DDR2 vs DDR3: What’s The Difference? – 2021 Review

Austin
| Last Updated: June 8, 2021

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Experiencing trouble choosing between DDR2 and DDR3 RAM chips for your PC?

You aren't alone and the advancement of PCs hitting the market doesn't make it easier.

We've realized one works best for those who run memory-intensive applications, and the other for those looking for reduced latency and affordability.

Let's dive right in.

TL; DR: DDR2 vs DDR3

DDR2

DDR3

Pros

Pros

  • Low CAS latency

  • Better performance than earlier versions

  • Cheaper than DDR3 and higher versions
  • Better transfer speeds and capabilities

  • Low power consumption

  • High bandwidth performance

  • Improved thermal design and cooler

Cons

Cons

  • Higher power consumption

  • Low transfer and clock speeds

  • Average performance capacities
  • Higher CAS latency

  • More expensive

DDR2 RAM chips are best for PCs that don't run heavy applications for a user on a budget. But with technological advancement, DDR2 might be phased out in a couple of years.

DDR3 RAM chips are best for PCs that run heavy applications like gaming. Although still widely used, DDR3 chips are slowly getting phased out by higher versions like DDR4, 5, and 6.

DDR2 chips are ideal for users running light PC applications and are on a tight budget. DDR3 offers better specs for a higher price.

DDR3 chips are ideal for PCs running memory-intensive PC applications like gaming apps. Improved versions offer better features but at an increased cost.

What is DDR?

Double Data Rate, or DDR, shows the transfer rate of your device's RAM. When your device operates at a double data rate, it's capable of transferring data twice per clock cycle.

Data on your device is digital - represented by on (1) and off (2). Your CPU signal represents one clock cycle as on or off, measured from the middle point.

DDR is a huge upgrade from the single data rate (SDR) that operates once per clock cycle. DDR RAM became accessible in the early 2000s, making SDR RAM essentially obsolete. Most of the RAM modules on the market come as an upgraded generation of DDR.

Some features, specs, and capacities of DDR include data transfer rates (266-400 MT/s), bus clock rate (133-200MHz), and cycle time (5-1.5 ns).

Each improved version of DDR (DDR2, DDR3, DDR4, DDR5, and DDR6) comes with more advanced features and power efficiency – and a higher price tag.  

Let's have a closer look at DDR2 and DDR3.

What is DDR2?

Double Data Rate (DDR) is a memory feature in digital devices used in data transfer on both rising and falling edge clock signals. It doubles your device's memory bandwidth by moving data two times per cycle.

Many versions of DDR exist, each more advanced than its predecessors.

DDR2 is the second type of RAM designed to offer a high data rate during block transferring. Ideally, DDR2 transfers data at a clock rate of between 400 and 1066 megahertz (MHz).

It is the successor of the initial DDR version, and main changes apply to its RAM operational frequency.

Prefetch buffers with 4-bit memory caches reside within your DDR2 RAM chip - used to preposition your bit in data faster.

DDR2 comes as a 240-pin dual in-line memory module (DIMM) architecture that operates at a minimum of 1.8 volts. The DIMMs comprise one or more RAM chips in a board connected to your motherboard.

DDR uses 144-pin DIMM functions and designs at 2.4 volts. Since both use different DIMM keys and motherboard sockets, there's no compatibility between DDR and DDR2. At 2.4 volts, DDR also generated considerably more heat.

Concisely, DDR2 is superior to DDR and is used in PCs that handle intensive applications. However, DDR2 chips are gradually being phased out because improvements to the operating voltage and speed of newer versions are making them obsolete.

DDR2 RAM chips perform better than DDR and SDR with lower power consumption. However, it's important to point out that most RAM manufacturers no longer build DDR2 chips. Current and future devices require advanced RAM chips to perform functions properly. You should expect DDR2 chips to become obsolete and unavailable in a few years.

What is DDR3?

DDR3 is a dynamic random-access memory released in 2007 to succeed DDR2. Your device's DDR3 chips come with a clock speed of 400 and 1066 MHz and are 1 - 24 GB in size.

DDR3 consumes over 30 percent less power than DDR2. It is designed with 240 pins for desktops and 204 pins for laptops.

DDR3 comes with a higher bandwidth interface than its predecessors, SDR, DDR, and DDR2.

Unlike DDR2, DDR3 doesn't offer forward or backward compatibility with earlier RAM versions because of different factors like timings and signaling voltages.

DDR3 supports DRAM chips with capacities of up to 8GB and four ranks of 64 bits, each totaling 16GB per DDR3 DIMM.

