Is DDR4 or DDR5 RAM better for gaming?

There have been some significant advances in PC technology this year, with one of the most important being the introduction of DDR5 memory. This is the first generation upgrade in RAM since DDR4 was introduced in 2014, and is also the beginning of an important question for many gamers and PC builders: Is DDR5 RAM worth it? with your gaming PC?

DDR5 will be a lot faster (eventually)

Trident recently announced DDR5-6800 memory, which is twice as fast as the typical 3200 or 3600Mhz modules most PC gamers buy today. Image: Trident

DDR4 RAM – what you’ll find in all gaming PCs these days – first shipped in Q2 2014, with the earliest available modules running at a measured speed of 1600MHz (DDR4- 1600). Standards eventually increased to support DDR-3200 modules and since then manufacturers have sold overclocked modules can reach 4000MHz or 4133MHz out of the box.

But while DDR4 RAM has improved a lot over its life, and talented overclockers have pushed the technology even further, DDR5 represents a huge leap in speed and bandwidth. The first consumer-grade DDR5 RAM sticks are running at 4800MHz, with 5200MHz and 6000MHz modules available at the high-end.

Reviewers have was found it’s DDR5 faster speed more DDR4 translates into improved performance in games and certain applications. The performance hit will also be more pronounced in 2022 and beyond, especially as manufacturers start selling lower-latency DDR5 modules.

DDR5 could have more capacity

The limit of DDR4 means that the largest memory modules you can buy today – as a regular consumer anyway – have a maximum limit of 32GB. DDR5 offers four times the capacity, with a flagship DDR5 gaming PC that can support an incredible 512GB of RAM.

Of course, PC gaming doesn’t need ridiculous amount of memory – most video games these days don’t use more than 16GB of memory. However, there are plenty of productivity and content creation applications that benefit from access to more RAM, including the Adobe suite, 3D rendering, machine learning tools, etc.

DDR5 has improved power management

While DDR4 RAM requires 1.2 volts to run, DDR5 requires a bit less at 1.1 volts, so there’s not much of a difference here.

If you’re a fan of diving into the specifics, the key change between DDR5 and DDR4 lies in the power delivery. For today’s DDR4 memory, the PC’s motherboard handles all the power management. Instead, the DDR5 RAM stick has its own regulator called the integrated power management chip (PMIC).

The PMIC chip offers better stability and efficiency, which is essential as DDR5 speeds and latencies improve in the coming years. But there is a downside: PMIC chips are expensive and under supply, leading to a global shortage.

DDR5 has a newer, more efficient architecture

play games ram ddr5

Older DDR4 sticks had a single-channel architecture with a 72-bit bus, consisting of 64 bits of data and 8 bits of error correction code (ECC). DDR5 has two 40-bit bus channels, each divided into 32 data bits and eight ECC bits.

So while the total data width is the same, doubling the channels makes the whole architecture more efficient. One way to think of it is to imagine a highway with a single lane: of course, it can only hold so many cars. Adding a second lane improves traffic flow and flow.

As for RAM, this should equate to better gaming performance and better ability to handle larger volumes of data.

DDR5 burst duration is also faster

Data transferred from CPU to RAM is not transferred in one go. It is divided into shorter bursts, with burst length related to the amount of data transferred in each cluster.

While DDR4 RAM has a burst length of 8, the newer DDR5 doubles it to 16. Coupled with a dual-channel architecture, a constant beam length maximizes efficiency even more.

But what about compatibility?

While the latest Intel Alder Lake CPUs (and AMD’s upcoming Zen 4 chips) support DDR5 RAM, Latest Z690 motherboard support for DDR4 memory as well. However, the physical slots for DDR5 RAM are different, so it is likely that motherboards from 2022 onwards will start shipping only compatible with DDR5 RAM. (Some motherboards did not support DDR4, like the high performance Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Master.)

play games ram ddr5
Image: Kingston

DDR5 is faster and more efficient than DDR4, with higher benchmarks at different resolutions. But in the real world, things are not so simple.

Upgrading to DDR5 can improve your performance, but it doesn’t come cheap. In addition to the cost of the RAM itself, you also need a new CPU, motherboard, and cooling system to go with it. Other factors to consider are the shortage of DDR5 chips and game compatibility problem with Alder Lake CPUs.

Early adopters with cash to burn probably won’t mind paying for the latest technology. Casual buyers should probably continue using their old system until the new hardware becomes cheaper and more common. Is DDR4 or DDR5 RAM better for gaming?


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