A brief answer to the question regarding the selection between DDR4 vs DDR5 is:
Opting for the more budget-friendly DDR4 RAM will provide you with decent performance without breaking the bank. However, as new software and games continue to roll out, they will likely be optimized to take full advantage of the faster speed and greater capacity offered by DDR5 RAM.
Consequently, upgrading to DDR5 RAM in the future is advisable. However, doing so requires both acquiring DDR5 RAM and a compatible motherboard, making it a more expensive upgrade path than simply purchasing additional DDR4 RAM.
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You can purchase the largest DDR4 RAM of 64GB, but they are rare, expensive, and specialized equipment. Most typical consumer RAM sticks have a maximum capacity of 32GB, while gaming motherboards generally support up to 64GB.
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Motherboards with eight or more RAM slots can accommodate larger RAM capacities, but they are typically server- or commercial-grade motherboards that require specialized RAM sticks.
With DDR5, the smallest RAM modules typically start at 16GB, and 32GB options are readily available. This option doubles the RAM capacity of most consumer motherboards with four RAM slots, providing a total of 128GB of RAM.
In the future, DDR5 RAM is expected to reach capacities of 64 to 128GB per stick, which would provide RAM capacities of up to 512GB for four-slot and 1TB for eight-slot boards. However, not all motherboards can support such large capacities, even if they are DDR5-compatible.
DDR5 introduced a major change in the way its channels operate, which should not be confused with dual-channel mode.
Within the RAM modules, channels are used by the memory controller to communicate directly with the processor. While DDR4 RAM uses a single command/address bus with 64 data lines, DDR5 RAM has two command/address buses, each with 32 data lines. This enables two lines of communication with the processor simultaneously and enhances overall performance, particularly in activities such as gaming.
DDR5 standards mandate a 1.1-volt IO voltage, which is 0.1 volts lower than DDR4’s 1.2-volt requirement. Although this may appear to be a minor reduction, the fact that DDR5 is nearly doubling the performance of the majority of DDR4 RAM sticks while simultaneously reducing its power consumption is remarkable.
Furthermore, DDR5 moves voltage regulation to the RAM modules themselves instead of the motherboard. This could simplify motherboard design while giving manufacturers greater control over component quality.
While this may raise the operating temperature of the RAM modules, most high-end RAM sticks should have sufficient cooling solutions to manage it.
Gaming Performance: DDR4 vs DDR5
While DDR5 memory may appear more impressive than DDR4 memory on paper, its actual impact on performance in the real world is what truly matters. Fortunately, Intel’s Alder Lake processors permit the use of both DDR4 and DDR5, making it relatively simple to compare memory sticks against each other.
Although some games, like Far Cry 6, have demonstrated up to a 20 percent improvement in frame rates when transitioning from a high-speed 3,600 MTps kit of DDR4 memory to a significantly faster 6,000 MTps kit of DDR5 memory, other games exhibit less substantial improvements.
Most games exhibit some improvement with DDR5 memory, but it is generally only around five percent, which may be difficult to perceive regardless of your frame rate.
This is not to suggest that DDR5 memory is not worthwhile. If you want to operate a gaming PC with every setting at maximum and have already allocated funds for a high-performance processor and graphics card, purchasing a DDR5 kit would be a wise investment. However, if you have to choose between DDR5 and having a few hundred extra pounds to spend on a different component of your PC, there are probably better areas to invest your budget in.
Final Verdict: DDR4 vs DDR5
While DDR5 is fast, it only excels in certain workloads. Avoid purchasing DDR5 specifically for gaming, as the performance boost isn’t substantial enough to justify an upgrade. DDR4 currently provides better value due to DDR5 being either costly or out of stock.
However, DDR4 isn’t obsolete yet. It’s certain that future processor generations will eventually phase out DDR4 support. Upgrading to a DDR5 memory kit now allows for its reuse on future platforms. Nonetheless, DDR5 is still a relatively new technology, and superior alternatives will emerge in the future.