Even though they were launched seven years apart, DDR3 RAM and DDR4 RAM mark different points in the history of high-efficiency computing.
Considering that DDR3 RAM modules were such a large improvement from their precedent – DDR2 RAM – you can find many DDR3 RAMs in the market. Moreover, because they are very inexpensive, many users must consider getting a DDR3 RAM module for their PC build.
Here is the actual question, though. Does it make sense to choose DDR3 over DDR4 for the sake of saving money? To rephrase the question a little differently, should you upgrade from DDR3 to DDR4 by spending extra?
In the following DDR3 vs. DDR4 guide, we have explained everything you should understand about both types of RAM modules.
We will also take a sneak peek at what future beholds for the development of RAM for PCs. However, before all that, you must understand RAM and how vital it is while building a PC focused on speed and performance. Shall we?
What Is RAM?
RAM stands for Random Access Memory, and it is where the computer stores information required at temporary priority. It means the RAM does not store any information permanently.
Instead, it erases all the stored data when you shut down or restart the computer. The phrase ‘Random Access’ on the name means the temporary memory does not organize information for subsequent retrieval. Instead, the computer can read/write information as per the concurrent demand.
As you can guess, RAM is an essential component of any computer. Any PC cannot work without the required amount of RAM. During the inception of computing, PCs had RAMs as low as 512MB.
However, nowadays, you can spot computers with up to 2TB of RAM (we are not kidding.) Depending on the performance your PC requires, you can choose between any of these numbers.
Of course, you have to make sure that your motherboard has support for such high memory. The point we are trying to make it simple. RAM has come a long way, and it makes multitasking possible in this world.
As you increase the number of tabs, you can see the RAM consumption hitting the roof. Similarly, each program you install on your computer will have different RAM requirements. Therefore, it is vital to have a recommended amount of RAM on your computer on any day.
It is why most people go with at least 8GB of RAM when buying a laptop or building a desktop. However, as you can guess, we have seen the development of different types of RAM modules in the previous years. And the two most recent ones are DDR3 and DDR4.
Since both are actively available in the market, you should know how to make the right pick. And the first step you have to follow is understanding what the DDR3 vs. DDR4 debate means in the real world.
The full name of DDR3 RAM is this: Double Data Rate 3 Synchronous Dynamic Random-Access Memory. Each word on this name indicates a character of the RAM module. We will talk about them later.
However, one of the core ideas is that DDR3 RAM modules were designed for high-bandwidth computing scenarios. These RAM modules made their entry in 2007 and have been a part of computers since then. DDR3 RAM was the successor of DDR and DDR2 RAM types, the first and second-generation variants of SDRAM.
It must also be noted that DDR3 RAM modules are not backward compatible or forward compatible. It means you can use these RAM sticks only on motherboards with specific support for DDR3 RAMs.
For example, if your board supports only DDR2 RAMs, you cannot use DDR3 RAMs in those RAM slots. Furthermore, even though they significantly improved from the precedent, DDR3 RAM modules had noticeable limitations.
For example, there was a maximum size limit of 16GB. It meant you could not find a DDR3 RAM stick with more than 16GB capacity. It could have been a problem for many people who need maximum performance from their editing or gaming device.
At the time of their launch, DDR3 RAM modules featured several features. For instance, the sticks had lower signaling standards, which in turn brought down the power consumption.
In addition, there were extra options for driver calibration; device reset, DIMM address mirroring, and improved device pinout. In the end, compared to what was the norm before 2007, DDR3 RAM modules made a breakthrough in terms of speed and multitasking capabilities.
Because DDR3 RAM modules used some specific hardware, the price of these modules was not relatively high. Moreover, manufacturers could easily upgrade from DDR2 RAM modules to DDR3 modules without any issues.
Therefore, most laptops launched after 2010 were equipped with DDR3 RAM instead of the previous version. The trend continued until 2014 when the next version of SDRAM was introduced. We will talk about that version now.
DDR4 RAM stands for Double Data Rate 4 Synchronous Dynamic Random-Access Memory. As you can guess from the name, it is the successor of the DDR3 RAM type. Introduced in 2014, DDR4 claimed to improve so many aspects of memory management across computers.
But, of course, the primary element was its support for higher speeds and overall throughput. However, higher speeds were not the only thing that made DDR4 an impressive alternative to DDR3 and DDR2 RAMs.
DDR4 RAMs are one of the most advanced RAM types you can find in the current market. Unfortunately, even though it has a successor named DDR5 SDRAM, unveiled in 2020, the latter has not become so popular.
So, if you are looking for maximum compatibility with the motherboard and the processor, you have to stick to the DDR4 RAM type. Fortunately, DDR4 RAM modules are available in all forms and sizes. For instance, it does away with the 16GB maximum capacity that we saw in DD3 RAM modules.
As you can guess, this point alone has improved the multitasking aspirations that people have.
Therefore, you can find DDR4 RAMs with a capacity of 32GB or 64GB. We must also add that DDR4 RAMs do not consume as much power as the DDR3 variants. It means you can enjoy the maximum performance without putting other system components at the risk of low power availability.
