DDR3 vs DDR4 – what are the differences?
With the advent of the latest generation of processors from Intel Skylake, laptop manufacturers started to update their range, producing models that rely on this platform. The Chinese company Lenovo, for example, has released a new ThinkPad notebook computers E560, which, however, differ in one unusual decision. Despite the fact that are equipped with Intel’s latest, sixth generation, laptops Е560 have an older memory type DDR3 and not DDR4, which we used to see in most PCs based on the Skylake. The fact is that mass adoption of the new standard DDR4 began with the announcement of this generation of processors that can most effectively take advantage of the modern type of RAM. But what are they? What DDR4 is superior to DDR3 and whether or not the difference is so serious? These questions will try to answer below.
A little background
Those who closely follow the technology industry, it is known that in contrast to microprocessors, computer memory develops much more modest pace. For this reason, the good old DDR3 «stuck» on the market for eight years is a whole era for the world of high technology.
However, with the advent of new Skylake chips from Intel for DDR3 it’s time to retire, replaced by more promising DDR4 memory. This storage class provides two major benefits: significantly wider range of supported frequencies and reduced energy consumption. In the case of DDR3, users have the choice between four fixed clock frequency: 1333 MHz, 1600 MHz, 1866 MHz and 2133 MHz. Yes, there are still older versions with frequencies of 800 MHz and 1066 MHz, but the only place where you can meet them, it is quite «age» of the computer system.
The DDR4 standard in practice does not have the ceiling of the operating frequency, at least so far no one manufacturer has failed to achieve it. Someone should release the memory with record clock speed, almost immediately other competitor offers an even faster solution. Sometimes even comes to awkward cases – for example, the company G. Skill has demonstrated a configuration that contains four 32 GB DDR4 module, each with mind-blowing operating frequency of 3000 MHz, although previously the same manufacturer released the memory module 8 GB DDR4 overclocked to 4266 MHz frequency.
Another important advantage of DDR4 memory is its increased energy efficiency. For example, the DDR3 memory as standard requires a voltage in the range of 1.5 to 1.975 volts. Energy efficient version (DDR3L) requires up to 1.35 volts. At the same time DDR4 will be enough 1.2 volts, but there is a more economical option that needs only 1.05 volts.
In other words, DDR4 delivers higher data transmission speeds at lower energy consumption levels, which, of course, makes it an ideal choice for all kinds of mobile devices. Increased efficiency also guarantees greater stability of the computer system used for overclocking.
Finally, DDR4 raises the bar in yet another respect – the maximum amount of memory that can be installed on one motherboard. For DDR3 maximum ceiling (in theory) is equal to 128 GB, while for DDR4 it is four times higher – 512 GB.
Of course, at the moment there is no computer (except for high-load server systems) which may need such a monstrous amount of memory, but in the coming years with the mass proliferation of technologies such as virtual and augmented reality or a self-learning software modules such as Siri and Cortana, it may become the norm. Don’t forget that ten years ago amounts of RAM, like 16-32 GB, too, seemed to us something incredible.
From theory to practice
All of these benefits are simply the result of comparison of technical characteristics of both types of RAM. And what practice shows? DDR4 is now officially supported rather narrow range of processors, namely the family of Haswell-E from Intel and the latest generation Skylake chips from the same manufacturer.
Despite numerous improvements in the processor-dependent applications and tasks, practical tests show that a large part of modern software is not fully ready to take advantage of DDR4. For example, testing conducted by website Anandtech, show that when using the same CPU (Skylake i7-6700K) the difference in the number of frames per second in almost all tested games is minimal and does not exceed 2-3 fps. The exception is the test with Grand Theft Auto V and using the built-in i7-6700K GPU. In this comparison the difference between DDR3 and DDR4 turned 8 frames per second in favor of the new memory.
In business applications, such as archiving large volumes of data, DDR4 again shows the superiority, but at the moment not so convincing.
Like any new technology, DDR4 will need time to establish themselves on the market. Consequently, software during this time will have to «learn» to use innovation in the new memory. However, at the moment, hopes for the future DDR4 are connected not so much with desktops, but with laptops, tablets and smartphones of the next generation, because they have higher bandwidth at lower energy consumption is more than ever.