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How to Choose the Best RAM for Intel's Core i7-12700K CPU

A guide for choosing desktop memory with the perfect balance of speed, capacity, timings, and price, to pair with Intel's Core i7 12700K processor.

Best Ram for 12700K Timur Garifov / Unsplash

Last Updated: July 6, 2022

Written by Kevin Jones

There are many factors to consider when choosing memory for your PC. One type of memory isn't suitable for every PC build. Based on your situation, this article will help you navigate the various considerations for choosing the best RAM for Intel's Core i7-12700K.

Check out our Recommended RAM for the 12700K below.

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Which RAM Is Compatible With the Core i7-12700K?

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Memory Generations Supported by the 12700K

The Core i7 12700K CPU supports both DDR4 and DDR5. For this CPU, you'll need to choose whether you want to build a system that supports either DDR4 or DDR5. Suppose you are upgrading memory in an existing computer. In that case, you will need to stick with the memory generation that the motherboard is currently using.

The generation of memory (e.g., DDR3, DDR4, or DDR5) must match what is supported by your motherboard. Motherboards only support a single generation of memory.

Check out our Recommended RAM for the 12700K below.

Maximum Memory Speeds Supported by the 12700K

The maximum speed at which you can run PC memory depends on your CPU, motherboard, and the memory itself.

When using DDR4 memory, the Core i7 12700K CPU officially supports memory speeds up to 3200 MT/s. This maximum speed means that stock DDR4 performance will be maximized using DDR4-3200 memory.

When using DDR5 memory, the Core i7 12700K CPU officially supports memory speeds up to 4800 MT/s. This maximum speed means that stock DDR5 performance will be maximized using DDR5-4800 memory.

When overclocking memory, such as with an XMP profile, you can exceed these stock speeds officially supported by CPUs. Motherboard specifications will indicate their supported overclocked-memory speeds. To be able to overclock DDR memory, your motherboard chipset needs to support memory overclocking. Find which chipsets support overclocking in my article, Which Chipsets Work With Intel's Core i7-12700K CPU?.

RAM can also be underclocked to achieve compatibility. Underclocking can be used when you purchase memory that is faster than the maximum speed supported by the CPU or motherboard. However, precise underclocking also requires a motherboard that supports memory overclocking. Without this support, the memory may fall back to a slower speed than the maximum supported memory speed. To achieve the maximum memory speed without overclocking support, use the maximum speed supported by the motherboard and CPU.

By looking up a motherboard's specifications, you can verify whether it supports a particular speed. Additionally, the motherboard manufacturer's website will typically indicate which memory kits have been confirmed to be compatible.

DDR Generations (Without Overclocking)
DDR3DDR4DDR5
Max UDIMM (Unbuffered) Capacity 16 GB 32 GB 128 GB
Bandwidth 6400–17067 MB/s 12800–25600 MB/s 38400–57600 MB/s
Transfer Rate 800–2133 MT/s 1600–3200 MT/s 4800–7200 MT/s
Base Frequency 400–1067 MHz 800–1600 MHz 2400–3600 MHz
Effective Frequency 800–2133 MHz 1600–3200 MHz 4800–7200 MHz
Voltage 1.5 V 1.2 V 1.1 V
On-die ECC No No Yes

Check out our Recommended RAM for the 12700K below.

12700K ECC Memory Support

Most gaming and general-purpose desktop setups do not use ECC memory.

Error correction code (ECC) memory is a more expensive form of memory typically used for critical server and workstation use cases. The purpose of ECC memory is to detect and correct when a single bit in memory gets flipped unintentionally.

ECC memory will not work unless the motherboard and CPU both support ECC.

The Core i7 12700K supports unbuffered ECC memory with a compatible motherboard.

While the 12700K CPU technically supports ECC memory, it requires a workstation motherboard with the W680 chipset.

When desktop motherboards support ECC memory, it's typically limited to "unbuffered ECC" memory. Server motherboards may support "registered ECC" memory, which allows for additional memory modules.

Check out our Recommended RAM for the 12700K below.