DDR3 modules transfer data using falling and rising edges at a rate of 800 to 2133 mega transfers per second, for a 400-1066 MHz clock frequency – double DDR2's data transfer rate.

Like DDR and DDR2, DDR3 modules use similar electronic signaling standards, but at different voltages and timings. DDR and DDR2 modules use Stub Series Terminated Logic (SSTL) and DDR3 modules use SSTL-15.

DDR3 is superior to DDR2 and is used in PCs that handle memory-intensive applications. However, technological advancement has continued past DDR3 chips. There are now several more advanced DDR versions that are commonly used in new devices.

DDR3 performs better functions than SDR, DDR, and DDR2 with lower power consumption. You are guaranteed to get better speeds and performance out of a DDR3, and it will be long before it becomes obsolete.

That said, DDR3 is still an older RAM type that lacks compatibility with the new generation of tech. You can expect it to be completely overtaken by DDR4 within a few years.

Relevant Characteristics Between DDR2 and DDR3

DDR2

DDR3






1.8 volts and 1.9 volts

Voltage

1.35 volts, 1.5 volts, and 1.65 Volts

400 MHz, 533 MHz, 667 MHz, 800 MHz, 400–1066 MT/s

Speed

800 MHz, 1066 MHz, 1333 MHz, 1600 MHz and 1866

240-pin DIMM unbuffered, PC2-400 to PC2-8500, 200-pin SODIMM; 214-pin MicroDIMM

Modules

240-pin DIMM, PC3-6400 to PC3 17000 (same as DDR2’s but with different key notches)

200–533 MHz

Bus Clock

400-1066 MHz

100-266 MHz

Internal Rate

800–2133 MT/s for rising

0.40-1.06 GT/s

Transfer Rate

0.80-2.13 GT/s

4-bit (3.20-8.50 GBps)

Channel Bandwidth

8-bit (6.40-17.0 GBps)

3 - 9 clock cycles

Latency

7-11 clock cycles

240

Number of Pins

240

High

Performance

Average

4-bit

Prefetch Buffer

8-bit

Not Available

Memory Reset Options

Available

Similarities and Differences

DDR2 and DDR3 are superior versions of DDR, however, they also come with many differences.

Understanding the similarities and differences of both versions helps you choose the right version for your device.

DDR2 and DDR3 Differences

Definition

The first difference between both versions is their name. DDR2 stands for double data rate version 2 and DDR3 stands for double data rate version 3.

Release Year

DDR2 chips entered the market in 2003. DDR3 came out in 2007.

Cost

With cost, DDR3 costs more than DDR2 because it offers better and more advanced functions and features than DDR2. 

Performance

On matters of performance, DDR2 ranks higher and is superior whereas DDR3 ranks average. Some features of DDR3 like its size and capabilities make it lag, which makes DDR2 offer better performance.

Power Consumption

DDR2 consumes more supply voltage (1.8 volts) than DDR3 (1.5 volts).

Data Transfer

On data transfer speed, DDR2 is slower than DDR3. While DDR2's transfer speed is 400 - 800 Mbps, DDR3's transfer speed is double DDR2's (800-1600 Mbps).

Clock Speed

DDR3 offers a higher clock speed (800 -1600 MHz) and DDR2 offers half the rate (400-800 MHz).

Latency

DDR2 has a latency or lag rate of 3 - 9 clock cycles, and DDR3 has a latency of 7-11 clock cycles. This makes DDR2 a better performer than DDR3. DDR3's come with heavier functions and capabilities, which make it lag more than DDR2.

Channel Bandwidth

Channel bandwidth determines your device's data transfer rate. The higher it is the faster the connection. DDR2 has a 4-bit bandwidth - DDR3 an 8-bit, and hence the better performer.

Prefetch Buffer

Your DDR memory stores data in tiny capacitors as buffer memory or cache. When needed, it is retrieved and made accessible.

The transfer and access of data stored as a cache are called prefetching. DDR2 has a 4-bit prefetch and DDR3 an 8-bit. DDR3 offers better prefetching performance than DDR2.

Memory Reset

Memory reset options allow your RAM to perform at higher speeds - especially after using your device for long. DDR2 does not offer a reset option but DDR3 does. Ideally, DDR3 offers higher transfer speeds because of its memory reset options.

DDR2 and DDR3 Similarities

There are no significant similarities between DDR2 and DDR3. While physically they seem similar, both RAM chips come with different capabilities and functions.

