ASRock has released an UEFI update for its X570 Taichi motherboard that adds the ability to increase DDR4 operating voltage all the way to over 1.8V. That's a 50% boost compared to your typical DDR4 voltage. The feature will provide an additional degree of freedom to enthusiasts and overclockers who want to experiment with RAM performance, but whether or not it is safe to use is a big question.
AMD's Ryzen platforms perform optimally, when frequencies of Infinity Fabric (fClk), memory controller (uClk) and DRAM (mClk) are equal or at least synchronized in a very special way. To that end, AMD recommends using DDR4-3800 RAM modules for its Ryzen 3000-series CPUs and DDR4-4000 modules for its Ryzen 5000-series desktop CPUs.
But since AMD's platforms are so popular among enthusiasts, it's inevitable that there will be people trying different combinations of frequencies or trying to set an overclocking record.
ASRock's X570 Taichi motherboard is designed for enthusiasts and overclockers, which is why the manufacturer recently added extreme DDR4 memory overclocking capabilities (i.e., Vdd/Vddq voltage increase beyond 1.8V) to the platform via a beta UEFI update.
The standard voltage for DDR4 memory is 1.2V. Most enthusiast-grade modules are designed to work at 1.35V, which is also suitable for memory chips and memory controllers. The best RAM from G.Skill come with an operating voltage of 1.5V (to a large degree because Intel's XMP 2.0 profiles do not define anything above 1.5V); whereas, recently announced extreme modules from Adata's XPG division pull 1.6V to allow a DDR4-5300 speed.
Even 1.5V is a rather extreme 25% increase of the DDR4 standard voltage. That requires manufacturers to meticulously bin chips to find those that can work at high speeds at high voltages. Memory modules based on these chips also have to be carefully architected to be able to support the frequency and power delivery needs.
So far, no one has introduced DDR4 DIMMs designed for anything higher than 1.6V, so supporting DRAM voltages over 1.8V seems like overkill. Very few DRAM integrated circuits (ICs) can function at an operating voltage that's 50% higher than what they were designed for.
Furthermore, even if some modules could work at over 1.8V, their power consumption and heat dissipation would be more than 50% higher when compared to nominal, so active cooling will likely be required. Otherwise, DRAM ICs might literally fry. ASRock guarantees that its motherboard can handle over 1.8V DRAM voltage, but it remains to be seen how many memory controllers will be able to do so.
Given all the difficulties with DDR4 memory subsystems at 1.8V, it's highly unlikely that more than a few professional overclockers with liquid nitrogen or liquid helium will ever use this capability.
But by adding support for a rather extreme voltage setting, ASRock is demonstrating that its motherboard has a lot of headroom. This could increase people's confidence in ASRock's X570 Taichi motherboard.
Yet, given all the peculiarities of AMD's Ryzen platforms when it comes to memory speeds, it is up to the enthusiast to decide whether they actually need DRAM overclocking and are willing to accept the risks.