Other Considerations for Choosing Memory

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DDR (Double Data Rate) SDRAM is the memory used in nearly all computers today.

With each generation of DDR, faster memory speeds become available.

Memory Speed and Timings

DDR ram speed is measured in megatransfers per second (MT/s). MT/s measure how fast data can be read and written per second to and from RAM.

Faster PC memory can improve game performance and frame rates, but using the fastest RAM may not have as much of an impact as upgrading your CPU and graphics card or adding more RAM.

Suppose you do not use your computer for memory-intensive applications such as games or video processing. In that case, you may see little benefit in using the fastest memory.

Look up the motherboard model on the manufacturer's website to determine which speeds are supported. Price typically scales with the memory speeds, so choose one in your price range that meets your needs.

Memory Timings

Similar and related to memory speed, memory timings can also impact performance. Timings measure how many clock cycles it takes to perform an action. Manufacturers often reference timings as a series of numbers, such as 16-18-18-38. Assuming memory sticks have a constant memory speed, lower timing values indicate a shorter time between commands. Because timings are measured in clock cycles, they scale down as the memory speed increases.

While memory timings can impact performance, they are typically less critical than speed and capacity.

Memory Capacity

DDR ram capacities are measured in gigabytes (GB).

What Happens if You Run Out of RAM?

Many people underestimate how important it is to have enough memory (RAM) in their computer. When the amount of memory your applications need is more than the amount of memory available, your computer may slow to a crawl. Typically, in this case, the computer (operating system) will begin swapping data back and forth between your memory and virtual memory. Virtual memory is a large chunk of space on your storage device (SSD or hard drive) used to store data that can't fit in RAM. Because RAM is much faster than an SSD, your experience can quickly become unpleasant once you run out of free RAM (available memory).

How Much RAM Do You Need for Gaming?

To run games smoothly while having a few apps open in the background, such as a browser window or music, 16 GB is generally the recommended minimum amount. Newer games are beginning to list 16 GB as the recommended amount.

Suppose you want the flexibility to do even more with your computer while playing games. Perhaps you want to host a live stream or play high-resolution YouTube videos and Twitch streams. In that case, 32 GB may be beneficial. 32 GB of memory would give you the flexibility to open multiple apps without worrying about closing some to free up memory resources.

Motherboard Support

Look up the motherboard model on the manufacturer's website to determine which memory capacities and module sizes are supported. Also, refer to your motherboard's documentation for guidance on which slots to use.

Memory is typically purchased in a pack of two or four modules (sticks). Make sure to use the same speeds, capacities, and timings. The lowest values will be used if multiple speeds or timings are used. If multiple sizes are used, you may need to use single-channel mode, which will be slower.

The easiest way to get matching sticks for peak performance is to buy them together in a pack.

LED Lighting

If you'd like to customize your PC to look a bit cooler, consider using RAM sticks with LED lighting. With some fancy RAM sticks and a compatible motherboard, you can choose the LED color or lighting animation.

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Before purchasing memory, review your motherboard specification to verify which speeds are supported. For example, if a DDR4 motherboard stated that it supports "DDR4 3400(O.C.) / 3333(O.C.) / 3300(O.C.) / 3200 / 3000," that would mean that it could support DDR4-3400, DDR4-3333, and DDR4-3300 with memory overclocking, and DDR4-3200 and DDR4-3000 at stock speeds. Motherboard specifications also indicate the maximum capacity per stick of RAM (DIMM) and across all slots.

  • At an effective frequency of 3200 MHz, this memory hits the fastest DDR4 speed supported by Intel's Core i7 12700K CPU without overclocking.
  • The low-profile form factor ensures that the heat spreaders don't get in the way of other devices, including your CPU heatsink. Corsair Vengeance LPX 32GB (2X16GB) 3200MHz DDR4 Corsair Vengeance LPX 32GB (2X16GB) 3200MHz DDR4 Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

Learn More About the Intel Core i7-12700K

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You can find detailed 12700K specifications on Intel's site.

Other Considerations When Building a PC

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Want to brush up on other new technologies to consider when building a computer? Check out these articles: