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DDR5 vs DDR4 Memory, Differences & Should You Wait?

DDR5 RAM is coming, and if you have been thinking about building a new PC anytime soon, then you’re going to have to make a decision! Should you wait and hold out for DDR5 or go with DDR4, you will have to decide because they are not backward compatible.

In this article, I will try and give you all the information you will possibly need about making a decision, including the differences between DDR5 vs. DDR4 and when you can expect DDR5 to come out.

Let’s get into all the significant differences between DDR5 and DDR4.

You can also check out our reviews for Corsair’s top of the line RAMs, the Dominator and Vengeance.

Memory Bandwidth

DDR5 vs DDR4 Maximum Bandwidth

Memory Bandwidth is basically how fast data can be retrieved from or put onto the memory stick. With the maximum standard specifications, DDR4 has a maximum bandwidth of up to 3.2 gigabits per second per pin.

But DDR5, with the maximum specifications, has up to 6.4 gigabits per second per pin. However, at first, it will probably be around 4.8 gigabits per second. It is still a 50% increase, but eventually, as RAM improves, it will get up to 6.4 gigabits per second, double the DDR4.

DDR4 and DDR5 both have the same number of data pins, so that’s not going to make a difference here. However, the frequency of the memory is going to make a major difference. That’s the reason for the difference in memory bandwidth between the two.

The standard DDR4 has a frequency range of between 1600 megahertz and 3200 megahertz, whereas the DDR5 is double that. The frequency ranges from 3200 megahertz to 6400 megahertz, but the eventual maximum number will probably be even higher than that.

Because with DDR4, the maximum spec is just up to 3200 megahertz, but if you visit Newegg or Amazon, you may see RAMs up to 5000 megahertz. That’s probably down to overclocking. So, technically 3.2 gigahertz is the max standard spec for DDR4, but of course, it is higher.

So we’ll probably see much higher than the 6.4 per pin on DDR5. I’ve seen people saying about up to 8400 megahertz for DDR5. But the main takeaway from all this is DDR5 will be capable of higher frequencies and, therefore, higher memory bandwidth overall.

Power Management Structure

DDR5 vs DDR4 Power Management

With DDR4, all the power management of the RAM slot is done on the motherboard itself. Whereas on DDR5, it’s going to have an actual chip called a PMIC (power management integrated circuit) on the chip itself. Each chip will be able to manage its power. 

So, theoretically, this should mean that the RAM is going to be more power-efficient. For example, if an individual RAM dim module requires more power at a certain moment, it will get that power without increasing the power to all the RAM at once.

At least that is my understanding of it, and also, I’m not 100% sure how this will affect overclocking. You can do that right now through your bios on your motherboard. I’m not sure if you will be able to do that or not. We’ll see.

Also Read: Corsair Vengeance VS Dominator VS LPX VS Value Select

Channel Architecture

DDR5 vs DDR4 Channel Architecture

Now you may know that you can get dual-channel RAM, quad or channel RAM with different slots in the motherboard. This means that the CPU can go out and access different pieces of data within each channel.

If there’s just one channel, the CPU can only get one piece of data at a time. It’s kind of like having multiple cores in a CPU, where you can do multiple stuff at once as opposed to just one at a time.

Each DDR4 module has just one channel per stick, and it’s made up of 72 bits (64 data bits and 8 bits for error-correcting). However, with DDR5, each RAM module or stick has two channels, and each of those channels is a 40-bit bus meaning it’s going to have 32 bits of data pins and eight for error-correcting pins.

So, both DDR4 and DDR5 have the same amount of data pins. However, with DDR5, you’re going to have two channels instead of just one. As I said, DDR4 already does support multiple channels, but with DDR5, you can have two channels on each stick.

This means if there are two different pieces of data, one in each channel that the CPU wants to access in different parts, it can do both of those without having to wait for one or the other. So each RAM stick should be a lot more efficient.

I assume that we will get a lot more potential channels in DDR5.

