DDR3 vs DDR4 | 2019 Comparison Guide

ddr3 vs ddr4 ram memory

For the past 10 years or so DDR3 has been the go to RAM on the market, however, since Hynix announced that it had developed the world’s first highest-density 128 GB module based on 8 GB DDR4, we have seen the influx of DDR4 which is slowly but surely taking over. What we are looking at today is the comparisons between DDR3 and DDR4 and whether it is worth making the switch.

Technical advances

people reading this probably already know what RAM is, but for those that are unaware of what RAM does, to put it simply, RAM (Random Access Memory) is the physical hardware inside you computer which stores information temporarily and acts as the PC’s working memory. The information stored in the working RAM can be written and read quickly, meaning the quicker the RAM the quicker the overall processing will be.

DDR3 is the 3rd iteration of what is now known as SDRAM (Synchronous dynamic random access memory) and has long been considered the go to RAM when choosing memory. However, since the announcement of DDR4 in 2014 people have been asking the question of whether or not the switch is worth the cost. Now, as you’re probably all aware with new technology usually comes a whole bunch of new features and technological advancements and DDR3 to DDR4 was no different. In the following article we are going to touch on all areas essential to a consumer looking to either build a new PC or upgrade their old one. But first lets touch on the physical dimension differences.

The most obvious of differences, to most people anyway, will be the physical dimensions of the 2 RAM’s. When DDR3 was announced back in 2007 it was designed equipped with the 240 pin nodule which would fit very easily into the motherboards dim slots. However with DDR4 developers have made use of a 288 pin nodule which can be seen in the image below.

To cut a long story short this basically means DDR4 is not compatible with any motherboard that supports the DDR3 pin nodule. No big surprise to anyone I’d imagine. On the other hand the length of the 2 DDR’s hasn’t changed at all, still sitting at roughly 133mm, meaning developers have had to narrow the gap in between each pin by 0.15mm to accomodate for the extra pins. The height between the 2 modules when bare varies by just over a millimetre which in retrospect means absolutely nothing as all modern RAM’s come equipped with heatsinks of varying size.

Voltage Differences

As you can see from the graph above, technologically both RAM’s vary quite a bit starting with the voltage levels. Like all hardware components of a PC, the RAM requires a certain amount of power to function, DDR3 when in use runs at 1.5v whereas DDR4 RAM runs at 1.2v. In the large scale of things this can basically be interpreted as roughly a difference of 15watts. From an everyday user point of view this is deemed fairly irrelevant, however for huge server farms with thousands of individual modules 15watts of difference per stick soon adds up to a huge power saving. Further to power saving, lower volt RAM’s have been considered much more stable creating a much more efficient running machine.

Clocking speed

Clocking speed is fairly high on the importance list when it comes to selecting RAM for your system and the higher the better. There are significant differences in clocking speeds between the 2 RAM types, but before we dive into them it’s worth explaining what clocking speed means and how it affects your memory.

As mentioned above, your RAM is your working memory and it is the hardware component which reads and processes the programs and tasks that are running at any said time. Now RAM comes in different sizes, ie 2gb, 4gb, 8gb and so on, and this number reflects how much information each stick can read at any one time. Clock speed is measured in mhz and is how fast your RAM can send the information the CPU. So with that you can understand why a higher clock speed is more desirable than a lower one.

As you can see from the chart above the DDR3 RAM has a maximum speed of 2133mhz whereas the DDR4 starts at 2133mhz and has a maximum of 4800mhz meaning it has a much faster transfer rate and efficiency rating.

Refresh algorithm

Refresh algorithm in simpler terms is how many times your RAM refreshes its memory to stop itself from idling too long. Your older DDR3 RAM made use of 2 different algorithms, AR (automatic refresh) and SR (self refresh) and would switch between the 2 depending on the scenario and how much stress was being applied to the system. However DDR4 only uses automatic refresh meaning it will forever be refreshing itself making sure no new information is waiting to be processed. With DDR4 RAM consuming much less power it paved the way for developers to make use of AR solely providing a far more efficient product.

Latency

With the increase in both clock speed unfortunately DDR4’s latency has taken a slight hit and is higher than that of DDR3. But only marginally. To put it in more physical terms, DDR3 is currently operating on CL11 which takes 13.75 nanoseconds to complete a read, whereas DDR4 runs on CL15 which takes 14.06 nanoseconds doing the same task. The difference is roughly 2%, so not huge, and with the increase in clock speed you can certainly let this one slide. But ultimately DDR3 edges this one.

Memory capacity

Memory capacity is really straight forward and a complete win for DDR4. Memory capacity is becoming more and more important especially when multitasking or gaming which is why manufacturers when creating DDR4 gave it a much bigger capacity than that of its predecessor. DDR3 ranges from 512mb up to 8gb whereas DDR4 in comparison is 4gb up to 16gb, meaning it can potentially house double that of DDR3. No brainer. The benefits of more RAM capacity are fairly substantial and we certainly see a big difference in performance when upping the RAM to it’s capacity.  

Cost differences and is it worth it?

Now we get down to the vital information, in some people’s minds anyway, and we decide whether or not DDR4 is actually worth the extra investment. Well if I was typing this 4 years ago I would be inclined to say no, you would basically have to build a complete new PC just to house your new RAM, which for most is just not practical. However in today’s market, most of the new generation motherboards and CPU chips only accommodate the new DDR4 RAM, which kind of makes DDR3 relatively obsolete. So, for those still using DDR3 thinking about upgrading to DDR4 just be aware that they aren’t compatible in any way, shape or form. At minimum you will have to upgrade your motherboard, meaning you will probably have to upgrade a few other components as well. In hindsight, with the advancements in modern day technology and gaming a like, if you aren’t up to date with hardware you unfortunately won’t be able to enjoy your games as they were intended.

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