DDR5 is the latest memory standard for gaming PCs, with Intel’s 12th generation Alder Lake being the first consumer desktop processor to support this standard. AMD is expected to follow suit with its Zen 4 architecture sometime in 2022, and in the new year, we should see low-power LPDDR5 landing on laptops as well.
We first interviewed Iwona Zalewska of Kingston Technology about DDR5 at the end of October, just as the new memory standard was about to launch. Since then, the new memory standard has shown some solid performance with the first platform to support it, the Intel Alder Lake platform. Although it has become almost impossible to find it in the wild.
But we still want to know if there will be benefits for PC gamers, why it costs so much, and when we can expect DDR5 to be the dominant memory technology on our platforms.
PC Gamer: Are there benefits in DDR5 for gamers?
Iona Zaluska: DDR5 brings many improvements in performance and data integrity over DDR4. Increasing the memory speed (bandwidth) can help improve the user experience by increasing the number of frames per second while playing certain games. The performance improvement will of course vary depending on the game being played. Some games rely more on CPU performance rather than GPU, in which case faster memory can be beneficial for a better user experience.
Iwona Zalewska is the Director of DRAM Business at Kingston Technology and has worked in Kingston for over ten years.
Is latency set to optimization?
DDR5 will be launched with JEDEC standard speed, timings and a voltage of 4800MT/s CL40 (CAS Latency) 1.1V. Population rules for some systems may force memory to run around the clock if multiple DIMMs are installed per channel. Check with your motherboard or system manufacturer to confirm supported memory speeds. The next standard speed class of DDR5 will be released sometime in late 2022 at 5200MT/s CL42. Kingston’s FURY memory overclocking product line was launched with two lower latency speed classes to further improve performance. Additional speeds and lower latency will be announced in the coming months.
KF548C38BB-16 – DDR5-4800 – CL 38-38-38 @ 1.1V
KF552C40BB-16 – DDR5-5200 – CL 40-40-40 @ 1.25V
DDR5 is supposed to be less power out of the box, but will we see that?
While DDR5 memory uses less power compared to DDR4 (1.1V vs. 1.2V) at JEDEC standard speed, XMP (overclocking) profiles will still require additional power to run the memory module at a higher speed. The power savings for DDR5 memory is best seen in laptops and data centers.
Will we see higher capabilities?
For PCs, there will be 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB DIMMs with 16GB DIMMs. When SODIMM platforms launch in 2022, they will have the same 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB capacities.
Single or double-sided, is there a benefit?
Double-order (2R) memory modules have traditionally outperformed single-rank (1R) modules, due to their ability to interleave ranks. However, there may be performance limitations with motherboards that switch memory performance for 2R modules, and/or modules installed in two DIMMs per channel.
Will DDR5 attract a premium over DDR4? And when might there be a turning point?
As with every introduction to memory technology, we can expect that there will be a premium on new memory. When DDR4 was launched it was about 30-40% more expensive than DDR3. DDR5 is being launched at a time when there is a global chip shortage affecting all aspects of the semiconductor industry. The technology also requires more components per unit, which increases costs. Therefore, the difference in the price of putting DDR5 modules on the market over DDR4 will, unfortunately, be higher than the memory launches of previous generations.
When do you expect DDR5 to be the preeminent memory technology in gaming PCs?
Memory technology transitions are affected by a list of factors. First, chipset engineers’ commitment to adopting new memory technology, which requires its use when paired with their processors.
Second, supply and demand, or how quickly suppliers of DDR5 and related semiconductors can support market demand, at a reasonable price. Historically, transitions occur between 2-3 years after the introduction of new memory technology, or when 30% of the market adopts the new technology.
Price parity and availability of legacy memory will also be key factors. With fewer DRAM suppliers on the market today, the ability to maintain legacy memory technology pales in comparison to what it was ten years ago. Consumers may have to use the new memory technology when the availability of the old memory disappears, regardless of its high price.
JEDEC has once again been cautious about specs, which means gamers will have to use XMP profiles to get the most out of the latest memory cards. Is there a better solution for this?
It can be said that JEDEC, made up of all memory and memory related vendors, delivered more than expected with DDR5. There is a significant jump in bandwidth from where DDR4 left off at 3200MT/s, along with bank doubling (16 to 32) and burst length (8 to 16), splitting of addressable bits into two 32-bit subchannels, and the inclusion of power management (PMIC) ), DDR5 radically improves the performance of multi-core computing for the next 5-10 years.
Overclocking remains a priority for Intel, which revised its XMP specification to 3.0, which includes more new profiles and features. Without specs and an ecosystem of checks and balances, overclocking is like the Wild West, where there are no laws in place. For safe, reliable and proven overclocking, profiles remain the best solution for most gamers. For those who tend to live in the wild, XMP 3.0 now includes two programmable files for users to customize their settings and save them to memory modules themselves.
We are already seeing clusters rated at 6,400 million metric tons/sec. Is overclocking a big sell for DDR5 memory?
The improved performance is usually the main reason why computer users and avid gamers want to adopt the latest technology available. The introduction of DDR5 with a desktop motherboard and family of processors is certainly a statement from Intel that it is aimed at enthusiasts / gamers, where overclocking is a natural assumption. Kingston’s focus is on launching DDR5 on the FURY Beast memory line. Since the DDR5 components are new, it will take time for the silicon to mature and see how far it can be pushed.
What difference does getting early childhood care (ECC) support make?
ECC-supported modules and regular ECC-supported modules are not the same. While DDR5 DRAM components will have an ECC during operation to correct in-chip bit errors, this technology cannot correct off-chip errors or that occur on the bus between the module and the memory controller inside the CPU. ECC-enabled processors, such as Intel Xeons, feature an ECC algorithm that can correct single or multi-bit errors on the fly. However, additional DRAM bits must be available to allow this correction to occur.
For DDR4, the memory module transmits data 64 bits at a time. ECC-supported DDR4 modules feature an additional eight bits per 64-bit rank, also referred to as 72-bit or x72. DDR5 splits the memory module into two 32-bit sub-channel regions for increased efficiency. To enable ECC, each 32-bit subchannel adds an additional 8-bit DRAM component to become 40 bits, with a total of 80 bits per rating instead of 72 bits.
Consumers with PCs and laptops will eventually have better data integration with an on-die ECC system as the potential for corruption increases as lithography decreases and capacity and speed increase. For users of workstations and servers, ECC class modules will always be a requirement (ECC Registered, ECC Unbuffered, ECC Load Reduced). An increase in the number of DRAM required to enable the DDR5 ECC class module will increase the cost compared to DDR4.
What is the most hampering thing right now?
The data doubles every two years and the processor cores are increased per CPU. Effective memory bandwidth per core, however, is not scaled. DDR5 opens the gates to improve per-core bandwidth by increasing data rates, increasing banks to allow more data to be available upon arrival, and splitting the unit into two independent subchannels. This provides greater efficiency in managing data on the module to deliver performance to processor cores where and when they need it.
If a reader is buying a new PC today, how much memory should he have in his system?
The base line of RAM in a computer is 4 GB; Just don’t expect to have many apps open at the same time without affecting performance. Most new computers ship with a minimum capacity of 8GB. A mid-range configuration may require twice that, and high-end gaming and workstation systems need up to 32GB or more. When evaluating your memory requirements, keep three things in mind: the optimal memory configuration for your operating system and your usage patterns and hardware. You should also check the individual software requirements to ensure that you will be able to run the required software.