Burst Length

This is a little bit technical, but I will try and explain it as best and simple as I can because it is pretty important. DDR4 has a burst length of 8, whereas DDR5 has a burst length of 16. But what does that mean? 

This did take a little bit of research on my part, and I’m not a super expert on this. I could be a little bit off in some parts, but this is my understanding, and hopefully, it will be helpful. 

The data on RAM is stored in arrays which are just groups of rows and columns, with each combination of the two having a bit. When a certain piece of data in the form of a bit needs to be retrieved from the RAM, it will first activate a row that prepares it to be read.

After a specific row is activated or opened, then one bit from each row can be read from all the arrays simultaneously and then all of that data gets put into the output buffer to be sent to the CPU. However, this process of opening and activating a row is relatively slow.

So, if you’ve ever looked at RAM timings, the Trcd is actually how long it takes to open a row. You’ve seen that number before, and if there’s a different row already open, it’s going to take even longer because that row must be closed first, and that amount of time is the Trp.

So, instead of doing this every single time, you have to read one single bit. The row is already activated for a short amount of time, so the RAM will go ahead and read multiple columns within that row back to back.

So, if there is more data in that row that needs to be read, it will be way faster and way more efficient. The maximum number of bits the RAM can read from a row while it’s open before needing to reopen is called the burst length because it takes a burst of data at once instead of just getting each bit one at a time.

So, while DDR5 is going to have very similar timings and latency numbers as DDR4 because it’s going to have a longer burst length in this case, it means that in more situations, it’ll be able to read more data without having to have those delays happen as frequently meaning that overall it’s just going to be able to access faster speed.

Maximum Capacity

Maximum Capacity

The final major difference between DDR4 and DDR5 is the maximum capacity. This is a pretty fun one because DDR5 has up to four times the maximum density of data as DDR4 specifically.

The DDR4 has up to 16 gigabits of data per die, an individual tiny memory chip on the memory stick. However, the RAM manufacturers can put multiple of these dies on each side of the RAM stick.

This is called stacking, and typically, manufacturers can put about eight of these on each side, which is called a dual-rank. When you multiply all these together, you get a total of 256 gigabits which is 32 gigabytes as the maximum amount of RAM you’re going to be able to fit on one stick of RAM for DDR4.

With DDR5, you can have up to 64 gigabits of data perdie. Multiply the capacity of all the chips on both sides, and you get 128 gigabytes maximum per stick. However, keep in mind that it will take time for the manufacturing process to build up to that maximum density.

In the beginning, when DDR5 first comes out, you’re probably going still to see a maximum individual stick at about 32 gigabytes, then it will grow over time.

Also Read: How Much RAM do You Actually Need

Performance in DDR4 vs. DDR5 RAM

Improved specifications are certainly desirable, but they won’t make a difference if they don’t result in better performance. Due to DDR5’s high latencies, its performance in our benchmark testing doesn’t show a significant advantage over DDR4 modules.

In certain workloads, such as scene rendering with Cinebench and Blender or video file encoding with Handbrake, the DDR5 system demonstrated modest improvements over the DDR4 system. For example, rendering an extensive test scene in Blender was one to two minutes faster on the DDR5-equipped system. Similarly, the video file encoded in Handbrake took about a minute less on the DDR5-equipped system.

Nonetheless, other workloads like gaming displayed minimal or no performance differences. Our AMD Radeon-based graphics benchmark systems yielded the same framerate performance across our reference games, whether we tested our Ryzen 9-5950X / DDR4 RAM desktop or our Intel Core i9-12900K / DDR5 RAM desktops.

Interestingly, our Nvidia-based graphics benchmark systems performed worse on the DDR5 setup. Some games ran up to 20 fps slower on the Intel Core i9-12900K / DDR5 RAM desktop compared to the Intel Core i9-11900K / DDR4 RAM desktop.

Our benchmarks and testing on prebuilt desktop and laptop PCs produced similar results. Comparing DDR5-equipped PCs to analogous DDR4-equipped ones revealed little to no performance gains for gaming.

