It is not always immediately obvious what we mean when we refer to RAM. After all, DDR4, DDR3, and DDR5 are simply different RAM protocols or generations.
Keep in mind that the accepted standard for computer RAM tends to shift every few years, so it’s important to pay close attention to the RAM specification of your machine.
In the following sections, we’ll break down the key distinctions between each of these RAM protocols.
OK, let’s get down to business.
What is RAM?
To begin, let’s define this term. You have probably heard of it if you have taken any introductory computer courses. It’s been a while, so let’s review.
The term “RAM” refers to random-access memory. The RAM is the computer’s short-term memory. Temporary data isn’t saved permanently, so if you were working on a document in Microsoft Word but didn’t save it, it was lost when you turned off your computer.
Memory access memory (RAM) is a component of every computer and mobile device. It’s what you use to do things like open files, crunch numbers, look around, and more in the program. Most tasks you perform on a computer are only used temporarily, and this is where RAM really shines.
The Evolution Of RAM
Double Data Rate is the acronym for this technology. Technically, the full name for a RAM module is Double Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic Random-Access Memory. DDR SDRAM is an abbreviation for double data rate synchronous dynamic random access memory.
As everyone knows, Double Data Rate (DDR) or DDR1 was the first generation of faster RAM. Prior to the introduction of DDR RAM, the industry standard was SDR. That led to the later generations of DDR memory, DDR2, DDR3, and DDR4. Each succeeding generation improves upon its predecessors in terms of both speed and efficiency. Next-gen RAM, known as DDR5, is currently in development.
There is currently a transition to DDR4 RAM in new computers, and these modules are not compatible with older systems. Therefore, upgrading to DDR4 RAM requires a new motherboard if you have an older system that only supports DDR3 memory. To a similar extent, most modern motherboards do not support DDR3 or DDR2 memory.
Use the data in the table below to take a closer look at DDR RAM’s development over time.
|Double Data Rate (DDR)||2000||2.5/2.6V||3.2 GB/s||2n|
We will only be truly concerned with DDR3, DDR4, and DDR5 RAM in this article, as the other RAM protocols are largely obsolete for gaming purposes at this point. It’s not uncommon to come across computers that are still running on DDR3 RAM, despite the fact that DDR4 is the standard now.
While DDR5 RAM technology is currently available, only a select few companies have actually developed it. It will take some more time for Intel and AMD to launch motherboards that are compatible with the DDR5 standard.
The 5 RAM Generations
RAM, like every other aspect of computers, has evolved significantly over time. RAM’s initial generation was DDR, also known as DDR1. The acronym DDR describes the naming convention used for random access memories. Memory generations are indicated by the sequence of numbers that follow “DDR.”
The original DDR1 RAM modules featured a voltage range of 2.5V to 2.6V and a data transfer rate of 3.2GB/s when they were introduced in the year 2000. It is the very first generation, so it is naturally small and slow. DDR2 was the follow-up technology. Voltage requirements were drastically reduced by DDR2, and bandwidth was significantly improved. Both voltage and data rate were 1.8V and 8.5GB/s. Both DDR1 and DDR2 memory modules are, alas, completely incompatible with modern gaming PCs.
Since the subsequent generations are current and not on the verge of obsolescence, they are more widely adopted. The year 2007 marked the introduction of DDR3. It operates at 1.3–1.5V and 17 GB/s in bandwidth. Although it is still obtainable, DDR3 is not nearly as common as DDR4. Conversely, DDR4 was introduced in 2014 and features a voltage of 1.2V and a bandwidth of 25.6 GB/s. Simply due to its status as the most recent generation of RAM to see widespread production, DDR4 has become the industry standard.
DDR5 is here at last. DDR5 memory modules, with their 1.1 voltage and 32 GB/s of bandwidth, first appeared in computers a year ago. Of course it’s quick, and it’s also quite big (figuratively speaking). However, DDR5 is still not widely available because it is only manufactured by a small number of companies.
DDR3 vs. DDR4 vs. DDR5
As was previously stated, newer generations of DDR SDRAM offer improved functionality and speed.
On the surface, they may appear to be identical; however, there are actually some minor distinctions between the two. To give just one example, DDR4 modules are slightly chunkier than their predecessors, the DDR3 variety. As the technology has evolved from DDR3 to DDR4, the key notch has shifted to be located more in the center. However, it is closer to the center in the DDR5 era, despite still being slightly off to one side.
