DDR3 vs DDR3L: Which Should You Buy? – 2021 Guide

Austin
| Last Updated: April 9, 2021

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Today, we rely on computers for nearly every part of our daily life. From school homework or work to daily problems or entertainment, we expect our computers to respond instantly to our commands.

Adequate RAM is the key to getting your computer to work fast without feeling the strain of demanding programs.

This article pits DDR3 against DDR3L RAM. Without further ado, let's see how the match goes down.

Photo credit: youtube.com

DDR3 vs DDR3L

DDR3

DDR3L

Pros

Pros

  • Pin-compatible with DDR3L

  • Affordable price range for users on a budget

  • Has expandable 8GB memory density
  • Compatible with DDR3

  • Generates less heat and operates fast

  • Double voltage 1.5v and 1.35v

Cons

Cons

  • Generates too much heat

  • Slow operation

  • Not compatible with 4th Generation intel processors
  • A little expensive compared to DDR3

  • Low performance compared to DDR4 models

  • Slower speed for the same price, for example, DDR3-2400 the same price as DDR3L-1866

Best For

Best For

Best for light computer gamers.

Best for 4th Generation Intel Processors.

Works best on personal computers and servers.

Works well on laptops, embedded devices, and mobile phones.

What is DDR3? 

DDR3 is a memory card model that can be used to increase a computer's RAM (Random Access Memory). DDR3 is an acronym for Double Data Rate 3. The last digit '3' symbolizes an upgrade from DDR2, the previous version in the series. There is a further upgraded DDR4 model, and the yet to be released DDR5.

Mostly, the term DDR3 is used alongside other tech terms like DIMM and SODIMM. SODIMM stands for 'Standard Outline Dual Inline Module'. This refers to the specific device that DDR3 RAM was designed for.

DIMM, on the other hand, means 'Dual Inline Memory Module', which we'll also discuss shortly in this article.

DDR3, being an upgrade from DDR2 RAM, has a faster data transfer rate than its predecessor with twice the rate, or eight times the internal memory array speed.

Additionally, DDR3 is a single voltage RAM that supports operations of up to 1.5V only. This voltage specification consumes 30% less power compared to its predecessor (1.8V). 

DDR3 RAM would therefore be the right pick for someone looking to upgrade from the DDR2 model.

What is DDR3L? 

DDR3L RAM is an upgrade from DDR3. DDR3L stands for 'Double Data Rate 3 Low Voltage'. Where DDR3 has single voltage RAM, the DDR3L model has a more capable memory DIMM with dual voltage capable memory at 1.35V & 1.5V.

The DDR3L model operates much faster and generates less heat due to its low operating voltage. DDR3L is designed for Intel 4th Generation and core processors.

DDR3L can save up to 25% on electricity, and batteries can last longer compared to DDR3. These features make the DDR3L RAM model a suitable choice for laptops and other portable gadgets where there is limited space.

If you are looking to upgrade from DDR3, DDR3L is a solid choice. For a larger upgrade, DDR3U is also worth considering. DDR3U stands for Double Data Rate Ultra-low-voltage. This model is a further upgrade from DDR3L and offers a wider bandwidth with lower electricity consumption.

Relevant Characteristics Between DDR3 and DDR3L

DDR3

DDR3L


Requires single voltage power of 1.5V

Voltage Power

Dual voltage - 1.35V and 1.5 V

Has 8 GB memory density

Memory Density

Average 8 GB memory density

Not compatible with 4th generation processors

Compatibility

Compatible with 4th generation processors

Generates more heat

It is slower compared to DDR3L

Heat Generation

Produces less heat and operates faster

More affordable in comparison to DDR3L

Price Point

Expensive compared to DDR3

High performance on personal computers and servers

RAM Usage

High-end performance on laptops and mobile devices

Compatible with DDR3L

Pin Compatibility

Compatible with DDR3

Similarities and Differences 

From the above table, the DDR3 and DDR3L RAMs share some features like memory density but differ in a few key areas.

In this section, we'll go deeper to see how the two RAM models compare in both performance and features.

DDR3 and DDR3L Differences 

Voltage Power

DDR3 consumes more voltage than the DDR3L. The higher the voltage, the slower the operation, and vice versa. At 1.5v, the DDR3 makes a computer heat more than the DDR3L, which results in slower operation.

Compatibility

DDR3 rams are not compatible with 4th Generation Intel processors, since they have a low voltage standard that only supports 1.5v operation.

Heat Generation

DDR3L RAM models use less voltage and produce very little heat compared to DDR3. Due to their low heat generation, they run better in portable gadgets like laptops and mobile phones that require very little space.

Price Point

DDR3L RAM models are a little pricey compared to DDR3, and for a good reason. Since they are an upgrade of the latter, they outperform DDR3 in all areas.

RAM Usage

DDR3 offers good performance on personal computers and servers while DDR3L models perform highly on laptops and other mobile devices.

DDR3 and DDR3L Similarities

Memory Density

Both DRR3 and DRR3L have 8GB of memory, ideal for average users with normal productive tasks. Both have the capacity for upgrading to more memory over 32GB.

