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DDR4 vs DDR5 Differences Explained (& FAQ)

ddr4 vs ddr5 gaming

Last Updated: January 30, 2023

Wondering if DDR5 is worth it for your new gaming PC? DDR4 (Double Data Rate 4) and DDR5 (Double Data Rate 5) are types of dynamic random-access memory (DRAM), with DDR5 only fairly recently becoming available on the latest Intel and AMD platforms. DDR5 memory will eventually become the standard for PCs, but for now its predecessor DDR4 still remains relevant and worthy of consideration when building or upgrading a computer for gaming or work. Let's look at the differences between them, and whether or not DDR5 is worth spending the extra money on specifically when building a PC for gaming.

See Also: Choosing the Right Motherboard

Differences Between DDR4 and DDR5

  • Speed: One of the main differences between DDR4 and DDR5 memory is the speed at which they operate. DDR4 modules can run at a speed of up to 3200 megatransfers per second (MT/s), or in other words up to 3200 MHz. Note that this is the maximum supported stock speed of DDR4, and you can go higher than this with DDR4 with overclocking. With DDR5 memory, modules can run at a speed of up to 6400 MT/s (or up to 6400 MHz), with some companies planning to release even faster modules in future. These higher speeds mean that DDR5 memory can transfer data more quickly than DDR4, resulting in faster performance. How much faster this actually is in real-world performance will depend on the specific task or application at hand.
  • Module Capacity: Another key difference between DDR4 and DDR5 is the maximum capacity of each module. DDR4 memory modules are available in capacities ranging from 4 GB to 16 GB per module, while DDR5 modules can have capacities up to 32 GB per module. This means that DDR5 can provide twice the capacity of DDR4 in a single module, which can be handy for systems needing large amounts of RAM, or for small form factor systems that cannot fit many memory modules due to size constraints.
  • Amount of Modules: Another difference in capacity is the maximum number of modules that can be installed in your system. A computer that has DDR4 can typically support up to four memory modules, for a maximum capacity of 64 GB. DDR5 systems, on the other hand, can support up to 8 memory modules, for a maximum total capacity up to a whopping 256 GB (8 x 32GB). This higher capacity can be beneficial for systems that require a lot of memory, such as servers and high-end workstations.
  • Energy Efficiency: Yet one more difference between DDR4 and DDR5 memory is the voltage required for operation. DDR4 operates at a voltage of 1.2 volts, while DDR5 operates at a voltage of 1.1 volts. This lower voltage requirement for DDR5 helps to reduce power consumption and heat generation, which can be important for devices that are used for extended periods of time or in environments where power and cooling are limited.

Overall, DDR5 gives faster speeds, lower power consumption, and higher capacities than DDR4, making it a good choice for modern high-performance PC builds that require the fastest performance possible as well as the best in energy efficiency.

However, DDR4 is still widely used and isn't going away anytime soon, so don't expect it to become completely obsolete for quite some time (and by the same token, don't think of DDR5 as a necessarily must-have product for the time being). Plus, DDR4 is cheaper, with DDR5 modules typically selling for significantly more.

Which CPUs Support DDR5?

Since DDR5 is brand new to the consumer hardware market, only the very latest processors released by Intel and AMD support DDR5 memory. DDR5 is not backwards compatible with DDR4 or earlier versions of DDR memory, as DDR5 uses a different physical interface and operates at a different voltage and speed than DDR4.

Here are the CPUs that currently support DDR5:

  • Intel 13th Gen CPUs: Intel's latest 13th generation "Raptor Lake" processors support DDR5, but you must make sure to get a DDR5 compatible motherboard to pair it with seeing as 13th gen CPUs can support either DDR4 or DDR5. 
  • Intel 12th Gen CPUs: Intel's 12th generation "Alder Lake" processors also support DDR5, and were the first to do. Again, like with 13th gen Intel CPUs, be sure to choose a DDR5 compatible motherboard if buying a 12th gen CPU, as 12th gen CPUs can support either DDR4 or DDR5.
  • AMD Ryzen 7000 Series CPUs: AMD's latest and greatest Ryzen 7000 processors like the Ryzen 5 7600X, Ryzen 7 7700X, and Ryzen 9 7900X, do support DDR5 (and DDR5 only, meaning that you must purchase a DDR5 compatible motherboard for these CPUs to work).

Previous CPU series from Intel and AMD do not support DDR5, and only support DDR4.

Related: Choosing the Best CPU for Gaming

DDR5 Compatible Motherboards (List)

AMD motherboard chipsets that support DDR5 memory:

  • X670
  • B650

Intel motherboard chipsets that can support DDR5 memory: *

  • Z790
  • B760
  • Z690
  • B660
  • H610

* Intel motherboards can come in either DDR5 or DDR4 versions.

Is DDR5 Worth it for Gaming?

Now we get to the question that most of you building a new gaming PC are probably wondering. Should you buy DDR5, even if it's a little more expensive? Speaking of prices, the cost of DDR5 memory is slowly coming down over time and at the time of writing isn't typically all that much more expensive than DDR4 (though some higher-end DDR5 memory modules can definitely be a whole lot more costly than DDR4 equivalent models). That said, the overall cost of buying into DDR5 is still definitely higher than DDR4, as DDR5 compatible motherboards are more expensive than their DDR4 counterparts as well.

In terms of gaming performance differences between DDR4 and DDR5, if you look at memory testing benchmarks such as this one from ever reliable Techspot you won't see a noticeable difference in most games (though in some circumstances the FPS boost DDR5 provides is a bit more significant). We're talking a few percent faster performance with DDR5 vs DDR4, which doesn't translate to anything noticeable for most gamers (in other words, a typical gamer won't visually see a difference).

However, DDR5 is the future, so if you want the most longevity in your new system build in terms of being able to upgrade to future CPUs that will likely only support DDR5, I would spend the extra on DDR5 now to be a little more "future proofed" if you will. But if you're on a budget and wanting to squeeze out the most performance for your dollar today, DDR4 can save you money and you will hardly notice the difference when it comes to gaming performance.

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Indie game dev currently working on my first public release after years of hobby projects, a story-driven VR FPS built with Unreal Engine (to be announced soon here for anyone into VR FPS's). Also likes writing about tech, which also helps fund development of the game.

My favs of all time are OOT, Perfect Dark, MGS1, MGS2, GE007, DKC2, THPS3, HL1, and HL2, with the most recent addition to my list of immortals being the VR masterpiece Alyx. If you want help with a new build feel free to ask on the main PC builds guide. If you found the site extra helpful and wish to support the work I do here, sharing an article with a friend helps a lot and is much appreciated. - Julz