Key differences between DDR3, DDR4, and DDR5 are outlined in the table below.
|Rhythmic Measurement of Time||400–1066 MHz||800–1600 MHz||2400–3600 MHz|
|Voltage||1.5 V||1.2 V||1.1 V|
|Quantity of Money Moved||800–2133 MT/s||1600–3200 MT/s||4800–7200 MT/s|
|Bandwidth||6400–17066 MB/s||12800–25600 MB/s||38400–57600 MB/s|
|The Upper Limit of Die Density||4 Gbit||16 Gbit||64 Gbit|
|Size Limit for UDIMM||8 GB||32 GB||128 GB|
|Maximum Transfer Rate||1.6 Gbps||3.2Gbps||6.4Gbps|
|List of Banks by Category||8||4||4|
|Groups of Banks||1||44653||44777|
|DIMM Pins||204 (SODIMM); 240 (R, LR, U)||In metric: 288 (R, LR, U); 260 (SODIMM).||260 (SODIMM); 288 (R, LR, U)|
|Modifications to DIMMs||SODIMM, UDIMM, RDIMM, and LRDIMM||DIMM, SO-DIMM, UDIMM, LRDIMM, RDIMM||For Memory Modules: RDIMM, LRDIMM, UDIMM, SODIMM|
DDR4 vs. DDR3
The following are some of DDR4’s main benefits over DDR3.
DDR4’s base transfer rate of 1600 MT/s is significantly faster than DDR3’s base rate of 1066 MT/s. Future upgrades may increase its throughput to speeds in excess of 25600 MB/s.
decreased energy usage
DDR4 is more efficient than DDR3, requiring only 1.2V per RAM module while using up to 40% less power. It’s a huge plus for network servers because it means they can go longer between charges.
With DDR4, we can now have RAM modules with capacities of up to 512GB thanks to higher density chips and stacking technologies.
DDR4 was the most dependable DDR SDRAM before DDR5 was released. Enhanced signal integrity, improved cyclic redundancy checking, and on-chip parity detection of “command and address” transfers.
Advantages of DDR5 over DDR3 & DDR4
DDR5, the fifth generation of double data rate synchronous dynamic random access memory, adds even more ground-breaking improvements over previous generations.
Improved performance at the outset
DDR5’s initial transfer rate of 4800 MT/s is 50% faster than DDR4’s maximum of 3200 MT/s. DDR5’s performance is expected to scale up to 7200 MT/s with the release of newer, more capable compute platforms.
Less energy consumption equals greater productivity.
DDR5 uses 20% less power than DDR4 at 1.2V when operating at 1.1V. Not only will it help laptops last longer between charges, but round-the-clock business servers will also benefit greatly.
As a result of on-die ECC, dependability is enhanced.
Bit errors within the SDRAM chip can now be fixed with the help of DDR5’s new on-die Error Correction Code (ECC) feature. While decreasing wafer lithography has allowed SDRAM chip densities to rise, it has also increased the risk of data leakage. DDR5’s on-die error correction improves reliability and decreases defect rates, so it’s a safer option.
Modified power grid
Additionally, power architecture has many advantages. DDR5 memory modules offload power management from the motherboard to the module. The power management IC (PMIC) built into DDR5 DIMMs will provide finer control over the system’s power consumption. The PMIC on DDR5 DIMMs improves signal integrity and reduces signal noise by allowing more precise on-DIMM control of the power supply.
The Differences Between DDR3, DDR4 And DDR5
According to the data in the table above, the DDR protocol has improved dramatically with each new generation. In some cases, like bandwidth, improvements can be nearly linear from one generation to the next, while in others, like voltage, improvements are less dramatic due to diminishing returns.
All of the above-mentioned criteria serve distinct functions. In the following sections, we’ll examine these points in greater detail.
Many factors go into determining your computer’s bandwidth. RAM speed is measured in megahertz (MHz), and the higher the number, the better your system will perform. Keep in mind, however, that DDR4 memory is almost always going to be faster than RAM of any earlier generation.
Remember that the amount of RAM you have is also an important factor. Extra RAM is almost always preferable to faster RAM speeds. Having 32 GB of RAM running at 2400 MHz, as an example, is preferable to having 16 GB of RAM running at 3600 MHz in most situations.
