The JEDEC Solid State Technology Association has announced the specification for the next-generation of Synchronous Dynamic RAM (SDRAM) chips, aka DDR5. This marks a big achievement in the memory development field after the release of DDR4 specs back in 2014.
DDR5 (Double Data Rate 5) comes with much-needed improvements in DRAM module capacity and data transfer speeds. However, the DDR5 specifications got delayed by two years, pushing the original 2018 release schedule.
Speaking of the highlights, the new DRAM spec now supports 64Gbit maximum die density in comparison to 16bit in the case of DDR4. This means that high-density memory chips used in servers (LRDIMM) will be able to achieve 2TB capacity in a single module. On the other hand, we could have 128GB double-sided memory modules for our consumer desktops and laptops.
In terms of speed, DDR5 promises to provide peak data transfer rates of up to 6.4Gbps in comparison to 3.2Gbps on DDR4. However, the initial version of DDR5 will launch at 4.8Gbps transfer capacity, which is about 50% higher than DDR4’s peak capacity.
Going for higher speeds is a more aggressive approach from JEDEC this time, as usually every new DDR memory spec initially starts from where the previous spec maxes out.
Same way, memory manufacturers could start off by launching 16Gbit and 8Gbit density DDR5 chips that are easy to manufacture right now and should be sufficient for a wide variety of use cases. The unexplored capabilities of the DDR5 specification could be leveraged in the future when higher-density manufacturing will become feasible.
The new DDR5 modules will be able to work at a lower voltage of 1.1v in comparison to DDR4’s 1.2v. While the improvement may seem small, it makes a big difference when combined with other benefits including double the data rate and almost 4 times the die density offered by DDR5.
We can expect DDR5 memory modules to arrive by 2021 and initial adoption will be seen in the server market. Now that the DDR5 spec is out, memory manufacturers have started testing prototypes and fixing potential flaws. Some DDR5 chips based on the then-unreleased specs have been showcased in the past, including the first 16GB DDR5 module from SK Hynix in 2018.