Advantages of DDR2

DDR2 has several advantages, including:

Performance

DDR2 predecessors, DDR and SDR SDRAMs come with performance-limited interfaces. DDR2 SDRAM came as an enhancement memory offering better features and capabilities.

Prefetch Buffer

Whereas DDR offers a 2n prefetch buffer, DDR2 offers a 4n prefetch buffer. DDR2 is superior to DDR but inferior to DDR3, which has an 8n prefetch buffer.

Power Consumption

DDR2 consumes more power (1.8 and 1.9 volts) than DDR3 (1.3, 1.5, and 1.6 volts). But it is more power conservative than DDR which comes with a voltage of 2.5.

Transfer Speeds

DDR3 has higher transfer speeds than DDR2. But DDR2 offers higher transfer speeds than DDR. DDR transfer speed varies between 0.2-0.4 GT/s and DDR2 between 0.4-1.06 GT/s.

Bus Clock Rate

DDR2 also offers a higher bus clock speed than DDR but slower than DDR3. DDR's clock speed is between 100-200 MHz and DDR2 BETWEEN 200-533 MHz However, DDR3 offers better speeds between 400-1066 MHz

Physical Connectors

DDR2 and DDR3 RAMs have 240-pin dual inline memory modules. But DDR uses 184-pin connectors. As such, you cannot use DDR2 chips in DDR memory slots.

Noise Control

DDR chips use resistors located on your motherboard to control signal noise. But DDR2 resistors come as an in-built system called one-die termination that eliminates signal noise at the source.

Cost

Although DDR2 chips cost more than DDR and SDR chips, they are cheaper than DDR3 chips.

Advantages of DDR3

DDR3 chips succeeded DDR2 chips, which makes them superior. Some reasons why you should choose DDR3 over DDR2 include:

Performance

The most significant reason to upgrade to DDR3 chips is performance and speed. While DDR2 offers speeds of between 400-800MHz, DDR3 kicks in 800-1600MHz.

Ideally, DDR3 offers twice as much speed as DDR2. Double speeds mean double bandwidth and better CPU performance.

Power Consumption

DDR3 chips come with a higher bandwidth that conserves power when running heavy applications like gaming apps. Your device operates at cooler temperatures, which helps prolong your battery life.

DDR2 chips consume more power (1.9 volts), operate at higher temperatures, and consume more battery power.  

Reset Options

The ability to reset your memory on DDR3 allows you to experience better performance from your chips. DDR2 does not offer similar options, which affects its performance and speeds.

Some of the available win you can expect from your DDR3 RAM chips include better speeds and performance, reduced power consumption, and reliable memory functions. This can be an added advantage if you use your device to run memory-intensive applications like game apps.

While you spend a few more bucks for a device running on DDR3 chips than DDR2 chips, you can expect to experience better features, functions, and capabilities from the same.

What About DDR4?

Double Data Rate Four or DDR4 SDRAM chips succeeded DDR3 chips in 2014. DDR4 chips are designed to offer better performance using less power and with advanced features and capabilities than DDR3.

Choosing DDR4 over DDR3 RAM depends on the type of hardware you use and the hardware you intend to use in the future. However, some reasons why you should choose DDR4 chips over DDR3 include:

DDR4 offers you a higher module density while consuming less power than DDR3. While DDR3 requires 1.2-1.6 voltage, DDR4's power consumption is 1.2 volts. This means reduced operating temperatures and increased speeds.

Photo credit: betanews.com

DDR4 also offers you better speeds and enhanced performance. DDR3's data rate ranges between 800 and 2133 mb/s while DDR4's ranges between 1600 and 3200 mb/s. DDR4 chips are designed to withstand and support high-speed, multi-core processors.

Another impressive feature is DDR4's DIMM capabilities. DDR3 RAM supports 512MB to 8GB chip density while DDR4 RAM supports 4GB to 16GB chip density. Having more memory modules on your motherboard improves your system's capacity to handle complex processes.

Data transfer rate is a game-changer with DDR4 RAM chips. While DDR3 chips have a transfer rate of between 1333-2666 MT/s, a DDR4 chip offers transfer rates of between 2133-3200 MT/s. This makes DDR4 a better choice with speed and functionality.

With increased demands, more computer devices come with DDR4 RAM chips to offer better performance, enhance functionality, and support new computer demands. Hence, you should expect to spend more on DDR4 RAM chips than you do on DDR3 RAM chips.

When and Why Would I Use DDR2?

The main reason to opt for DDR2 RAM chips is to upgrade from previous versions, SDR and DDR. DDR2 chips were designed to offer better functionality and performance than the previous chips.

