Rumours abound that AMD's AM5 platform, due for release later this year, won't support affordable DDR4 at launch. Instead, the Zen 4 Ryzen 7000 chips will exclusively support the more expensive DDR5 memory standard. Potentially good news from a performance perspective, but bad news for your wallet.
Our sister site Tom's Hardware (opens in new tab) has been talking to motherboard manufacturers who state that the Ryzen 7000 chips will be supported by X670 and B650 motherboards at launch and that those motherboards will be exclusively DDR5 models. Those manufacturers also confirmed that AMD is moving to a chiplet design for the motherboards, with the top-end X670 motherboards using a two chipset design to bolster throughput.
While the move to focusing on DDR5 exclusively does potentially make sense from a technology point of view—it could enable AMD to optimize its Zen 4 core for DDR5, something it appears to be doing with its EXPO tech (opens in new tab)—there's a very real financial cost to such a move. This is because DDR5 is considerably more expensive than DDR4, often more than double that of the more mature memory standard. Part of the reason for this price difference is down to the chip shortage, but also due to the fact that DDR5 has onboard power management and voltage regulation, so the DIMMs are simply more expensive to produce.
The real-world benefit of DDR5 isn't particularly proven either, at least not when it comes to gaming. You're looking at a few frames per second difference between a top-end DDR5 kit and a decent, much more affordable DDR4 kit. That's going to make this switch to the new platform a tough decision for many gamers. Particularly as the follow up to Alder Lake, called Raptor Lake, is rumoured to continue to support both DDR4 and DDR5.
One thing in AMD's favour here is that Zen 4 isn't due to land for a while yet, and pricing for DDR5 has eased considerably since the start of the year. While we don't expect to see a huge price drop for DDR5, time should help a little.
There is the chance that more affordable motherboards built around the likes of the A620 chipset could support DDR4, assuming that the memory controller in Zen 4 still actively supports it. Such affordable chipsets tend to forgo key features though, with the current A520 chipset lacking support for PCIe 4.0 for example.
We'll have to wait until AMD releases its Ryzen 7000 chips, which are due sometime this year. Ryzen 5000 dropped in the November time frame, so we may have to wait a while yet. Still, early adopters should probably start saving now.