Should you buy DDR5 for your next PC?


We recently reviewed the cheapest DDR5 memory we could find to see if that affected gaming performance and to our surprise it didn’t perform bad at all. In fact, in terms of value it was very good and this is our recommendation to anyone who is building a new PC right now, or anytime in the future…it’s time Moving from DDR4.

This doesn’t mean that DDR5 offers the most bang for your buck or that those already using DDR4 should upgrade. In a way this was the takeaway for some from that previous review, but we assure you that was not what we intended.

What we meant to say is that if you’re going to be building a new PC right now, and that requires you to buy a new motherboard and memory, we feel you’re better off going for DDR5 and opting for affordable 8GB entry-level modules, which you can upgrade in The future once DDR5 becomes the dominant option.

We came to this conclusion after testing the cheap Crucial 8GB DDR5-4800 Units along with Core i5-12600K Which is usually paired with the Z690 motherboard. This is an expensive motherboard to start with, so $84 for some DDR5 means memory isn’t a major factor there.

But what about those who are planning to buy what we think is the best gaming PC on a budget right now: Core i3-12100. This CPU costs Only $130 (or $110 if you choose F-SKU). To discover we’re testing again with DDR5-4800 modules as well as some DDR5-6400 memory for reference, as well as a range of DDR4 configurations covering 2400, 3200 and 4000 speeds.

One of the best B660 motherboards by value is MSI Pro B660M-A, which retails for $130 for the DDR4 version or $160 for DDR5 memory. That’s a 23% premium on a DDR5 compatible motherboard only. As mentioned earlier, a 16GB set of DDR5-4800 memory costs $84, while a 16GB set of DDR4-2400 starts at $45. Some of the premium DDR4-3200 CL14 we like to use in our benchmarks cost $100, and popular DDR4-4000 CL19 kits cost around $100 as well.

So if you can get similar performance out of the premium DDR4 from the DDR5-4800, it makes sense to even use DDR5 even with budget processors like the Core i3-12100.

test notes

First, a brief disclaimer: Our test conditions are geared toward compromising CPU-bound scenarios using a GeForce RTX 3090 Ti at 1080p, often with the desired quality settings in an effort to maximize frame rates. Depending on the type of games you play, this type of test may be unrealistic, but the idea is to highlight the differences in memory performance when the CPU is limited.

The kind of games we’d say this test isn’t realistic will mostly be single-player titles — games that don’t require hundreds of frames per second — like Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Cyberpunk 2077, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Spider-Man Remastered. When you’re playing these titles, the priority will usually be the visual quality, so you’ll always be on a limited GPU, not the CPU.

Games where CPU is often more limited include the likes of Rainbow Six, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Fortnite, and just about any other competitive shooter. Keep this in mind as we go through the results as we’ll use some of the single player titles mentioned earlier to show performance differences between different memory sets.

The graphics card used in all of this testing is an RTX 3090 Ti powered by a Core i3-12100 because we’re curious to see how affordable DDR5 memory works with a more expensive CPU. For comparison, we have G.Skill’s Trident Z5 RGB 32GB DDR5-6400 CL32-39-39-102 kit and G.Skill’s TridentZ RGB DDR4-3200 CL14-14-14-34 kit which will be tested using two and four sticks of single rank and dual rank configurations. Then we also have Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4-4000 CL19-23-23-45 Memory Stick, G.Skill’s TridentZ Neo DDR4-3600 CL14-15-15-35.

Please also note that non-K 12th Gen Intel CPUs cannot run Gear 1 mode over DDR4-3600, so the DDR4-4000 combo is forced into Gear 2 mode and we can’t do anything about it. So it’s best to run DDR4-3600 and we recently updated these results to include a lower latency DDR4-3600 suite, which is the best case for DDR4 when loading only XMP, which is what this feature is all about.

So let’s get into the results…

Standards

Starting with Watch Dogs Legion, we see that the i3-12100 is good at 89fps with DDR5-4800 memory, which puts it roughly on par with DDR4-4000 memory.

However, DRAM latency seems to matter here because the CL14 3200 kit was faster than both the 4000 and DDR5-4800. Then when installing two more dual-rank drives, the DDR4-3200 configuration was significantly faster, almost matching the performance of the DDR5-6400 memory.

Watch Dogs: Legion

In general, DDR4-3600 CL16 and DDR4-3800 CL18 are comparable to DDR4-3200 CL14 when it comes to gaming performance, meaning in this example that DDR5-4800 is comparable in performance to common DDR4 memory.

The point is, the performance difference shown here isn’t significant, which is why we feel it’s finally time to start moving to DDR5 to build a new system.

The DDR5-4800 memory doesn’t perform well in Rainbow Six Extraction, but we don’t see huge performance differences anyway, especially since we’re using an RTX 3090 Ti at 1080p.

For a similar price, DDR4 memory can offer about 7% more performance, so there isn’t a huge difference and we think most of you will be dealing with over 200fps at all times.

Hitman 3

The Hitman 3 really takes advantage of DDR5 memory, with the 8GB 4800 core set outperforming all the DDR4 modules we tested, even the low-latency dual-tier DDR4-3200 memory.

Compared to DDR4-4000, the DDR5-4800 array was 6% faster on average. Certainly not by a huge margin, but for similar money you can also opt for DDR5 now, at least based on these results.

Wonders of Tiny Tina

Next, we have Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, which is a good representation of typical gaming performance. This means that you will always stick with your graphics card.

