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DDR5 vs DDR4: Which RAM is best for gaming and content creation?

Gaming benchmarks: Ashes of the Singularity Escalation, CS:GO, Far Cry 6, Crysis 3 Remastered.

Right, onto the gaming results. We're testing four different games today, using a range of frequency settings: from 3200MT/s to 4000MT/s CL19 on our DDR4 setup and 4800MT/s to 6600MT/s CL40 on our DDR5 equivalent. In general, we go up in steps of 400MT/s, eventually reaching the limits of our XPG DDR5-6000 kit at 6600MT/s - impressive for a quick and dirty overclock at ~1.375W. All games were tested at 1080p using the same settings as our CPU reviews - normally maxed out, with RT and DLSS enabled if available.

As usual, you can hover over the graphs to see the average frame-rate data (on desktop browsers), including worst one percent and worst five percent metrics, and you can click to switch between frame-rates and percentage differences. Click play on the videos to watch the scenes play out with telemtry in real time, and you can click to select or deselect data points from the comparison.

On mobile, you'll be given a rather drier presentation: just simple tables with the average and worst one percent results.

Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation

Only one game returns from our original investigations into high-speed RAM, back when 4000MT/s DDR4 was among the fastest memory available. Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation is a great RTS that comes with a phenomenal CPU benchmark that does a great job using every core and thread available to it. We tend to see the biggest performance shifts from faster or lower latency RAM in this title, so we hope to see a similar delta here between DDR4 and DDR5.

Ashes of the Singularity: CPU Test

As if on cue, we do see a massive difference between different RAM in Ashes. DDR5 at 4800 and 5200MT/s are tied at 78.7fps, but we see a 5.5 percent improvement at 5600MT/s and up to 11 percent at 6600MT/s. By comparison, DDR4 is significantly slower, in the 60-70fps region. Weirdly, DDR4-3600 performed better than the other DDR4 setups, an oddity that remained in retests. Regardless, DDR5 is what you want here, with a massive 27 percent difference between the fastest DDR4 and fastest DDR5 options in our test. That's a noticeable difference in this heavily CPU-dependent benchmark, and shows the potential of how a cleverly architected (and admittedly GPU-light) game can benefit from higher frequencies.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is a curious game to benchmark, because even in this demo of a busy round from a past major tournament, modern CPUs can accomplish extremely high frame-rates. However, the competitiveness of this title is off the charts, and people do spend mad amounts to play a game at a higher frame-rate than their opponents.

CS:GO: DX9, Very high, AF off

Here, rather than a big gulf between DDR4 and DDR5, we see a logical progression from the lower DDR4 frequencies to base DDR5 and then overclocked DDR5. In total, there's a six percent improvement from the slowest DDR4 to the fastest DDR5, which is good for an extra 20 frames per second. In terms of the lowest one percent metrics, we see that the faster RAM also translates into a higher base level of performance - here, the gulf between slowest to fastest is 10 percent, shifting the frame-rate figure from 179fps to 197fps - an improvement that would be felt if you're using a high-end 240Hz or 360Hz monitors.

Far Cry 6

Next up, we have Far Cry 6. This game is the most recent release in our small suite and one that relies heavily on single-threaded performance for its world processing, making it a natural candidate for memory testing.

Far Cry 6: Ultra, TAA

Here, certain frequencies seem to remain faster even in re-tests: DDR5-6400 and DDR4-3600 outperform their nearest alternative frequencies by a small amount. The trend is clear outside of these marginal outliers though, as the gulf between the fastest DDR4 (119fps) and fastest DDR5 (123fps) is a meagre 3.4 percent. From DDR4-3200 to DDR5-6600, the difference is slightly bigger: 6.4 percent. It's measurable and repeatable, but is it worthwhile? Let's look at our final game...

Crysis 3 Remastered

Last up we have Crysis 3 Remastered. This is the RT-enabled remake of Crysis 3, where we use DLSS Performance mode to push the burder onto the CPU (and therefore, potentially the RAM) as much as possible.

Crysis 3 Remastered: Very High, DLSS Perf

However, we don't see a big jump in frame-rate from using higher frequencies, with a three percent frame-rate advantage for DDR-6600 over DDR5-4800. DDR4-3200 and DDR4-3600 overperform, with results that mirror DDR5-6000 and exceed that of DDR4-4000 at its rated 4000MT/s - curious. Regardless, the DDR5 advantage is certainly not writ large in Crysis 3 Remastered.

With the data in, it's time to tie things together and leave you with some recommendations based on our testing.

DDR5 vs DDR4: Which Z690 motherboard makes sense?

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About the Author
Will Judd avatar

Will Judd

Deputy Editor, Digital Foundry

A bizarre British-American hybrid, Will turns caffeine into technology articles through a little-known process called 'writing'. His favourite games are Counter-Strike, StarCraft and Fallout 2. Will also tweets the latest tech deals at @DigitalFoundry.

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