Technology as a genre always appreciates updates and gets excited when there is a new iteration of a gadget or a component announced, on sale or even rumored to be released soon. It happened when Kaby Lake came out, or when long ago people believed rumors about a FaceTime or iMessage being developed for Android devices (even though it would make no business sense for Apple). One such source of excitement is the fourth generation RAM upgrade, which though released back in 2014, is still captivating people who automatically presume it is the RAM to buy. But is it? Here’s an honest and very practical comparison between DDR3 vs DDR4 RAMs. You’ll see how it is the most useless upgrade you could get your PC.
Does a fourth generation DDR enhance gaming experience?
The primary concern people seem to have for DDR3 and DDR4 is whether or not it can bear loads and help you play games more smoothly. Fair query, only the answers are often not to people’s likings.
There are three myths about CPUs that dominate the discourse.
- The RAM size dictates how fast your games will run.
- More RAM universally means faster gaming, better graphics and everything; expecting that you can be Mario instead of merely playing as him, as the salesman would want you to believe.
- Third and fourth generation RAMs are essentially about how many GBs they pack.
Neither of those happen to be true, however. For starters, how smoothly your games run is not just dependent on your RAM. You can run small games on PCs that were in vogue 10 years ago. As for the biggest games (in terms of size occupied) we have available contemporarily, don’t be surprised if the laptop you bought last month with 4GB memory begins to pant while running your favorite MMO or other RPG.
RAM is among the important factors that describe how well your applications and software run. It has a bearing on speed too. But there is more to the CPU you buy than just the RAM you get. Also, you can get both processors for the same RAM size. Doesn’t mean they aren’t different.
How are DDR4 and DDR3 different, then?
The differences between DDR3 and DDR4 are mostly to do with their physical design and algorithmic changes. Here is a quick summary of how the two compare.
- DDR4 is taken to be stabler. The difference is marginal in a benchmark comparison, which is itself hard to arrange since few non-mainstream applications run comfortably on both.
- The operating voltage in fourth gen is lower. It effectively can mean less heat generation, though the same precaution must apply for the CPU; fan unobstructed, vents open and fresh air available to keep the room from getting stuffy.
- The clock speed is pretty different. DDR4 begins at the frequency that DDR3 begins to max out on. Needless to say, overclocking in the former might not be necessary for quite some time.
- DDR4 is built to have a bigger bandwidth. Coupled with the less restricted memory size, this is one factor which places it a notch higher than its competitor.
Price comparison (last updated: November 2020)
DDR4 comes at $10-40 more than what DDR3 costs. The price difference begins to climb as you increase the memory size, with it being considerably big by the time you reach 16 GB.
So is the price worth paying? Surely, there must be some benefit to derive from paying this extra money, right?
Well, it depends. Turns out, third and fourth gen have such a vast difference in compatibility that it becomes difficult to standardise things and decisively state one superior to the other, something we hinted at earlier. Let’s first quickly cover the compatibility between the two.
The problem with DDR4: Compatibility Issues
Can a piece of tech be too advanced for its time? There have certainly been times. This is possibly one of those.
Most software and even hardware is built with specifications easier to find in an everyday DDR3 device than on a dumbed down DDR4 device. Not all PC applications can utilise 2000 MHz on frequency in the CPU; third generation by contrast maxes out at 1067 MHz. Things are certainly more complex than choosing generation four because it has 4 in it, or because it has 32 GB worth of RAM.
Practically, there are very few applications that would run on the usual specs a DDR4 processor brings to the table. I estimate things could stay this way for another 4-5 years, if not more. In realistic terms, upgrading to a fourth gen means you’re going to stay with the device for the next decade or so. I don’t think that is feasible for most users unless the device is packed and stowed away in a time capsule.
DDR5; is the tech industry outdoing itself on purpose?
In 2016, Intel’s presentation hinted at plans by JEDEC to release a DDR5, the fifth generation of DDR SDRAMs. It was confirmed in a press release by JEDEC, that DDR5 was indeed under development. Here’s a quote from it…
DDR5 will provide double the bandwidth and density over DDR4, along with delivering improved channel efficiency. These enhancements, combined with a more user-friendly interface for server and client platforms, will enable high performance and improved power management in a wide variety of applications.
Things certainly look promising. DDR5 is currently believed to be geared for release in 2018, with market availability expected variously between 2020 and 2021. But despite the next iteration being polished for the market, the question that remains most salient remains the same…
Is DDR4 practically worth it?
Sweeping statements don’t really work when you’re talking about technology that’s as fresh as DDR4 SDRAMs. I say fresh, because even though the technology has been thriving in the market since 2014, and can run most programs as its competitor (with other factors constant, of course), some may argue that the true potential of a 2133MHz frequency is not really utilised in most applications, software and standard PC use routines.
You may yourself find yourself perfectly in need of a fourth gen, but you are in such case more of an exception than a rule. DDR3 cuts it for most PC users. And so in all practical sense, t]ill the industry as a whole grows enough to demand higher level PC capabilities, DDR4 is going to remain a fancy feature for a PC than a necessity.
Source: Linus Tech Tips