What is the difference between DDR4 and DDR5?

The most recent iteration of memory offers a wide range of enhancements compared to its predecessors. These modifications include increasing the memory bandwidth, decreasing the amount of time needed to access memory, and providing improved power efficiency.

If you’re short on time, here’s a speedy rundown of some of the ways in which this generation has evolved:

Want more details? Here are some of the most important points:

Pin Layout and Notch

Despite the fact that DDR5 keeps the same number of pins as DDR4 (albeit with different pinout configurations), the notch (also known as a key) has been moved to the left, which means that DDR4 and DDR5 modules are not physically compatible with one another.

Here’s a visual that showcases this change:

Difference between DDR4 and DDR5
Image Credit: Kingston

Therefore, a DDR5 stick of memory won’t install into a DDR4 slot (or vice versa), which helps ensure that customers won’t unintentionally insert the wrong type of memory into an unsuitable socket. This is because DDR5 and DDR4 are not backward compatible with each other.

On-Module PMIC (Power Management Integrated Circuit)

When using DDR4, the motherboards were responsible for managing power. This indicates that the motherboard contained not only the circuitry necessary for power delivery but also the circuitry required for voltage regulation.

However, beginning with DDR5, the Power Management Integrated Circuit, also known as PMIC, has been relocated to the actual module in order to improve power efficiency.

This PMIC is essentially the brain of an intelligent voltage regulation system for DDR5 DIMMs. It accepts 12V input directly from the motherboard and regulates the voltage accordingly.

In addition to performing the common tasks of managing voltage ramps and levels as well as monitoring current, it also includes additional features such as threshold protection, programmable power-on sequence, and error injection capabilities.

Higher Memory Bandwidth

DDR5 picks up where DDR4 began to top out (4800 MT/s), giving substantially better bandwidth thanks to a technology called Decision Feedback Equalization. This allows DDR5 to take up where DDR4 left off.

As a direct consequence of this, DDR5 modules now have a base speed of 4.8 Gbps, with the ability to scale up to 8.4 Gbps if necessary.

Independent Memory Sub-Channels

Previously, a single module of RAM gave a single channel to access it with a 72-bit data bus (64 data + 8 ECC). This was an improvement over the previous system.

However, there are a few problems with this architecture, particularly in light of the recent proliferation of multi-core processors, which are able to make use of additional channels in order to access memory banks simultaneously.

Despite the fact that the width of the data bus as a whole has not changed (64), there are now two subchannels that can be addressed independently.

This makes it possible for numerous CPU cores to interface simultaneously with even a single memory module without the interaction being slowed down in any way.

On-Die Error Correction Code (ODECC)

The probability of data loss also increases in proportion to the DRAM density that is used. To put it another way, the number of errors will increase proportionately with the size of your memory capacity.

This would be a sporadic stream of single-bit errors, such as a 0 changing to a 1 for example, which would have an impact on the dependability of the data being transferred.

On-Die Error Correction Code, also known as ODECC, is a technology that helps reduce errors of this single-bit variety by correcting them before the data even leaves the chip. It makes it possible to have more secure and reliable data by reducing the number of bit flips.

Note that ODECC is not a replacement for the industry-standard ECC memory because it can only fix mistakes that occur within a single module. On the other hand, ECC memory is able to repair faults not only within the module but also outside of it; nevertheless, in order to do comprehensive error checking, an additional 8 bits of error-correcting code are required per channel.

Lower Operating Voltage

DDR5 memory has significantly lower voltage needs than DDR4 memory, which is another huge improvement.

Memory with DDR4 requires 1.2V, however, memory with DDR5 only requires 1.1V.

According to Samsung’s estimations, a massive 30% increase in power efficiency can be attributed to a mix of increased performance and decreased power requirements.

DDR4 vs. DDR5 Benchmarks: Is it Worth the Upgrade?

Is it still worthwhile to upgrade to DDR5 in early 2022, given all the benefits that it offers?

