DDR3 vs DDR4: Which Is Best In 2021?

Austin
| Last Updated: May 24, 2021

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DDR3 and DDR4 are the most popular memory modules on sale today. With so many similarities, it may be hard for you to tell which one among the two suits you better.  

We have discovered that most users who have lighter memory needs prefer to use the DDR3, while those with bulk memory needs and require higher memory speed use the DDR4. But which one should you really go for?

Read on to find out all you need to know all about DDR3 vs DDR4 SDRAM and determine which one will serve you better today and beyond.

Photo credit: wepc.com

DDR3 vs DDR4

DDR3

DDR4

Pros

Pros

  • Suitable for light users keen on fast processing speed

  • Easily available so you won’t have trouble finding it
  • Suitable for heavy users

  • High clock speed and latency

  • Has a scalable memory capacity

  • Energy efficient hence saves you money

Cons

Cons

  • Not easy to install

  • Unsuitable for processing large files
  • Incompatible with non-DDR4 slots

  • Costly for users on a tight budget

Best For

Best For

This product is best for you if you process average-sized files that do not require high speeds.

This product is suitable for heavy gaming, servers, and establishments that process heavy files at high speed.

What is DDR3?

DDR3 stands for the third generation Double Data Rate RAM (3rd Gen Double Data Rate Random Access Memory.) Its complete name is DDR3 SDRAM, which shows it is a type of Synchronous Dynamic RAM. It is the improved version of the DDR2 SDRAM. Upgrading DDR2 was necessary as there was a need for a DDR with reduced power consumption and heat output.

The DDR3 uses about 30% less power and is two-times faster than its predecessor, the DDR2. The DDR2 has a RAM speed of 3200 megabytes per second (MBps) while DDR3 can achieve 6400 MBps. Essentially, if you have a computer with a DDR3, it will process files twice as fast as a DDR2 equipped machine. 

DDR3 memory chips come in different specs depending on their speed. DDR3-800 indicates that it has an 800 million per second bandwidth at 6400 MBps. This is the lowest speed DDR3, and the highest in the DRR3-12800, with 1600 million per second bandwidth at 12800 MBps.

What is DDR4?

DDR4 is the fourth generation of DDR RAM to be introduced on the market. It has a larger capacity than its predecessors, the DDR, DDR2, and DDR3. 

Like the DDR3, DDR4 is offered with a range of specs. The DDR4-2400 is the smallest, while the DDR4-4400 has the highest speed and bandwidth.

DDR4 is optimized for gamers, hence the elevated speed and bandwidth. It also has an excellent heat spreader that allows it to operate for long hours without overheating. This makes it the most responsive DDR RAM on the market. 

Photo credit: hexus.net

Another improvement on the DDR4 is the reduced power consumption. The DDR4 memory performs a self-refresh to refresh its content. This is unlike the DDR3, which performs both a self-refresh and an auto-refresh on its content.

With the improvements on the DDR4 comes an increase in its price. However, this is made up for by the high performance and versatility that the changes have introduced, much to the joy of heavy computer users. This makes it one of the most sought after memory chips in the market today.

It is worth noting that the DDR4 RAM module is neither backward nor forward compatible. You can only insert it into a slot made for DDR4 chips. This is so because like all other DDR kits, it has a unique number and alignment of pins. It also has a different key notch.

Relevant Characteristics Between DDR3 and DDR4

Now that we know what DDR3 and DDR4 are, let's see some of the key characteristics of these two memory chips. This section is meant to offer you a visual representation of the two memory chips that you can take in and process at a glance.  

DDR3

DDR4


240-pin interface

Number of Pins

288-pin interface

8.5-14.9GB/s

Data Transfer Rate

17 - 21.3GB/s

1.5V

Operating Voltage

1.2V

1066 MHz

Clock Speed

2133 MHz

12.5 nanoseconds

Latency

12.75 nanoseconds

Backward incompatible

Compatibility

Not backward or forward compatible

Consistently flat surface

Physical Appearance

Slightly V-shaped, with longer middle pins

Similarities and Differences

Having seen the distinctive characteristics of the DDR3 and DDR4, let's make a direct comparison.

