Cooling: A Challenge in the Development of DDR5 Modules

The more the memory, the faster the system. But hold on? What does the memory of your PC have to do with its speed? Well, they go hand in hand. To understand how memory can affect speed, let’s look at memory first.

When talking about a PC’s memory, there are two types – RAM and HDD. RAM which is short for random access memory refers to a computer’s temporary memory. It is volatile, which means all data in current use is lost as soon as the computer is turned off. Memory modules are made up of RAM microchips that have been grouped together. These fit into slots on the motherboard of a computer. The motherboard slots are connected to the processor through a bus, which is a series of electrical connections. 

Users may usually install RAM modules up to a specific capacity on most PCs. The number of times the CPU needs read data from the hard drive, which takes longer than reading data from RAM, is reduced when a computer has more RAM. The access time to RAM is measured in nanoseconds, whereas the time required to access storage memory is measured in milliseconds.

On the other hand, an SSD (solid-state drive) or HDD (hard disk drive) refers to the permanent memory. It stores information on a magnetic surface that resembles a vinyl record. It is the nonvolatile memory of the device, which does not rely on having continuous power. The processor takes longer to read from and write to SSDs, as they don’t allow direct access. All files and programs are dealt with in sequential order. A typical RAM stick has the highest capacity of eight gigabytes, while a hard disc can hold up to ten terabytes. 

How much memory are you looking for?

The amount of RAM consumed is dependent on the activity of the user. When it comes to video editing, for example, a computer with at least 16 GB of RAM is suggested, while more is preferred. Adobe recommends a Mac with at least 3GB of RAM for photo editing while using Photoshop CC. Even 8GB of RAM might slow things down if the user is using many programs at the same time.

RAM is divided into two types: dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) and static random-access memory (SRAM). DRAM requires electricity to maintain recorded data. SRAM is much quicker than DRAM and consumes significantly less power. 

Double Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic Random-Access Memory (DDR SDRAM) is typically used in today’s computers. DRAM is asynchronous, meaning it is not synced by external forces. This created a challenge in arranging data arriving from outside sources. Since DRAM was an asynchronous form of RAM, it couldn’t keep up with faster CPUs.

SDRAM, however, is a synchronous form of RAM, which allows to sync signals by means of a clock. This results in predictable and orderly data read and write cycles. However, it only uses one edge to transmit data. The term “Double Data Rate” refers to the fact that DDR SDRAM collects data on the front as well as the back edges of the particular signal that controls it. RAM used to acquire data just once every clock cycle before DDR. When memory fetches are coordinated with the processor’s requirements, synchronous data allows for quicker operation.

Because DDR has been widely utilized as RAM for at least a decade, many people use the names interchangeably when referring to a processor’s RAM. DDR memory is not the same as the flash memory that is, for example, used in USB drives or SSDs. It is volatile, as it loses all data when you power off the device.

Although this may appear to be a negative, DDR memory offers much better transfer speed and a larger capacity than other options. Since DDR SDRAM has become the most common option for a processor’s working memory, it has seen a remarkable evolution from DDR to DDR4 SDRAM. The evolution has led to lower power consumption. 

DDR5 RAM VS DDR4 RAM

Leading manufacturers of top-notch memory modules, such as Corsair, are all set to roll out DDR5 SDRAM, which are expected to deliver much higher data transfer speeds (starting at 6400 MT/s and rising to 12600 MT/s) through the use of voltage regulating modules (VRM) and on-board power management ICs (PMIC). There is one challenge, though: better cooling systems will be required. 

Many people have long believed that heat spreaders aren’t essential for most DDR3 and DDR4 modules, especially those designed for enthusiast PCs. Things may change with DDR5 if modules get more sophisticated. Corsair claims that their forthcoming DRAM stick cooling solutions will suffice.

For years to come, the DDR5 RAM was designed to allow real-world performance scaling. Multiple architectural characteristics of DDR5 enable this data transfer speed scalability, allowing DRAM manufacturers to develop DDR5 memory modules with a speed of 12600 MT/s in the future. However, it seems that no manufacturer will be able to produce ICs for them until 2022, so they will need to handpick efficient chips and increase their voltage beyond the standard 1.1 Volts in order to make appropriate DIMMs.

Integrated PMIC and VRM should help formulate effective overclocking solutions. For example, Adata is considering 1.6 Volts for its top-of-the-line DIMMs. We can only speculate on how memory controllers in processors manufactured utilizing 5nm or 7nm process technologies will tackle such a 45 percent increase in signaling voltage above the normal 1.1 Volts. Memory chips will heat up as a result of such high overvoltage. PMIC and VRM components will also require cooling. As a result, Corsair’s high-grade DDR5 modules (at least the top RAM modules) may require more cooling than DDR4 modules.   

Corsair has significant experience building complex cooling systems for its memory sticks with the ability to cool not just the DRAM chips directly, but also the module’s PCB, which has unique layers. Corsair expects to be able to provide efficient heat spreaders for DDR5 sticks as well.

Corsair claims that DDR5’s increased bandwidth will make greater use of the memory bus, while the huge capacities will allow your PC to do even more activities at once. Such features will make the DDR5 technology (e.g., DDR5 RAM Laptop) even more enticing to streamers and content developers.

Although the company has not issued the exact DDR5 release date, it is trying hard to meet the deadline and produce its new DDR5 RAM modules in time for the launch of Intel’s 12th generation CPUs in the fall. Since AMD Zen 4 CPUsare expected to come out in the second half of 2022, AMD consumers will most likely have to wait a bit longer to try out the new DDR5 technology.