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(Image credit: AMD)

All signs indicate that AMD’s next-gen AM5 socket platforms that will house the 5nm Ryzen 7000 ‘Raphael’ processors will only support DDR5 memory when they arrive later this year, but it isn’t official. However, we have now confirmed through multiple sources in the supply chain that the X670 and B650 AM5 platforms support only DDR5 memory, which has pricing implications for platforms built around AMD’s upcoming Zen 4 processors. Additionally, we’ve also confirmed that AMD has moved to a chiplet-based design for the chipsets for its AM5 motherboards, so some models will come with two chipset dies.

Given the long-lived eye-watering pricing we’ve seen for DDR5 memory, AMD’s choice to only support DDR5 could prove to be a disadvantage in the face of Intel’s Raptor Lake, which we have confirmed will continue to support both affordable DDR4 and expensive DDR5 memory, enabling two pricing tiers for Intel platforms.

AMD has already announced that its AM5 socket platforms, which will replace the aging AM4 platform, will support the PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 interfaces as we see with Intel’s Alder Lake — but AMD hasn’t confirmed that DDR4 support isn’t an option. Our sources tell us that the X670 and B650 motherboards have no provisions for DDR4 support, and it isn’t yet clear if Ryzen 7000’s memory controllers even support DDR4. If they do support DDR4, AMD could have plans for lower-tier A-Series motherboards with DDR4 support, but we’re told that doesn’t seem likely.

DDR5 continues to be far more expensive than DDR4, and for little to no performance gain in many applications. While DDR5 availability and pricing have improved over the last few months, DDR5 marks the first generation of mainstream memory with onboard power management ICs (PMICs) and VRMs. Unfortunately, those have been in constant shortage due to the pandemic.

To highlight the current difference in pricing, below you can see a quick comparison of two low-end kits (DDR4-3200/DDR5-4800) and two higher-end kits (DDR4-4000 (for Gear 1 OC)/DDR5-6400). As you can see, the low-end and high-end DDR5 kits are well over twice the price of comparable DDR4 kits, and we don’t think those types of premiums will end any time soon. 

DDR4 vs DDR5 Pricing
32GB Kits (2 x16GB) Model Price Buy
DDR5-4800: Crucial 32GB CT2K16G48C40U5 $257 View at Newegg
DDR4-3200: G.Skill Aegis 32GB F4-3200C16D-32GIS $109 View at Newegg
DDR5-6400: G.Skill Trident Z5 RGB Series 32GB F5-6400J3239G16GX2-TZ5RK $449 View at Newegg
DDR4-4000: G.Skill Trident Z Neo Series 32GB F4-4000C18D-32GTZN $169 View at Newegg

Micron expects PMIC/VRM supply to rebound in the second half of 2022, so we could see the situation improve as AMD’s Zen 4 Ryzen 7000 processors come to market, but it is best to temper your expectations. DDR5 pricing will fall as PMIC and VRM supply improves, but recent China lockdowns and ever-increasing lead times indicate it could be some time before we see that come to fruition. Additionally, DDR5’s more complex power circuitry and design mean that these modules will continue to command a premium over DDR4. DDR5 also has in-built ECC mechanisms for data at rest, which requires additional dies to provide the same memory capacity as DDR4. Though the pricing differences will become smaller over time, DDR5 will remain more expensive than DDR4, regardless of supply.