AMD’s AM5 platform won’t support DDR4 at launch

Rumors abound that AMD’s AM5 platform, slated for release later this year, won’t support affordable DDR4 at launch. Instead, the Zen 4 Ryzen 7000 chips will exclusively support the more expensive DDR5 memory standard. Potentially good news from a performance perspective, but bad news for your wallet.

Our sister site Tom’s gear spoke to motherboard manufacturers who state that Ryzen 7000 chips will be supported by X670 and B650 motherboards at launch and that those motherboards will be DDR5 models exclusively. These manufacturers have also confirmed that AMD is moving to a single chip design for motherboards, with high-end X670 motherboards using a dual-chipset design to bolster throughput.

While the decision to focus exclusively on DDR5 potentially makes sense from a technology standpoint – it could allow AMD to optimize its Zen 4 core for DDR5, which it appears to be doing with its EXPO technology – there is a very real financial cost to such a move. Indeed, DDR5 is considerably more expensive than DDR4, often more than double the more mature memory standard. This price difference is partly due to the shortage of chips, but also because DDR5 has built-in power management and voltage regulation, so the DIMMs are simply more expensive to produce.

The real benefit of DDR5 isn’t particularly proven either, at least not when it comes to gaming. You see a difference of a few frames per second between a high-end DDR5 kit and a decent and much more affordable DDR4 kit. This is going to make switching to the new platform a tough decision for many players. Especially since Alder Lake’s sequel, called Raptor Lake, is supposed to continue to support both DDR4 and DDR5.

One thing in AMD’s favor here is that Zen 4 isn’t expected to land for quite some time yet, and DDR5 prices have come down significantly since the start of the year. While we don’t expect to see a huge price drop for DDR5, time should help a bit.

It’s possible that more affordable motherboards built around the A620 chipset could support DDR4, assuming Zen 4’s memory controller still actively supports it. These affordable chipsets tend to give up key features though, with the current A520 chipset not supporting PCIe 4.0 for example.

We’ll have to wait for AMD to release its Ryzen 7000 chips, which are expected later this year. Ryzen 5000 dropped during the November period, so we might still have to wait a bit. Nevertheless, early adopters should probably start saving now.

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