DDR5 vs DDR4: see the differences in RAM memory and know when to change

DDR5-type RAMs are already available on the market and are supported by the latest Intel and AMD architectures. With more speed and efficiency, DDR5 promises superior raw performance and begs the question: is it time to upgrade yet? What are the prices and how much performance the memory swap can yield to the system?

In the following, we answer these and other questions so that you are aware of the advantages and costs involved in the RAM upgrade process, indicating what you need to have on hand to install the new memories.

DDR4 and DDR5: what are the differences

Samsung LPDDR5

DDR5 is a more current and, therefore, naturally faster RAM standard. In addition to the performance gain, the technology also boasts greater energy efficiency and even a higher level of reliability. This is due to the provision of error correction factors in products available to the home consumer that until now were restricted to memories used in servers.

The performance gains enabled by DDR5 start with bandwidth – which you can understand as the total volume of data that the component exchanges with the processor every second – which is double what DDR4 allows. On average, 3,200 MHz DDR4 RAM modules can achieve a bandwidth of 25.6 GB/s (gigabytes per second) compared to 38.4 GB/s of DDR5 at 4,800 MHz.

In internal RAM speed, the first DDR5 products on the market are in the 4,800 and 5,200 MHz range, but the technical specifications of the standard point to a future with memory in the 8,400 MHz range. This internal RAM speed has a big impact on the overall system performance and already starts at lows higher than the DDR4 ceiling at 3,200 MHz.

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Is it already time to upgrade?

DDR5

If you already have a computer with recent and good performance components it may not make much sense to invest in upgrading RAM. The reason is simple: you will also have to invest in a processor and possibly a new motherboard to adhere to the new standard. The performance gains, therefore, end up relativized by the budget you have available.

Tom’s Hardware website did a battery of tests comparing different specifications of DDR4 and DDR5 RAM in various scenarios. Looking only at gaming, the publication noted that the new memory yields modest performance gains, in the range of 1% to 3%. Depending on your level of enthusiasm for new technology – and your pocketbook – this may be too little to go shopping for.

What do you Need to Upgrade?

DDR5 Performance

Unlike many peripherals and accessories, DDR5 is not backward compatible: memory sticks of this type will not simply plug into the DDR4 slots on the motherboard you already have and work: the technology depends on chipset and also processor compatibility. The CPU needs to address data in RAM and the motherboard has to support this exchange of information.

Because of this, you need a system that is built with processors from Intel’s 12th generation Core line onwards and AMD’s Ryzen 6000 families in notebooks and Ryzen 7000 families in desktops.

An important point to note is that these processor series are part of a transition window and also support DDR4. Because of this, you may have a compatible processor, but your motherboard only provides DDR4 slots. Boards with DDR4 and DDR5 do exist, but they are not so common: in general, upgrading memory will also require buying a new motherboard.

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Availability and prices

DDR5

DDR5 RAMs are found relatively easily in the market: there are kits with 32 GB (two sticks of 16 GB) in the DIMM format used in desktops sold in the market at prices starting at $134 at the moment. 5,200 MHz memories are also available here, but you may have a harder time finding a wide variety of models; and prices naturally go up a bit: the 16 GB kit (two 8 GB sticks) we found doesn’t go for less than $62.

There are also SODIMM options – physically smaller, in the format used by laptops and portable workstations. DDR5 RAM for notebooks already has a market in some models from Dell, Acer – such as the long-lasting last-generation Nitro 5 – and options from Avell. In general, DDR5 RAM models for laptops are more expensive, with prices in the $259 range for a 32 GB kit at 4,800 MHz.

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