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Many gamers will be familiar with random access memory, or RAM, but what exactly is DDRAM? Simply put, DDRAM, sometimes termed DDR-SDRAM, stands for Double Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic RAM.

Essentially, this means the interface uses double pumping to increase the transfer rate. It does so by transferring data on both the falling and rising edges of the clock signal. At certain frequencies, this achieves almost twice the bandwidth compared to SDR SDRAM (which stands for the same thing, minus the Double Data).

The synchronous part refers to the fact the operation of the interface is coordinated, or synchronized, with the external clock signal. These days, we’re on the fifth version of DDR-SDRAM, known as DDR5.

DDR5: Overview

As you can probably guess, DDR5 was preceded by DDR through DDR4. Generally, these newer versions have brought improvements in the transfer speed, power consumption, error checking, and memory capacity.

In this vein, DDR5 has around 4x the memory capacity of DDR4, further increases in bandwidth as well as upgraded error checking, which is now controlled by the RAM module instead of the CPU. Offloading this task should bring increases in processing power.

Gamers will naturally wonder whether upgrading to DDR5 is worth it, especially since compatibility is a big issue. DDR4 modules aren’t compatible with a DDR5 motherboard and DDR5 memory modules aren’t compatible with a DDR4 motherboard, so depending on the user’s situation, upgrading to DDR5 may require a complete overhaul of the system.

With that said, we’re going to take a deeper look at the differences between DDR5 and older versions of RAM, and whether there’s a case to be made for upgrading when it comes to gaming.

DDR3, DDR4 and DDR5: Side-by-Side Comparison

DDR3DDR4DDR5
Date released200720142021
Voltage1.5V1.2V1.1V
Clock frequency800 – 1600 MHz1600 – 3200 MHz3200 – 8400 MHz
Chip capacity8GB SDP, up to 16GB per DIMM16GB SDP, up to 64GB per DIMM64GB SDP, up to 256GB per DIMM
Power managementMotherboardPower Management Integrated Circuit (PMIC)PMIC
Peak transfer rate14,928 MB/s25,600 MB/s56,000 MB/s

New Structure and Circuit Means Vastly Increased Bandwidth

We can see from the comparison table that there are numerous benefits with DDR5 compared to older versions. While the base theoretical bandwidth for DDR5 is the same as the peak bandwidth for DDR4, the peak bandwidth of DDR5 shows a massive improvement of around 162%.

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01/26/2023 09:16 pm GMT

The DFE (Decision Feedback Equalization) circuit of DDR5 is largely responsible for the increase in bandwidth per pin, but changes to the structure are a significant factor as well. DDR5 has a 32-bank structure over 8 bank groups, as opposed to DDR4’s 16-bank structure over 4 bank groups.

In addition to this, DDR5 enables each memory bank to refresh independently, whereas DDR4 requires all banks to refresh simultaneously, which means the CPU is delayed for a split second. While this may seem like a negligible difference, as workloads, the number of CPU cores, and memory capacities increase, the difference becomes more and more significant.

Superior Power Management Brings Many Benefits

As well as the obvious bonus of extended battery life in portable computers, the reduction in memory voltage to 1.1V is also great news for professional workflows and enterprise servers that pretty much run 24/7. DDR5 doesn’t stop there, though, when it comes to power management.

The voltage is actually managed through the Power Management Integrated Circuit (PMIC) rather than from the motherboard. Also, cooling is controlled through a temperature sensor, meaning increased performance.

This means the cost of motherboards will likely decrease, but the price of RAM modules will increase. This could be a benefit or a drawback, depending on which components you’re looking to upgrade.

Changes to Chip Capacity and Speed

It’s fairly obvious that DDR5 brings much higher RAM capacity and efficiency since its die density is up to 4x that of DDR4, which can make a substantial difference to performance with certain applications. As well as the increased capacity, DDR5 also brings improvements in efficiency. This is due to a two-channel DIMM architecture and having double the burst length of DDR4 (up from 8 to 16).

DDR Through the Generations

Developed by the Joint Electron Device Engineering Council (JEDEC), the first prototype for DDR RAM was released in 1997 by Samsung, with the first commercial 64GB DDR-SDRAM chip being released a year later. JEDEC completed specifications for DDR1, or DDR RAM as it was known then, in June 2000. In August of the same year, the first PC motherboard using DDR-SDRAM was released.

