DDR3 Vs DDR4 – A Comparison In Plain English

DDR4 is the latest fourth generation RAM technology after DDR3. DDR means Double Data Rate. DDR3 and DDR4 are types of RAMs that can’t be compared easily because both need different kinds of hardware to operate. But we will try to compare the functionality of both RAM types in easy and plain language so that everyone can understand the core differences between the two and decide whether to upgrade or not.

When we look at the market share of both types of RAMs, DDR4 is not backward compatible and is only available for Intel’s X99 platform. It is much more expensive than DDR3, almost double in price at the time of this writing. One interesting thing to note here is that DDR4 does not give a performance boost for Gaming PCs. Let’s go through the comparison bit by bit and then conclude at the end.

Voltage and power usage

DDR3 operates on 1.5V (1.35V on power saving mode) while DDR4 operates on 1.2V. This means that DDR4 RAM will use a lot less power as compared to DDR3. On only one or two systems, this doesn’t make much of a difference but on a server side, if there are hundreds of servers running the same hardware, upgrading the RAM to DDR4 will make quite a visible difference in power usage of the whole environment.

Speed and bandwidth

The frequency of DDR3 starts at 800 MHz and ends at 2133 MHz. 800 MHz means the RAM has a speed of 800 million operations per second. DDR4 memory starts at 1600 MHz and goes up to 3200 MHz. This increase in frequency implies the increased bandwidth of RAM. So DDR4 is capable of much more bandwidth than DDR3.

The down side of higher frequency is higher latency. You can learn more about frequency and latency in this video:

RAM Latency vs Frequency – Why It's Important

Capacity and error handling

If it comes to the biggest visible difference between DDR3 and DDR4, I will vouch for the capacity. DDR4 is able to have a much higher RAM capacity as compared to DDR3. DDR3 supports 4 dyes per module while DDR4 supports 8 dyes per module.

The theoretical maximum capacity of DDR3 RAM is about 128 GB while while DDR4 RAM can go up to 512 GB. This is a huge improvement especially when we have limited RAM slots.

In addition to huge capacity, DDR4 memory is capable of much better error detection, prevention and correction. Error handling becomes very important when there is a large capacity of memory installed in a system and the system is handling some real time operations like satellites, traffic systems etc.

The design differences

The physical design of DDR4 is a little different as compared to DDR3 memory. Here is the screenshot of each RAM slot:

DDR3 vs DDR4:

DDR3 vs DDR4 RAM

The real-world conclusion

In my opinion, DDR4 is generally not for the normal users at the moment as you can have the same performance with DDR3. The only difference will come when you have to upgrade your hardware to the latest one which will only support DDR4 memory or you want a higher capacity of memory inside your computer than DDR3 can support. Other than that DDR3 is still dominant in the market and it’s supported by most of the latest motherboards as well.

What are your thoughts about DDR4 RAM? Did I miss anything in this difference between DDR3 and DDR4 in easy language? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.