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Double Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory (DDR SDRAM), as the name suggests, double pumps data, which doubles the data bus bandwidth in return. Although it runs at the same clock frequency, this technology achieves nearly twice the bandwidth in the older SDR SDRAM. DDR5 is the latest memory version available for desktop computers, while DDR4 is the preceding version.

DDR4 and DDR5 are preceded by DDR1, 2, and 3 incorporating higher specs for improved speed, power usage, and memory. One of the disadvantages of these upgrades is that the memory modules need to be compatible with the newer models, which requires a new motherboard.  This means a DDR4 module cannot work on a DDR5 motherboard and vice versa, forcing many computer users to wonder whether they should upgrade or stick to the older DDR4 version.  

DDR4 has, for over a decade, been the RAM of choice for PCs and laptops. However, DDR5 is taking over with a great emphasis on improving user experience by doubling the bandwidth, reducing power consumption, and improving speeds. With a general expectation that DDR4 users will migrate to DDR5, there’s a need to explore the two RAMs in-depth to understand why one could be better than the other in the long run and whether the upgrade is urgent. Like older versions, there’s also a likelihood of DDR4 being rendered obsolete, hence the need for more information. Below we explore key differences between the two RAMs and the better choice.

Side-by-Side Comparison: DDR4 vs. DDR5

DDR4DDR5
Release date20142020
Voltage1.2V1.1V
Memory speed1600-3200 MHz4800-8400 MHz
Power managementOn motherboardOnboard Power Management Integrated Circuit (PIMC)
Die Density16Gb SDP 64Gb DIMMs64b SDP 256Gb DIMMs
Clock rate800–1600 MHz2400–3600 MHz
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01/29/2023 09:51 am GMT

DDR4 vs. DDR5: What’s the Difference?

DDR5 is meant to be an upgrade of DDR4. However, critics have criticized the gen 5 improvement, noting that it may not present many advantages to those using a PC for basic tasks and may only benefit those handling large tasks. Below are the key differences between the two RAMs.

Bandwidth and Performance

DDR5 has a greater starting speed performance debuting at 4800MT/s, while DDR4 tops at 3200MT/s. This marks a 50% bandwidth increase with a planned performance increase scaling of 6400MT/s. DDR5 has a new feature that enables speed scalability. The decision feedback equalization (DFE) is responsible for higher bandwidth and performance, and at 4.8 gigabytes per second, DDR5 supports more bandwidth than DDR4.

Power Consumption and Management

DDR5 reduces power consumption by lowering memory voltage to 1.1V. It consumes 20% less power at 1.1V compared to DDR4, whose equivalent components consume 1.2 V. This has a great advantage to enterprise servers that work around the clock and also conserves battery life in laptops.

DDR5 also has a temperature sensor that monitors thermal conditions allowing for more control of the system cooling. DDR4 does not have this feature, and there’s observed reduced performance due to high temperatures. DDR4 power is managed from the motherboard, while DDR5 power is managed from an Onboard Power Management Integrated Circuit PMIC. Unlike DDR4, PMIC helps regulate power as required by various components, which leads to improved signal integrity and reduced noise.

Capacity

DDR5 has a larger capacity and can be manufactured with bigger capabilities. By looking at the architecture, DDR5’s dies are twice as dense as those on DDR4. DDR4 has a maximum die density of 16 GB, while DDR5 has quadrupled that to 64GB. Improved RAM capacity needs enhanced memory, and with DDR5, there’s a possibility of RAM with a capacity of more than 64GB. DDR5 currently supports features that enhance capacity, such as on-die ECC, post-package repair, error transparency mode and read and write CRC modes.

Speed

DDR5 has a new DIMM channel architecture, each having two channels. DDR4, on the other hand, has DIMM with a 72-bit bus. Two independent channels improve memory access efficiency, thus resulting in improved speeds and greater efficiency due to a higher MT/s. DDR5 speeds surpass even the fastest DDR4 with onboard voltage regulators incorporated into DDR5 modules, thus enabling it to reach higher speeds.

Signal Integrity

DDR5 has four output clocks per side compared to DDR4’s two output clocks per side. With four DRAMs, every single rank and half channel receives its independent clock, which greatly improves signal integrity. This also helps address the lower noise margins.

Memory Efficiency

DDR5 has a longer burst length doubled from DDR4’s burst chop length of four and burst length of eight. This increases the burst payload. There’s great memory efficiency with a burst chop extended to eight and a burst length of 16 on DDR5.

