cheap, delivers comparable performance to the premium brands, and offers a lot of bang for your buck.
Can You Mix RAM Brands?
Technically, you can mix RAM from different companies in your computer, but it’s not a great idea. RAM from different generations (DDR3 vs DDR4, for example) won’t work together at all, and installing faster RAM won’t make a difference if you leave the slower RAM in place. Not only will your computer default to the slower RAM’s speed and latencies, it may cause system instabilities that can be a real headache to correct.
Different companies’ RAM may come from the same place, but that doesn’t mean you can install RAM from two or more brands and expect a seamless experience. Minute differences in the manufacturing processes and material quality can cause one company’s RAM perform very differently from another company’s even if they have the same on-box specifications.
So while RAM from different companies can work together in theory, in practice it’s unpredictable enough that most users avoid mixing and matching altogether. It’s a much better idea to pick up multiple memory kits of the same model and manufacturer.
This approach may be a bit boring, but it will also let your computer bring out your RAM’s full potential without wasting time with manual tuning and troubleshooting.
Note: If you’re wondering whether it’s better to go with four 8GB RAM sticks or two 16GB RAM sticks, we have a standalone post covering that. We also have a breakdown of double-sided vs single-sided RAM.
What to Look for When Buying RAM
There are a few important factors to consider when you’re picking out new RAM: size (in GB) and speed (in MHz).
It’s hard to figure out exactly how much RAM your computer needs. Too much is a waste of money, and too little will cause aggravating slowdowns that ruin your user experience. The current standard is between 16 and 32GB of RAM, with 32GB being recommended for gamers and heavy users, and 16GB being enough to handle most programs and everyday tasks. You may want to shoot for the lower end if you aren’t planning on making your computer do anything intense, and you may want to opt for 32GB if you want to future-proof your system. Programs aren’t getting less complicated and resource-intensive, after all.
RAM’s performance is measured in the number of commands it can handle per second, usually in terms of Megahertz (MHz) or millions of transfers per second (MT/s). The higher the number, the more data your CPU can transfer onto and off of the RAM per second. Higher frequencies are generally better, of course, but only if your CPU can handle it.
Your computer’s CPU can only handle a certain number of commands per second, and its maximum speed functions as a hard limit on the other components in your PC. Or in other words, there’s no point in buying RAM with a higher maximum speed than your CPU. It’s a bit like putting racing tires on an old station wagon: They’ll work (technically), but you’ll be overpaying for something you can’t actually use. Even worse, you may have to manually tune your new RAM to work with your CPU, and your system may even operate at even lower fallback speeds to ensure system stability.
Now let’s say you’ve found some RAM that meets your size and speed requirements. Chances are there are more than a few different options with more or less identical specifications, but they all come from different brands. How do you choose from nearly identical products? Does brand really matter if they’re all offering pretty much the same thing?
Note for the overclockers: High-speed RAM is almost always good out-of-the-box and we don’t recommend chasing things like higher RAM SPD unless you’re very familiar with the process.
Final Thoughts & Tips
The RAM market is…strange. Most of the firms in the market buy their inputs from the same places, and the differences between their products can be pretty hard to discern at a glance.
The same rules apply as just about any market, of course—more expensive products are usually better, the cheapest options probably won’t last as long or work as well, and companies with a footprint in your home country will have more customer support personnel that speak your language.
But, for the most part, you’ll have to choose between several very similar options. And though brands do matter in the RAM market, they mostly set themselves apart by emphasizing customer service, compatibility, and nonessential features like heat spreaders and RGB lighting.
All thing said, picking RAM can be one of the most frustrating things when building your own PC (which talk about in our guide to How Easy/Hard PC It Is to Build a PC).
It can be confusing, but if you follow this guide (and do your research!) you’ll be on your way to building your perfect PC in no time.