In brief: If you’re currently using a quality DDR4-3200 memory kit, going with DDR5 for your next upgrade won’t yield much of a performance improvement despite its significantly higher price. Not only that, finding DDR5 modules in stock will be a struggle in the coming months as manufacturers can’t get their hands on some essential components needed to make them.
Early adopters of Intel’s Alder Lake platform have to choose between DDR4 and DDR5 when purchasing an LGA 1700 motherboard, but there are two things that make that choice easier than you think. As noted in our reviews, regardless of whether you want to use a Core i5-12600K, Core i7-12700KF, or a Core i9-12900K, going with DDD5 over DDR4 won’t bring you any worthwhile performance uplift for most tasks, especially when you take into consideration the price premium you have to pay for the newer memory modules.
Interestingly, even if you are willing to pay a hefty price for a DDR5 memory kit, chances are you won’t be able to find one in stock no matter how hard you look. This is somewhat expected when it comes to new hardware, and especially in the context of an ongoing chip shortage that has made it virtually impossible for companies to meet the surging demand for a variety of consumer electronics.
According to a report from electronic component supplier 12chip, the scarcity of DDR5 memory modules isn’t rooted in a shortage of DDR5 chips. That’s partly because DDR5 chips are manufactured using an older 14nm process node, and DRAM suppliers haven’t reported any issues in keeping up with demand.
The problem is that unlike DDR4, DDR5 modules integrate a power management integrated circuit (PMIC) that used to be part of the motherboard. The PMIC needed for DDR5 is not only much more expensive than that used for DDR4, but it’s also in short supply, with procurement time now estimated at 35 weeks.
Earlier this year, some analysts predicted that DDR5 would overtake DDR4 in terms of market share by 2023, but that seems highly unlikely given the current supply chain issues. On a more positive note, the chip shortage has given smaller chipmakers an unexpected boost, allowing them to more easily invest in expanding their production capacity. At least in theory, they should be able to improve the availability of PMICs and other essential components in the coming years.