DDR5 is the New Standard for Motherboards
23 days ago
DDR5 is the New Standard for Motherboards. There’s been a lot of buzz recently about the next generation of memory chips, DDR5, that will soon be taking over from DDR4 as the de facto standard in PCs and servers.
While it’s easy to get caught up in all the excitement about what these new memory chips will offer us when they hit the market, it’s important to understand just how significant this change really is before you rush out and buy DDR5-compatible motherboards. We break down everything you need to know about DDR5 here!
The evolution of RAM
This past week, Intel, Micron and Samsung announced they were beginning mass production of DDR5 memory. Even though we’re still several years out from seeing mainstream adoption, it’s important to understand how DDR memory has evolved to reach its current state. The first standard—which was not named Double Data Rate (DDR) when it was first introduced in 1997—was defined as a 64-bit architecture with a transfer rate of 100MHz; at that time it was considered an upgrade over Rambus DRAM (RDRAM). It wasn’t until 2003 that JEDEC began referring to it as DDR. But at 300MHz, most computers didn’t take advantage of all those extra bits.
Why you should upgrade to DDR5
DDR stands for Double Data Rate and refers to a memory-interface standard. DDR5, as indicated by its name, uses twice as much data per cycle. This allows it to transfer more data with less power consumption, especially when compared to older standards like DDR4. When DDR4 first launched in 2007, it was hailed as a great leap forward—and it was at that time. Now that we’re moving towards faster CPUs with higher clock speeds and higher resolutions on our monitors with 4K (and 5K) support, we need more data bandwidth than ever before; otherwise your system could slow down considerably or risk crashing altogether.
Buying a motherboard with an X370 chipset
AMD has already unveiled its platform for Ryzen processors, and if you want to use one of these chips in your build, you’ll need a board with an X370 chipset. The big benefit here is PCIe slots: X370 boards have eight PCIe 3.0 lanes—four less than Intel's Z270 motherboards. That doesn't seem like much of a difference, but it does limit AMD users to CrossFire configurations (or SLi with two matching cards). If you plan on going SLI with Nvidia cards or using multiple high-end graphics cards from either manufacturer, look for a motherboard that supports four or more full-length slots. This will help ensure that you have enough bandwidth to avoid potential bottlenecks during gameplay.
How much do you need?
DDR4 memory has been around for about four years now, giving DDR3 plenty of time to run its course. While it’s not dead, we can already see that DDR4 will be sticking around well into 2020. To determine whether you should upgrade or not, you’ll need to decide how much RAM you need and what your budget looks like. If you find yourself needing more than 16GB of RAM (32GB max) then it might be time to start looking at a new motherboard. Otherwise, stick with what you have!
Where should I buy it from?
The manufacturing process of these new boards has just started and that means your best bet for getting an DDR5 motherboard will be to order one from their manufacturer’s website. This may mean that it takes a few months before there are any readily available, but by ordering directly from their manufacturer you can be certain that you’re purchasing an authentic, quality board—if anything goes wrong with your board in a year or two, you can always rely on their customer service department to help you out. If not, many websites have reviews of individual products and manufacturers; sites like AnandTech and Tom’s Hardware are often a good place to start.
Frequently Asked Questions
The DDR in DDR3 and DDR4 refers to how fast it can transfer data. Faster speeds mean that more information is sent over a shorter amount of time, which translates into better performance. For example, a memory module with 8GB of storage that can be accessed at 1600Mhz (or 1.6 GBps) transfers data twice as fast as one with 4GB of storage at 800Mhz (or 800 MBps). DDR3 has been around since 2007 and supports up to 1866 Mhz, though modules are rarely built to these speeds anymore; most consumer systems run on modules from 1333 Mhz to 1600 Mhz. The 5 in DDR5 refers both to its enhanced capabilities and physical construction.