Although five years have passed since its release, it seems like only yesterday when everybody was preparing for the big migration to DDR4 RAM. If you were PC part-shopping during the early days of 2014 to late 2015, you may fondly recall the general confusion over RAM compatibility across motherboards and processors at the time—and that’s without throwing DDR3L into the mix yet.
Since then, the dust has settled and DDR4 quickly replaced its predecessor as the de facto standard for system memory across all modern PC builds. Older computers and laptops are still chugging along quite nicely with their DDR3 modules, but neither Intel nor AMD are looking back; as of Intel’s 7th generation Core and AMD’s Ryzen CPUs, support for DDR3 has been dropped on the silicon level in favor of the faster and more power-efficient DDR4.
Prepare for the dust to be kicked up again, though, as over the past few months tech enthusiasts have been hearing rumblings about the next big thing in system memory. Yes, DDR5 is on the way, with promises to further advance the power efficiency, bandwidth, and maximum capacity of system memory over DDR4—with theoretical improvement deltas of up to 100% in some categories, according to the DDR5 specification standards defined back in 2017 by JEDEC, an independent semiconductor engineering trade organization and standardization body..
While we won’t be seeing any actual DDR5 memory kits in the wild until later this year at the earliest (which will probably be targeted initially towards servers; more realistically, consumer-oriented DDR5 RAM won’t be available until 2020), there are at least three manufacturers that have already revealed working modules that follow the spec. Rambus, Samsung, and SK Hynix have all thrown their chips into the RAM game, and expect to offer modules with base frequencies double that of DDR4’s (but which already match the current fastest DDR4 kit in the world, G.Skill’s Trident Z RGB 4800MHz, which utilize Samsung B-die chips).
We can speculate all we want about what exactly this might mean in terms of real-world gaming and workstation performance, but if the transition from DDR3 to DDR4 taught us anything, that’s to reign in our expectations. While it’s inevitable DDR5 will eventually become the standard, if you’re hoping to build a PC soon there’s no need to hold out for it—especially considering how DDR4 RAM pricing has only just begun to stabilize after a more than year-long spike.
How do you think DDR5 RAM might change the landscape of PC building and performance? Will you be an early adopter, or wait to see how the market reacts? Let’s discuss together.