We’re not likely to be running DDR4 any time soon on desktops, and even most laptops are probably over a year away from getting the upgrade, but now is the time to prepare for the shift. To that end, Micron (Crucial) has a DDR4 demonstration running at CES 2013. The system is an Intel test platform with undisclosed internal hardware, affectionately (or perhaps not) referred to as the Frankenstein Box. My guess is that there might be an Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge-E, or current-gen Xeon running in the box with a converter board of some sort to allow the DDR4 to talk to the DDR3 on-die controller (similar to the RDRAM to SDRAM converters we saw back in the Pentium 4 Rambus days), but how they’re running it right now isn’t particularly important so much as the fact that they are able to run Windows. It’s just as possible that the box has an unannounced next generation Xeon with a DDR4 controller. But I digress….

The systems wasn’t open for inspection, but Crucial had an oscilloscope showing the signals on the test unit and a bootable Windows 7 platform running a bouncing balls simulation, which is what we usually see with early/prototype/Frankenstein systems. The memory was running at 2133MHz, apparently with similar timings to what we currently see with DDR3-2133, so at launch the base DDR4 speeds are going to be around twice as fast as what we saw with DDR3. The test platform unfortunately is limited to 2133MHz as the maximum clock; Crucial said they’re seeing 2400-2800MHz without any trouble, and the JEDEC DDR4 specifications currently go up to DDR4-3200. Worth note is that DDR4 makes some changes to help reduce power use, including dropping the standard voltage to 1.2V (down from 1.5V with DDR3), and we’ll likely see low voltage and ultra low voltage DDR4 in the 1.0-1.1V range.

The standard memory chips are now 4Gb compared to 2Gb for most DDR3, which makes 4GB single-sided and 8GB double-sided DIMMs the starting capacity. The initial target devices will be servers where the improved memory density and power savings are needed most, effectively doubling the amount of RAM we’re likely to see at similar price points/configurations to the current generation DDR RAM. Crucial will be releasing a full portfolio of products based off the memory chips, including RDIMMs, LRDIMMs, SO-DIMMs, and UDIMMs (standard and ECC). Mobile and desktop adoption of DDR4 is expected to occur in 2014. One change Crucial pointed out with their UDIMMs can be seen in the photo above: the edge with the 284 pins is no longer perfectly straight. The idea is that when you insert a DDR4 DIMM, it will require less pressure as you’ll only be pushing in about half of the pins at a time.

Besides the DDR4 demonstration, Crucial had a display showing their various memory modules over time, from DDR through DDR4. It’s always fun to see how far we’ve come over the past eight or so years. At the top we have a DDR DIMM with 184 pins—state-of-the-art circa 2001/2002. Launch speeds were DDR-200 (PC1600), with capacities of 128MB to 1GB being typical over the life of the product. DDR2 moved to 240 pins around 2003, launching at DDR2-400 and moving up to DDR2-1066 by the end of its life cycle; typical capacities ranged from 256MB to 2GB. 2007 brought about the advent of DDR3, and while there are technically DDR3-800 parts, for the mainstream market DDR3 started at 1066 and has officially moved up to DDR3-2133; capacities are generally in the 512MB to 4GB range, with 8GB being the maximum. And last we have DDR4, launching by the end of the year. If the pattern continues, we should see DDR4-4266 by the time DDR5 memory is ready for mainstream use and capacities will start at 2GB and likely top out at 16GB (possibly more) per module.

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  • JPForums - Friday, January 11, 2013 - link

    This ; ' ) Reply
  • Nfarce - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    Hey I resent that! I still have a P4 running 1GB Samsung RAMBUS PC-800 memory running XP built ten years ago. It was my primary gaming rig up to the end of 2008 when I built a Core2 Duo rig! It is still working as a PC dedicated to old games when I feel nostalgic. Reply
  • custom33 - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    I really wonder what year these will become available for mainstream laptops. Wouldn't entirely change by decision but getting a laptop in 2014 hopefully it will have ddr4. Reply
  • Beenthere - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    Other than servers, there is no need or advanatge to DDR4 at this time, especially with DDR3 LV DRAM running @ 1.35v and capable of lower voltage operation whenever Samsung and some other manufacturers desire to do so.

    Test after test of real applications shows that there is no tangible performance gain above 1600 MHz. for typical disktop PCs, be they AMD or Intel powered because DDR3 even at 1333 MHz. is not a system bottleneck.
    Reply
  • JonnyDough - Friday, January 11, 2013 - link

    No, but if you're building a new PC it's better to have DDR4 just because it saves energy. Plus, the manufacturing process will use less sili making them even cheaper to manufacture. As long as there is no price setting...hopefully that advantage will trickle down to the consumer. Reply
  • kyuu - Friday, January 11, 2013 - link

    I would think that DDR4 will be a real boon for integrated graphics, though, at least until they start integrating a fair amount of memory into the CPU itself. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Friday, January 11, 2013 - link

    That's my take on it as well. Intel apparently gets big performance improvements from the on-chip RAM with Haswell. And AMD gets big improvements by going from 1066 to 1866 RAM with their iGPUs. So I don't think having more bandwidth for those is a bad thing. Reply
  • Kevin G - Friday, January 11, 2013 - link

    Looking at road maps, the migration to DDR4 and the addition of eDRAM will happen at roughly the same time. One Haswell part will be receiving eDRAM this year but Broadwell will the be one to really popularize eDRAM. On that same note, Broadwell is looking to be a mobile only part in a BGA configuration and would be an ideal way to introduce DDR4 to the mobile market. This would equate to a massive increase in bandwidth for mobile devices and move the limiting factor of performance more toward the compute side. Reply
  • menting - Friday, January 11, 2013 - link

    http://www.micron.com/products/dram/ddr3-to-ddr4

    some small advantages to signaling and noise. Not worth a price premium, but lower power isn't the only thing that DDR4 has over DDR3.

    Not clear about the bank groups giving faster burst access.
    Reply
  • Beenthere - Sunday, February 17, 2013 - link

    DDR4 is of no value on the desktop. It may offer some value for servers or portables, but it's and expensive change and requires all or nothing as far as RAM quantity. You can't just add RAM like with standard DDR RAM, you replace it all. SInce DDR3 @ 1600 MHz. still isn't a system bottleneck of desktop PCs, DDR4 brings nothing to the table. Reply

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