In the hardware world, we’ve gone through generations of GPUs and processors, but we’re still rocking the same DDR4 RAM that’s been mainstream in PCs for almost seven years. But now it seems that DDR5 is finally coming: DDR5 modules are just around the corner, as production is in full swing and manufacturers are teasing the future standard.
Double Data Rate 5 Synchronous Dynamic Random-Access Memory (DDR5 SDRAM) is a type of synchronous dynamic random-access memory. Compared to its predecessor DDR4 SDRAM, DDR5 is planned to reduce power consumption, while doubling bandwidth. The standard was released on 14 July 2020, although earliest pre-standard DDR5 chips were already made in 2017-2018 and officially launched by SK Hynix on October 6th, 2020.
DDR5 supports more bandwidth than its predecessor, DDR4. Decision Feedback Equalization (DFE) enables IO speed scalability for higher bandwidth and performance improvement. Compared to DDR4, DDR5 further reduces memory voltage to 1.1 V, thus reducing power consumption. Memory modules use the MIPI Alliance I3C Basic specification for system management bus.
DDR5 can supports a speed of 51.2 GB/s per module and 2 memory channels per module. DDR5 will have about the same latency as DDR4. The first mass market DDR5 memories are expected to run at DDR5-4800, 50% faster than the maximum DDR4-3200 of the official DDR4 standard.
There is a general expectation that most use-cases that currently use DDR4 will eventually migrate to DDR5. To be usable in desktops and servers, the integrated memory controllers of e.g. Intel’s and AMD’s CPUs will have to support it.
Intel’s 11th-gen Rocket Lake CPUs and AMD’s Ryzen 5000-series CPUs both still use DDR4 RAM. A leaked internal AMD roadmap is reported to show DDR5 support for 2022 Zen 4 CPUs and Zen 3+ APUs. A leaked slide shows planned DDR5 support on Intel’s 2021 Sapphire Rapids microarchitecture and Alder Lake microarchitecture. Intel ‘Alder Lake’ CPUs to Support PCIe 5.0, DDR5 RAM article says that leaked slides from an Intel presentation offer a glimpse of what we can expect from the Alder Lake family, which will encompass both laptop and desktop CPUs.
When the chip support is ready, it is expected that the transition to DDR5 will be swift: DDR5 Expected to Overtake DDR4 by 2023. Widespread DDR5 adoption should occur in 2022, starting with the server markets and enterprise world, according to a report by industry beancounter Yolle Developpement. Then in 2023, we will finally see widespread DDR5 adoption in the mainstream market, with phones, laptops, and PCs fully utilizing the technology. In fact, we should see more DDR5 ship in 2023 than DDR4, marking a fast transition between the two technologies.