DDR5-5600 RAM is ready and waiting for the first compatible CPUs

SK Hynix DDR5
(Image credit: SK Hynix)

After many years of development, SK Hynix has announced the world's first DDR5 DRAM. The first kits will initially run at speeds from 4,800-5,600Mbps, which puts them right up there with the best overclocked DDR4 on the market today, and they'll do it with less power, greater densities, and better error correction.

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This first DDR5 kit is roughly 1.8x faster than DDR4, SK Hynix says. That's above the standard, non-overclocked DDR4 specification, and I'm sure many of you will notice that some DDR4 kits come in around the same speeds, such as Crucial's Ballistix Max 5100. DDR4 has been the standard for memory in gaming PCs starting in 2014, and memory manufacturers have been tweaking the formula ever since.

DDR5 will reset the clocks. The first kits out from SK Hynix will be rated to 4,800MHz to 5,600MHz (effective), although plans for DDR5-6400 and above are in the works.

But it's not just speed that DDR5 brings to the table. Capacities are also set to increase with the move to greater chip density, and SK Hynix is expecting a single stick to reach up to 256GB capacity through the use of chip-stacking through-silicon-via (TSV) technology.

DDR5 will also run 0.1V lower than DDR4 at 1.1V.

These first DDR5 kits are not destined for our gaming PCs, however. These capacious modules and low voltages are intended for data centre applications. Both Intel and AMD are rumoured to support DDR5 with upcoming server architectures, such as Intel's Sapphire Rapids in 2021.

SK Hynix DDR5

(Image credit: SK Hynix)

“Intel partnered closely with memory leaders including SK Hynix on the DDR5 spec development starting with early architecture concepts through JEDEC standardization,” Carolyn Duran, VP of Intel’s Data Platforms Group and GM of Memory and IO Technologies, says. “In addition, we worked collaboratively with SK Hynix on silicon development by designing and testing prototypes to ensure DDR5 meets its performance goals and are fully ready for our mutual customers.”

We don't yet know when a change to DDR5 would be implemented in a CPU architecture destined for our gaming PCs.

As it stands today, DDR4 serves our gaming needs well. DDR4-3600 is the sweet spot for both AMD and Intel's existing CPU architectures, and there's little to be gained in gaming pushing RAM speed above that. This highlights the importance of latency in gaming workloads, at least with today's chips, and it will require some reimagining of the CPU memory architecture to really put DDR5 to good use.

Samsung is expected to hit volume production of DDR5 in 2021, while Micron is meant to have its DDR5 kits ready to go any day now.

Jacob Ridley
Senior Hardware Editor

Jacob earned his first byline writing for his own tech blog. From there, he graduated to professionally breaking things as hardware writer at PCGamesN, and would go on to run the team as hardware editor. Since then he's joined PC Gamer's top staff as senior hardware editor, where he spends his days reporting on the latest developments in the technology and gaming industries and testing the newest PC components.