In this game, everything above DDR4-2400 is fine with Core i3-12100. Of course, this may not be the case with future more powerful CPUs, graphics cards, and games, but today many games, especially singer-songwriter titles will be GPU bound and this is what the results will look like… they are all the same.

F1 22

Moving on to F1 22, although under test conditions you should see that the CPU became a performance limiting component, except for the DDR4-2400 configuration, the game was largely GPU bound.

Sure, average frame rates were a bit higher with DDR5-6400 memory – 1% lower was 12% better – but we’re only looking for single-digit gains from DDR4 to DDR5-6400.

The 8GB 4800 sticks were a little weaker here, but since you’re mainly getting DDR4 performance, you can also switch to a new build as it guarantees a superior upgrade path.

Spider-Man Remastered

As noted in our previous work DDR5 budget reviewMost gamers with a high-end GPU like the RTX 3090 Ti will want to play in 4K when playing Spider-Man Remastered and in this scenario you’ll be almost completely limited to the GPU.

However, using this game as an example of CPU-related performance (at lower resolutions), we see that DDR5-4800 is capable of matching DDR4-4000 as well as low-latency DDR4-3200 memory. This is a positive result despite the fact that 6,400 subjects were about 30% faster when looking at the low 1%.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider is another CPU-requiring title, although the Core i3-12100 is more than powerful enough and will enable over 100 frames per second if your graphics card is capable of those frame rates.

We find again that DDR5-4800 is comparable to the low latency DDR4-3200 of up to DDR4-4000. You won’t see a noticeable drop in performance until you hit 2400.

While DDR5-4800 is a bit slower than the 6400, it’s not worth paying the premium for high-speed DDR5 yet, but for those of you who are building a new PC from the ground up right now, these 8GB units are a good stop. Very different.

Horizon Zero Dawn

Horizon Zero Dawn shows that even budget DDR5 memory can offer a performance advantage over DDR4 – it’s not that great – but nonetheless, the value for money we’re seeing from the 8GB 4800 memory is impressive, outperforming all tested DDR4 configurations.

Cyberpunk 2077 movie

It’s a similar story in Cyberpunk 2077. Here the DDR5-4800 kit was a bristle faster than all of the DDR4 kits tested, although overall performance was pretty much the same.

Assetto Corsa Competizione

As we’ve seen before, ACC is one of those games where memory latency really matters, although if we improve the quality settings or use a lower GPU, you’ll definitely see these margins narrow.

Anyway, the DDR5-4800 memory wasn’t that impressive here as the DDR4-3200 single order configuration was 13% faster. If these results are the norm, it will be hard to decide if you should indulge in these budget 8GB DDR5 sticks and hold out for 6 to 12 months before the price of DDR5 improves further for the premium stuff.

rift

DDR5 memory works fine in The Riftbreaker. We’re running the standard canned CPU with ray tracing disabled here and in short DDR5-4800 is comparable to the low latency DDR4-3200 as well as DDR4-4000, while the DDR5-6400 offers a performance bump of about 15% under these conditions.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

CS:GO performance is not significantly affected by memory performance. A dual-rank DDR4-3200 configuration combined with DDR5-6400 provided the best results, but we’re talking about a roughly 9% margin between DDR4-2400 and DDR5-6400, so memory performance doesn’t really matter. It’s all about single-core performance and because DDR4-2400 generally provides enough bandwidth.

12 game rate

Here’s a look at the average of 12 games, calculated using geomean, and as you can see, the 8GB DDR5-4800 modules are comparable to DDR4, whether it’s DDR4-4000 or even low-latency DDR4-3600 memory where they were only 5% slower.

As a side note, it’s interesting that from 2400 to 3200 we’re looking at 33% more frequency, higher clocked memory running at tighter timings, and overall we’ve had 12% more performance.

Then from 4800 to 6400 is another 33% increase in frequency and that saw a 10% increase in frame rates. It stands to reason that in the future with more demanding games, DDR5 will look even more impressive. If so, investing now in a DDR5 platform without blowing the budget on premium units might not be a bad idea.

what we learned

Does it make sense to go DDR5 now, even for a budget build? If the goal is to save every last dollar, no. But if you’re looking to buy a good motherboard and half a good memory, we think it’s worth it.

As mentioned in the introduction, the DDR5 version of the MSI Pro B660M-A motherboard costs an extra $30, but you’ll save about half that on cheaper DDR5-4800 memory than on quality DDR4-4000 or DDR4-3200 CL14. So in this example, once you factor in the price of the CPU and motherboard, the DDR5 option ends up costing no more than 5%.

The advantage of doing this is that once DDR5 prices have stabilized and high-quality, low-latency clusters arrive, you can upgrade your memory which could unlock additional performance in future games, or allow you to use the next generation GPU.

None of this means that you should upgrade to DDR5 if you already have a fully DDR4 capable PC. Furthermore, with next-generation hardware on the horizon, waiting now is probably the best strategy. But regardless, it’s great to see DDR5 prices close to DDR4 prices and seem to be happening quickly with massive price drops over the past few months.

In conclusion, if we are building new Intel Alder Lake computer Today, we’ll almost certainly get a DDR5 board, put a couple of cheap 8GB 4800 sticks on it and start playing.

Shopping Shortcuts:
  • Computer DDR5 4800 CL40 8GB Amazon
  • Corsair Vengeance DDR5 5600 CL36 32GB Kit Amazon
  • Running AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT Amazon
  • Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 Ti powered on Amazon
  • Running Intel Core i5-12600K Amazon
  • Running Intel Core i9-12900K Amazon



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