GDDR5 vs DDR3: Which Should You Choose in 2021?

Austin
| Last Updated: April 14, 2021

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Struggling to choose between GDDR5 and DDR3 for your RAM upgrade?

Whether you’re building a PC or updating your existing one, there are lots of choices and specifications to consider. We’ve found that one can transform your gaming experience, while the other can boost it and your other PC tasks.

Ready to read the verdict?

GDDR5 vs DDR3

GDDR5

DDR3

Pros

Pros

  • High bandwidth

  • High maximum capacity

  • Compatible version widely available
  • Cost-effective

  • Low latency

  • Good for PC tasks

Cons

Cons

  • More expensive

  • Only boosts gaming
  • Only compatible with DDR3 motherboards

  • Speeds might still affect gaming

Best For

Best For

Gamers who want a graphics card that provides smooth gameplay, 4k resolution, or VR.

Gamers who also use the PC for office tasks and wants overall performance improvement.

What is GDDR5?

GDDR5, also known as GDDR5 SGRAM, is a type of synchronous dynamic random-access memory. DDR stands for double data rate, showing that it has a high bandwidth. The 5 indicates that it’s the fifth generation of this product, which builds on its predecessor, the GDDR4.  

It’s used in high-performance computing, including being used in graphics cards and game consoles. You’ll find the GDDR5 in the PlayStation 4. Samsung launched it in 2007 and was mass-producing it, alongside other companies and suppliers, by 2008. In the following years, it grew, moving from the original 1Gb version to 2Gb, then 4Gb. In 2015, the 8Gb version appeared, which helped to meet the demand from 4K displays. 

In your graphics card, the GDDR5 is the video random-access memory (VRAM) that works in tandem with the graphics processing unit (GPU). The dual-ported chip stores the data for the GPU to retrieve, process, and render. The GDDR5 uses two write clocks and a command clock, which allows for the fast flow of data in both directions. 

It uses 8n prefetch architecture, which means that 8 bits of data are processed per clock cycle. This speed affects the communication between the memory and the memory controller. For write or read access, there are two 256-bit command clock cycle transfers in the internal memory core, which corresponds to eight 32-bit one-half write clock cycle transfers to the input/output (I/O) pins.

Photo credit: LaptopMedia.com

What is DDR3?

DDR3 is also a type of synchronous dynamic random-access memory. It has the same double data rate feature that equates to high bandwidth. It’s a type 3 product, meaning it’s the third generation of this kind of chip.

Samsung also had an instrumental role in this product, as they produced the prototype in 2005. The company also worked on the development of the chip in the coming years. It appeared in the market as part of motherboards in 2007. Its mass-production came at the same time as Core i7 processors, which have internal memory controllers that require DDR3 to function. 

DDR3 is dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) with dual-inline memory modules (DIMMs) using 64-bit memory controllers. The DDR4 and DDR5 followed this product, although DDR5 isn’t yet in wide circulation. Newer models have focused on reducing energy consumption even further, but with the same latency, which is how many clock cycles it takes to access and make available data when requested. 

The DDR3 is an upgrade on the DDR2 as it uses less power, but doesn’t sacrifice performance. It transfers data at twice the rate of the DDR2, or eight times the speed of its internal memory.   The DDR3 is used in Microsoft’s console Xbox One. 

Relevant Characteristics Between GDDR5 and DDR3

GDDR5

Photo credit: amazon.com

DDR3

Photo credit: amazon.com

8 GB/s

Bandwidth

17 GB/s

512 bit

Bus Width

64 bit

8000MHz (2000MHz)*

Memory Clock Speed

1066 MHz

15 CAS

Latency

8 CAS

Yes

Compatibility

No

*GDDR5 is quad-pumped, so technically each is running at 2000MHz

Similarities and Differences

While we’ve already put some technical data side by side, comparing these two chips isn’t quite so simple. We’ll take a closer look at the similarities between the two, as well as examining what sets them apart.

GDDR5 and DDR3 Differences 

The biggest difference to highlight first is compatibility. It comes down to the fact that GDDR5 and DDR3 aren’t direct replacements for each other. 

Compatibility

DDR3 typically comes as part of a motherboard and is used by the central processing unit (CPU) for system memory. GDDR5 is used in GPUs, which are separate components made up of different cores. 

Essentially, GDDR5 comes as part of a graphics card that you can install on your motherboard in the PCI-E x16 slot. DDR3 comes with your motherboard and has pins that align that affect compatibility. DDR chips aren’t backward or forward compatible, which means you’ll need to get a new motherboard and CPU to upgrade. 

Functionality

As already mentioned, DDR3 is used in CPUs for system memory. It’s designed for smaller, functional tasks, whereas GDDR5 is designed to handle large amounts of data. 

