DDR4 RAM is the next evolutionary step forward in memory technology from DDR3.
Compared to DDR3 it offers over 20 new features, so it goes without saying that it's not backwards compatible and you'll need a new motherboard and CPU to use it. Although it sounds expensive, it's going to improve performance greatly, allowing much higher clock speeds a higher capacity right off the bat.
DDR4 will be capable of doubling the density per dye, but perhaps equally important is that it can support up to eight dyes per package instead of four, which translates into an effective quadrupling of the DDR3 maximum capacity of 128 gigabytes per module. Impressive to say the least.
A couple more such improvements that DDR4 provides are the 40% or so reduction in power consumption due to DDR4's better power management and lower operating voltage, as well as its support for a much more advanced error detection, prevention and correction.
Picking The Best DDR4 RAM
Below, we’ve taken the liberty of checking out some of the most capable DDR4 RAM we could find. Take a look at them for yourselves and let us know what you think.
Looking at the Crucial Ballistix Sport LT, we noticed that there's a nice-looking metal heat spreader that connects to the memory module. This has a very subtle digital camera on it, which comes in red, grey and white. The heat spreaders aren't massive, but they could still interfere with some heat sink and fan arrangements depending on the motherboard and case layouts.
The small drawback they do have is the color availability, only having three colors isn't the most choice in the world, and it does mean you may have a color mismatch.
The quality, however, is top notch and there are no obvious flaws in the assembly of the kit, helping it to stand out amongst the best DDR4 RAM.
The kit we looked at, a dual channel kit, had the speed of 2400 MT/s and latencies of 16-16-16-39 and 1.2V on 2x8GB DIMMs. This is only a small step up from the face clock speed of DDR4 at 2133 Mhz.
We took the timings down to 14-14-14-36 on the Z-170 platform of 2400 megahertz, just by changing the values of the BIOS - the system didn't crash once over 2 weeks worth of usage!
Adding more voltage could permit faster clocks or lower latencies, although we wouldn't recommend playing around with timings unless you know what you're doing.
Very few programs will show any use of the faster speeds in your average day-to-day usage, unless you are using an integrated GPU. This is because the GPU uses the RAM as V-RAM. An interesting little thing here is that the RAM only has one XMP profile, whereas all the DDR3 kits I've seen had two or more. This could be a generational thing, or just a manufacturer choice.
The pricing on this kit, directly on Crucial, is basically 60 pounds. A good deal, in my opinion, considering when I bought a bog-standard 32GB kit of 2133 megahertz that heats better, it cost around 180 pounds when DDR4 was launched. So, to conclude, if you're looking for some good bang for the buck DDR4 to go into your new Z-170 or X99 system, this could be the kit for you. A good price, a good build and good performance.
The Corsair Vengeance LPX is the one of the first DDR4 RAMs on the market, lying at a relatively cheap price point, with decent specs and a design that has overclocking in mind, makes it very attractive for those building a powerful PC on a budget.
We took a look at the Corsair Vengeance LPX, the first DDR4 member or the Vengeance line.
The Vengeance LPX is more closely matched to the Vengeance LP than the standard Vengeance. The LP and the LPX have smaller heat spreaders, meaning they are able to fit into more compact setups.
The smaller heat spreaders may have a small impact on overclocking ability, as the RAM will theoretically be less able to spread heat, but the low voltage nature of DDR4 should more than make up for this.
You can purchase the Vengeance LPX in 4 different colors: red, white, black and blue, so it should fit well into most setups. We were given the 2800 Mhz version to review, which is a considerable step up from the fastest DDR3 RAM, rated at 2400 Mhz.
The Vengeance LPX is designed for X99 chipsets, which supports quad channel memory - the Vengeance LPX is built to utilize this to its maximum potential by using Intel's XMP 2.0 software, for which the Vengeance LPX has native support; we were able to achieve speeds of 3733 megahertz.
Something that will be seen on all of the best DDR4 RAM is the lack of backward compatibility. Currently, you're only going to be able to use this on the latest motherboards with an X99 chipset, and the only CPU that currently supports this is Intel's 5th Generation i7 and i7 Extreme processors.