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Three years after the arrival of DDR RAM, we would see DDR2 become available, which could effectively double the bus speed of DDR1 by transferring four words of data per memory cell cycle. This increased the rate of data transfer without actually speeding up the memory cells.

In 2007, DDR3 was released and brought further improvements to bus speed and performance. Data transfer was increased to 8x the speed of the memory cells, while power consumption was reduced by a huge 40%, meaning the same performance could be reached with a lower power draw and lower heat production.

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01/26/2023 09:16 pm GMT

DDR4 was publicly released in 2014, again bringing a reduction in power consumption that led to a 20% improvement in efficiency. DDR4 also has no theoretical limit on memory size, so it’s a popular choice for laptops, PCs, tablets, and smartphones.

It’s also worth noting that, while DDR3 was backward compatible with the older RAM generations, DDR4 stopped this trend, being incompatible with both DDR3 and DDR5 motherboards.

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DDR5 hit the market in 2021, with the first CPUs supporting DDR5 being Intel’s 12th-Gen ‘Alder Lake’ Core processors. As well as reducing power consumption, DDR5 has a doubled transfer rate. So, along with the previously mentioned changes to the die density and architecture, vast improvements are seen over DDR4.

Does DDR5 Make a Difference for Gaming? What’s the Best Choice?

It’d be very tempting to say you should always go with the most expensive components available. But, in reality, we all have individual needs and budgets. With that in mind, it helps to assess the real-world differences we see with DDR5 when it comes to gaming.

While better power management, capacity, efficiency, and data transfer speeds all sound like spectacular upgrades, most consider the standard RAM size required for gaming these days to be 16GB. DDR5 does have the potential for 4x the memory of DDR4 with its 64GB per chip, and potentially 8 of these could be stacked for a total of 512GB RAM.

Obviously, this is massively higher than what you really need. An upgrade from 16GB to 32GB may make a difference in performance for some games, but this can also be achieved relatively easily by combining 4 chips of DDR4 instead of shelling out your hard-earned cash for a DDR5 module.

RAM sizes above this tend to make a negligible difference for gaming and are only really desirable if you’re into high-spec video editing and virtual simulation software. If we’re considering 4K resolution, as many gamers are nowadays, the case for not upgrading to DDR5 becomes even stronger.

This is because, above 1080p resolution, gaming performance tends to be limited by the GPU and not by the CPU. Therefore, noticeable differences in performance are rarely seen at this resolution.

In the future, as CPU, GPU, and motherboard technology advances, the potential of DDR5 may truly be seen, as the bottlenecks on performance shift back towards the CPU. But until then, you’re likely better off upgrading your motherboard, GPU or simply increasing the amount of RAM with some more DDR4 sticks, especially if your RAM’s sitting below 32GB.

Does DDR5 RAM Make a Difference for Gaming? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What's the latest version of DDR-RAM?

The newest version of DDR-RAM is DDR5.

When did DDR5 launch?

DDR5 launched in 2021, alongside Intel’s 12th-Gen ‘Alder Lake’ Core processors.

How does DDR5 compare to DDR4?

Simply put, DDR5 boasts even greater power consumption than DDR4, along with faster transfer speeds, bus speeds, as well as greater clock frequency and memory capacity. The price is also substantially higher, however, and for gaming applications the difference in performance is usually rather negligible.

Is my PC compatible with DDR5?

Right now, only Intel’s 12th-Gen processors and later are compatible with DDR5 RAM as well as DDR4 RAM; most other processors and motherboards aren’t compatible with DDR5, as DDR4 is generally the standard option.

Do I need DDR5 for gaming?

To run modern games at 4K resolution, DDR4 with 16GB to 32GB of memory is more than suitable in most cases. There is around a 5% increase in performance with DDR5 over DDR4, which really isn’t much of a significant difference.

While DDR5 gives higher frequencies, a greater memory capacity, and lower power consumption, you may be better off sticking with your current system and upgrading your total amount of RAM or GPU instead.

If you’re upgrading your system with one of the latest CPUs on the market, then going for DDR5 may be a good choice, as both components will last a good number of years.

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