DDR5 memory is the latest standard for computer system RAM (random access memory) and is due to replace the previous generation, DDR4, over the coming years. The first processor platform to support this memory standard is Intel’s 12th Gen Core, which can work with either DDR5 or DDR4 depending on the motherboard used. AMD’s upcoming Ryzen 7000-series processors, expected in the second half of 2022, have also been announced as supporting DDR5.

So what makes DDR5 an improvement over previous generations? There are several areas of advancement:

  • Higher clock frequencies – For example, Intel’s Core i9 12900K officially supports DDR4 speeds up to 3200 MT/s while it can handle DDR5 at up to 4800 MT/s.
  • Increased reliability – DDR5 has a new feature called On-die ECC (error checking and correcting) which protects data integrity inside each memory chip. This is a nice addition, but it is not a replacement for full ECC memory in servers and mission-critical systems because it cannot monitor for or fix errors that happen to data in transit over the memory bus.
  • Increased memory capacity – This may not be seen on the market for a while, but DDR5 has double the number of memory banks which will allow for more memory per module when manufacturers want to offer larger capacities
  • Less power hungry – DDR5 has a base operating voltage of 1.1V versus 1.2V for DDR4, though high performance modules from both generations often demand more power.
  • Onboard voltage regulation – With DDR5, voltage regulation is handled on each memory module instead of on the motherboard. This reduces motherboard complexity and cost slightly, but that shift means more complex and costly memory modules instead.

That last “upgrade” is particularly problematic for the initial rollout of DDR5, however, because the power management integrated circuits (PMICs) that are needed for each stick of DDR5 memory are in still in shortage as of early 2022. That limit on production capacity is the primary reason that we weren’t able to launch DDR5 earlier here at Puget Systems, and why this type of memory can cost substantially more than DDR4 for the same capacity. Despite that, the faster speed, increased stability, and potential for larger memory capacities that DDR5 brings to our workstations is exciting!

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