Since Intel’s Alder Lake processors now support both DDR4 and DDR5 memory generations, you will need to select whether to use DDR5 memory on your motherboard for your Intel build or to continue using DDR4 memory.

It is critical that you make an informed decision regarding this option because you will be required to live with the consequences of your choice until your next upgrade.

To assist you in making your choice, the following table presents a comparison of DDR4 and DDR5 memory modules for a selection of common types of work:

DDR5 vs. DDR4 for Photoshop

It would appear that DDR5 does not play a particularly significant part in the performance of Photoshop.

When pitted against an opponent utilizing DDR5-4800 memory, the Core i9 12900K only makes a slight improvement to the score it achieved with DDR4.

DDR4 vs DDR5 for Photoshop
Image Credits: Puget Systems

DDR5 vs. DDR4 for After Effects

The After Effects result produced by Puget Systems is a little bit more intriguing. On a machine with DDR4 memory, the Core i9 12900K only holds a very slight advantage over the Ryzen 9 5950X.

Having a DDR5-4400 kit, on the other hand, causes the score to rise by a substantial margin.

As a point of comparison, the margin is comparable to what you would obtain if you upgraded from a Core i5 12600K to a Core i7 12700K, which is to say that it is not trivial.

DDR4 vs DDR5 for After Effects
Image Credits: Puget Systems

Going with DDR5 memory isn’t the worst decision, especially if you have a lot of work to manage in Adobe After Effects. Be aware, though, that you are forking out additional cash in order to secure the highest potential level of performance.

DDR5 is the memory type that is recommended for optimal performance.

DDR5 vs. DDR4 for Video Editing (Premiere Pro & Da Vinci Resolve)

If video editing using Premiere Pro is your major form of work, it may be worthwhile to invest in a DDR5 memory package. Let’s see if that holds up, shall we?

Even when using DDR4, the Core i9 12900K easily outperforms the Ryzen 9 5950X in Puget System’s Premiere Pro benchmark. However, adding DDR5 significantly widens the lead that the Core i9 12900K has over the Ryzen 9 5950X.

DDR4 vs DDR5 for Premier Pro
Image Credits: Puget Systems

A tale not dissimilar to this can be told about DaVinci Resolve.

The Core i9 12900K running on the DDR4 platform only just manages to eke out a victory over a Ryzen 9 5950X in this comparison.

When coupled with DDR5 memory, however, Intel takes a commanding edge over its competitors.

DDR4 vs DDR5 for Davinci Resolve
Image Credits: Puget Systems

Is DDR5 RAM Worth it?

When constructing workstations, one thing that you ABSOLUTELY MUST take into consideration is how future-proof they are.

The majority of the time, professionals don’t upgrade very frequently, but when we do, a swap-out upgrade that provides greater performance is a significant benefit.

The performance level of DDR5 as it is right now is quite comparable to what we observed in comparison to DDR3 when DDR4 was first announced in 2014 (dang, I’m getting old).

The speeds that were available at the time began with DDR4-2400, and they gradually increased to the levels that are now considered common.

If you are interested in moving to DDR5, the best time to do it would be at least one year from now, when it will no longer be subject to the “new shiny thing” tax that is associated with the introduction of any new technological advancement.

By then, we anticipate seeing improvements in both speeds and latencies, which should put it ahead of DDR4 in almost all applications.

This leads me to the second half of the counsel I have to provide.

DDR4 will work just fine for you if you are the type of person who develops something and then forgets about it until it’s time to upgrade your entire system (say, five years later).

Nevertheless, if you want to be able to switch out your memory for quicker possibilities in the future, you should get the DDR5 platform as soon as possible if money isn’t an issue.

Additionally, if you believe that you will require the greater die densities that DDR5 provides in order to extend memory capacity beyond what is possible with DDR4, then you should immediately switch to an Alder Lake motherboard that supports DDR5 memory.

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