Purchases through our links may earn us a commission.
The new Intel Alder Lake CPUs are here, and they are the first CPUs to support DDR5 memory. And while today we’re sharing our recommendations for the best RAM for Alder Lake CPUs, DDR5 memory isn’t in our focus. The short answer is that DDR5 memory doesn’t bring much improvement over DDR4 while carrying a substantial price premium. Prices for different generations of RAM should get closer to each other in the future, but at the moment, DDR5 is way overpriced. For a detailed explanation, scroll to the bottom of the article.
Next, when it comes to single vs. dual-rank memory, it looks like there’s no performance difference between the two on Alder Lake CPU, so we didn’t specifically look for dual-rank kits to include in this list. Also, every pick on our best RAM kits for Alder Lake CPU list is a kit made of two sticks, meaning it works in dual-channel mode by default. Never buy single sticks of memory; they substantially cripple performance. Finally, we decided to cap DDR4 memory at 4000MT/s because, in short, it seems that’s the fastest memory that can consistently run in Gear 1 on Z690 motherboards. If you want to find out more again, scroll down to the bottom of the article.
DDR4 3200 is a pretty good choice for Alder Lake CPUs. You get almost the same performance as with DDR4 3600 memory and faster while not having to pay as much. And if you don’t care about RGB, the best budget DDR4 RAM for Alder Lake CPUs on the market right now is the Patriot Viper Steel DDR4 memory.
It sports a highly competitive price while offering solid timings and attractive design. Primary timings of 16-18-18-38 won’t rock your world, but they are tight enough to guarantee excellent performance when paired with Alder Lake CPUs.
These aren’t the tightest latencies in the world, but the thing is, tighter timings come with a substantial price premium while not offering much of a performance improvement. You can get high-end DDR4 3200 memory and manually tweak timings, but for most users, it’s much better to just get DDR4 3600 with decent timings instead.
G.Skill TridentZ RGB Series: Best budget RGB DDR4 RAM for Alder Lake CPUs
RGB always comes with a price premium, and this Trident Z RGB memory isn’t an exception. On the flip side, if you want budget RGB memory for Alder Lake, this kit offers both great performance and a slick design. If you want more RGB, check our lists for the best RGB case fans and best RGB cases.
Personally, we like the Trident Z RGB design the best, and that was the deciding factor when picking this kit over other, similarly priced RGB kits. The performance should be pretty much the same on all budget RGB kits since both the frequency and primary timings (16-18-18-38) are the same on almost every budget RGB kit.
Now, you can pick other DDR4 RGB kits if you like their design more; just make sure that primary timings at least match the ones seen here. Also, make sure that the kit in question can run at its advertised frequency and timings.
At the end of the day, when buying mainstream RGB memory, the only important things are design and whether the memory kit in question can run at the speed and timings listed in the official specs. Everything else is secondary, and performance differences between different kits are mostly in the realm of measurement errors.
Crucial Ballistix: Best value DDR4 RAM for Alder Lake
DDR4 3600 MT/s is the sweet spot both for Ryzen and Alder Lake CPUs, and this Crucial Ballistix kit is one of the best mainstream DDR4 3600 memory kits you can get at the moment.
Sure, as is the case with DDR4 3200, you can get kits with tighter timings that have (sometimes much) higher prices, but the question is whether that’s worth it? For most users (read, people who aren’t into overclocking every PC component they have), the answer is no.
Price differences and the hassle required to run the memory as fast and tight as possible just to have a couple more frames in most games just aren’t worth it.
This memory runs at tight primary latencies for DDR4 3600 RAM(16-18-18-38), and it should achieve like 95 percent of the performance of the high-end DDR4 3600 kits without the price premium.
Now, the design isn’t as attractive as on some other kits (like the Patriot Viper Steel DDR4 3200 kit found above), but you probably won’t look at the memory anyway, so it doesn’t matter much. What is important is the great price this DDR4 3600 CL16 kit sells at.