GDDR5 has the ability to read and write at the same time, which means it’s receiving data to store, deleting information, and sending the relevant data back for rendering in parallel. The DDR3 acts linearly, making it more suited to quickly processing small memory tasks, which is what gives it its low latency. 

It’s best to interpret the bandwidth, bus width, and memory clock speed together, as they create a picture of what each chip can do. A GDDR5 can work with several 32-bit I/Os, which gives multiples up to the 512 bandwidth mentioned, depending on the application. It also has a clamshell mode, where it can connect to two integrated circuits and double the memory. This feature means that the bandwidth is technically greater than the DDR3, which has 64-bit channels.

Photo credit: WorthPoint.com

GDDR5 and DDR3 Similarities

Although the DDR3 is slightly older than the GDDR5, there are some similarities in the technology they use and the way they function. 

Console Graphics

As is clear from their names, they are both double data rate interfaces, which allows for higher transfer rates of data. Both chips work on the same principles; they are dynamic RAM, which means they need to refresh to maintain the data that they store. 

They are both used in consoles, the PS4 and Xbox One, which shows that they can both be used for playing video games in this format. Even though the DDR3 is better suited to system memory processing, it can deliver enough data for graphics. If a GPU requires a lot of RAM to perform, it’ll require a GDDR5. However, a graphics card that requires less RAM can produce similar results with a DDR3.

Data Transfer

The GDDR5 and the DDR3 have similar circuitry that’s built to process and refresh. Their development followed a similar path to produce high capacity but low cost, even if their functions are a little different. Since they’re both later generations, they’ve been designed to demand less power than the versions before them. 

They both work on word and bit lines. The architecture of the two is 8n prefetch. This kind of architecture means that a single request can result in eight data words, which is faster than one or two words per request. 

Advantages of GDDR5

Now you know a bit more about how the GDDR5 works and compares to the DDR3, it’s time to take a closer look at what benefits you can get from choosing this chip.

High Bandwidth

The main attraction of using GDDR5 is the bandwidth. It can deliver a high quantity of information at once. More specifically, it can write new data and read and deliver stored data at the same time. The 8n prefetch architecture and up to 512-bit data bus gives it this capacity. The result is high-quality graphics rendered well. High bandwidth equates to smooth gameplay, which is crucial to enjoying your game to the fullest.

High Maximum Capacity

The high maximum capacity of memory in the GDDR5 means it delivers high signal quality. It also contributes to the smooth rendering. The stable operation and data integrity that the GDDR5 provides means that it performs well. At a fundamental level, this means you should be able to run games with graphics-heavy features like texture mapping. When you’re playing your AAA game, the framerate should be smooth. 

Widely Used by GPU Manufacturers

No matter how brilliant a product is, it still needs to be accessible. By that, we mean you need to find a graphics card that uses the chip, and preferably more than one. Having a choice of cards means that you’re likely to find one that suits your needs in terms of power supply and resolution, but also offers good value for money. Fortunately, Nvidia and AMD, two of the biggest graphics card producers, use GDDR5. 

Photo credit: techspot.com

Advantages of DDR3 

Wondering how a DDR3 would impact performance? Here are some of the key benefits of using this chip.

Cool and Efficient

As a third-generation product, a lot had been learned about DDR and how to make it work well. The result with the DDR3 is a chip that doesn’t produce a lot of heat. It also performs well with less power required when compared to other DDR chips. Part of that is due to its increased bandwidth, which means it can do the same work but faster. It uses 1.5V, which compares well to older versions, and the DDR4 is only marginally better at 1.2V.

Multitasking

A considerable advantage of the DDR3 is how reliable it is when performing different tasks. If you’re interested in gaming, but also want your computer to handle internet usage and office work, then this chip can deliver on both fronts. The bandwidth means it’s fast enough to suit some demanding games. However, you can also take advantage of the low latency when it comes to smaller memory processing tasks for everyday PC use.

Cost-effective

If your motherboard already has DDR3, then it’s a cost-effective option as you can add more. If you’re upgrading, you’ll need a motherboard that takes DDR3, and your CPU will need to work with the motherboard, which could become costly. However, it’ll enhance your performance. As the DDR4 has become quite popular, there are lots of opportunities to get DDR3 second hand or for a price that’s competitive when compared to other DDRs or GPUs.

What About GDDR6? 

You’ll have already understood by now that new generations come along for both GDDR and DDR. While DDR5 is still making its way to the market commercially, GDDR6 started rolling out in 2018, which means it’s available in several graphics cards now. As with any product, there’s a decision to be made about using something tried and tested or going for the latest model. These GDDR6 details should help you make an informed decision.

