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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  • jabber - Friday, February 06, 2015 - link

    Well I've added into my T5400 workstation USB3.0, eSATA, 7870 GPU, SSHD and SSD. I haven't added SATA III as its way too costly for a decent card, plus even though I can only push 260MBps from a SSD, with 0.1ms access times I really can't notice in real world. The main chunk of the machine only cost around £200 to put together. Reply
  • Striker579 - Friday, February 06, 2015 - link

    omg those retro color mb's....good times Reply
  • Wardrop - Saturday, February 07, 2015 - link

    Wow, how did you accidentally insert your motherboard model in the middle of the word "provide"? Quite an impressive typo, lol Reply
  • FlushedBubblyJock - Sunday, February 15, 2015 - link

    Core 2 is getting weak - right click and open ttask manager then see how often your quad is maxxed at 100% useage (you can minimize and check the green rectangle by the clock for percent used).

    That's how to check it - if it's hammered it's time to sell it and move up. You might be quite surprised what a large jump it is to Sandy Bridge.
    Reply
  • blanarahul - Thursday, February 05, 2015 - link

    TOTALLY OFF TOPIC but this is how Samsung's current SSD lineup should be:

    850: 120 GB, 250 GB TLC with TurboWrite

    850 Pro: 128 GB, 256 GB MLC

    850 EVO: 500/512 GB, 1000/1024 GB TLC w/o TurboWrite

    Because:
    a) 500 GB and 1000 GB 850 EVOs don't get any speed benefit from TurboWrite.
    b) 512/1024 GB PRO has only 10 MB/s sequential read, 2K IOPS and 12/24 GB capacity advantage over 500/1000 GB EVO. Sequential write speed, advertised endurance, random write speed, features etc. are identical between them.
    c) Remove TurboWrite from 850 EVO and you get a capacity boost because you are no longer running TLC NAND in SLC mode.
    Reply
  • Cygni - Thursday, February 05, 2015 - link

    Considering what little performance impact these memory standards have had lately, DDR2 is essentially just as useful and relevant as the latest stuff... with the added of advantage of the fact that you already own it. Reply
  • FlushedBubblyJock - Sunday, February 15, 2015 - link

    If you screw around long enough on core 2 boards with slight and various cpu OC's with differing FSB's and result memory divisors and timings with mechanical drives present, you can sometimes produce and enormous performance increase and reduce boot times massively - the key seems to have been a differing sound in the speedy access of the mechanical hard drive - though it offten coincided with memory access time but not always.
    I assumed and still do assume it is an anomaly in the exchanges on the various buses where cpu, ram, harddrive, and the north and south bridges timings just happen to all jibe together - so no subsystem is delayed waiting for some other overlap to "re-access".

    I've had it happen dozens of times on many differing systems but never could figure out any formula and it was always just luck goofing with cpu and memory speed in the bios.
    I'm not certain if it works with ssd's on core 2's (socket 775 let's say) - though I assume it very well could but the hard drive access sound would no longer be a clue.
    Reply
  • retrospooty - Thursday, February 05, 2015 - link

    I love reviews like this... I will link it and keep it for every time some newb doof insists that high bandwidth RAM is important. We saw almost no improvement going from DDR400 cas2 to DDR3-1600 CAS10 now the same to DDR4 3000+ CAS freegin 80 LOL Reply
  • menting - Thursday, February 05, 2015 - link

    depends on usage. for applications that require high total bandwidth, new generations of memory will be better, but for applications that require short latency, there won't be much improvement due to physical restraints of light speed Reply
  • dgingeri - Thursday, February 05, 2015 - link

    Really, what applications use this bandwidth now?

    I'm the admin of a server software test lab, and we've been forced to move to the Xeon E5 v3 platform for some of our software, and it isn't seeing any enhancement from DDR4 either. These are machines and software using 256GB of memory at a time. The steps from Xeon E5 and DDR3 1066 to E5 v2 and DDR3 1333 and then up to the E5 v3 and DDR4 2133 are showing no value whatsoever. We have a couple aspects with data dedup and throughput are processor intensive, and require a lot of memory, but the memory bandwidth doesn't show any enhancement. However, since Dell is EOLing their R720, under Intel's recommendation, we're stuck moving up to the new platform. So, it's driving up our costs with no increase in performance.

    I would think that if anything would use memory bandwidth, it would be data dedup or storage software. What other apps would see any help from this?
    Reply

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