DDR5 vs DDR4 Ram | Which is better?

When purchasing a laptop or a desktop PC, the first thing people look at is the system’s memory (RAM). 8 GB or 16 GB DDR4 memory is generally considered the standard requirement to enable basic computing tasks, including gaming.

DDR4 RAM means the 4th generation of Double Data Rate Random Access Memory. All laptops and PCs powered by Intel or AMD CPUs come with maximum DDR4 RAM today. The next-gen RAM, DDR5 RAM, is now available.

8GB DDR4 2666 MHz
8GB DDR4 2666 MHz Ram

The 12th generation Intel CPUs to be released in October/November this year could include DDR5 RAM. So, what exactly is DDR5 RAM, and how is it different from DDR4. Let us compare DDR4 and DDR5 technology to understand the difference.

DDR5 RAM Micron
DDR5 RAM 

Before we proceed with a detailed description, here is the difference in a nutshell.

FeaturesDDR4 RAMDDR5 RAMAdvantages of DDR5
SpeedData Rate – 1600 to 3200
Clock Rate – 0.8 to 1.6 GHz
Data Rate – 4800 to 6400
Clock Rate – 1.6 to 3.2 GHz
Higher bandwidth
Better clock frequency
Prefetch Architecture8n8/16nCan read more data in one pass
IO Voltage1.2 V1.1 VLower power consumption
Power ManagementOn the motherboardOn DIMM PMICPower-efficient and better scalability
Channel Architecture72-bit channel (64 data plus 8 ECC)
1 channel per DIMM
40-bit channel (32 data plus 8 ECC)
2 channels per DIMM
Higher memory efficiency and lower latency
Burst LengthBC4, BL8BC8, BL16Higher memory efficiency
DRAM Support16 GB64 GBSupports higher capacity DRAM

DDR5 vs. DDR4 RAM Comparison

Based on the gist of the information above, here is a detailed comparison and inference.

Speed – Data Rate and Clock Frequency

DDR stands for Double Data Rate because it can carry double the information in each clock cycle compared to older versions of RAM. DDR makes it possible because it utilizes each digital signal’s falling apart and upward part to carry information. It implies that the effective transfer rate of DDR4 2400 would be 2400 Gbps, but the actual clock frequency would be 1200 MHz (1.2 GHz).

teamgroup DDR5 Ram
TeamGroup 32GB DDR5 RAM kit

The DDR4 data rate is 1600 to 3200, whereas the DDR5 data rate is 4800 to 6400. Hence, DDR5 has double the bandwidth of DDR4. Furthermore, while DDR4 maxes out at 3200 MHz at a clock rate of 1.6 GHz, DDR5 offers a minimum 50% increase in the bandwidth to 4800 MHz.

Ultimately, DDR5 doubles the data rate of DDR4 by reaching a maximum of 6400 MHz. Besides, additional features like Decision Feedback Equalization (DFE) incorporated in DDR5 RAM can enable higher IO speeds.

Overclocking RAM has its benefits, with DDR4 memory available at 5100 MHz. However, it makes the RAM expensive. DDR5 also has overclocking potential, but it is unclear when they could be available on laptops and PCs. It is also unclear how it will benefit gaming enthusiasts because higher RAM specifications can give you diminishing returns when you venture beyond what the CPU or other hardware needs for operating at their maximum efficiency.

For example, the AMD Ryzen 5000 Series CPUs deliver the best results with RAM at around 4000 Gbps or 2000 MHz.

Crucial DDR5 Ram
Crucial DDR5 Ram

Prefetch Architecture – Memory accessing speed

In RAM, Prefetch Architecture refers to memory accessing speed. For example, a Prefetch buffer size of 2n can access memory twice as fast as SDRAM that comes with a prefetch buffer size of 1n (also referred to as one data unit).

In simple terms, it means that SDRAM reads one unit of data at a time. Therefore, DDR1 with a Prefetch Architecture of 2n can read two units of data simultaneously. Furthermore, it implies that the higher the Prefetch Architecture buffer of your RAM, the more data it can read in a single pass.

Now, DDR4 RAM has a prefetch buffer of 8n. Hence, it can read data eight times faster than SDRAM. On the other hand, DDR5 RAM has a prefetch buffer size that can go up to 16n. Hence, it has the potential to read data at twice the speed of DDR4 RAM.