There are a few key factors that might make you consider the latest version, although it’s crucial to note that newer isn’t always better. One big difference between GDDR6 and GDDR5 is that the new generation chip has a stacking structure. If your tech can’t handle stacked chips, which is a relatively recent concept, then you’ll want to stick to GDDR5.

Photo credit: samsung.com

Here are the main specifications of the GDDR6:

  • 1.3V power

  • Comes in size 8GB and 16GB

  • Bandwidth 14GB

There are some advantages and disadvantages to these specifications. While everything is bigger and better in the GDDR6, that needs to translate into performance to make it worth your while. The 1.3V power will mean that your battery could last for longer using a graphics card with this chip. Often the amount of power per bit transferred reduces, but the consumption overall can be more.

The two size choices should give you plenty of memory for your gaming experience. That will affect cost though, which is another reason you might prefer the GDDR5. The bandwidth upgrade at 14GB doesn’t disappoint, so even though you’ll pay more if you need speed and power, the GDDR6 is a contender. Just like the GDDR5X, you can expect an interim upgrade to come out as the GDDR6X. These models usually only have small improvements on the bandwidth or power.

When and Why Would I Use GDDR5?

You might already be convinced that the GDDR5 sounds like a chip for you. If you want to know when to use it and what it can do for you, read on.

Getting a GPU

The GDDR5 comes as part of a GPU or graphics card. If you want to use one, you’ll need to find a card that’s compatible with your computer and suits your needs. The RAM is just one factor when choosing a graphics card, although it’s one of the main ones when considering performance. A GPU is specially designed to handle the rendering, texture mapping, and memory access that games require.

4K Gaming

A GPU can enhance your capabilities considerably. If you like to play games often and on a high-resolution screen, such as 4K, then an investment in a graphics card with a GDDR5 will improve your experience. 

VR Gaming

Another reason for wanting a GPU with a GDDR5 chip is enjoying VR gaming. Your equipment will need to be VR ready, and the graphics card is no exception. To deliver that fully immersive experience, you’ll want to consider one with GDDR5.

Photo credit: gearbest.com

When and Why Would I Use DDR3?

Unsure of whether DDR3 is for you? These situations and reasons why you would buy and use DDR3 will set you straight.

An Overall Upgrade

If you’ve already got the equipment, but it isn’t quite performing to the standard that you want in terms of processing, you might consider updating or enhancing your RAM. Usually, you’ll choose to do this if you have an older machine that still works fine and would suit a DDR3 chip and isn’t compatible with DDR4.

A Budget-Friendly Build

If you’re building your PC from scratch, but you want to keep costs down, DDR3 is an excellent option. There’ll be more choices at different price points, and you can still deliver in terms of processing power and gaming.

Master Multitasking

If you want your PC to do more than be fantastic at gaming, the DDR3 could be your best bet. Most models deliver impressive speed and memory, which means you can handle intense multitasking without pause.

Bottom Line

While you can use DDR3 and GDDR5 to enhance your gaming experience, they function in different ways and appeal to different buyers. If you’re struggling for RAM and want to enjoy some serious gaming on your computer, including VR, a graphics card with GDDR5 would be your choice.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a cost-effective way to give your computer a boost for gaming, day-to-day actions, and multitasking, adding the DDR3 to your motherboard could suit your needs.

People Also Ask

Changing or adding components to your computer can be complicated. Here are the answers to some common questions that should make the next steps clearer.

Will GDDR5 Work With DDR3 Motherboard?

Yes. The DDR3 on your motherboard is part of the system memory, whereas the GDDR5 comes as part of a graphics card. As long as you have the compatible slot for the card, the two can remain on the same computer.

Is GDDR5 Compatible With DDR3?

GDDR5 won’t replace DDR3 as this is part of your motherboard and is used for the system memory. You can keep your DDR3 RAM and add a GPU with GDDR5 to the PCI slot. 

Photo credit: techinn.com

What Does “G” Stand for in GDDR5?

The G in GDDR5 stands for graphics. This differentiates it from the DDR series of RAM. DDR can be found on your motherboard as part of the system RAM. GDDR comes as a separate core on a graphic processing unit that you add to your computer in a separate slot on your motherboard.

What Does DDR Stand for?

DDR stands for double data rate. Other products can be SDR or single data rate, which describes the way the clocks transfer data, either using one side in the singular, or both sides for double. 

Is GDDR5 Good for Gaming? 

Yes. GDDR5 is an excellent option in the form of a graphics card for gaming. It can significantly improve rendering and how smooth your gameplay is or might give you the capability to play games that your computer can’t handle usually.



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.