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What is the difference between mini PC DDR3L, DDR4, and DDR5?

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HYSTOU
(@hystou)
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Introduction:
Mini PCs boast a diverse array of applications and products within their extensive ecosystem. Among these products are memory sticks available in DDR3L, DDR4, and DDR5 variants. In the following sections, we will elucidate the disparities between these types of memory sticks.

Discrepancies in Appearance:
To prevent user errors leading to potential machine damage, memory sticks are designed with "anti-dimming" features. Each generation of memory stick slots differs, thereby prohibiting the insertion of DDR3L memory sticks into DDR4 memory slots, for instance.

Difference in Memory Frequency:
DDR5 exhibits a higher base frequency, commencing at 4800MHz, whereas DDR4 typically ranges from 2133MHz to 3200MHz, and DDR3L starts from 1333MHz or 1600MHz. Generally, higher memory frequencies correlate with faster read/write speeds, thereby enhancing computer performance. However, elevated memory frequencies and larger memory capacities may result in increased memory latency, consequently prolonging the computer's boot self-test time. Typically, memory latency should not exceed 100ns to maintain normal operation. We conducted benchmark tests using AIDA64 CACHE & Memory Benchmark to evaluate the read, write, copy, and latency performance of DDR3L, DDR4, and DDR5 memory, providing valuable reference data. It's important to note that the test data presented herein are based on laboratory tests and should be interpreted with caution. Different configurations and testing environments may yield varied results.

Analysis of the data reveals that DDR5 demonstrates an overall performance increase of 27.9% compared to DDR4, and a significant 187% improvement compared to DDR3L.

Difference in Operating Voltage:
DDR3L operates at 1.35V, DDR4 at 1.2V, and DDR5 at 1.1V. This reduction in operating voltage for DDR5 results in a more efficient energy consumption ratio.

PMIC Power Management Chip Difference:
DDR3L lacks a PMIC power management chip. DDR4 integrates the PMIC power management chip directly into the motherboard. DDR5 features the integration of the PMIC power management chip from the motherboard to the memory PCB board above. This integration allows for intelligent regulation of voltage changes, current monitoring, and enhanced configurability of voltage ramp and level. By reducing the burden on the motherboard's power management, this integration results in shorter and faster regulation.

Difference in Memory Capacity:
A single DDR3L stick has a maximum factory capacity of 8G, with compatibility issues likely for capacities larger than 8G in mini computers. DDR4 supports a single stick maximum factory capacity of 32G, while DDR5 boasts a maximum factory capacity of 64G (not currently in stock). However, capacities exceeding 32G may encounter compatibility issues with mini computers.

Bandwidth Speed Difference:
DDR3L at 1600MHz offers a bandwidth of 12.8GBps, DDR4 at 3200MHz provides a bandwidth of 25.6GBps, and DDR5 at 4800MHz boasts a bandwidth of 38.4GBps. As frequency increases, bandwidth also rises. In a dual-channel configuration, bandwidth theoretically doubles.

Integrated ECC Memory Error Correction Mechanism:
DDR3L and DDR4 lack ECC memory error correction. DDR5 introduces a simplified version of ECC error correction, termed On-die ECC. This function can correct errors within the memory and aims to enhance stability, reducing the likelihood of system crashes. It's worth noting that ECC support is not universal and requires specific memory models.

Difference in the Number of Pins (Notebook Memory Sticks):
DDR3L features 204 pins, DDR4 has 260 pins, and DDR5 includes 262 pins.

Timing Difference (CL):
Lower timing values are preferable. DDR5 at 4800MHz typically has a CL timing of around 40, while DDR4 at 3200MHz can achieve a timing of CL21, and DDR3L at 1600MHz can reach CL11. With optimization, DDR5 may achieve even lower timings.

Summary:
DDR5 represents a significant advancement over DDR4 and DDR3L, particularly in terms of frequency and bandwidth. It incorporates technologies like ECC error correction and PMIC power management chips. However, DDR5 still has room for improvement, with challenges such as high timings and latency. While DDR5 offers improvements in multi-threaded CPU support, its impact on single-threaded performance, especially in solo gaming scenarios, is minimal. Nonetheless, for applications demanding high frequencies, DDR5 can provide substantial performance enhancements.


   
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