Related: GDDR5 vs GDDR6

Voltage – Power Consumption

The general conception is that a more powerful chip should consume more power. Therefore, lower power consumption for DDR5 versus DDR4 could be seen as counterintuitive. On the other hand, the 0.1 V reduction should not matter much for PC users but can improve battery life in mobile phones when the technology gets there.

The best aspect of DDR5 RAM is regulating their voltage, unlike the previous generation RAMs where the motherboard controls RAM power consumption. Hence, the introduction of DDR5 RAM could see a reduction in motherboard pricing in the future.

Power Management – A significant shift

Power Architecture for DDR5
Image Credit: Rambus

As mentioned in the para above, DDR5 RAM envisages a significant change with power management shifting from the motherboard to dual In-line memory modules (DIMMs). The DDR5 DIMMs will come equipped with a 12V power management IC (PMIC) on the DIMM to manage RAM power consumption. Hence, you can expect better signal integrity and noise coupled with on-DIMM power supply control.

Channel Architecture – More ECC (Error Correction Code) bits

DDR5 comes with a new channel architecture comprising two channels 40-bits wide. Each DIMM channel will have 32 data bits and eight ECC bits. In comparison, DDR4 DIMM has a 72-bit bus comprising 64 data bits and eight ECC bits.

If you compare the data bits, they are the same, but having two independent channels helps enhance memory accessing efficiency. Besides, at higher speed, DDR5 offers better efficiency.

DDR4 vs DDR5
Image Credit: Micron

DDR5 DIMM architecture consists of two 40-bit wide channels sharing the registering clock drivers (RCD). The DDR5 RCD provides four output clocks per side, whereas it is two per side in DDR4 DIMM architecture. Therefore, it improves signal integrity and helps to reduce signal noise resulting because of lowering the voltage.

Memory Error checking is a crucial element for servers that should remain online at all times. Compared to DDR4 RAM, DDR5 offers an improved ECC by transferring the entire feature from the CPU to the RAM chips. Hence, it can enhance the system’s processing power.  

Related: Best GPU Benchmarking Software

Burst Length – Higher memory size and better efficiency

The DDR4 burst chop length and burst length are 4 and 8, respectively. For DDR5, it extends to 8 and 16, thereby increasing burst payload. As DDR5 has a burst length of 16, it allows single burst data access up to 64 bytes, similar to the typical CPU cache line size. Hence, it displays improved concurrency. Furthermore, when you account for dual channels, it ensures greater memory efficiency.  

DRAM Support – Higher RAM support

DDR5 supports higher DRAM devices because it can use die densities up to 64 GB in a single die package. In contrast, DDR4 supports up to a maximum of 16 GB in a single-die package. Thus, DDR5 has the potential to go up to four times DDR4 memory. Besides, there is potential to stack up to eight RAM chips with significant improvement in motherboard technology. Therefore, DDR5 RAM can comfortably go up to insane levels of 512 GB.

Related: Intel CPU Suffix Explained

Even today, 16 GB RAM is excellent for gaming. Gaming has become a delight, with the AMD Ryzen CPUs supporting 32 GB RAM as a standard offering. However, imagine what 512 GB RAM can do. Naturally, video editors would love to have such RAM capacity.

Size – Different sizes for different RAM

If you observe the RAM sticks closely right since DDR1 RAM, you will notice different sizes. It ensures that users do not install the wrong size memory on the motherboard. The disadvantage is that if you have a specific motherboard, you have to purchase the compatible RAM.

Besides, DDR5 RAM is not backward compatible. Therefore, it will not fit into the DDR4 motherboards.

Final Thoughts

DDR5 RAM was introduced in 2020. However, it will take some time before they become available for laptops and PCs. The upcoming 12th gen Intel Core CPUs will include DDR5 RAM at some stage during its release. Even though DDR4 was released in 2014, you still have some gaming laptops using DDR3 RAM. So, DDR4 will still be available even after DDR5 is introduced. Besides, it requires changes to the motherboard structure. Nevertheless, DDR5 can enhance the CPU’s potential performance.   

Source: Micron, GamingScan, WePC

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