The DDR3 has dominated the RAM market for the past 12 years or so. First introduced to the market in 2007, it was an improvement on its predecessor—the DDR2. Compared to the DDR2, the DDR3 transferred data twice as fast and used approximately 30% less energy.
Despite how good the DDR3 was and still is, tech experts are convinced that it is now time for a complete shift to DDR4. Developers first introduced the DDR4 in 2014, but it was not until 2016, that it seriously began to gain traction, especially, from the gaming community.
As of 2019, DDR4 is fast becoming the standard. For instance, with the launch of sixth-generation Skylake CPUs, most Intel platforms shifted to DDR4 only. Similarly, with an AMD Ryzen processor, you will need a DDR4. With that in mind, here is an in-depth comparison of the two RAMs to help you decide if it is time to upgrade to a DDR4 system.
What is RAM?
Before diving into exactly how manufacturers’ have improved the DDR4, it is essential first, to understand what a RAM is and how it works. RAM stands for Random Access Memory. It is the short-term memory of a computer, and it comprises physical hardware slotted inside your personal computer.
During the processing of any task, your PC stores information in your RAM temporarily. Note that any data or information in the RAM can be read or written faster than information stored elsewhere, e.g., in the hard disk. Therefore, the faster the RAM, the quicker the processing speed of your PC. For gaming or any other task that requires a lot of processing power, a fast RAM is a necessity.
DDR4’s Significant Technical Advancements
The DDR4 features a 288-pin nodule instead of the 240-pin module observed in the DDR3. As a result, the DDR4 cannot fit into a slot designed for the DDR3. If you decide to upgrade to DDR4 RAM, it is important to keep this in mind because it means you must upgrade your motherboard.
Regarding length, the DDR4 still measures the same as the DDR3—approximately 133mm. To accommodate the extra pins without affecting the length, DDR4’s developers narrowed the gap between each pin by 0.15mm.
In terms of weight, there is a difference of approximately 1 millimeter between the two modules. However, this means little because modern RAMs tend to have heat sinks of different sizes.
Similar to all the other components of a PC, a RAM needs a defined amount of power to function. A DDR3 requires 1.5v to function, while a DDR4 requires 1.2v. This kind of voltage variance translates to a 15-watt energy consumption difference between the two modules.
For normal processing, the 15 watts saved by using the DDR4 do not add up to much. However, imagine a big server farm with countless RAM modules. If for each module, the farm saves 15 watts, then it totals a lot of saved energy.
Note that with a DDR3, the 1.5v requirement is for default setups. In the event of an overclocked machine, the RAM module might end up needing up to 1.975 volts. In contrast, the DDR4 uses 1.2v across the board, and one can reduce the voltage amount to 1.05v depending on the amount of RAM as well as the stick’s manufacturer guidelines.
Finally, there is a consensus among tech experts that RAMs requiring less voltage tend to be more stable, which in turn ensures the machine or PC is efficient.
To understand clocking speed, one must first understand why RAMs are available in different sizes, e.g., 2 GB, 4 GB, 8 GB and so on. The size denotes how much data each RAM stick can read per time. For example, when working with a 2 GB RAM, the RAM module can read a maximum of 2 GB of information per time.
The clock speed, which is measured in MHz, is a measure of how fast a RAM module can send the information it has read to the CPU. The faster a RAM module sends information to the CPU, the faster it can receive new information. That means RAMs with high clock speeds are more desirable than RAMs with low clock speeds.
The DDR3 has a maximum clock speed of 2133 MHz. In contrast, the DDR4 has a clock speed of between 2133 MHz and 4800 MHz. That means the DDR4 has an incredibly high transfer rate in addition to a high-efficiency rating.
DDR4 has a slightly higher latency than DDR3. Latency is the delay in the transfer of data after the transfer instruction has already been given.
The DDR4 owes the increase in latency to the increase in clock speed. However, this increase in latency is marginal. Consider the following.
The DDR3 operates on a CL11 system, which takes 13.75 nanoseconds to complete reading a task. On the other hand, the DDR4 takes 14.06 using a CL15 system to achieve the same mission. The difference is approximately 2%—not that huge. That said, there is no denying that regarding latency, the DDR3 is the better choice.
Compared to the other predecessors of DDR origin, the DDR4 has a higher memory capacity, which ranges from 4 GB to 16 GB. As a result, it paves the way for multitasking or gaming that requires vast spaces to run effectively.
In addition, having a big memory capacity is critical to high performance, and the DDR4 performs better than the DDR3. A standard DDR3 has a capacity of 512 megabits to 8 gigabits.
The refresh algorithm explains how your RAM prevents idling by refreshing its memory periodically. The DDR3 uses two types of algorithms; Automatic Refresh (AR) and Self Refresh (SR). It switches between the AR and SR depending on its state and the amount of stress applied to the system.
The DDR4 uses Automatic Refresh (AR) only. That means that it refreshes itself all the time to ensure no new information is kept on the waiting bay for processing. The DDR4 uses AR to guarantee an efficient product. The use of AR has been made possible by the ability of DDR4 to consume less power, making it easier for developers to work around.
Is DDR4 Worth the Cost?
When the DDR4 was new to the market, it was incredibly costly. As such, many decided to hold off on upgrading their systems. Fast forward to 2019, and the DDR4 price has fallen enough to guarantee a sound investment.
However, there is more to consider when determining if the DDR4 is worth the cost. For one, as noted above, the DDR4 cannot fit into a slot designed for the DDR3. Therefore, during an upgrade, you are not only purchasing a RAM stick, but also a motherboard, which is compatible with DDR4.
Second, remember that unless you own a custom PC, upgrading the motherboard can be a bit tricky, not to mention expensive. Moreover, concerning upgrading a motherboard, you need to be tech-savvy. Otherwise, you will need to cough up more money to find someone who can do the upgrade for you.
Whether DDR4 is worth the cost is a personal decision that demands you consider all the above factors.
What is the Actual Cost of the DDR4?
Back in February 2018, the cost of a 16 GB DDR4-3200 was $180 on Amazon. As of July this year, the cost was $64.
Since then, the cost has remained at that all-time low price of $64. Therefore, the time has never been better to take the plunge and upgrade your system. Keep in mind that although the price might remain low until early next year, chances are high it will rise again when the DRR5 rolls out.
The three main RAM manufacturers have already said that they will roll out DDR5 late this year or early 2020. Therefore, you only have a few months to enjoy the current DDR4 low prices.
Do you Still Need to Upgrade?
The notable features DDR4 comes with include:
- Maximum capacity of 64 GB per memory module – The known size has 16gb and 32gb
- 16 internal memory banks
- Data transfer rates of 1600 Mbps to 3200Mbps
- 2 volts of electrical power usage
- 288 pins for a regular DIMM and 260 pins in SO-DIMM
The DDR4 has two memory modules, DIMMs and SO-DIMMs. The DIM is used for desktop towers, while SO-DIMMs are for laptops and desktop computers. The DDR4 model is the first to have a curved edge. The curved edge makes it easier to insert and remove RAM sticks from the motherboard. On top of that, the DDR4 stands out because of faster speeds and increased bandwidth.
On the other hand, DDR3 memory modules have a gap that separates two sets of pins on the bottom of each module in a different location. This feature prevents the installation of RAM chip in slots that do not support DDR3.
Note that options that support both memories are available. For instance, a motherboard can have two DDR3 slots and two DDR4 slots. It might seem like a plus, but you need to remember you only have half as many slots for each, and that is less efficient. It also limits you if, in the future, you desire another upgrade.
Ultimately, whether you need an upgrade is completely up to you. The above information will go a long way in helping you make an informed decision.