DDR4 ar­rives in the main­stream

HWM (Malaysia) - - FEATURE -

One of the ma­jor steps for­ward for In­tel Z170 is the sup­port for DDR4 mem­ory, which marks the first time that DDR4 sup­port will be avail­able on a chipset other than the ul­tra-en­thu­si­ast In­tel X99. In fact, Sky­lake moth­er­boards will dis­pense with sup­port for DDR3 en­tirely, and will sup­port ei­ther DDR4 or DDR3L RAM. But be­cause the slots are dif­fer­ent for each mem­ory type, moth­er­boards will only be able to sup­port one of them, and the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of boards are go­ing to opt for DDR4, which of­fers sev­eral ad­van­tages over older DDR3 mod­ules.

For starters, DDR4 has a lower op­er­at­ing volt­age of 1.2V, down from 1.5V on DDR3. It also boasts higher data trans­fer rates – Sky­lake’s mem­ory con­troller sup­ports DDR4 2,133MHz by de­fault, as com­pared to DDR3 1,600MHz on Haswell CPUs and In­tel Z97. Fur­ther­more, DDR4 en­ables higher mem­ory den­si­ties, which means up to 16GB mod­ules. In­tel Z170 sup­ports up to 64GB across four DIMMs, so you can re­ally load up those RAM slots if you’re of the per­sua­sion that there is no such thing as too much RAM.

To cap things off, man­u­fac­tur­ers are also re­leas­ing kits at fre­quen­cies that DDR3 would be hard-pressed to match. For in­stance, the new G. Skill Tri­dent Z mem­ory is avail­able in kits clocked up to 4,000MHz, nearly dou­ble that of the 2,133MHz base spec­i­fi­ca­tion.

These ad­van­tages aside, DDR4 does have a slightly higher CAS la­tency than DDR3 be­cause of the higher mem­ory fre­quen­cies. CAS la­tency is a mea­sure of the time – or more pre­cisely the num­ber of clock cy­cles – taken by the mem­ory to send data back to the pro­ces­sor when it re­ceives a com­mand. On the other hand, mem­ory fre­quen­cies in­di­cate how quickly the sys­tem can ac­cess data on the RAM. So while it might seem like higher CAS la­ten­cies would mean that DDR4 is slower, the out­come isn’t al­ways so straight­for­ward be­cause the two work to­gether to in­flu­ence mem­ory per­for­mance.

Mem­ory per­for­mance is de­ter­mined more ac­cu­rately by the ac­tual la­tency time, which is mea­sured in nanosec­onds (ns). Faster mem­ory clock speeds re­sult in shorter clock cy­cles be­tween when the mem­ory re­ceives a com­mand and when it ac­tu­ally re­sponds, so even though the CAS la­tency goes up – more cy­cles – the ac­tual la­tency time still de­creases, re­sult­ing in over­all faster mem­ory.

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