Compatibility

Most motherboards manufactured in the last decades support DDR4 RAM. DDR5 current modules are only supported by AMD’s 6000 series mobile processors and Intel’s 12th gen processors. While upcoming Intel 14 gen processors may support DDR4, there’s no indication that the 14th and 15th generation will maintain it. With AMD’s upcoming 7000 series supporting only DDR5 memory, there’s a possibility other mainstream manufacturers won’t be producing more DDR4. This will eventually render it obsolete.

DDR4 vs. DDR5: 4 Must-Know Facts

  • DDR5 was designed with upgraded features such as data integration, higher performance, and lower power usage in mind.
  •  DDR SDRAM technologies are not compatible with older or newer versions. Therefore, an older version, such as DDR4, only supports its RAM modules (DDR4) but not DDR3 or DDR5.
  • DDR4 still offers high-end value, and DDR5 may require serious upgrades to override all DDR4 benefits.
  • DDR5 offers double-figure performance on some tasks, while some tasks have shown little improvement compared to DDR4.

The History of Double Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory (DDR SDRAM)

The development of DDR SDRAM began in 1996, with The Joint Electron Device Engineering Council (JEDEC) finalizing the specifications in June 2000. In 1997, Samsung demonstrated the first DDR memory prototype and later released the first commercial chip in June 1998. The chip was 64 Mbit. Hyundai Electronics, now SK Hynix, released the same memory the same year. Later, JEDEC released the first retail PC motherboard using DDR SDRAM in August 2000. The company went ahead to set standards for DDR SDRAM with memory chips and memory module specifications.

The Evolution of DDR SDRAM Generations

DDR 1 was the first generation superseded by DDR2 SDRAM, which operated on the same principle but with modifications for higher clock frequency. DDR2 was superseded by DDR3, which offered new features and increased bus speeds

DDR4 was first produced in 2011 as a DDR3 upgrade and was marked with significant architectural changes. Compared to older generations, it has a high-speed operation due to the 8n prefetch architecture combined with an interface capable of transferring two data words per clock cycle. JEDEC initiated the development of DDR5 in 2017 though the module debuted in the market in 2020 as a DDR4 upgrade.

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01/28/2023 10:16 am GMT

DDR4 vs. DDR5: Which is Better? Which one Should you Use?

Both DDR4 and DDR5 serve unique needs. The difference is that DDR5 is an upgrade. As with most upgrades, developers and manufacturers take into consideration most of the weaknesses of the older version and improve on them. DDR5 is, therefore, a better version compared to DDR4.

DDR5 has a higher bandwidth, lower power consumption, and is more efficient in power management. It has a higher memory, higher speeds, lower latency, and higher capacity DIMMs. In terms of intelligence, DDR5 has enhanced system management and greater telemetry for thermal management.

Key Takeaway

You may opt to keep your DDR4 longer since it will take time before the adoption of DDR5 in the mass markets. However, some of the factors you should consider are the price of the new RAM and availability. On the flip side, most manufacturers may opt to phase out DDR4, as has been the case with older versions. To future-proof your computer just in case DDR4 becomes obsolete, you may consider an upgrade to DDR5. The same applies to early adopters of this technology. It’s an upgrade and has more advantages compared to DDR4.

DDR4 vs. DDR5: How Do They Compare? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

When was the first DDR SDRAM launched?

The first DDR SDRAM was launched in 1998.

Should I go for DDR4 or DDR5?

DDR5 is a better option considering it’s the new standard, with DDR4 likely to become obsolete as new generations of processors come up. Most computers built up to 2015 have DDR4 as the standard. However, going for DDR5 is a great way to future-proof your computer. Its performance is double that of the fastest DDR4 modules.

Can I use DDR5 instead of DDR4?

If you plan to use it for demanding tasks such as video and photo editing, heavy file uploads and downloads, mass file compression, and related tasks that require great speeds and space, consider DDR5.

Should I upgrade to DDR5?

Since DDR4 is still relevant, consider taking time before upgrading to DDR5, especially if it’s for PC use. However, DDR5 is an upgraded version of DDR4, and like most upgrades, you may consider an upgrade to access new features that come with new versions.

Is DDR5 compatible with DDR4?

The memory modules are not forward or backward-compatible. DDR5 will not work with DDR4-equipped motherboards.

Will future PC processors support DDR4, or will it be rendered obsolete?

Most motherboards manufactured in the last decade support DDR4, and it’s expected that the upcoming Intel 13 gen desktop processors will support both DDR4 and DDR5 memories. However, other manufacturers may follow suit, with AMD only producing DDR5 in their 7000 series.

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