If you’re looking to upgrade your computer or build a new one from the ground up, you’ve probably heard of DDR5 RAM. DDR5 is the latest development in RAM technology, promising faster performance and larger RAM capacities while reducing power consumption.
But what exactly is it that improves on DDR4? And is it worth spending to upgrade your system? Let’s compare DDR4 and DDR5 RAM and investigate the issue below.
DDR4 vs. DDR5
The main main feature that manufacturers tout for their DDR5 RAM products is its speed. The fastest DDR4 you can buy now only offers 5,000 MHz, while DDR5’s minimum speed is 4,800 MHz.
For example, some of the best DDR5 RAM already boasts speeds of 6000 MHz, but it’s still below the standard theoretical limit of 8400 MHz. And as the technology continually develops, you can expect this limit to increase, as in the case of previous generations of DDR.
But besides these speeds, what else does DDR5 offer over DDR4?
The largest DDR4 RAM you can buy is 64GB, but this is rare, expensive and specialized equipment. Most typical consumer RAM tops out at 32GB, and most gaming motherboards allow you up to 64GB.
While you can get higher RAM capacities if you go for motherboards with eight or more RAM slots, these are usually server or commercial grade motherboards and require specialized RAM sticks.
But with DDR5, the smallest RAM modules typically start at 16GB, with 32GB options readily available. This option will double most consumer motherboards with four RAM slots to 128GB of total RAM.
Eventually, we expect DDR5 RAM to reach 64 to 128 GB per device, thus increasing RAM capacities up to 512 GB for four-slot boards and 1 TB for eight-slot boards. However, not all motherboards support such high capacities, even if they do support DDR5. Before upgrading to larger RAM, you should first check your computer’s maximum RAM capacity.
Looking at the latest GPUs, you’ll find that each new generation of GPUs is getting bigger and more power-hungry. You might think that DDR5 RAM could do the same thing, becoming physically larger and consuming more power than previous generation DDR4, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
DDR5 standards require an I/O voltage of 1.1 volts, 0.1 volts less than DDR4’s 1.2 volt requirement. While this may seem like a one minute drop, the fact that DDR5 nearly doubles the performance of most DDR4 RAM while also lowering its power requirement is amazing.
DDR5 also moves voltage regulation onboard instead of keeping it on the motherboard. This will potentially simplify motherboard design while allowing manufacturers more control over component quality.
While this will increase the operating temperature of the RAM modules, cooling solutions for most high-end RAM should be enough to cool it down.
ECC stands for Error Correcting Code, which you can find in ECC RAM. This specialized functionality ensures that data stored in your RAM and sent to your CPU is not corrupted. This is primarily useful for data centers and large business operations that work with critical data (such as polling data) and require specialized processors and motherboards to support it.
But with the increasing capacities of DDR5 RAM, every DDR5 RAM now has an ECC chip built into it. This will help with stability, ensuring that data temporarily stored in RAM does not get corrupted. However, the ECC chip in DDR5 RAM only ensures the integrity of the data within the RAM; it will not verify data being transferred between RAM and CPU.
Problems upgrading to DDR5 RAM
Now that you’ve seen the benefit of DDR5 RAM, it’s tempting to go out and upgrade your PC to bigger and faster RAM. However, it’s not as simple as removing your old DDR4 RAM and replacing it with DDR5 memory.
DDR5 RAM is not physically compatible with DDR4 slots
Given the difference in voltage requirements and other crucial modules, DDR5 RAM is physically incompatible with DDR4 slots. Because of this, you can’t just swap DDR4 for DDR5 RAM. Instead, you’ll need to purchase a new motherboard that specifically supports DDR5 RAM.
You should also consider your current processor. If you have an 11th Gen Intel Core processor, AMD AM4 CPU, or any older CPU, you’ll likely stick with DDR4 RAM. If you want faster and larger RAM, you’ll need to make sure you buy a motherboard with an Intel LGA 1700 or AMD AM5 socket.
You should choose motherboards that support DDR5 when getting an LGA 1700 motherboard
Socket AM5 for AMD processors released in 2022 only supports DDR5 RAM, ensuring that if you upgrade to a Ryzen 7000 series CPU, you must have DDR5 RAM. However, this is not the case for Intel 12th and 13th generation CPUs.
Since the LGA 1700 socket used by Intel’s processor is compatible with both DDR4 and DDR5 RAM, you need to make sure that the motherboard you are buying for them is compatible with the RAM you are buying.
If you go for the more affordable DDR4, you’ll get relatively good performance at an affordable price. However, you can expect newer software and games to take advantage of the faster speed and larger capacity of DDR5 RAM.
So you’ll want to upgrade to DDR5 later. But that means you’ll have to get DDR5 RAM and a motherboard that supports it, making upgrades more expensive down the road than just buying RAM.
Should you upgrade to DDR5 today?
If you’re shopping for a new PC today and have the budget for DDR5 RAM and a compatible motherboard, then you should go for it. But if you’re already stretching your wallet for the latest CPU and GPU, you can settle for DDR4 right now (unless you’re planning on getting an AMD socket AM5 CPU, in which case, you should get DDR5 RAM).
This is because you can expect the prices of DDR5 RAM and DDR5 compatible motherboards to drop further as the technology matures.
But it’s not worth it if you plan to spend a lot of cash just to get faster and bigger RAM. If you already have a DDR5-capable CPU with DDR4 RAM, you’re already getting better performance, and the gains you’ll get from this upgrade are only marginal.
DDR5 Ram is the future, but it can wait
DDR5 RAM offers greater speed and capacity, and it just makes sense for developers and programmers to consider this when creating software. You will soon discover that games and other applications will take advantage of this, thus increasing the minimum required RAM in the future.
If you’re upgrading your computer today, including DDR5 in your plan makes sense. But if you want bigger RAM but don’t need it right now, why not delay your upgrade plans? You can expect the prices of DDR5 RAM and compatible motherboards to drop, especially as manufacturers start to mass-produce these latest kits.