Now that the memory shortages are over, you can finally buy a DDR5 memory for your PC. Some of the perks of next-gen memory include extremely high clock speeds and increased memory bandwidths.
However, as it is fairly new, not all motherboards are compatible with it. Even if you bought your computer just a year ago, there are chances that it would not support this new memory standard.
To ease your and countless other users’ confusion, I have written this piece to determine if your computer will support DDR5 memory.
So, let’s jump right in.
Is DDR5 RAM Backward Compatible With a DDR4 Motherboard?
No, DDR5 RAM is not backward compatible with a motherboard that supports DDR4 memory. The differences in design, operating voltages, and memory controller do not permit this. Simply put, the design of the RAM does not match the memory slot of the motherboard.
Let me now explain it in detail.
First, let’s start with keys/notches. Looking at a memory module, you will see many golden connectors at the bottom. These are segmented into different parts. Every generation of memory has a different number of these ridges.
DDR3 RAM had 180 segments, while both DDR4 and DDR5 memory ship with 280 connectors at the base. This can tempt you to think that you can use both types of memory on the same motherboard, but their physical design prevents this from happening.
DDR5 memory has a different location for the notch than a DD4 motherboard. That means it won’t physically fit in a DD4 board.
Secondly, every memory needs a controller to communicate with the PC. For every generation of RAM, the controller is different. Let’s say you connected a DDR5 memory somehow on your old DDR4 motherboard. But the memory would outright not work, as the controller would not identify the memory correctly.
Finally, the difference in voltage rating would simply damage a DDR5 memory if inserted on a DDR4 motherboard. Every generation of RAM needs a specific voltage that is supplied by the motherboard. For your understanding, I have included the typical voltage requirements for the past three generations of memory.
|Voltage Rating||1.5 V||1.2 V||1.1 V|
Every electronic component is very sensitive to voltage changes. A slight increase can damage the resistor and the memory chips.
So, a DDR4 motherboard normally supplies a higher voltage to run a compatible memory. But, if you insert DDR5 RAM, you can instantly damage the expensive memory unit.
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DDR5 vs. DD4 RAM
Now that we have established why a shiny new memory will not work on a DDR4 motherboard, let’s look at some key differences between the memory types. This will also help you to decide if you need to switch to a DDR5 motherboard.
Here are the differences between DDR5 and DDR4 RAM:
The minimum frequency for DDR4 memory modules was 2133 Hz or MT/s. This was the base speed at which it started shipping. This increased to 3200 MT/s for the mainstream versions after a few years. Today you can find an overclocked DDR4 module with speeds that reaches 4200 MT/s.
DDR5 picks up the speed where DDR4 stopped. As usual, it has a starting speed of 4100 MT/s. And if you are an enthusiast for higher speeds in memory, you can buy a DDR5 RAM with speeds going up to 6400 MT/s.
As you can see, you are getting almost twice the speed of memory with the increase in speed. And remember that with an increase in memory speed, you will get faster performance in games and productivity tasks.
Also, check out our separate post on will Motherboard turn on without RAM.
It refers to the delay between intermediate memory requests and transfers made by the CPU. When comparing between two modules, a lower latency will mean higher performance.
With the advent of DDR5 memory, these typically have higher latencies than DDR4 motherboards. For comparison, a DDR5 6000 MT/s RAM has a latency of 40ns. A similar DDR4 RAM with a speed of 3200 MT/s has a latency of 16 ns.
Now, just looking at the numbers, you might say the DDR5 RAM is far slower. Since its speed is much higher and it is capable of more data transfers at a time, it ends up being faster than DDR4 RAM.
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More numbers again. A typical DDR5 RAM can transfer data at a base speed of 38 GB/s compared to 17 GB/s for DDR4 memory.
Imagine this; the memory now has twice the data transfer speed. For CGI work and image rendering, this is a blessing. The systems need enormous amounts of RAM. If every stick can transfer twice the amount of data, the application’s performance increases by many times.
These three metrics show how much speed bump you can expect by switching to the DDR5 platform. As a newer technology, expect to pay twice or more for the same amount of memory.
With time, DDR5 will perform better as more developers optimize their softwares to use the fast memory speed.
Check out our experts tested and reviewed the best 3200 MHz DDR4 RAMs, best 2666 MHz RAM, best 3600 MHz RAMs, best 3000 MHz DDR4 RAMs for a better gaming experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is DDR5 backward compatible with DDR3?
DDR5 is not backward compatible. That means you cannot use one in your older motherboards that support DDR4 or DDR3 RAM.
Can I use DDR5 instead of DDR4?
You can only use a type of memory that is supported on your motherboard. On a DDR4 motherboard, you cannot connect any other RAM modules because it does not support DDR5 memory.
Does DDR5 RAM work on any motherboard?
No. Not every motherboard supports DDR5 RAM. Typically a motherboard will only allow you to connect a single type of memory.
Which motherboard supports DDR5 RAM?
Starting from Intel’s 12th gen and AMD’s 7000 series processors, they support DDR5 RAM natively. Apart from these, any Motherboard which supports DDR5 memory will specify it on their product website and manual.
How much faster is DDR5 than DDR4?
Theoretically, you get twice the bandwidth of DDR4 memory with DDR5 RAM. Also, it has twice the clock speed, starting at 4100 MT/s on the budget end.
By now, any confusion prevailing about DDR5 RAM should be gone. If you have the budget and are willing to buy a new computer, switching to the newer memory standard should not be a bad idea.
These are exciting times to build new computers as GPU prices are going below MSRP. Add the ever-decreasing DDR5 memory pricing, and you should not pay a fortune for a new build.
So, what should your next steps be? Go to Newegg or BestBuy and start building your next gaming pc
And do not forget to share your experience with us.