RAM is historically cheap right now, although it’s been mostly DDR4 RAM that keeps average prices down. Newer DDR5 RAM kits, now used by both Intel and AMD’s current generations of CPUs, tend to fall on the more expensive side of things, made to look even worse by dramatically cheap DDR4 kits.
But that could change, and fast. Thanks to the latest round of Cyber Monday RAM deals (opens in new tab)I see some DDR5 RAM kits available for a lot less money than I expected.
For example, you can get a 32GB kit of Corsair’s Vengeance DDR5 RAM for $134.99 (opens in new tab) at the moment. That’s for a pair of 5200MHz RMS DIMMs. If you want to bump that up to a healthy 5,600MHz (rms), it’s only $10 more (opens in new tab). I recommend the slightly more expensive 5600MHz kit as it also has lower CAS latency.
It wasn’t long ago that roughly equivalent DDR4 kits cost that much. Based on the specs we’re looking at, in early 2022 you would have had to shell out about $140 to snag a 32GB kit of Corsair Vengeance DDR4 rated at 3600MHz (rms).
The switch from DDR4 to DDR5 had to happen sometime soon. As I said, Intel and AMD both have DDR5 with their 12th/13th cpu’s. If these prices are sustained in the new year, I can imagine DDR5 quickly becoming the de facto option for new gaming PC builds.
Right now, it’s a bit difficult to decide on your PC build. DDR4 kits are still so cheap, and in the Cyber Monday RAM deals we saw Teamgroup’s 32GB DDR4 for just $69.99 (opens in new tab). We’re talking about half the price of an equivalent DDR5 kit. But that’s a particularly low price, and if we’re going to see DDR4 and DDR5 somehow meet in the middle, with production of one dwindling and the other increasing, it means only one thing: now is the time to DDR4 buy when you are waiting.
Meanwhile, DDR5 probably become cheaper over time, and the specification will also gradually improve over time. That means those higher latency, lower speed kits available today will give way to even faster options at some point in the future, similar to the gradual increase in performance with DDR4 – something to consider if you don’t plan to buy one just yet.
If you’re wondering what moving to DDR5 could bring you, let’s go over the benefits. As you may have noticed, DDR5 kits run at a much higher effective clock speed than DDR4, but to compensate, they have higher CAS latencies. However, don’t be put off by those higher CAS latencies. It’s all a careful balancing act between speed and latency for performance, and even a DDR5 kit with a high CAS latency will perform reasonably well in practice with some of today’s faster DDR4 kits.
To quote Alan Dexter’s DDR5 explainer: “To put a bit of math on things, real-world CAS latency is measured as (CAS latency x 2,000)/memory speed, which in the case of the DDR5-5600 CL28 kit occurs at 10 ns. For reference, this is the same as DDR4-3200 with a CAS latency of 16.
However, always check the CAS latency to make sure it is not too high compared to the clock speed. Somewhere in the 30’s is decent, but you can find sub-30 kits (opens in new tab) nowadays, although none are for sale as far as I’ve seen. They’re fairly new to the scene, while you’ll find plenty of kits rocking a CAS latency of 40, as that was more of a standard for the first wave of DDR5.
So what else does DDR5 bring you? These kits actually regulate their own voltage, which doesn’t sound like much, but that’s how DDR5 will aim for speeds that are completely unfathomable on DDR4 RAM. Similarly, this can free up a bit more headroom for overclocking your own memory if you want to do such a thing. DDR5 also supports a new XMP standard, XMP 3.0, which unlocks some additional memory profiles stored directly in RAM. AMD also has equivalent technology in AMD EXPO.
But it has to be said that there isn’t a particularly huge new feature for gamers when it comes to DDR5, just an overall faster package with some clever upgrades. It’s more of a holistic upgrade for your system, and that’s why we don’t necessarily recommend it for you to have to install into your machine today.
Eventually, however, DDR5 RAM will be the only option at a reasonable price, and it looks like that day is creeping up on us quickly.