We anticipate this comparison to remain valid over time, as gaming and productivity tasks are rarely hindered by RAM performance or latency. RAM capacity and bandwidth are far more crucial for such tasks.

Likewise, specific tasks like file compression or multitasked video and photo editing can benefit from more powerful RAM. However, upgrading the storage drive, CPU, or GPU will yield more substantial improvements.

DDR5 Gaming Performance

Modern processors and memory are capable enough for gaming, but the graphics card is usually the limiting factor. Tests conducted on DDR5 revealed that there was only an 8% performance difference in gaming between the lowest extreme of DDR4-2133 C15 and the highest extreme of DDR5-6400 C36. However, when compared to a better DDR4 option such as DDR4-3200 C15, DDR5-6400 C36 was only 2% faster.

When analyzing the top performance of DDR4 and DDR5, the results showed a 3% difference in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, 2% in Far Cry 6, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint, Watch Dogs: Legion, and Borderlands 3, and a 1% difference in Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Wolfenstein: Youngblood.

Latency Difference Between DDR4 and DDR5

DDR4’s primary advantage over DDR5 lies in its lower latency. Essentially, RAM serves as temporary storage for a computer’s CPU, allowing it to quickly access tasks it performs frequently. (This is similar to keeping multiple Google Chrome tabs open for easy access to information.) The lower the latency, the faster the CPU can access the instructions temporarily stored in the RAM to execute tasks.

Total latency is determined by both a DIMM module’s speed and its CAS (Column Address Signal) latency. Lower CAS latency ratings are preferable.

For example, a DDR4-3200 CL20 module has a CAS latency rating of 20. In contrast, most DDR5 modules have a CL40 CAS latency, which offsets DDR5’s high clock speeds. Although DDR5 is faster at completing tasks, it takes longer for the RAM to recognize the need to perform a task.

As a result, a DDR4-3200 CL20 RAM will deliver more responsive performance than a DDR5-4800 CL40 module.

DDR5 latency is gradually improving. G.Skill Trident Z5 sticks have a CAS latency of 28, and when considering its speed, it has an actual latency of 10 nanoseconds, making it competitive with DDR4 latency. Nevertheless, it will still take some time before DDR5 kits consistently surpass DDR4’s latency.

Clock speed and data rate in DDR5 vs DDR4 RAM

A computer’s performance is limited by its clock speed—the frequency at which RAM modules can access memory each second. The standard default clock speed for DDR4 is 2133MHz, while the default rate for DDR5 is 4800MHz.

To run RAM faster than these speeds, you might need to enable the XMP profile in your PC’s BIOS, if it isn’t already activated. Regardless, even the fastest DDR4 cannot achieve the same high speeds as DDR5.

Another significant improvement of DDR5 over DDR4 is its data transfer rate. For Intel’s 12th generation “Alder Lake” processors, DDR4 operates at speeds up to 3200 Megatransfers per second (MT/s), while DDR5 functions at up to 4800 MT/s.

This means that DDR5 can transfer data at a rate of up to 38.4 gigabytes per second (GB/s), whereas DDR4 reaches a maximum of 25.6 GB/s. In general, DDR5 can be 50% faster than DDR4’s highest data rate.

Compatibility with DDR4 vs. DDR5 RAM

DDR4 RAM has been on the market for a decade, resulting in a significantly lower cost compared to DDR5 kits with similar capacities.

For example, a 32GB (2 x 16GB) DDR4-3600 CL18 G.Skill Trident kit is priced at around $95, while a 32GB (2 x 16GB) DDR5-6000 CL 36 G.Skill Trident kit costs $150—making the DDR5 kit 50% more expensive, even though it belongs to the same product line.

Additionally, DDR5-compatible motherboards tend to be pricier than their DDR4-only counterparts. For instance, the Asus ROG Strix Z690 motherboard is over $100 more expensive than the Z590 model.

As time goes on, it’s likely that both DDR5 kits and DDR5-compatible components will decrease in price. However, as DDR5 gains mainstream adoption, DDR4 kits and compatible parts should also become more affordable. This implies that DDR4 will maintain its cost advantage for a considerable period.

