DDR4 RAM Speeds and How We Recommend RAM


Recently, a user asked about RAM speeds and why we don’t recommend the fastest RAM possible, or the RAM with the lowest latency. After all, isn’t faster always better?

For all RAM, performance increases when speed increases and when latency decreases. However, the benefit from increasing speed far outweighs the performance loss of increasing latency. (For more information on this, read Crucial’s article on Speed vs. Latency.)

Back when DDR3 RAM was standard, the general wisdom was to go for 1600 or 1866, but no higher. That was because the next step, 2133, was the highest “allowed” speed. Anything beyond 2133 was via overclocking, and not supported by all motherboards. We recommended DDR3-1600 as standard, because the price was right. The faster RAM kits were so much more expensive that it did not make sense to recommend them.

For DDR4, the price difference between the “slow” 2133 and fast 3000 kits has already decreased hugely, when compared to prices at launch. As such, we try to recommend the fastest RAM possible, while staying reasonable with prices. Whenever possible, we go for the combination of high speed and low latency, but if we need to make a choice, we opt for high speed over low latency. See RAM speed benchmarks on TechSpot.

When choosing RAM to recommend, we opt for balanced price/performance kits, which are fast, but not too pricey. As prices for fast DDR4 kits continue to go down, we update our recommendations when it makes sense. Normal 16GB DDR4 is ~$60. Fast 16GB is ~$70. Very fast 16GB is $100+. Since the $100+ RAM comes with only a small overall performance impact compared to the $70 RAM, we stick with the more reasonable option.

We hope this clarification helps. If you have any questions about how we choose which hardware to recommend, please let us know in the comments.