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DDR3 vs. DDR4 vs. DDR5: Unveiling the Differences

Updated on Dec 4, 2023 by
41.2k

FS Rack Servers

Server RAM, also known as Random Access Memory, is an essential element in network servers, serving as their short-term memory repository. In simple terms, RAM is the space where your network server monitors and manages the data and programs currently in operation. When your server powers off, the RAM modules clear this memory.

Navigating the market for server RAM can be bewildering due to the availability of various types, such as DDR3, DDR4, and DDR5. Understanding the distinctions between DDR3, DDR4, and DDR5 is crucial in selecting the appropriate server RAM. What sets each type apart? Read further for a detailed explanation of the different kinds of RAM.

 

What is DDR?

DDR stands for Double Data Rate, operates by transferring data to the processor on both the downbeat and upbeat of the clock signal, achieving two transfers per cycle. Subsequent iterations of RAM involve updated versions built on the foundation of the older type, all grounded in DDR technology. This is reflected in the labeling of RAM modules, such as DDR, DDR2, DDR3, and so forth.

server ram

As DDR technology has matured, it has adapted to incorporate advancements in various components, resulting in an overall enhancement of computer performance. In the following sections, we will delve into a detailed exploration and comparison of each generation of DDRAM.

DDR3

DDR3 SDRAM, introduced in 2007, stands as the higher-speed successor to both DDR and DDR2, preceding DDR4 SDRAM. Its significant advantage over DDR2 lies in its capacity to transfer data at twice the rate, equivalent to eight times the speed of its internal memory arrays, leading to increased bandwidth and peak data rates.

This generation, compatible with a diverse range of CPU generations such as Intel's LGA1366 socket to LGA1151, and AMD's AM3/AM3+ and FM1/2/2+, maintains the same number of pins as DDR2. However, it operates at a lower voltage of 1.5V, with a frequency ranging from 400 to 1067 MHz.

Moreover, DDR3 supports DIMMs with a capacity of up to 16GB. A DIMM (Dual In-line Memory Module) commonly refers to a memory stick or RAM stick comprising several memory components attached to a circuit board.

DDR4

DDR4 made its debut in 2014, and although it took some time to gain widespread popularity, it eventually surpassed DDR3 in 2017 to become the leading RAM type. The trajectory of DDR4's adoption has been consistently upward, reaching a point in 2020 where it represented approximately 80 percent of global RAM sales.

DDR market share

In comparison to its predecessor, DDR3, DDR4 boasts higher module density, lower voltage requirements, and increased data rate transfer speeds. Operating at a voltage of 1.2V, DDR4 functions within a frequency range of 800 to 1600 MHz. Notably, the DDR4 standard permits DIMMs with capacities of up to 64GB, a substantial improvement over DDR3's maximum capacity of 16GB per DIMM.

DDR5

DDR5, initially expected in 2019, was officially released in mid-2020, marked by SK Hynix's launch of the world's first DDR5 DRAM chip on October 6th, 2020.

Arguably designed for lower power consumption, enhanced performance, and heightened data integrity over the next decade of computing, DDR5 introduces a new feature called Decision Feedback Equalization (DFE). DFE facilitates I/O speed scalability, contributing to increased bandwidth and overall performance.

DDR5 outperforms DDR4 in terms of bandwidth, supporting up to 4.8 gigabits per second. It achieves this while reducing memory voltage to 1.1V, resulting in decreased power consumption. Additionally, DDR5 modules integrate on-board voltage regulators to achieve higher speeds.

The prevailing expectation is that, over time, most use cases currently relying on DDR4 will transition to DDR5, considering its advancements in power efficiency and performance.

 

DDR3 vs. DDR4 vs. DDR5

As mentioned earlier, each succeeding generation of DDR SDRAM introduces more advanced features and improved performance compared to its predecessor.

While they may appear nearly identical at first glance, there are subtle differences among them. For instance, DDR4 modules are slightly thicker than their DDR3 counterparts. Moreover, there has been a trend for the key notch to shift closer to the middle during the iterative transition from DDR3 to DDR4. In the DDR5 era, it is positioned closer to the middle, albeit still slightly off-center.

In network servers, RAM typically presents itself as a stick that can be inserted into the server motherboard. Despite the similar physical size and shape of RAM generations, compatibility differs. Attempting to insert DDR4 RAM into a server motherboard designed for DDR3 is not feasible, just as DDR3 cannot fit into a DDR4 slot.

DDR3 vs. DDR4 vs. DDR5

The table below gives you a holistic picture of the differences in key properties of DDR3, DDR4, and DDR5.