Differences Between DDR3 and DDR4

While both serve as virtual memory, they have many differences:

Clock Speed

The most obvious difference between these two chips is the clock speed. The DDR4 can gain as much as 2133 MHz clock speed, which is much higher than the maximum 1066MHz for DDR3. 

Latency

The difference in clocking speed does not, however, translate to a significant difference in the overall latency. The DDR4 has 12.75, as compared to the 12.5 nanoseconds latency of the DDR3.

Power Consumption

The DDR4 consumes less power than the DDR3. Manufacturers of these memory chips ensure that with every upgrade, they incorporate a power-saving component. That is why the DDR4 is a lower voltage than the DDR3, which in turn uses less power than the DDR2 and DDR.

As earlier noted, DDR4 performs a self-refresh for its content only. DDR3 on the other hand does both a self-refresh and auto-refresh for its content. Refreshing a machine is important in reducing power consumption.

Photo credit: memoryc.com

Pins

The hardware of these chips also differs. The DDR3 has 240 pins, while the DDR4 has 288 pins. The pins on the DDR4 are arranged in a way that they tend to converge at the middle, and they are also elongated at the middle. This is unlike DDR3, which has uniformly distributed pins that are similar in size.

Compatibility

Due to these differences in the hardware and appearance of these chips, they are not compatible. You cannot fit a DDR4 chip in a slot made for a DDR3 chip. The two have different key notches, the number of pins, and the size of pins.

Data Transfer Rate

Your DDR3 will transfer between 8.5-14.9 Gigabytes per second while the DDR4 transfers 17-21.3 GBs.

Data Capacity

Both have a data capacity range, so it is possible to get a DDR3 with a higher capacity than the base DDR4 model –but in general, DDR4 has a higher capacity than DDR3. The range for DDR4 is 2GB-128GB. DDR3 has a capacity range of 512MB-32GB.

Similarities Between DDR3 and DDR4

As much as these two chips are different, they also have some things in common, as discussed below.

Energy Efficiency

To begin with, both DDR3 and DDR4 memory chips are good power savers.

Power consumption is usually one of the things that necessitate manufacturers to upgrade earlier versions of their electrical products.

Though the power saved by each chip may seem negligible, it makes a huge difference when you are running a huge machine such as a server with several of these chips, or when you have several computers. Lower operating voltage means lower operating costs and less heat output.

Photo credit: gskill.com

Ability to Refresh Contents

Both DDR3 and DDR4 can self-refresh their content to optimize performance and functionality. Self-refreshing their contents also lower their power consumption.

Heat Distribution

One other thing that DDR3 and DDR4 have in common is the heat distribution capacity. Proper management and distribution of electrical heat bring down the risk of your computer overheating or overworking its fan.

Advantages of DDR3

Here are some things you'll enjoy with this type:

Compatibility

Like other DDR memory chips on the market, it is incompatible with other DDR. Given its lack of backward compatibility, you can't fix it on a DDR3, DDR2, or DDR slot. However, some devices allow the installation of identical DDR chips. This gives you the flexibility to easily upgrade the speed of your machine. It is important to note that if you use two different DDR chips on the same system, you should set it to overclock the slower one. If this is not done, the system automatically overclocks the faster one and runs on the speed of the lower one.

Power Efficiency

DDR3's power efficiency is a big win. You will save on your power bills when using this chip. Besides, you will get better data processing speeds, even when dealing with mid-large files.

Photo credit: virtium.com

Capacity

Your DDR3 has a higher data capacity than DDR2. You can also choose the size that suits you since they come in a range of 512MB to 32GB to cater to a wider market depending on user needs.

Clock Speed and Latency

If you choose the DDR3 memory chip, you will enjoy higher latency and clock speed. Your DDR3 will allow you to transfer as much as 14.9GB per second at a latency rate of 12.5 nanoseconds, which is excellent for most users.

