DDR5 RAM is all the rage these days. But how is it any better than the existing DDR4 models? Are there any drawbacks? Chances are you have a lot of such questions on your mind. If so, we have got you covered with this detailed guide of ours. In this article, we will be discussing the pros and cons of DDR5 RAM and the motherboards that support it. We will also try to simplify your purchase decision so that you only look for key terms when checking whether your CPU is compatible or not with the new motherboard. You might also be wondering about the available form factors that the new motherboards come in if, for instance, you are interested in a small form-factor build. If so, read on.
So, what is meant by DDR5 RAM anyways? How is it any better than what we already have?
DDR5 stands for Double Data Rate 5. It was released in the third quarter of 2020 and is the successor to the still quite popular DDR4 RAM standard. There are considerable performance improvements in this standard over its predecessor. For instance, the memory bandwidth is double that of DDR4. Power consumption has also been reduced as DDR5 RAM sticks operate at 1.1V instead of the 1.2V used by RAM sticks that are based on the DDR4 standard. Frequencies have also increased considerably: even a modest DDR5 RAM operates at a frequency of 4800 MHz which is considered the higher-end in the DDR4 RAM sticks.
DDR5 Compatiable Motherboards
There is no such thing as a perfect motherboard. Different people have different requirements. With that in mind, we have chosen two motherboards based on the most common criteria of value and performance.
Best Value: If you are looking for the best bang for the buck motherboard, then we would strongly recommend going with the MSI Pro Z690-A, which comes in at around $230. This motherboard comes with support for DDR5 RAM and Intel’s 12th and 13th Gen CPUs. Its only drawback is that its 14+1+1 55A VRM power delivery system would not prove to be quite adequate if you are a serious overclocker. However, if stock CPU speeds are sufficient for you, then you are good to go with this motherboard.
Best Performance: The ASUS Maximus Z790 Hero is the motherboard you want to go with if you are building an ultra-high-end PC. Coming at the outrageous price of $796, this board comes with support for overclocking Intel’s latest processors with its 90A phase power design. RAM speeds can also be overclocked to up to 7800MHz. Buy this motherboard if your PC budget is flexible enough to be stretched past the $3000 mark.
How to know if your CPU and motherboard are compatible?
The motherboards that offer support for DDR5 RAM only feature LGA1700 sockets if you have Intel processors or AM5 sockets for AMD CPUs. Only the 12th Gen Intel CPUs and AMD’s Ryzen 7000 series processors can work on these sockets. So, if you have an 11th Gen Intel processor like i9-11900K, which although a very good processor in its own right, you will not be able to take advantage of the DDR5 RAM.
Who should make the upgrade?
If you are assembling a new gaming PC completely from the ground up, then you should take advantage of this upgrade and buy a suitable motherboard that supports DDR5. Currently, the recommended RAM size for most high-end gaming PCs is 16GB and this size is the lowest option in DDR5 RAMs. This means that even if you start out with the lowest-tier DDR5 RAM, you can easily upgrade to 32GB or 64GB RAM of high-speed RAM.
For those whose current PC is working just fine, a case could be made for RAM upgrade if it only required swapping a DDR4 RAM stick with a DDR5 one. However, the fact is that you are not only spending your money on the expensive DDR5 RAM stick, you are also spending money on a new motherboard and a new processor which, in all likelihood, is not hugely faster than the one that you already one.
Therefore, our advice would be to resist the urge to rip a hole in your finances and splurge a large chunk of your money on an upgrade that doesn’t justify the price. Hold out for a little bit longer, maybe a year or two, when the prices have dropped and you are actually ready for an upgrade.
What are the form factors in which these motherboards are available?
The motherboards that support DDR5 RAM are available in all of the commonly known Mini ITX, Micro ATX, ATX, and EATX form factors. Therefore, size is not going to be a concern for you if you are considering making an upgrade to your system. You can house your new upgraded PC in the same space that you are already using.
Why are there such stark differences in the prices of these motherboards?
While support for DDR5 RAM and support for the latest processors is common among these motherboards, there are a few differences among them for which the manufacturers charge a premium price. These mainly include a greater number of expansion slots and better VRM modules. This means that your motherboard will be able to provide a stable supply of power if you are considering overclocking your already highly power-demanding processors. Similarly, limits of RAM speeds can also be by overclocking them to over 7000 MHz or higher. Our recommended motherboards in the next section will also serve to illustrate the point we are trying to make here.