DDR4 RAM’s current capabilities weren’t worth the extra cost over DDR3 RAM for most users when they first became available on the market. We can expect this to be the case once DDR5 is available to the general public.
In general, RAM performs better (within a generation) when its voltage is increased. Heat is another side effect of RAM with a higher voltage. In any case, make sure the RAM’s voltage is compatible with your motherboard’s.
You may have more options for RAM if your motherboard allows for voltage changes, but if in doubt, go with RAM that complies with your motherboard’s specifications. For those interested in conserving battery life, some RAM protocols are also available in ultra-low voltage.
Presumably, you know what prefetching is if you’re familiar with computer science. The term “prefetch” actually refers to Prefetch Architecture when talking about RAM. Compared to SDRAM, which has a prefetch buffer size of 1n (or one unit of data), RAM with a prefetch buffer size of 2n will access memory at twice the speed.
As its name implies, single-data-unit-at-a-time operation is at the heart of how SDRAM reads information. But DDR1 RAM, with its 2n-byte prefetch buffer, reads in pairs. Because it expects the CPU to need the information, the RAM reads two adjacent units of data. In most situations, this is the reality.
It stands to reason that the larger your RAM’s prefetch buffer is, the more information it will read in a single pass. It is much more efficient to read more data in one pass, even if most of it turns out to be data that your computer doesn’t need.
Since DDR4 RAM has an 8n-byte prefetch buffer, it is eight times as fast as SDRAM. When compared to SDRAM, DDR5 RAM could be sixteen times faster. There is no difference between DDR4 and DDR3 when it comes to the prefetch buffer.
It’s worth noting that size isn’t represented in the table above. DDR3, DDR4, and DDR5 RAM modules are all physically distinct from one another. Of course, this is done on purpose to prevent users from installing RAM that isn’t compatible with their motherboard.
However, if you already have a motherboard, you’ll need to check to see if the RAM you want to buy is compatible with your board.
We also didn’t include latency in the table above because it’s not a measurable quality. Bandwidth of a RAM chip can be determined by its latency.
The difference in latency between DDR3 and DDR4 chips is not significant enough for us to include it on the list, though. Despite the fact that the latency of most DDR4 chips is slightly higher than that of comparable DDR3 chips, the other performance improvements usually outweigh this fact.
Which RAM Should You Get?
Although DDR4 is the recommended option, there are times when DDR3 or waiting for DDR5 to become commercially available may seem preferable. Here are some things to think about when making your purchase.
The motherboard, to begin with. It’s possible you already know this from the preceding sections, but it bears repeating for emphasis. Because different motherboards have different dual in-line memory module slots, your motherboard is the most important consideration. RAM compatibility should be determined by consulting the motherboard’s documentation and/or manufacturer’s suggestions.
Second, your computer’s operating system has a limit on how much RAM it can support. The minimum and maximum storage capacities of various OSes vary. To give you an idea, older versions of Windows require no more than 8 GB of RAM, while the most recent versions of Windows can use up to 512 GB.
The computer’s intended purpose is another consideration. Is its intended purpose web navigation or the viewing of photos and movies? If the former is true, then an 8GB model would be more appropriate given that you wouldn’t benefit from having more space. 16GB is the sweet spot for more resource-intensive uses. You shouldn’t get a lot of RAM for doing meaningless things like surfing the web and system administration.
There is also the issue of energy consumption. Why? You’ll want either a high-voltage or a low-voltage generation set up, depending on how you plan to put that energy to use. Reduced voltage RAM is preferable if you’re looking to save power and keep things cool.
Lastly, remember that speed is not always preferable. Both storage and processing speed are optimized. Choosing new RAM isn’t always about increasing your computer’s processing speed, but rather its capacity for storing data. Also, if you only use the computer for the most fundamental tasks, you won’t even notice the difference in RAM speed. The difference becomes noticeable when playing games or performing other multimedia tasks.
When choosing between DDR3, DDR4, and DDR5 RAM, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.
Even though you may have to wait a while for DDR5 RAM to become affordable and stable, it will undoubtedly offer significant performance advantages over DDR3 and DDR4.
Older computers may only support DDR3 RAM, limiting your options. There is no reason to seek out DDR3 RAM, however, unless you require low-latency RAM. When looking at RAM, DDR4 is currently, and likely for the next few years, your best bet.