If we look at the features of the DDR4 RAM type, it will not disappoint you in any way. You can find impressive options, including the high data transfer rate of up to 3200 MT/s.
DDR4 RAM also steps up the game in terms of clock speed and latency. As you know, the speed of the RAM is as important as the capacity, especially while building a high-performance computer.
With DDR4 RAMs, it is possible to get RAM modules with a speed up to 3600MHz. When combined with specific processors from AMD and Intel, these RAM modules can change the way you look at performance. The best part? You do not have to spend a lot of money here.
Improvements of DDR4 RAM over the Previous Version
We have seen the basic features of both DDR3 and DDR4 RAMs. Next, we shall look at the areas where the DDR4 RAM type significantly improved over the previous version.
DDR4 RAM is Faster
DDR4 RAM is considerably faster than DDR3 RAM. Several improvements contribute to this change.
In particular, the higher clock speeds and lower clock latency will play an important role. These high numbers make sure that the RAM module can take data transfer to a new level. Compared to the previous versions, it can handle an incredible amount of data. The best part?
DDR4 RAM does all these without compromising on other sections, such as power consumption. For instance, compared to DDR3 RAM modules, DDR4 RAM modules do not consume a lot of power.
DDR4 Uses Lower Voltage
In addition to speed, DDR4 RAM has improved voltage consumption.
Compared to the standard voltage of 1.5V maintained by DDR3 RAM, the voltage levels of DDR4 RAM modules sit at only 1.2V. It is an excellent improvement in the grand scheme of things. Of course, these changes are not supposed to make a difference in the electricity bills.
On the flip side, however, it is one reason why manufacturers have shifted to DDR4 RAM from the previous versions. Lower power consumption means increased battery life, and everyone is up for this profit.
DDR4 Supports Higher Capacities
Nowadays, people want to take multitasking to the best level possible. It is where the higher RAM capacities supported by DDR4 RAM modules come into play.
As we said, with the DDR4 RAMs, you can quickly build PCs with 256GB or 512GB of RAM. Of course, the final decision would depend on the motherboard you have and the CPU/GPU in use.
However, it is excellent that you can make this upgrade if necessary. It was not even a far-away option when dealing with DDR3 RAM modules. In the end, browsers like Google Chrome are adding new features to their packages. So, it makes sense to accommodate as much RAM as you can.
In addition to these, there are some technical changes as well. For instance, while DDR3 RAM modules used a 240-pin interface, DDR4 RAM modules were upgraded to a 288-pin interface.
The increased number of pins is one of the reasons for the additional performance. Similarly, the maximum speed of DDR3 RAM was somewhere under 1500MHz. With DDR4 RAMs, however, you can reach a clock speed of up to 3600MHz. It is also essential to look at the different latencies these RAM types have.
In the real world, the upgrade to DDR4 RAM will provide the following advantages:
Because of their improved transfer speeds, DDR4 RAMs are more suitable for playing high-speed and resource-intensive games. You can leverage maximum performance while using 3D modeling tools.
Compared to the previous versions of RAMs, DDR4 has the lowest latency. It means you can enjoy improved RAM timings, ultimately leading to improved results.
When coupled with the right combination of CPU and GPU, DDR4 RAM modules can skyrocket the overall performance. As a result, it is excellent for most people.
The new type of RAM also offers improved DIMM capabilities while keeping the power consumption to a minimum.
All these things happen when the technology world is ready to welcome the next variation of RAM. We will talk about that version, namely DDR5, now.
Do We Expect DDR5?
Yes, the tech world is all set to embrace devices with DDR5 RAMs. As you can guess, the name of the RAM type stands for Double Data Rate 5 Synchronous Dynamic Random-Access Memory. Even though it had the official release in July 2020, we are yet to see a high number of RAM modules in the market.
Furthermore, we are still looking for motherboards and CPUs to leverage the new type’s additional improvements.
For instance, even the most recent generation of Intel processors does not have support for DDR5. The same is the case with most AMD processors.
Therefore, we will have to wait for a year to see a rise in compatibility. At the same time, some sources have confirmed that AMD would add DDR5 support to the processors scheduled for release in 2022.
At this point, the upgrade to DDR5 RAM is a kind of distant dream. You cannot benefit from the extra data transfer speed and lower power consumption unless and until we have compatible CPUs and motherboards available in the market. So, until that point, DDR5 RAM modules will stay as the imaginary high point in the tech world.
We hope you have understood the critical differences between DDR3 and DDR4 RAM modules. Although there is a new variant on the horizon, DDR4 RAM is the best you can get today.
You can ensure maximum speed, stability, and best-in-class performance when coupled with a suitable CPU or GPU. If we missed any of the questions, do let us know through your comments.
Martha Davis is a computer hardware specialist who works extensively in designing and manufacturing hardware devices, researching advanced computer technology. She built GadgetGangster.com as a platform to share her insight on computers and PC assembly with the web. Currently, she is carrying out her research on Robotics and Computer Vision and working privately to deliver services. Martha makes sure that readers of GadgetGangster.com master the basics of setting up computer components like motherboard, CPUs, and GPUs through the informative articles that she writes.