Crucial Ballistix RGB: Best value RGB DDR4 RAM for Alder Lake processors
As much as we like the design of the G.Skill Trident Z RGB memory, DDR4 3600 Trident Z kits are quite pricey while coming with leaner timings (16-19-19-39). The same stands for Corsair Vengeance RGB DDR4 3600 kits.
On the other hand, this Crucial Ballistix RGB comes with primary timings of 16-18-18-38 while being about 20 percent cheaper than both G.Skill and Corsair memory. Yes, the performance difference is next to nothing but the price difference is just too high to recommend either of those two over the Crucial Ballistix.
This memory kit will give you optimal performance when paired with Alder Lake CPUs while looking pretty good and costing less than competitors. Sure, again, the design isn’t the most attractive, but the lights are bright, and they make for a quality light show. And that’s all that matters when it comes to RGB memory.
You won’t look at the heat shields; you’ll be looking at RGB. And hey, if you want to experiment with overclocking, this kit features Micron e-die memory that’s almost as good as Samsung b-die. Finally, yes, the listing does include 32GB options.
Mushkin Redline Black: Fastest recommended DDR4 RAM for Alder Lake CPUs
It looks like the memory controller on Alder Lake CPUs tops out at 2000Mhz, meaning you can run the memory in Gear 1 (1:1 ratio with memory controller, which means the best performance) as long as the memory in question doesn’t go over 4000MT/s (2000MHz effective clock).
You can run faster memory in Gear 1 if you’re lucky and get a golden CPU sample, but, for most users, 4000MT/s memory is the upper limit. This is why the fastest DDR4 memory we’re recommending runs at 4000 MT/s.
This Mushkin Redline Black is an excellent DDR4 4000 kit. Mushkin isn’t as known as other big brands such as G.Skill, Crucial, or Corsair, but the company has been known as a dependable RAM brand for decades. The timings are alright (18-22-22-42), so you should get excellent performance with this kit.
Finally, we really like the heat shield design. It’s different in a good way, and they stand out compared to the kits from big brands. Finally, the price is excellent for such fast memory.
Corsair Vengeance LPX: Best high-end DDR4 memory for Alder Lake
This DDR4 recommendation is for those who want to experiment. Samsung b-die is the best memory for overclockers, and this Corsair Vengeance kit uses Samsung b-die chips.
Primary timings are extra tight (16-16-16-36) for DDR 4000 memory, the kit is optimized for Intel CPUs, and the performance should be excellent. If you want to check whether your memory controller can run memory faster than DDR4 4000 in Gear 1, loosing the timings will most likely allow you to go over 4000MT/s.
Also, this is a low-profile RAM kit meaning you can pair it with any air cooler without issues. The downside is the ridiculous price you have to pay for that luxury. But if you want the best memory to pair with Alder Lake CPUs, this is the one to get.
TeamGroup T-Force Vulcan Z: Best 64GB DDR4 RAM for Alder Lake owners
If you’re looking for a budget 64GB DDR4 memory kit to pair with your Alder Lake CPUs, you’ll notice that even excellent budget kits can sport unusually high prices for 64GB options.
This is why we decided to list two (non-RGB and RGB) 64GB DDR4 kits that have decent specs and don’t cost an arm and a leg, so you don’t have to look for them yourself. They’re both from TEAMGROUP, and the first is the T-Force Vulcan Z DDR4 3200 64GB kit.
The price is pretty good when compared to other 64GB kits that run at 3200MT/s, while the primary timings (16-18-18-38) are great for a 64GB DDR4 3200 kit. Overall, this is an excellent purchase for everyone who needs 64GB of memory for their work.
TeamGroup T-Force Delta RGB: Best 64GB DDR4 RGB RAM for Alder Lake owners
The T-Force Delta RGB DDR4 3200 64GB kit from TEAMGROUP is more or less the T-Force Vulcan Z DDR4 3200 64GB kit but with pretty lights. The frequency is the same, latencies are also the same (16-18-18-38), and the price has the regular RGB markup included.