Power Compatibility

DDR3 supports operations on 1.5V computers while DR3L is a dual voltage capable memory supporting both 1.35V and 1.5V. So, all computers other than those built with Intel 4th Generation will support both DDR3L and DDR3 RAM.

Pin Compatibility

Pins are metal pieces that connect RAM to the motherboard. Pin compatibility is determined by the number of available pins between two comparative models and whether they can fit in their slots indistinctly. 

Both DDR3 and DDR3L have a pin count of 204 in the SODIMM version, which makes them compatible.

Price Point

DDR3L RAM models are generally more expensive than DDR3, however, some models share a common price range like the DDR3-2400, which is within the same price range as DDR3L-1866.

Advantages of DDR3 

A DDR3 RAM model may not be the most powerful RAM, considering there are already upgraded versions that perform better. However, it still has some advantages.

Here are a few advantages of using DDR3 RAM models.

  • DDR3 performs twice as fast as its predecessor DDR2. It has higher bandwidth and can transfer up to 1500 megabytes of data per second.

  • DDR3 offers a good performance speed for normal users with basic productive tasks. It can still be used for gaming, although not for a superior experience like its upgraded counterparts.

  • DDR3 is affordable compared to other upgraded versions. You will however find some DDR3L models at the same price as DRR3. For example, DDR3-2400 is the same price as DDR3L-1866.

  • DDR3 will give you a good experience when used in personal computers and servers. So, if you are looking to carry out just basic tasks, you need not rush to upgrade to DDR3L or higher. 

  • DDR3 RAM models offer a provision to upgrade the RAM from 8 GB to 16 GB and over. There are models with these upgraded RAMs which makes light gaming experiences possible.

Advantages of DDR3L

The DDR3L, being an upgrade from the DDR3 RAM model, is amongst the top performing RAM models available on the market today. It offers greater performance and efficiency compared to its predecessor.

Let's discuss some of the major wins of this model.

  • DDR3L has a lower voltage consumption, meaning less heat and therefore faster operation and improved battery life.

  • DDR3L module is compatible with DDR3 and can run on a computer with both 1.5V and 1.35V.

  • Has the standard DDR3 memory density of 8 GB, as well as high-end models with up to 64 GB RAM. For example, the Kingston Value RAM 64 GB Kit 1600MHz DDR3L model.

  • DDR3L works best on portable devices like embedded systems, mobile phones, and laptops that have limited space.

  • Performs better than its predecessor DDR3.

What About DDR4?

Computer RAM models have gone through a significant evolution, with new models getting better by the day. The DDR1 was superseded first by DDR2, then DDR3. The DDR3 has had three versions –DRR3, DDR3L, and DDR3U.

The latest model is DDR4. This is the standard model for gaming enthusiasts. There is yet another model, DDR5 which is expected in the market sometime in 2021.

Here, let's see how the DDR4 model is different and why it might be a better alternative over DDR3 and DDR3L RAM models.

DDR4 Uses Lower Voltage

DDR3L can use both 1.5V and 1.35V while the standard voltage of DDR3 is 1.5V. DDR4, on the other hand, uses an even lower voltage of 1.2V. This might not seem like a big difference, but the electricity savings add up over multiple machines or servers. More importantly for most users, the lower voltage also helps prolong the lifespan of your batteries and fans. The fans do not have to overwork to cool down your machines since they don't heat up excessively in the first place.

Photo credit: businesswire.com

DDR3 and DDR4 are Incompatible

The physical layouts for DDR3 and DDR4 are completely different from each other. For example, DDR3 and DDR3L have 204 pin connectors. On the other hand, DDR4 has 288. This makes it impossible to confuse the two models just in case you were replacing either of them into a motherboard.

When shopping for PC parts, make sure all parts are compatible. A CPU and motherboard that works with DDR4 RAM will not work with DDR3. Since different versions of the DDR RAM series have a different number of pins and notch designs, they are incompatible with each other. Only versions within the same type or generation are compatible like the DDR3 is compatible with its newer version, the DDR3L.

DDR4 Are a Little More Expensive

DDR4 is an upgrade of the DDR3L, which makes it a better performer hence a little costly compared to DDR3 and DDR3L. 

DDR4 is Faster

RAM data transfer rate is always either measured in Giga transfers (billion) per second (GT/s) or million transfer per second (MT/s). A higher rate of transfer means you can transfer a wider bandwidth of data.

DDR3 RAM model can transfer data at only 800 MT/s and 2133 MT/s while DDR4 can transfer for up to the rate of 2133 MT/s and 4266 MT/s. 

Another thing is Column Access Strobe latency and overclocking speed, both of which are high in DDR4 RAM models.

It should, however, be noted that high clock speed and higher transfer speed, when compared to other models, does not necessarily make it a better choice. You need to consider all specifications when shopping for RAM, as well as the purpose for which the RAM is set for.

When and Why Would I Use DDR3? 

It is very hard to find new machines today using DDR3.  Those that do are probably over 5 years older. That does not, however, mean that you might not need this RAM model.

