Tests show DDR4 is useless for desktop PC users

At best you get a five percent increase in performance.

After years of gestation, DDR4 had its big debut last year at the Computex conference in Taipei, the obvious place to show it off. Memory makers promised parts by the start of this year to coincide with Intel's new chipsets supporting the Haswell-E processor.

DDR4 promised two things: a lower power draw and higher performance. It uses just 1.2 watts, instead of the 1.5 watts in DDR3, and it would offer speeds of 3200Mhz, compared with the top speed of 2133MHz for DDR3.

The propellerheads over at Anandtech got their hands on some new Haswell-E platforms from Intel and third party motherboard makers and tested DDR4 kits at both DDR4-2133 and DDR4-3200. It's not a perfect match to compare DDR4-2133 to DDR3-2133 because of the changes in electronics, but they are so subtle as to not have a major impact.

The results? The differences between DDR4-2133 to DDR4-3200 are miniscule, with the vast majority of consumer applications and games show gains of from zero to five percent with the faster memory.

Only one test, the Redis memory key-store test that uses a relational database for its benchmark, showed a significant gain, and that's because it is fully dependent on high memory bandwidth and CPU performance.

Part of the reason why you see so little gain is simply there are so few applications that need this speed. The amount of memory interaction is minimal and the existing memory is fast enough. DDR4 is not going to make Microsoft Word any faster.

Second, CPUs are focused on reducing latency thanks to their large memory caches. So much of computing is repetitive and the advent of ever-larger L1, L2 and L3 caches has decreased the need for direct contact with the CPU.

DDR4 will find its place in servers. The drop in voltage becomes more significant as you add more memory. Two 8GB memory modules in a PC translates to 0.6 volts of power saved vs. DDR3, which is pointless. When you put 32 or 48 memory modules in a massive server doing heavy virtualization, now you're talking several volts of power saved, and in these massive data centers today, that will add up.

The other place DDR4 might take off, believe it or not, is tablets and smartphones. LPDDR4 is a low power version, just 1.1 volts, that offers twice the throughput of LPDDR3 at the same time. So expect the handset makers to jump all over that.

As a die-hard enthusiast and system builder, I see no need for DDR4. It's at least two to three times more expensive than DDR3 and does me no favors.

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