As DDR4 is brand new, not much can be said about how good the Corsair Vengeance LPX is, because there's simply nothing to compare it to. What I will say however, is it's fast, really fast.
We tested the MSI X99S SLI Plus motherboard and in our tests the combination of the latest chipset and the Corsair Vengeance LPX was very impressive. It also allowed us to test some things that have made us very excited about DDR4.
One of these is RAM disks. Setting up a RAM disk essentially means you have a portion of the RAM as a super fast read and writable disk. DDR3 is only available in 8GB sticks, but DDR4 will eventually be available in 16GB sticks - enough to dedicate a significant portion to a RAM disk, but still leaving on your computer plenty of RAM.
The Vengeance more than does the job – thumbs up from us.
Our final item on our list of the best DDR4 RAM is the latest offering from the team over at G.Skill. This is their Trident Z, designed with high-speed performance in mind for the 6th gen Intel Core Skylake processors.
The Trident Z is a 2x8 or 16 gigabyte dual channel kit at 3000 megahertz – although this is on the low end of what's available, as speeds go all the way up to a blazing 4266.
As vendors continue to raise the bar for memory speeds, it can often feel like our needs as consumers are increasing also, but it's important to bear in mind that the outrageous cost of super-fast DDR4 rarely justifies the real world gain in most cases, meaning you shouldn't feel outdated for having a sub 3000 megahertz kit. 2133 megahertz is currently the JEDEC official standard after all.
Taking a closer look at our Trident Z modules, we noticed that they feature a CAS latency of 15-15-15-35, a theoretical bandwidth of 24000 mega transfers per second and support for XMP 2.0 for automatically configuring your RAM timings.
What caught my eye literally about this however, wasn't its résumé of impressive specs, but the beautifully designed heat spreaders, elegantly lining the black PC beats.
The two-toned brushed aluminum plates feature a sporty, triple thin design on both ends, with a red accent strip running down the spine of the module, that together create a balanced mix of ferocity and class.
The G.Skill and Trident Z branding look sharp, yet unobtrusive and the overall build quality here is truly something to marvel. Suffice it to say this is the best-looking and highest-quality DDR4 kit we've seen to date.
An Explanation Of RAM
The least complex explanation we could come up with for DDR4 RAM is that it's short for double-data-rate fourth generation synchronous dynamic random-access memory. However, it’s easier to understand when we know regular memory or RAM is actually doing in your system. If imagine for a moment that a builder is like a CPU doing work and tools are like data.
So, a processor is cash – it is a very small amount of incredibly fast storage directly on board. This is kind of like the hands of our builder - he can't keep much there, but it's really fast to access.
Next step is RAM or working memory. This is whatever our builder can store on is belt or nearby as he works. It's slower to get to the cache and he can't keep everything he could possibly need there, but it should be enough to complete whatever is the current task.
Next step is mass storage, which would be your hard drive. This is much slower than RAM to access, kind of like going down the ladder to grab something from his truck. And if we wanted to keep the analogy going even further, we could say that offsite storage, like over the internet, is kind of like driving to the store to buy a new tool out there. It's that much slower again.
So hopefully, from this little explanation, you can begin to have a better idea of the implications of RAM in your computer. RAM is the tools or data, bring it back to computers, that your CPU needs to complete its current task or tasks.
So, the more that you have, the less often you, or the ‘builder’ will go down the ladder to retrieve things and the faster it is, the less downtime you'll need to deal with every time you realize you're holding your drill, when actually you need a circular saw.
The Correct DDR4 RAM For Your Needs
It's quite hard to analyze benchmarks of latest technologies as there's nothing to properly compare it to. For that reason, most testing involves broad benchmark data, so people can get a basic idea of how fast the RAM is.
Note that the accuracy of these results may be varied, as many people are unsure whether or not the benchmarking software is properly able to test DDR4 RAM.
Picking the correct DDR4 RAM is entirely dependent on what you need from your computer. As you can see above, all of the DDR4 models we have looked at are all very capable, and their arrival marks another point in the advancement of RAM sophistication.
Upgrading from DDR3 may seem like a steep price to pay, but the advances in performance that DDR4 offer are overwhelming. If you’re struggling to work out whether DDR4 is for you, do a little research on the items we’ve listed above, and weigh up the pros and cons.