Features DDR3 DDR4 DDR5
Release Date 2007 2014 2020
Clock Rate 400–1066 MHz 800–1600 MHz 2400–3600 MHz
Voltage 1.5 V 1.2 V 1.1 V
Transfer Rate 800–2133 MT/s 1600–3200 MT/s 4800–7200 MT/s
Bandwidth 6400–17066 MB/s 12800–25600 MB/s 38400–57600 MB/s
Max Die Density 4 Gbit 16 Gbit 64 Gbit
Max UDIMM Size 8 GB 32 GB 128 GB
Max Data Rate 1.6 Gbps 3.2Gbps 6.4Gbps
Channels 1 1 2
Banks Per Group 8 4 4
Bank Groups 1 44653 44777
Burst Length BL8 BL8 BL16
DIMM Pins 240 (R, LR, U); 204 (SODIMM) 288 (R, LR, U); 260 (SODIMM) 288 (R, LR, U); 260 (SODIMM)
DIMM Types RDIMM, LRDIMM, UDIMM, SODIMM

DDR3 vs. DDR4

The following shows major advantages of DDR4 over DDR3.

Faster speeds

DDR4 boasts faster transfer rates in comparison to DDR3, commencing at 1600 MT/s. This starting speed is twice that of DDR3, and planned bandwidth increases could propel it well beyond 25600 MB/s.

Reduced power consumption

DDR4 exhibits greater efficiency by consuming up to 40% less power and requiring only 1.2V per RAM module. This efficiency is particularly advantageous for network servers, contributing to extended battery life.

Increased capacity

DDR4 supports higher-density chips and stacking technologies, enabling single RAM modules with capacities as high as 512GB.

Improved reliability

As of DDR5's introduction, DDR4 had maintained its position as the most reliable DDR SDRAM. It incorporates improved cyclic redundancy checks, on-chip parity detection for "command and address" transfers, and enhanced signal integrity.

Advantages of DDR5 over DDR3 & DDR4

DDR5, as the 5th generation of DDR SDRAM, introduces groundbreaking features, bringing about significant advancements.

Greater starting speed performance

DDDR5 makes its debut at 4800 MT/s, surpassing DDR4's maximum of 3200 MT/s, marking a remarkable 50% increase in transfer rate. As more advanced compute platforms emerge, DDR5 is poised for planned performance boosts, scaling up to an impressive 7200 MT/s.

Reduced power for increased efficiency

Is DDR5 better than DDR4? Operating at 1.1V, DDR5 consumes 20% less power compared to equivalent components of DDR4 running at 1.2V. This reduction not only preserves battery life in laptops but also delivers substantial benefits for enterprise servers that operate continuously.

On-die ECC improves reliability

One of the notable features of DDR5 is On-die ECC (Error Correction Code), strategically designed to rectify bit errors within the SDRAM chip. As SDRAM chips become more densely packed through shrinking wafer lithography, the risk of data leakage rises. DDR5 addresses this challenge by employing on-die ECC, correcting errors at the chip level. This not only enhances reliability but also significantly reduces defect rates.

Innovative power architecture

DDR5 introduces a groundbreaking power architecture, ushering in a major advantage. The management of power for DDR5 DIMMs shifts from the motherboard to the DIMM itself. DDR5 DIMMs are equipped with a power management IC (PMIC) directly on the DIMM. This innovation allows for superior granularity in system power loading. By providing better control of the power supply at the DIMM level, the PMIC on DDR5 DIMMs contributes to improved signal integrity and a reduction in signal noise.

 

Is DDR5 Worth it Right Now?

As DDR5 emerges as the future standard, the transition isn't instantaneous, especially for consumer-level chipsets, CPUs, and other components. Before making the leap to DDR5, let's delve into crucial considerations to guide your decision-making process.

Cost considerations

DDR5, being bigger, faster, and inevitably more advanced than DDR4, comes at a higher price. Evaluating your budget is crucial before deciding to upgrade, ensuring that the benefits align with your financial considerations.

Availability challenges

Intel integrated DDR5 support into their 12th-generation Core processors in November 2021. However, AMD is yet to release processors supporting DDR5, expected in their upcoming Zen 4 architecture. Limited stock availability for DDR5 adds an additional layer of consideration, impacting its accessibility.

Motherboard upgrade

A significant hurdle in transitioning to DDR5 is its lack of backward compatibility with DDR4. Additionally, server motherboards typically support only one of the two. This limitation necessitates a decision on whether to upgrade the entire motherboard for DDR5 compatibility.

In conclusion

Despite the numerous advantages DDR5 brings, including increased speed and performance, it is advisable not to rush into adopting DDR5. Consider the associated costs, availability challenges, and the need for a motherboard upgrade before making the move. This measured approach ensures a well-informed decision aligned with your specific requirements and constraints.

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