Overall, another great and relatively affordable (in the context of a 64GB DDR4 3200 kit with excellent latencies) memory kit for Alder Lake CPUs with the added benefit of a quality light show. Also, do check out the white version of this memory kit; it looks magnificent while costing the same as the black one.
Moving on to DDR5, we only have two memory kits. As we already said, performance differences between DDR4 and DDR5 just aren’t worth it.
Further, the hard cap of the memory controller found in Alder Lake CPUs means that you cannot run DDR5 memory in a 1:1 ratio to the controller. This translates into higher latencies and the inability to get more performance from memory even if you replace it with faster sticks in the future.
This 16GB kit from Crucial is as basic as they get, but at least it’s cheap (for a DDR5 kit) and comes from a respectable brand (as long as we don’t talk about SSDs). It doesn’t look like much and has no heat shield whatsoever, but you don’t really need those anyway.
Also, this is one of the rare 16GB DDR5 kits you can purchase. It looks like, at least right now, manufacturers mostly offer 32GB kits which aren’t for everyone. Of course, you can get this kit in 32GB size if you want, with a higher price to match the capacity.
G.SKILL Trident Z5 RGB Series: Best RGB DDR5 RAM for Alder Lake CPUs
While G.Skill offers DDR5 6000 memory, and while other manufacturers offer even faster DDR5 memory kits, we think that this DDR5 5600 RGB kit is more than enough for any user. The memory’s fast, and the design is quite attractive. Although personally, we like the good old DDR4 Trident Z RGB design better.
Overall, this is a fast DDR5 memory kit that should work with most DDR5 Z690 boards. Its downsides include exceptionally high price (the issue with every DDR5 kit) and the inability to run memory in Gear 1 mode (an inherent limitation of the Alder Lake memory controller).
DDR4 vs. DDR5 on Alder Lake CPUs: Should you buy DDR5?
Let’s make this short. No, you shouldn’t buy DDR5 for your Alder Lake CPU because it just doesn’t come with high enough performance improvement to justify the purchase. Only some specific loads, such as code compiling, video transcoding, or 7-Zip compression (but not decompression), can greatly benefit from DDR5.
Also, only a few games (Watch Dogs: Legion) will get more than a few extra frames with DDR5. If you transcode videos for a living or compress file archives in 7-Zip all the time, the purchase might be justified. For code compilation, a 5950X with DDR4 will cost the same while netting you the same results. Everyone else should stick with DDR4.
Even if, in the future, you get faster DDR5 memory that can push your board to the limit – for instance, the MSI Z690 Unity X, made for overclocking, supports DDR5 up to 6800MT/s – you won’t see much of a performance increase because you won’t be able to run the memory in Gear 1 mode.
In fact, DDR5 cannot run in Gear 1 mode (1:1 ratio with the memory controller that guarantees the lowest latencies) at all. You’re limited to Gear 2, which drastically increases latencies, which is the main reason why we don’t see DDR5 memory being faster than DDR4, at least for now.
Once new CPUs arrive (Tiger Lake, for instance), memory controllers on Intel CPUs will probably work at higher frequencies and support Gear 1 mode when coupled with DDR5. But right now, DDR5 is too expensive to justify the purchase.
As for DDR4, Ali from Optimum Tech has found that going over DDR4 4000 also trips the memory controller, limiting you to Gear 2 (1:2 ratio with memory controller). If you win the silicon lottery, you might be able to run faster memory in a 1:1 ratio, but that’s more or less gambling. This is why we didn’t want to recommend anything over DDR4 4000.
With that said, we have included a DDR4 4000 kit equipped with Samsung b-die memory chips for those who want to experiment and try overclocking their memory to test the limits of the memory controller on their CPU.
Purchases through our links may earn us a commission.