DDR4 vs DDR5: what you need to know when buying a gaming laptop in 2023

DDR5 memory has become the new standard, but how does it impact gaming laptops?

While hunting for a new gaming laptop we often prioritise the GPU and CPU over other hardware components. However, memory or RAM is equally important and even more so, with the arrival of the DDR5 standard. DDR4 memory has been around for a long time, almost eight years now and continues to be efficient with excellent stability. In fact, you can still get your hands on a brand new mid-range or lower-end laptop that utilises DDR4 memory. With the jump to DDR5, however, one can expect faster clock speeds thereby improvement in performance in a variety of operations and tasks.

It is almost impossible to compare and show you one on one performance difference, as there is no laptop manufacturer that offers the same laptop with both DDR4 and DDR5 memory options. However, we can tell you about everything else.

Key design

Starting with the physical design DDR5 memory modules for laptops have the same shape and size as DDR4. But the key or the gap between the contact pins has been moved. This means that one cannot install DDR4 memory onto a DDR5 slot and vice versa.

Reduced power consumption

DDR5 memory consumes 1.1V of power which is about 20 percent less compared to DDR4 which usually consumes 1.2V. While it doesn’t make a huge difference, it could help in improving the battery life of laptops.


DDR5 memory also comes with an onboard PMIC or power management integrated circuit that helps regulate power to the various components present on the module. PC-class modules take a total of 5V of power and convert that into 1.1V which is required by the various chips on the memory module. Apart from improved power distribution, this change was important as it helped in signal integrity which in turn allowed DDR5 to be up to 50 percent faster than the previous generation.

Faster clock speeds

The fastest DDR4 memory for gaming laptops that you can get is DDR4-3200, which is basically memory clocked at 3200MHz or 3200MT/s. Then there is also the low-profile DDR4 or LPDDR4/LPDDR4x memory that goes up to 4266MHz, which is usually meant for slim and ultraportable laptops where the memory is soldered onto the motherboard and cannot be removed or upgraded by the end user. With DDR5, we are already looking at DDR5-4800 available on a number of gaming laptops with DDR5-6000 and faster modules expected to arrive this year.

Dual 32-bit sub-channels

As opposed to DDR4, DDR5 splits the memory module into two 32-bit addressable sub-channels. This has been done to increase efficiency and lower data access latency for the memory controller. Breaking the module into two 32-bit addressable channels helps increase overall performance.

Image credits: Kingston

Improved ECC

DDR5 memory also brings an improvement with ECC (Error Correction Code). The increase in density of DRAM chips through shrinking wafer lithography increases the risk of data leakage. By having on-die ECC DDR5 memory reduces the risk by correcting errors within the chip thus making it more reliable and with less defect rates.

Increased banks and burst length

An important upgrade introduced with DDR5 is the increase in data banks from 16 to 32 as well as the minimum burst length increase to 16 from 8 for DDR4. Apart from offering better data bus efficiency, there is twice the data on the bus which reduces the number of read and write processes that are required to access the same cache data line. DDR5 also introduces a new command called SAME-BANK Refresh where it can refresh just one bank per bank group, versus all banks. This helps increase performance and efficiency further.

There have been some early concerns about DDR5 memory though. The more complex design of the RAM module means a higher production cost. DDR5 memory was pretty expensive when it launched last year, and while the price has come down, it continues to be more expensive than DDR4. The other issue with DDR5 is the timing. The CAS latency on DDR5 is significantly higher compared to DDR4. It is expected that faster frequencies, higher bandwidth, better ECC (Error correction code), and the increased number of ICs should solve this. Lastly, since the PMIC is embedded onto the memory module itself, it is expected to run hotter which means proper thermal solutions could be required.

What does this mean for gaming?

From various announcements made at CES 2023, it is clear that DDR5 memory for laptops is already picking up the pace. Almost every gaming laptop scheduled for launch in 2023 is expected to arrive with DDR5 memory with faster frequencies than ever before. In fact, ASUS has announced the new ROG Flow X13 and the Flow Z13 which are going to feature LPDDR5 going up to 6200MHz.

Theoretically, DDR5 memory is going to have a small impact on games, especially on titles that are more memory dependent. Where it does excel is in real-world applications. Be it compression or decompression, encryption, kernel compilation, video rendering, etc. DDR5 is definitely faster than DDR4. The difference between a DDR4-3200 kit vs a DDR5-4800 kit is not massive, but significant in most cases.

We are yet to fully test DDR5-equipped gaming laptops to come to a conclusion on whether they offer a better gaming experience compared to DDR4. However, from the various tests that we have seen online, we can tell you that there is up to a 7-10 percent increase in certain gaming titles and about 2-3 percent average as a whole. While this does not seem very significant, the bigger picture is that gaming notebooks in 2023 will be getting updated CPUs from Intel and AMD as well as Nvidia’s new RTX 40-series mobile GPUs. These in themselves are going to have a much bigger impact on gaming performance with an overall improvement in visuals and framerates.

As for pricing, there will be a relative increase if you plan to get a higher-capacity kit straight from the laptop manufacturer. Essentially upgrading a DDR5 gaming laptop from 16GB to 32GB RAM could cost you around 20-30 percent more money as compared to a DDR4 gaming laptop. This, as I mentioned, is due to the more complex design of the DDR5 memory modules. However, it is expected that the price difference should soon reduce as we have more DDR5-equipped notebooks in the market.