DDR5 RAM was released nearly three years ago. Back then, PC owners were reluctant on upgrading to this new generation of memory since it was significantly more expensive, as is the case with newer tech. You’d also have to upgrade your motherboard or possibly your CPU to accommodate DDR5 RAM, easily compounding the expense.
Now that several years have passed and DDR5 RAM has become more available and relatively more affordable, is it worth it to upgrade now? Or should you stay with the good ol’ reliable DDR4?
It’s safe to say that right now, if you’re just building your PC from scratch or buying a laptop with everything new, then DDR5 is a great and wise choice, especially for future-proofing. However, upgrading from an existing setup is a different story, whether it’s worth it or not depends on several key factors which we’ll break down for your consideration.
How Good Is DDR5 vs. DDR4?
On paper, DDR5 should be performing miles ahead based on its available speeds. Unlike DDR4, DDR5 speeds can go as high as 8400 MHz with the cheapest kits clocking in at 4800 MHz. This ultimately translates to better data transfer speeds, allowing the CPU to perform more tasks and calculations.
However, for practical tests and performance, you likely won’t see or feel a difference, especially in framerate.
Benchmark tests are still being done today and the results were still similar compared to how they were a year or two ago. The performance differences between DDR5 and DDR4 were marginal for gaming.
For productivity applications and programs, DDR5 RAM has a clearer advantage, especially if you’re running memory-guzzler tasks like Google Chrome with dozens of tabs while gaming. You’ll experience less stuttering, crashes, or slowdowns. But again, the performance gap isn’t exactly dramatic or game-changing to warrant an expensive upgrade.
Based on tests performed by channels like PC Centric, DDR5 RAM was merely 1-5 percent faster than DDR4 at most, and in some games, DDR4 even pulls ahead though you can also simply chalk it up to the games not knowing how to properly utilize DDR5.
Meanwhile, for productivity applications and benchmarks such as 7-Zip compression or Adobe Lightroom, you will feel the difference. Benchmarks from sites like Tom’s Hardware paint a more favorable result for DDR5 in terms of productivity.
Benchmarks like 7-Zip Compression and Y-Cruncher put DDR5 performance at nearly double that of DDR4, sometimes more for the higher-end frequencies.
But not all productivity programs benefit from the DDR5 upgrade; some applications– presumably those that didn’t rely too much on memory or raw CPU performance, only showed marginal differences between DDR5 and DDR4.
On average, the typical DDR5 RAM kit (4800 MHz) was only nine percent faster or better than the typical DDR4 kit (3200 MHz). Not every workload will benefit from a DDR5 upgrade, and even then, you aren’t missing much by staying with DDR4.
DDR5 Is Still Significantly More Expensive
Now here’s the other more important factor in your upgrade consideration, price. Currently, the most affordable 32GB DDR5 RAM kits play in the $120-160 price range depending on the frequency (4800 to 6000 MHz). Higher frequencies and speeds have higher price tags.
Meanwhile, a good kit of 32GB DDR4 RAM runs for around $80 more or less, that’s with a speed of 3200 MHz.
The price difference is more than 50 percent, are the performance and stability gains also 50 percent better? Of course not. It doesn’t work like that for memory, sadly. As stated in the benchmarks mentioned above, the difference is marginal and the 50 percent performance boost is only seen in certain applications and workloads that most regular users won’t even touch.
Now, for stability, you can get away with just adding more RAM regardless of the generation. So speed is less of a determining factor on whether your Google Chrome tabs or heavy video games might crash less due to memory-related issues.
There’s also the case of having to upgrade your motherboard and possibly your CPU in case you also decided to upgrade your RAM. Different generations of RAM all use different sockets in the motherboard’s RAM slots. So you would need to factor in the motherboard’s cost and possibly the CPU too since CPU generations also tend to change their sockets.
Bottom line, if you’re concerned with budget, then forget about DDR5, it’s not worth it to upgrade to the newer generation of RAM. Though again, if you’re just picking out a new computer and are planning to build one from scratch, then DDR5 is less of a financial liability.
Your Upgrade Depends on Your Use Case
As always, your decision will be heavily influenced by your needs or wants. Nothing external is stopping you from upgrading to DDR5 from DDR4 if money isn’t an issue.
But do consider the performance yields based on what you’re going to be using the RAM kit or computer for.
If the heaviest tasks you perform on your computer are limited to gaming, then DDR5 is not worth the upgrade at the moment. It might be in the future, but it has been three years since DDR5 was released and games have yet to take full advantage of the newer generation.
If you use your computer to compress files regularly or use a lot of memory-intensive work programs for your job or hobby, then DDR5 RAM is worth it.
There are a handful of video games that benefit from double-digit performance improvements under DDR5 compared to DDR4 RAM, but again you’ll be spending a lot more to upgrade (roughly $300 to $500+ for the RAM, motherboard, & CPU) for selective performance gains.
So if you’re already rocking a computer with DDR4, just wait for it to become outdated; for now, its memory is still going strong.