This chip performs both a self-refresh and auto-refresh of its content. This contributes to low power usage as it ensures the machine is working at optimal efficiency. Additionally, you will get higher bandwidth and increased peak data rates.

Advantages of DDR4

If you decide to choose DDR4, you'll discover these benefits:

Clock Speed

This is your ideal memory chip if you are looking for a great clock speed. With DDR4 memory modules, you can pick the clock speed that suits your needs ranging from 1066 to 2133 MHz.

Chip Interface

The 288-pin interface makes this chip highly efficient. The pins are arranged in a way that makes it easy for you to fix the chip on your machine. Also, you cannot mistakenly fix it on an incompatible slot as they are shaped differently not to fit on any other slot other than a DDR4 slot.

Power Consumption

DDR4 has excellent power efficiency. This is good as it can run on a low voltage level – it only requires 1.2V to work. The self-refresh function also adds to this power efficiency as the content is constantly refreshed.

Photo credit: xpg.com

Storage Capacity

DDR4 is a good choice if you require large data storage capacity. With a high capacity of 128GB, you will eliminate the need for upgrading your memory size shortly. This is one of the reasons why the chip is gaining popularity with modern computer makers. It can accommodate the large files used in popular communication, gaming, and entertainment applications.

When upgrading your computer memory, latency should be one of your considerations. Although the latency difference between DDR3 and DDR4 is not remarkable, DDR4 does come out on top with a latency of 12.75 nanoseconds.

What About DDR5?

This memory module was launched in July 2020 to reduce power usage and increase the data processing speed of its predecessor. With 1.1V power usage, it introduces an extra 10% reduction in power use.

It also boosts the clock speed to 51.2 GBs, which is more than double the speed of DDR4. This is great for heavy users, as they can now process their large files at lightning speeds with only 1.1V power uptake. This memory module is expected to be more valuable to server-grade and high-end users.

Another addition that DDR5 is introducing is the Decision Feedback Equalization (DFE), a feature that allows IO speed scalability. This means that you will have the option of increasing the bandwidth of your DDR5 memory module in the future. The initial DDR5 model supports a bandwidth of 4.8GBs.

However, this chip has the same latency as DDR3 and DDR4. Also, it is not compatible with most RAM chips, though computer manufacturers are starting to develop components that can accommodate DDR5.

This is fine as the manufacturers will have the opportunity to test the modules on their products before releasing them to the users. We will likely have to wait until these compatible devices become more common before the manufacturer of DDR5 begins mass-production.

As the RAM chip of the future, most users are expected to embrace this module as it has a higher data capacity, speed, and scalability. These are the features that most heavy users look for. 

The demand for better clock speeds and higher memory capacity is also rising as most users turn to their computer devices for entertainment and business.

Photo credit: tomshardware.com

When and Why Would I Use DDR3?

If you are not a heavy user, and you do not frequently need extra-large data storage capacity, a DDR3 will serve you well. It is excellent value for the money. Despite being significantly cheaper, it delivers latency almost equal to DDR4. 

Upgrading to this RAM chip from previous generations will dramatically increase memory speed and provide power-saving enhancements. While a DDR3 module uses 1.5V, DDR2 and DDR use 1.8V and 2.5V respectively, so upgrading to DDR3 will significantly lower your power consumption.

Also, this memory module would be good for you if you want the option of interchanging it on several slots. It is both backward and forward incompatible, so you can't fix it on a DDR4 or DDR2 RAM slot.

There are DDR3 RAM chips with varying capacities on the market. You can choose DDR3-800 if you don't work with large files. And if you need more space but aren't ready to upgrade your motherboard, you can upgrade to a higher capacity DDR3 chip such as DDR3-1600.

Although they are rare, you can get motherboards that can accommodate DDR3 and DDR2 simultaneously. This would be a perfect way of boosting the memory of your computer without incurring huge costs. 

However, you should be cautious when doing this as it can cause your motherboard to malfunction if you install the RAM chips incorrectly.

Photo credit: pcgamer.com

When and Why Would I Use DDR4?