Using DDR2 RAM chips guarantees you higher data rates (533-800 MT/s) than SDR (100-166 MT/s) and DDR (266-400 MT/s) versions.

You also experience better transfer rates and bus clock rates with DDR2 RAM chips (4.2 - 6.4 GB/s and 266-400 MHz respectively) compared to SDR RAM chips (0.8-1.3 GB/s and 100-166 MHz respectively) and DDR RAM chips (2.1-3.2 GB/s and 133-200 MHz respectively).

Another reason to choose DDR2 RAM chips revolves around power consumption. DDR2 chips consume 1.8 volts whereas SDR and DDR require 3.3 vols and 2.5 volts respectively. DDR2 helps you conserve power while offering better features and performance.

Finally, price is another reason to choose DDR2 over her upgrades DDR3 and higher. DDR2 RAM chips cost less than DDR3, DDR4, and higher. The functions and capabilities of your chips determine their respective costs. It's prudent to choose the chip that works for you based on your budget.

When and Why Would I Use DDR3?

One reason to opt for DDR3 RAM chips is to upgrade from previous versions, SDR, DDR, and DDR2. DDR3 chips offer better functionality and performance than the previous chips.

Using DDR3 RAM chips guarantees you higher data rates (1066-1600 MT/s) than SDR (100-166 MT/s), DDR (266-400 MT/s), and DDR2 (533-800 MT/s) versions.

You get better transfer rates and bus clock rates with DDR3 RAM chips (8.5 - 14.9 GB/s and 533-800 MHz respectively) than SDR RAM chips (0.8-1.3 GB/s and 100-166 MHz respectively), DDR RAM chips (2.1-3.2 GB/s and 133-200 MHz respectively), and DDR2 (4.2 - 6.4 GB/s and 266-400 MHz respectively).

Another reason to choose DDR3 RAM chips is because of power consumption. DDR3 chips require 1.3-1.5 volts but DDR2 chips consume 1.8 volts, SDR 3.3 volts, and DDR 2.5 volts. DDR3 helps you conserve power while offering better features and performance than previous RAM versions.

Finally, price is another reason to choose DDR3 over upgrades like DDR4 and higher. DDR3 RAM chips cost less than DDR4, DDR5, and higher.

The functions and capabilities of your chips determine their respective costs. It's thus prudent to choose the chip that works for you based on your budget.

Bottom Line

Both DDR2 and DDR3 RAM chips are still widely used, although some manufacturers no longer produce them as more advanced devices enter the market. But many devices still use either DDR2 or DDR3 chips.

DDR2 succeeded DDR but is inferior to DDR3. If your PC runs light applications and you are on a budget for RAM, DDR2 is ideal for you.

For PCs running heavy applications like gaming PCs and apps, DDR3 is a better RAM. It performs well with memory-intensive applications but comes with a higher price.

People Also Ask

How Do I Know If My RAM Is DDR2 Or DDR3?

If you have your RAM chips on your hands, you can identify them by reading the labels. However, if your chip is on your board, you can identify the type in your device's Task Manager. It is available on the bottom right corner of the task manager's first tab. However, you can also toggle between the task manager tabs and search in your RAM and memory sections.

Is DDR3 Worth It In 2021?

DDR3 is still worth its salt in 2020. But it depends on how you use your devices. DDR3 supports heavy applications like gaming and you only upgrade to advanced upgrades like DDR4 or higher if your CPU requires you to do so. However, it's best to go for DDR3 chips with higher capacities like 16GB.  

What Is DDR3?

DDR3 RAM chips came to replace previous versions and offer better functions and performance. DDR3 or dynamic random-access memory version 3 was released to succeed DDR2. It offers better speed and transfer rates with minimal power consumption than DDR2, DDR, and SDR RAM chips.

When Did DDR3 Come Out?

DDR3 chips were released in 2007 as DDR2 successors.

Is DDR2 Compatible With DDR3?

Although both modules come with similar numbers of pins, they are not backward compatible. Each DDR series comes with a different notch design. As such, DDR3 RAM chips cannot be placed in DDR2 memory sockets or vice versa.

Can You Mix DDR2 And DDR3?

No. Both come with 240 pins but have different memory slots, electrical designs, and operating voltages. As such, DDR2 and DDR3 chips cannot function together on a single motherboard.



Austin

When the tech company I worked for restructured and I ended up jobless, I decided to put the wealth of knowledge and management skills to use somewhere new. I’d checked out a few buyer’s guides on the site in the past and reached out to the previous owner. A few months later, here we are. Now, I get to be behind the scenes, helping people find the best tech.