Comparing DDR3 to DDR4

Moving from a standard DDR3-2133 C11 kit to DDR4-2133 C15, just by looking at the numbers, feels like a downgrade despite what the rest of the system is. Ideally we want the first number, the frequency, to be high and the second number, the latency, to be low. After spending several years dealing with DDR3, moving to DDR4 feels a bit of a backwards step when you look at solely the numbers on paper.

As part of this review we have covered many different areas where DDR4 is the upgrade of DDR3, not only in terms of voltage but some of the underlying concepts as well. This puts DDR4 in a position for upgradability in the future, especially when it comes to density and future technologies (see the next page for more information). But an ultimate question still remains: at the same frequency and latency, do they perform the same?

The only way to perform an identical comparison would be to have a platform that could probe both DDR3 and DDR4 while keeping the same CPU. If one comes along, we will test that, but in the mean time we can do some broad comparisons with near-identical systems.

For this test we took two Haswell based systems and compared them against each other. The first contains the Haswell-E i7-5960X processor, cut it down to run at four cores with no HyperThreading, fixed the CPU speed at 4 GHz and placed the memory into DDR4-2133 14-14-14 350 2T timings. We did the same with the second system, a Haswell based i7-4770K moved it to 4 GHz and making sure it was in 4C/4T mode. The OS was placed into a unique high performance profile and we ran our test suite. The only difference that remained between the two setups was the L2 and L3 cache, which we cannot change unfortunately.

In our non-gaming tests, there is one situation where DDR3 is more than 3% better and two where DDR4 is +3%. It is worth noting that most of the numbers, especially with things like the Web and Cinebench are actually slightly negative.

In the gaming tests, similarly there are more +3% on the side of DDR4. If we do a direct comparison regardless of the percentage, DDR4 wins 11 times compared to DDR3 getting 8, and almost of DDR3’s wins are minor except for two-way SLI. It would seem that for two-way SLI DDR4 at least brings up some of the minimum frame rates.

Pulling out the >3% difference numbers, just to see what the numbers exactly are:

On the face of it, the Hybrid result does not seem that different, whereas a full minute on Photoscan or 10 seconds in our WinRAR test feels like a difference. In the gaming tests moving nearer to 120 FPS or 60 FPS, especially in both of the minimum frame rate tests, is an important jump which happens with DDR4.

Overall, comparing DDR4 to DDR3, there is little difference to separate the two. In a couple of small instances one is better than the other, but on those edge cases it might be prudent to say that we cannot make a final decision until we can synchronize the rest of the system, such as the size of CPU caches. When we can perform such tests, we will run some more numbers.

Memory Scaling on Haswell: 2x GTX 770 SLI Gaming The Future of DDR4
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  • wyewye - Sunday, February 08, 2015 - link

    @Ian
    ProTip: when the differences are small and you get obviously wrong results like 2800@cl14 slower than 2133@cl16, run 10 or 20 tests, eliminate spikes and compute the median.
    Reply
  • wyewye - Sunday, February 08, 2015 - link

    Ian stop being sloppy and do a better job next time! Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Sunday, February 08, 2015 - link

    "Moving from a standard DDR3-2133 C11 kit to DDR4-2133 C15, just by looking at the numbers, feels like a downgrade despite what the rest of the system is."

    Sure... let's just ignore the C10 and C9 DDR3 that's available to make DDR4 look better?
    Reply
  • eanazag - Monday, February 09, 2015 - link

    Why not post some RAM disk numbers?

    What I saw in the article is that the cheapest, high capacity made the most sense for my dollar.
    Reply
  • SFP1977 - Tuesday, February 10, 2015 - link

    Am I missing something, or how did they over come the fact that their 2011 test processor has 4 memory lanes while that 1150 processor has only 2?? Reply
  • deanp0219 - Wednesday, February 11, 2015 - link

    Great article, but in fairness, you're comparing the first run of DDR4 modules against very well developed and evolved DDR3 modules. When DDR3 was first released, I'll bet some of the high-end DDR2 modules available at the time matched up with them fairly well. We'll have to see where DDR4 technology goes from here. Again, great read though. Totally not a reflection on the article -- nothing you can do about the state of the tech. Made me feel better about my DDR3-2133 machine! Reply
  • MattMe - Friday, July 10, 2015 - link

    Am I right in thinking that the benefits of DDR4 outside of power consumption could well be in scenarios where integrated graphics are being utilised?

    The additional channels and clock speeds are more likely to have an effect there than an external GPU, I would assume. But we're still yet to see any DDR4L in the consumer market (as far as I'm aware), it's most beneficial area.

    Seeing some benchmarks including integrated graphics would be very interesting, especially in smaller, lower powered systems like a NUC or similar.
    Reply
  • LorneK - Monday, October 05, 2015 - link

    My gripe with Cinebench as a "professional" test is that aside from tracing rays, it in no way resembles the kind of rendering that an actual professional would be doing.

    There's hardly any geometry, hardly any textures, no displacement, no advanced lighting models, etc.

    So yeah, DDR4 makes barely any impact in Cinebench, but I have to wonder how much of that is due to Cinebench requiring almost nothing from RAM in general.

    Someone needs to come along and make a truly useful rendering benchmark. A complex scene with millions of polygons, gigs of textures, global illumination, glossy reflections, the works basically.

    Only then can we actually know what various aspects of a machine's hardware are affecting.

    An amazing SSD would reduce initial scene spool up time. Fast single thread performance would also increase render start times. Beefy RAM configs would be better at feeding the CPUs the multiple GBs needed to do the job. And the render tiles would take long enough to complete that a 72 thread Xeon box isn't wasting half its resources simply moving from tile to tile and rendering microscopic regions.
    Reply
  • Zerung - Tuesday, February 09, 2016 - link

    My Asus Mobo notes the following:
    'Due to Intel® chipset limitation, DDR4 2133 MHz and higher memory modules on XMP mode will run at the maximum transfer rate of DDR4 2133 Mhz'. Does this mean that running the DDR4 3400 CL16 may not give me the latency below 10?
    Thanks
    Reply

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