This is the memory module for you if you need bulky storage and reliably high processing speeds. This chip is scalable. You can begin with a lower capacity and clock speed model, then enlarge your capacity as your needs increase.

This will be especially useful to you if you are looking for a memory chip that can support data-intensive communication, entertainment, or data processing applications. Whether you are using gaming PCs or servers to process your data, this chip has sufficient density, speed, and latency to support your tasking demands.

Even with such heavy usage, you will notice a decrease in your energy bills if you use this RAM chip as it is made with power-saving enhancements. This will especially be helpful if you need a number of these chips for your gaming PCs or server.

This memory saves energy in three ways. First, it uses little energy to run. It also allows the host device to hibernate to a standby mode without refreshing the memory. Its effective heat distribution mechanism keeps the device cool, which cuts the power needed to run the fan by 40-50%.

Bottom Line

The SDRAM of your machine determines its memory speed and how much data you can store on your machine. Choosing the right one for your needs is important so that you can process data at optimal speeds and keep your costs at manageable levels.

You can choose between any DDR, from DDR2 to the recently introduced DDR5, but the DDR3 or DDR4 module will strike the balance between performance and cost for most users. You need to remember that each has a different capacity range, clock speed, latency, and power efficiency. 

DDR3, DDR4, and DDR5 are power efficient, with each cutting down the power uptake of its predecessor by about 50%. This means that with each subsequent version, your machine uses less energy to power it.

DDR4 and DDR5 have high capacities that are scalable. This gives users more storage and high processing speeds. These are ideal for servers, gaming PCs with high overlocking, or communication establishments that handle extra-large files.

The clock speed and latency of the memory modules also increases with each upgrade. Note also that just like DDR3 is backward incompatible, the other versions are incompatible with other motherboards except those made for them. 

Photo credit: akshatblog.com

People Also Ask

We understand that you are not necessarily a tech guru, but you still need to understand the right RAM chip for your device, the options available on the market, and how they affect the efficiency of your device. Let's answer some common relevant questions for your deeper understanding in this section.

Is 8GB DDR4 Better Than 16GB DDR3?

8GB DDR4 has a lower memory capacity than 16GB DDR3. This means that you can store more data on your 16GB DDR3 than on 8GB DDR4. However, DDR4 is still faster since generally, DDR4 has a superior clock speed than DDR3. If speed and not memory is your major concern, 8GB DDR4 will serve you better than a 16GB DDR3 on the same device.

Is DDR4 Really Faster Than DDR3?

DDR4 is measurably faster than DDR3. It ranges from 1060-2133MHz while the slower DDR3 ranges from 800-1060MHz. This is a significant difference, making DDR4 famous with heavy users as their bulky files are processed efficiently and at faster speeds. For instance, DDR4-3200, the latest release for industrial users, has a higher transfer rate, at 70% faster data transfer than the latest DDR3-1866. 

Can I Use DDR4 Instead of DDR3?

You can use DDR4 when you need bulky storage, high clock speeds, and low power usage. You can also use DDR4 if you have a DDR4-compatible motherboard – however, it won’t fit on a DDR3 motherboard. Using a DDR4 will not affect your computer negatively in any way, but it will enhance its performance and energy efficiency. 

Photo credit: techradar.com

Does RAM Increase FPS?

Frames per second (FPS) determines how smoothly your favorite game runs on your PC. Each game has a minimum FPS requirement. RAM increases FPS only when you add RAM to meet the minimum levels that your game needs. Once you achieve this, adding extra RAM will not raise FPS.

When Did DDR4 Come Out?

The ECC DDR4 was released at the beginning of 2014. The ECC (Error Correction Code) version detects and corrects data errors in automatic mode. It is thus loved by entities with sensitive data on their servers and workstations to protect themselves against data corruption. Towards the end of the same year, the non-ECC DDR4 was launched. 

When Did DDR3 Come Out?

Samsung's first DDR3 prototype was released in 2005. It then went through development until 2007 when it was officially released. However, its mass-production and sale started in 2009.



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.