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DDR5 is here—but it will be a while before it goes mainstream

February 3, 2022
Read Time 2 mins

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“DDR5 will take more than 50% market share in mainstream PCs, laptops, phones, by 2023. By 2026, DDR5 should own around 95% of the market.”
Andre Wolheim, Product manager, Tarsus Distribution

The next RAM standard will dominate by 2023

The launch of Intel’s Intel 12th-Gen Alder Lake CPU brings with it the arrival of DDR5—the first major upgrade to the PC’s RAM subsystem since the launch of DDR4 in 2014. The new RAM standard is planned to reduce power consumption while significantly boosting bandwidth. But with low initial availability and high pricing, it seems DDR5 is only likely to burst into the mainstream well into 2022.

In addition to being supported alongside DDR4 in Alder Lake, AMD has confirmed that its upcoming AM5 platform will support DDR5 memory. Yet DDR5 memory is out of stock worldwide, with only low volumes being manufactured due to the ongoing shortage of a key component—the power management chip (PMIC).

So what is DDR5?

DDR5 is the next-generation of random access memory (RAM) for PCs, and promises faster data speeds and better raw performance than DDR4. The standard was originally targeted for 2018 and was eventually released on 14 July 2020. But up until the release of Alder Lake, there were no CPU architectures that supported it.

What are the benefits of DDR5?

You can put more RAM in a PC. With DDR4, the largest consumer modules are 32GB, meaning a mainstream PC with four DDR4 DIMM slots can accommodate 128GB of RAM. With DDR5, each slot can carry 128GB and a high-end system could stack up to eight DDR5 DIMM slots reaching 1TB of RAM.

Performance gains. According to Micron, it is seeing a 36% increase in bandwidth with a DDR5 module over a DDR4 module at the same data transfer rate of 3200 megatransfers per second. DDR5 will start out with a range of 4,800 MHz to 5,600 MHz, an improvement of 1.8 times over DDR4 in terms of performance.

Efficiency. DDR5 allows for better power efficiency, decreasing operating voltage to 1.1 volts.

Does any of this matter?

The average home and business user doesn’t need more than 32GB of memory, and even gaming enthusiasts have traditionally prioritised components such as GPUs and CPUs over RAM when seeking a performance edge.

Given that DDR5 comes at a hefty 50-60% price premium over DDR4 at the moment, and only works with new CPU architectures, it’s unlikely to be on the radar for most people in the next month or two. That said, there are some power users such as scientific researchers and people who work with large imaging files who might benefit from the technology.

When will DDR5 see wide adoption?

We can expect next year to be relatively slow, but after that, adoption will accelerate. Yolle Developpement anticipates that DDR5 will take more than 50% market share in mainstream PCs, laptops, phones, and so on in 2023. By 2026, DDR5 should own around 95% of the market. Yolle Developpement  believes the memory market will be worth over $200 billion by 2026.

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