AMD's AM5 Will Launch With Only DDR5 Support for Ryzen 7000, Dual-Chipset Design

(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. 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
DDR4 vs DDR5 Pricing
32GB Kits (2 x16GB)ModelPriceBuy
DDR5-4800: Crucial 32GB CT2K16G48C40U5$257View at Newegg
DDR4-3200: G.Skill Aegis 32GBF4-3200C16D-32GIS$109View at Newegg
DDR5-6400: G.Skill Trident Z5 RGB Series 32GBF5-6400J3239G16GX2-TZ5RK$449View at Newegg
DDR4-4000: G.Skill Trident Z Neo Series 32GB F4-4000C18D-32GTZN$169View 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.

That means Intel will likely have a platform pricing advantage with readily-available DDR4 platforms, and that will pay off the most in the high-volume mid-range and low-end segments.

If it's any consolation, AMD has said that it has focused on DDR5 overclocking performance with its Zen 4 Ryzen 7000 platform, saying "[...]speeds that you maybe thought could not be possible, may be possible with this overclocking spec." Additionally, although we don't see massive performance gains with DDR4 vs DDR5 on Intel platforms, AMD's Zen 4 architecture might extract more substantial performance gains from the speedier memory. Time will tell.

AMD Chiplet-Based AM5 Socket Chipsets and Motherboards 

Last week a report emerged suggesting that AMD will use a dual-chiplet design for AM5 platforms. ASMedia, AMD's long-term chipset partner, will provide the chips (fabbed on TSMC 6nm). We confirmed that the dual-chipset design applies only to the X670 platform, while B650 motherboards (and presumably A-series) will come with only one chip.

AMD's mainstream B650 platform will come with a single chipset chip that connects to the Ryzen 7000 CPU via a PCIe 4.0 x4 connection, though documents we've seen say that a PCIe 5.0 connection is available on some AM5 processors. This single chip provides eight lanes of PCIe 4.0 (four lanes for M.2 storage), four SATA ports, and a number of USB ports.

Meanwhile, the enthusiast X670 platform employs two of these chips (our sources confirm the chips are identical, not a north/southbridge-type arrangement), effectively doubling these connectivity options. This stands in contrast to AMD's approach with the current 500-series motherboards, which use different chips for the X- and B-series motherboards. The new approach will obviously provide cost and design flexibility advantages.

The Bigger Picture

AMD's current Socket AM4 has soldiered on from 2017 to today, housing five generations of chips spanning from Excavator to Zen 3 and supporting both the PCIe 3.0 and 4.0 interfaces. However, while the AM4 platform has earned the company plenty of kudos from enthusiasts — you can upgrade a motherboard from 2017 with the current best CPU for gaming that was released a mere ten days ago, the Ryzen 7 5800X3D — that longevity has limited the company's ability to move forward to the most advanced connectivity options, giving Intel's Alder Lake the upper hand.

Timing a memory transition to coincide with affordable pricing is incredibly difficult, even in the best of times, and the ongoing global chip shortage was unforeseen a few years ago when AMD's Zen 4 chips were entering the design stages. AMD is obviously plumbing its AM5 socket for a long life span, so adding in support for what will soon be an older interface, DDR4, could require tradeoffs and design compromises that wouldn't make sense over the long term.

However, AMD's decision to use DDR5 exclusively means you might have to pony up some extra cash compared to competing Intel Raptor Lake platforms, at least with the inaugural Zen 4 Raphael chips for Socket AM5. As a result, much like we saw with AMD's high-priced debut for the Ryzen 5000 processors (AMD just finally released lower-cost Zen 3 chips a year and a half later), you can expect to pay a premium for AMD's Ryzen 7000 platforms when they arrive later this year. 

Paul Alcorn
Managing Editor: News and Emerging Tech

Paul Alcorn is the Managing Editor: News and Emerging Tech for Tom's Hardware US. He also writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage, and enterprise hardware.

  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    And this is the same debate we had 6 years ago with DDR3 vs DDR4. Servers benefit greatly, desktops don't.

    And it's the same argument we had when Socket AM4 debuted, which was generally limited to specific, often more expensive RAM modules.

    And this is specifically the reason I have zero interest in Socket AM5.
  • saltweaver
    This will be quite expensive at launch. I don't believe DDR5 prices shall drop quickly till the year's end.
  • ottonis
    In the past, AMD used to bundle their Zen CPUs with quite decent coolers.
    So, this time, one option might be to offer some bundles of certain CPU/APUs with a pair of DDR5 RAM-sticks.
    If priced attractively, AMD might partially make up for the high DDR5 prices and for limited availability and pull in those potential customers for whom DDR5 prices would be prohibitively high.
  • wifiburger
    DDR5 4800 speed is worthless, only leaves the 6400 kits which are crap for price

    I don't believe AMD saying they extracted extra performance where Intel couldn't.

    If you look at Intel 12th gen, the entry level z boards are complete garbage due to Intel charging a premium for the chipset.

    So this new x chipset from AMD will have two premium chipset.... expect entry level board to be even more crap due x2 the cost for chipset.

    it 100% doesn't look good for value,
  • Makaveli
    This is nothing new you pay the early adopter tax for new tech. And its why I won't be looking at anything AM5 until 2023.
  • Krotow
    AM5 cusomers now certainly are early adopters and some bussiness server maintainers. For general public as always - when price will drop. So no earlier than at 2024-25. Those who bought upper end AM4 systems now and aren't eager to upgrade no next novelty, can chill maybe even till AM6. For me it mean next upgrade at like 2028.
  • InvalidError
    wifiburger said:
    DDR5 4800 speed is worthless, only leaves the 6400 kits which are crap for price
    DDR5-4800 only sucks because of those -36-36 or worse latencies on first-gen DRAM chips largely caused by the nominal DRAM voltages being down 200+mV vs what DDR4 XMP profiles typically call on to get there. In a generation or two of DDR5 manufacturing refinements, we'll likely see much cheaper DDR4-4800-30 or tighter and those will compare far more favorably against today's cheap-and-cheerful DDR4-3200-16/3600-18.

    The first two years into a new memory standard ramping up volume production have always been hit-and-miss, so I'm not expecting the DDR5 pricing and performance situation to sort itself out until end of 2023. Ryzen 7000 platforms may be a tough pill to swallow for budget shoppers for most of their first year.
  • saltweaver
    I can see price drop by 20% only if all manufacturers prepare full stock by the end of the year.
  • hannibal
    No problem. AMD will continue to sell Zen3 cpus for ddr4 modules. Those who are willing to pay premium for GPU and CPU are not afraid of DDR5 pricing!
    But lets first see how pricing in general develop in this year...
  • SSGBryan
    This is why I was never interesting in bleeding edge tech. I'll be upgrading my Zen+ with a Zen 3 CPU and will soldier on until at least the 2nd generation of AM5.