Here are a few circumstances under which DDR3 RAM models would be a good choice.

Price Factor and RAM Speed

RAM models are improving as time goes by. Newer models are getting better and sticking with an old DDR3 RAM might not be the coolest thing.

However, these improved models also come with high price tags.

There is not much to be gained by upgrading to a DDR4 if you only perform light functions such as web browsing and processing low-data files.

For example, DDR4 comes with higher overclocking speeds that are only used to improve speed when used in AMD Ryzen CPUs. Note that even today, high clock rates in the modern core-intel CPUs are not that important.

If you are on a budget and don't have intensive data requirements, a DDR3 will serve you just fine.

Memory Density

Unlike in the old days of DDR3 when you could not find CPUs and motherboards that could support over 8 GB of RAM, today you can easily expand your DDR3 RAM to 32 GB or higher. 

There are also DDR3 RAM models like V-Color 32 GB Quad Rank Server Memory Ram Module Upgrade DDR3 1600MHz.

Some AAA games today require more than 8 GB. Even for these, DDR3 will still let you enjoy gaming without much worry. You can expand it to 16 GB as long as it serves you better. No need to overstretch it to 32 GB or higher if the lower memory capacities work seamlessly.

So, if you are a light gamer, a 16 GB DDR3 RAM won't hurt.

Personal Computers and Servers

In case you'll be using a PC for your personal computing needs, the DDR3 RAM will do most day-to-day tasks without any strain. Personal computers and servers have adequate space and do not risk overheating, which affects their speed levels.

That is not the case with laptops and mobile devices.

So, if you operate from a workstation where you'll not be moving from time to time, a DDR3 RAM will be okay.

When and Why Would I Use DDR3L?

An upgrade from DDR3 to DDR3L model comes with its advantages over its predecessor.

Below are some reasons you might want an upgrade to DDR3L.

Multitasking Efficiency

For multitaskers and gaming enthusiasts, a DDR3L RAM would be ideal. Although you can also use DDR3 for computer gaming, the machine heats over time compared to DDR3L that will run for long hours but still maintain a well-balanced and cool motherboard.

Less Heat Generated

Compared to DDR3, DDR3L is a better pick for laptops and other mobile devices. If you constantly move around with your devices, it would be wise to invest in DDR3L RAM that produces less heat and will also help your battery last longer. 

Compatibility

As we have discussed earlier in this article, DDR3 RAM models do not support 4th Generation intel core processor operations. The DDR3L dual voltage of 1.35V and 1.5V operates this system much faster and with less heat generated.

Therefore, if you'll be operating 4th Generation machines and over, get a DDR3L RAM model.

Bottom Line

From the above exhaustive side-by-side comparison of DRR3 and DRR3L RAM models, you should thoroughly examine the kind of hardware you are using and what you plan to use in the future before picking on a given RAM model.

Consider all the compatibility factors. Check the device for processor generation details. If the device is not a 4th Generation intel processor, consider the DDR3 model. 

On the other hand, the DDR3 RAM card would do just fine for those looking for standard performance, without the need for intensive gaming that would strain the RAM. Most games will also work well with just a little over 8GB, so an upgrade to 16GB on your DDR3 is a good choice for light gaming.

However, when shopping for a DDR3L have possible future needs in mind. You want to find something that you would be able to upgrade further in the future without any additional costs like replacing the motherboards and CPUs.

People Also Ask

Just before we go, let's consider some of the most commonly asked questions around DDR3 and DDR3L. This section is designed to clear the air and deepen your understanding of the two RAM models we have explored in this article.

Is DDR3L Compatible With DDR3?

The two models are compatible. The DDR3L is also dual voltage which means it can support operations on both 1.35V and 1.5V.  Additionally, they also share a standard memory density of 8 GB.

You should however take note of a few system requirements like the generation of the machine. For example, the DDR3 model does not support 4th Generation core processors, and therefore it will not be compatible with 4th Gen devices.

How Do I Know If My RAM is DDR3 Or DDR3L?

DDR3L RAM can run on 1.5V and also 1.35V. That is not the case with DDR3 which only runs on 1.5V. 

Additionally, you can determine your RAM model by looking at CPU-Z reports. If the report indicates that the memory is running on 1.35v, then your RAM model is DDR3L. 

PC3L is also another word for DDR3L just in case your CPU-Z report brings up that name.

What Does The L in DDR3L Mean?

DDR3L is an acronym for Double Data Rate 3, where 'L' means low voltage. The module can run at a low voltage of 1.35V compared to its predecessor at 1.5V. When configured, power consumption is reduced by up to 15%.

Apart from DDR3L, the successor is DDR3U. The acronym 'U' means Ultra-low-voltage. This model saves power further and is faster compared to DDR3L.

Can I Use DDR3 and DDR3L Together?

DDR3 RAM models are compatible with DDR3L models. However, you should take note of the system requirements. For example, if the systems run on DDR3L, then installing DDR3 may not work.

DDR3 models cannot work in 4th generation systems.

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.