How do DDR3, DDR4 and DDR5 RAM differ from each other and which one should you get for your PC build? You can find the answer here.
RAM doesn’t always mean the same thing from the get-go. In the end, DDR4, DDR3, and DDR5 are RAM protocols.
Every few years, a new generation of RAM becomes the accepted standard, so it’s vital to pay attention to its specifications.
In the sections below, we’ll explain the differences between these RAM protocols.
The Evolution Of RAM
The DDR stands for Double Data Rate. The full name of a RAM stick is Double Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic Random-Access Memory. We abbreviate that to DDR SDRAM.
DDR (or DDR1) was the first generation of upgraded RAM. RAM used to be Single Data Rate or SDR. Over time, DDR2, DDR3 and DDR4 were developed. Each generation works faster and more efficiently than the one before it. As the next generation of RAM, DDR5 is in the works.
Currently, most computers are built with DDR4 RAM, which is not backward-compatible. Therefore, if you have an older motherboard that uses DDR3 RAM, you cannot install DDR4 RAM on it without replacing the entire motherboard. Also, most modern motherboards are unable to support DDR3 or DDR2 RAM.
We will only be considering DDR3, DDR4 and DDR5 RAM in this article, since the other RAM protocols are functionally obsolete for gaming. There are still some computers that are functional with DDR3 RAM, even though DDR4 is the most common.
DDR5 RAM technology is available today, but only a few companies have developed it. Moreover, Intel and AMD will take a while longer to release motherboards that support the DDR5 protocol.
The Differences Between DDR3, DDR4 And DDR5
You can see from the table above that DDR has seen significant performance improvements over the last generation. Several stats, such as bandwidth, double from one generation to the next, but others, such as voltage, suffer diminishing returns over time.
Each of the parameters we listed in the table above serves a different purpose. Below, we’ll explore each of them in more detail.
Several parameters are used to calculate the bandwidth of your computer. Simply put, the faster the speed of your RAM for Ryzen 7 3700x (in MHz), the more functional it will be. Keep in mind, however, that DDR4 RAM will almost always be faster than RAM from previous generations.
You should also consider the size of your RAM. Faster RAM is almost never better than more RAM. When you have 32GB of RAM at 2400 MHz, it will usually work better than 16GB of RAM at 3600 MHz.
In the early days of DDR4 RAM capabilities, they were too expensive for most everyday users to justify purchasing over DDR3 RAM. Most likely, this will also be the case when DDR5 begins to reach everyday consumers.
The higher the voltage on RAM, the better it will perform (within a generation, of course). RAM with a higher voltage will also produce more heat. In spite of this, it’s crucial that the voltage of your RAM matches that of your motherboard.
As a general rule, the higher the voltage on RAM, the better it will perform (within a generation, of course). Higher-voltage RAM will also produce more heat. However, it’s essential that the voltage of your RAM matches that of your motherboard.
Depending on your motherboard, you may be able to choose from a broader range of RAM, but when in doubt, stay with RAM that adheres to the motherboard’s specifications. To give you more options, some RAM protocols also come in low voltage or ultra-low voltage versions.
As a computer science term, prefetching may be familiar to you. The term “prefetch” in relation to RAM, however, refers to the Prefetch Architecture. With a prefetch buffer size of 2n, RAM can access memory two times faster than SDRAM, which has a prefetch buffer size of 1n (or one unit of data).
SDRAM reads one unit of data at a time when it reads data. However, DDR1 RAM, which has a prefetch buffer of 2n, only reads two units at a time. The RAM is reading two adjacent units of data because it assumes that the CPU will need them. In practice, this is usually the case.
The higher the prefetch buffer of your RAM, the more data it will read in a single pass. Even if it ends up mostly being data that your computer does not need, reading more data in one pass is much more efficient than taking two passes to read it.
The size is one parameter we did not include in our table above. It’s true, DDR3, DDR4 and DDR5 RAM are all shaped differently. The reason for this is to ensure that users don’t install the wrong size memory for a specific motherboard.
Therefore, if you have already purchased a motherboard, you need to make sure the RAM you want to buy is compatible with it.
We did not include latency in our table above. The bandwidth of a RAM chip is determined by its latency.
However, we did not list this since the latency between DDR3 and DDR4 chips will be mostly unnoticeable to regular users. DDR4 chips tend to have a slightly higher latency than comparable DDR3 chips, but other improvements in performance tend to outweigh this.
There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing between DDR3, DDR4 and DDR5 RAM.
DDR5 RAM may take a while to become economically and stable, but it will offer substantial performance advantages over DDR3 and DDR4.
If you have an older computer, you may be limited to DDR3 RAM. The truth is, except for people looking for low-latency RAM, there is no reason to consider DDR3 RAM at all. DDR4 RAM will be your best option going forward (probably for several years).