August 10, 2022
United Kingdom
Buyers Guides RAM

DDR4 VS DDR5 – What is the Difference?

Feature Image - DDR4 VS DDR5

Introduction

With many consumers getting into PC building for the first time, it can be a confusing experience picking out preliminary components. Deciding on which RAM you should buy can be a difficult task based on the plethora of options available, and the generational differences.

One of the key questions you might ask yourself is ‘Do I need to pick up a DDR5 kit, or should I grab a cheaper set of DDR4 sticks?’ Today we’ll be answering this question, we’ll be taking a look at the major differences between DDR4 and DDR5 memory to give you some clarity on which generation is worth picking up.

Suggested Article: Corsair Dominator DDR5 Review – The Best DDR5 Memory Kit?

Why Do You Need RAM?

RAM (or memory) is a requirement in any PC build, because it is needed for temporary storage. Your CPU is in constant need of data as fast as possible, but it would be wholly inefficient to store this data within an SSD or Hard Drive. Although M.2 SSDs are becoming extremely fast, especially with the introduction of Gen4 drives, and on the horizon Gen5 PCI-E, they’re still not faster than sticks of RAM.

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The reason this is the case is down to the topology of RAM. Flash chips within SSDs have to read and write data in a specific order within blocks. This limitation does not hinder RAM, as any data can be flushed out of RAM by discharging it. With this in mind, sticks of RAM can read and write data at monumentally fast speeds. While traditional drives are stuck around the 7GB/s mark at Gen4 PCI-E, RAM can write at 50GB/s upwards with DDR5 sticks.

These incredible speeds are why RAM is required within a PC build. Any data that needs to be accessed constantly will be written and read from RAM very quickly, thus not hindering the performance of your CPU by having slow data transfers.

What Are The Differences in Specs?

To provide some more context as to what the key differences are between DDR4 and DDR5, we’ve taken a look at some memory we use quite regularly here at GeekaWhat. Below we’ve compiled a table that shows the differences in hardware between a DDR4 kit and a DDR5 kit.

FeaturesCorsair Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4 Corsair Dominator Platinum Special Edition DDR5
Capacity32GB (2 x 16GB)32GB (2 x 16GB)
Clock Speed3200MHz5200MHz
CAS Latency16-18-18-3638-38-38-84
XMP ProfileXMP 2.0XMP 3.0
CompatibilityIntel 300 Series, Intel 400 Series, Intel 500 Series, Intel 600 Series, Intel X299, AMD 300 Series, AMD 400 Series, AMD 500 Series, AMD X570Intel 600 Series

There are a few major points to take note of here. First is the clock speed. DDR5 kits saw a massive upgrade in clock speed, with some available consumer kits being able to reach over 6000MHz. A second point to note is the CAS latency timings. As you can see from the table above, DDR5 modules are over double. The reason this is important, is because this will determine the speed at which RAM can send data. In short – the lower the latency, the better. We saw a jump of CAS latency from the DDR3 to DDR4 upgrade, but for DDR5 this is quite a significant jump.

Finally is the compatibility. Looking at the DDR4 column, we can see that these sticks are widely supported from generations as far back as Z390 chipsets, up to current Intel 12th gen CPUs, with AMD also sporting a similar amount of compatibility. Where as DDR5 by comparison is only currently supported on Intel 12th gen motherboards. We are set to get some more support on the AMD side, with Ryzen 7000 CPUs only being DDR5 compatible.

How Will This Affect Performance?

In terms of performance, it honestly depends. With capacity you’ll only see a major different if you’re jumping from a very small capacity to a much bigger size. If you’re using 4GB of RAM, an upgrade to 8GB and even 16GB will see some definitive performance boosts.

The main jump tends to be visible in work-based applications or benchmarks, where faster RAM is effectively a requirement.. For games, it will depend, but a jump from 4GB to 16GB will be a noticeable difference.

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CAS Latency is the biggest point to be aware of here. DDR4 CAS latency is brilliant, because the high clock speeds pretty much offset the amount of time that is required for RAM to send data. But for DDR5, the CAS latency is the downfall. Although the clock speeds for DDR5 memory have seen a significant increase, especially at stock speeds, the CAS latency is determining the performance. Which is why so many consumers are disappointed with DDR5 sticks. The tech is in its infancy, so we can’t be too harsh, but the performance difference between DDR4 and DDR5 kits is negligible based on the latency.

Is DDR5 Worth It?

The short answer – no. The long answer – it could be. There are two issues that set DDR5 apart from DDR4. The first is price. Ultimately, any new generation of RAM tends to be expensive.

The jump to DDR4 saw a price difference of around double, and over time they started become more palatable as the tech matured.

Dominator Platinum Box

This is likely to be similar for DDR5. Kits of DDR5 memory haven’t even been available for two years, and as we can see from the tech itself, its not there yet. For this reason we imagine the prices will drop over time, thus becoming more mainstream, and the tech improving. The second problem as you’ve probably guessed is latency. Its all well and good having higher clock speeds, but the overall latency of DDR5 sticks doesn’t set it apart that much in terms of performance against DDR4. With DDR4 only being a fraction behind DDR5 and in some instances better.

However, not too dissimilar from the issue of pricing, the latency will likely improve over time. We’ve already seen the likes of G.Skill announce sub-30 CAS latency sticks, which is a huge improvement on the above Corsair Dominator Platinum kit. As the latency improves, the bar will be set higher and higher for performance, and eventually we will start to see a significant difference in performance between DDR4 and DDR5.

To summarise, DDR5 in its current state is not entirely worth it for the price tag. DDR4 kits are what we recommend, and worth picking up as the performance metric between them is miniscule. However, if you’ve got some extra money and you want a slight boost, then DDR5 is viable. But be aware that you’ll need to pick up a rather expensive motherboard and CPU driving up the cost even more!

Our Recommended RAM Kits

Below we’ve provided two of our favourite RAM kits that provide great performance, but also hit the spot in terms of price. These kits bring great speeds to the table along with some awesome aesthetic too.

Best DDR4 Kit: Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro 16GB 3200MHz

Corsair Vengeance kits are amongst the most popular kits of RAM you can find on the market. This Vengeance RGB Pro not only supports 3200MHz speed, it also has a vibrant and bright RGB LED on the top of each DIMM. These sticks come in multiple sizes, so if 16GB doesn’t take your fancy then you can opt for a bigger or smaller kit.


Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro 16GB 3200MHz - DDR4 VS DDR5

Best DDR5 Kit: G.Skill Trident Z5 RGB 32GB 6000MHz

This kit of G.Skill memory is currently one of the fastest available in terms of latency. These DIMMs are clocked at 6000MHz and CL36 CAS latency which is much quicker than some of the earlier additions. Although DDR5 is definitely expensive this kit is proof that the tech is massively improving and will provide a performance boost with the lower latency!


G.Skill Trident Z 32GB DDR5 6000MHz - DDR4 vs DDR5

editor
Jay joined Geeka Media in April of 2022, bringing with him a wealth of technical knowledge and a background in Computer Science. Jay is an avid gamer, keyboard-builder and tech wizz with years of PC-building passion under his belt.
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