Analysts are predicting a fast ramp for DDR5 by 2023 after it debuts in the server market last year. If these predictions are accurate, DDR5 would ramp much more quickly than DDR4 did when it launched.
Micronews, via THG, predicts that DDR5 will launch at the tail end of this year and then scale rapidly in 2022 thanks to widespread adoption in the server market. In 2023, DDR5 goes fully mainstream and begins pushing DDR4 out of the entire PC space.
These predictions line up with what we’ve heard elsewhere, though there’s some potential ambiguity as to why. DDR5 is referred to as having higher BOM (Bill of Materials) costs than DDR4 in some articles and lower in others. What we suspect is that long-term DDR5 BOM costs are expected to come in below DDR4, but every memory technology carries a premium at introduction and DDR5 is no different in that regard.
Is a Fast DDR5 Ramp Likely?
The only way for DDR5 to surge into market the way Micronews expects is if AMD and Intel make a major push to migrate to the new standard by late 2022 and continue it into 2023. The initial wave of server adoption expected for late 2021-2022 makes sense. Intel will introduce DDR5 with Sapphire Rapids and Sapphire Rapids is expected to offer much more competitive core counts compared with 2nd or even 3rd Gen Xeon Scalable processors.
The relatively quick jump from a maximum of 28 cores per socket to 72-80 cores per socket could unleash some pent-up demand for hardware on the Intel side of the equation. AMD’s Genoa isn’t expected to make quite the same jump in core count — rumor suggests a 96-core CPU, up from 64 — but that would be enough to maintain AMD’s core count advantage against Intel. Again, this kind of upgrade could unleash some additional interest on the AMD side as well.
DDR5 supports higher die densities (up to 64Gb, compared with 16Gbb) and it’s expected to hit DDR5-6400 clock speeds quickly. Memory companies have already teased significantly higher clocks. Memory subsystem changes haven’t historically boosted PC performance much at launch, though it’s possible that the clock jump DDR5 brings compared with DDR4 will open a small gap between the new RAM standard and its predecessor.
As always, PCs with integrated graphics will benefit the most from faster DDR5, especially AMD APUs. A dual-channel system with DDR5-6400 would offer 102.4GB/s of memory bandwidth — double the 51.2GB/s you’d get from the same chip today.
The big question in all of this is whether demand in the PC market will fall by a larger than expected amount when pandemic-related demand inevitably cools. If it does, it could take DDR5 a bit longer to replace DDR4, putting it on more of an equivalent timeline to DDR4’s overall replacement of DDR3.
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