Price Difference Between DDR4 and DDR5

DDR4 RAM has been on the market for a decade, resulting in a significantly lower cost compared to DDR5 kits with similar capacities. For example, a 32GB (2 x 16GB) DDR4-3600 CL18 G.Skill Trident kit is priced at around $95, while a 32GB (2 x 16GB) DDR5-6000 CL 36 G.Skill Trident kit costs $150—making the DDR5 kit 50% more expensive, even though it belongs to the same product line.

Additionally, DDR5-compatible motherboards tend to be pricier than their DDR4-only counterparts. For instance, the Asus ROG Strix Z690 motherboard is over $100 more expensive than the Z590 model.

As time goes on, it’s likely that both DDR5 kits and DDR5-compatible components will decrease in price. However, as DDR5 gains mainstream adoption, DDR4 kits and compatible parts should also become more affordable. This implies that DDR4 will maintain its cost advantage for a considerable period.

Also Read: Gaming on Windows 11

Is DDR5 worth the upgrade?

Now it’s the decision time, whether you should get a new PC or wait for DDR5. Well, there are a few things you need to consider. First of all, when DDR5 first comes out, the difference between DDR4 and DDR5 is not going to be as significant.

That’s because RAM manufacturers get better at producing better RAM over time. Just like DDR4 right now is way better than it used to be when it first came out. Yes, DDR5 will still be significantly better than DDR4, but the price will be much higher at first with minor differences than down the line where DDR5 becomes more affordable and improves.

The next thing you need to consider is how often you intend to upgrade to a new PC. If you’re like me, I prefer to go all out, get the best specs, and then keep it for a long time. My computer right now is about five years old, which for a computer is pretty darn old. Plus, I also changed my laptop after seven long years and bought Acer Predator Helios 300.

Over time, I upgrade a little bit of the components inside, like the GPU or RAM, when better stuff comes out. So I would probably prefer to get something that’s more future proof that I can upgrade for longer. 

If you build a DDR4 computer: Well, DDR4 is closer to getting as good as it’s going to get. At this point, not much will be able to be upgraded down the line, whereas DDR5 it’s going to improve.

The third big thing you need to consider is how badly you want or need to upgrade your computer right now. If you have been planning and want to build a computer right now, you’re probably fine doing just that.

Given the longevity of DDR3’s relevance during the prevalence of DDR4, it’s likely that it will be at least a few years before the need for DDR5 becomes crucial due to compatibility and support concerns.

While DDR5 does offer enhancements in memory bandwidth and capacity compared to DDR4, its marginal performance improvements in most non-professional tasks, coupled with higher latencies, make it less appealing.

Taking into account the price disparity, opting for a DDR5 kit for a personal computer isn’t a practical choice unless it’s intended for specific, resource-intensive tasks like large-scale file compression or photo and video editing.

If you’re looking to future-proof your computer, it’s sensible to allow the technology to mature for a few years before investing in a DDR5 kit.

In the interim, make the most of the excellent DDR4 kits currently available in the market, and don’t let the fear of missing out influence your decision.

Also Read: Desktop for Programming

Final Words

You can use all the extra time to potentially budget and save up a bunch more money and then buy a bigger and better one anyway when you are ready to get it. I am probably just going to wait for DDR5.

I did say that my computer is getting pretty old, but I recently bought a gaming laptop, which makes up for the heavy tasks. 

The difference between DDR4 and DDR5 will not be noticeable for most people, even if you’re a gamer. Most of the time, the bottleneck is going to be in the CPU and the GPU. The RAM is probably not going to be the bottleneck on your computer, so it’s not going to make a difference.

It’s probably better for you to just get a good GPU, good CPU and decent RAM. The cheaper DDR4 RAM will give you more money to put on other components.

Hopefully, with all that information, you can now make a better decision on whether you want to wait for a new computer with DDR5 or get one now with DDR4.


I love gaming and I have been playing games since the late 90s. I am very passionate about gaming and I always find the time to play different games. I started this website to take my hobby to the next level and share it with the world.