When buying a laptop or desktop PC, the first thing people look at is RAM. 8GB or 16GB DDR4 memory is generally considered a standard requirement for basic computing tasks, including gaming.
DDR4 RAM means the 4th generation of double data rate RAM. Today, all laptops and PCs based on Intel or AMD processors come with maximum DDR4 RAM. The next generation of RAM, DDR5 RAM, is now available.
In July 2020, after a delay of several years, the official DDR5 specification was released. In October of the same year, Hynix introduced the world’s first next-generation RAM.
A year later, In November 2021, Intel launched the 12th generation Alder Lake processors based on the LGA1700 platform. It supports both the new DDR5 memory and the old DDR4 memory (but requires different motherboards). So, what is DDR5 RAM, and how does it differ from DDR4. Let’s compare DDR4 and DDR5 technologies to understand the difference.
DDR5 and DDR4 Differences
|Max. transmission speed||6.4 Gbps||3.2 Gbps||1.6 Gbps|
|Max. memory module size||128 GB||32 GB||8 GB|
|Max. single-core density||64 Gbps||16 Gbps||4 Gbps|
|Voltage||1.1 V||1.2 V||1.5 V|
|Width (Non-ECC)||64-bit (2×32)||64-bit||64-bit|
|Banks (Per Group)||4||4||eight|
Speed - data transfer rate and clock frequency
DDR stands for Double Data Rate because it can transfer twice as much information per clock compared to older versions of RAM. DDR makes this possible because it uses each digital signal’s split and uplink to convey information.
It means that the effective transfer rate of the DDR4 2400 will be 2400Gbps, but the actual clock speed will be 1200MHz (1.2GHz).
The data rate of DDR4 is from 1600 to 3200, while the data rate of DDR5 is from 4800 to 6400. Therefore, DDR5 has twice the bandwidth of DDR4.
Also, while DDR4 tops out at 3200MHz at 1.6GHz, DDR5 offers a minimal 50% increase in bandwidth up to 4800MHz.
Overclocking RAM has its benefits: DDR4 memory is available at 5100 MHz. However, this makes RAM expensive. DDR5 also has overclocking potential, but it’s not clear when they might be available on laptops and PCs.
It’s also unclear how this will benefit gaming enthusiasts because higher RAM specs can give you less bang for your buck when you go beyond what the processor or other hardware needs to run at peak efficiency.
For example, AMD Ryzen 5000 series processors perform best with RAM around 4000Gb/s or 2000MHz.
Prefetching Architecture – Memory Access Speed
In RAM, prefetch architecture refers to the speed of memory access. For example, a 2n prefetch buffer size can access memory twice as fast as SDRAM, which comes with a 1n prefetch buffer size (also called one data block).
Simply put, It means that SDRAM reads one unit of data at a time. Therefore, a DDR1 with a 2n prefetch architecture can read two blocks of data at the same time. Also, this means that the higher the prefetch architecture buffer in your RAM, the more data it can read in one pass.
DDR4 RAM now has an 8n prefetch buffer. Therefore, it can read data eight times faster than SDRAM. On the other hand, DDR5 RAM has a prefetch buffer size that can be up to 16n. Therefore, it can read data twice as fast as DDR4 RAM.
Voltage – Power Consumption
The general consensus is that a more powerful chip should consume more power. Thus, the lower power consumption of DDR5 compared to DDR4 may seem counterintuitive. On the other hand, dropping the voltage by 0.1V shouldn’t make much of a difference for PC users but could improve battery life for mobile phones when new technology comes along.
The best aspect of DDR5 RAM is its voltage regulation, unlike previous generation RAM, where the motherboard controls the power consumption of the RAM. Therefore, the introduction of DDR5 RAM may lead to lower motherboard prices in the future.
As mentioned in the point above, DDR5 RAM is making significant changes with the transition of power management from the motherboard to Dual Inline Memory Modules (DIMMs). DDR5 DIMMs will be equipped with a 12V Power Management IC (PMIC) on the DIMM to manage RAM power consumption. Therefore, you can expect better signal and noise integrity when combined with per-DIMM power supply control.
Channel architecture – more ECC (error-correcting code) bits
DDR5 comes with a new channel architecture consisting of two 40-bit wide channels. Each DIMM channel will have 32 data bits and eight ECC bits. In comparison, DDR4 DIMM has a 72-bit bus containing 64 data bits and eight ECC bits.
If you compare the data bits, they will be the same, but having two independent channels helps improve memory access efficiency. Also, at higher speeds, DDR5 provides better efficiency.
The DDR5 DIMM architecture consists of two 40-bit wide channels sharing clock drivers (RCDs). The DDR5 RCD provides four clock outputs per side, while the DDR4 DIMM architecture provides two per side. Therefore, this improves signal integrity and helps reduce signal noise resulting from voltage reduction.
Memory error checking is an important element for servers that must stay online at all times. Compared to DDR4 RAM, DDR5 offers improved ECC by transferring all functions from the CPU to the RAM chips. Therefore, it can increase the processing power of the system.
Packet Length – More Memory and Better Efficiency
The DDR4 burst length and burst length are 4 and 8, respectively. For DDR5, it expands to 8 and 16, thereby increasing the packet payload. Because DDR5 has a burst length of 16, it provides data access in a single burst of up to 64 bytes, which is similar to a typical CPU cache line size.
DRAM support – higher RAM support
DDR5 supports high memory DRAM devices as it can use up to 64 GB die density in a single package. In contrast, DDR4 supports up to 16 GB in a single die package. Thus, DDR5 can quadruple the memory capacity of DDR4.
In addition, there is the possibility of combining up to eight RAM chips with a significant improvement in motherboard technology. So, the DDR5 RAM can be boosted up to an insane 512GB.
Even today, 16GB of RAM is great for gaming. Gaming is a real treat with AMD Ryzen processors supporting 32GB of RAM as standard. However, imagine what 512 GB of RAM is capable of. Naturally, video editors would like to have this amount of RAM.
Size – different sizes for different RAM
If you take a closer look at RAM, starting with DDR1 RAM, you will notice different sizes. It ensures that users do not install the wrong size memory on the motherboard. The downside is that if you have a specific motherboard, you will have to buy compatible RAM.
Also, DDR5 RAM is not backward compatible. Therefore, it will not fit into DDR4 motherboards.
However, DDR5 RAM was introduced in 2020. But, it became available this year for laptops and PCs. The 12th generation Intel Core processors have included DDR5 RAM at some point in their release. Even though DDR4 was released in 2014, you still have some gaming laptops with DDR3 RAM. Thus, the DDR4 will still be available even after the introduction of DDR5.
In addition, this requires a change in the design of the motherboard. However, DDR5 can improve the potential performance of the processor. By wrapping it up, the DDR5 is the new standard as far as memory is concerned. It has several improvements over DDR4, whether it is design, speed, or conclusive performance. You can definitely consider it over DDR4 if you are playing to buy a laptop or PC in 2022 or later on.