DDR4 memory is now legion amongst servers, desktops and laptops. It wasn’t always thus. Introduced in 2014, it took a fair while for the fourth-generation DRAM to gain a foothold across disparate products and markets, and market research companies pegged the crossover date – where DDR4 is more dominant – as 2016.
Now, DDR5 faces the same challenges. Intel debuted the new memory technology on 12th Gen Core processors and Z690 motherboards last month. Hampering adoption is a distinct lack of supply – unfortunately common in the industry – but if you want the best possible experience on Intel’s fastest mainstream platform to date, DDR5 is the way to go.
Only a few companies have the manufacturing capability to actually produce DDR5 models, as everyone else purchases the modules from them and badges up their modules accordingly. Micron is one such manufacturing entity, so it’s inevitable that Crucial, the consumer-facing brand of Micron, has modules listed from day one.
Playing it safe by retailing only six kits at the time of writing, each Crucial DDR5 module operates at a JEDEC-certified 4,800MT/s. Any enthusiast wanting to go faster can chance overclocking or opt for a different manufacturer.
Modules are available in 8GB, 16GB or 32GB capacities. Crucial sells them separately or as two sticks bundled into one package, which makes sense as the latest Intel chips persist with dual-channel operation.
Our review sample is a 32GB (2x16GB) package catchily named CT2K16G48C40U5. Delving further, the 4,800MT/s modules are rated with a CAS latency of 40 clocks and use a standard 1.1V. Eight modules offer 8-bit accesses (or x8 in Crucial terminology) so we know the memory is both single-ranked and only present on one side as the remaining four ICs are hidden under the sticker.
Most competitors show off their DDR5 with fancy-looking heatspreaders. Not so Crucial, who opts for a black PCB unadorned on both sides. The Plain Jane looks are an acquired taste, especially with the blue sticker clashing with the dark theme, but it can be removed easily enough.
Crucial is justified in not including ‘spreaders as the memory, run at its native speed, does not get overly hot. An IR temperature gun reported a maximum 55°C for the modules working away at full gas, which is nothing to be worried about.
Memory, where art thou?
What is worrying, however, is the absolute scarcity of stock in the channel. Crucial applies a £247 price tag to this 32GB set. That may sound expensive when, say, the Crucial Ballistix 32GB (2x16GB) DDR4-3000 heatspreader-clad gaming memory costs £125 but that’s not the half of it.
It is next-to-impossible to source DDR5 right now for myriad reasons. If you can and are able to secure the retail price, go for it without hesitation. Otherwise you are left at the greedy whim of scalpers oftentimes charging twice as much on popular auction sites.
This lack of stock situation is seriously impeding adoption of DDR5 memory and is having a knock-on effect of making compliant Z690 motherboards far less attractive than otherwise would be the case.
Club386 DDR5 Testing Setup
Intel Core i9-12900K
|CPU Base Clock
|CPU Turbo Clock
|CPU L3 Cache
|CPU Cores / Threads
8 / 16
125W (241W as tested)
|IGP Base Clock
|IGP Turbo Clock
Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero
Crucial DDR5-4800 (CT2K16G48C40U5)
G.Skill Ripjaws S5 DDR5-5200 (F5-5200U4040A16GX2-RS5W)
4,800MT/s and 5,200MT/s
Corsair MP600 Pro XT NVMe 1TB
be quiet Dark Power Pro 11 (1,000W)
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition (496.13)
Asus Ryujin II 360 AIO
Microsoft Windows 10 (64-bit)
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We are comparing the Crucial kit against the same-capacity G.Skill running at 4,800MT/s and at its native speed of 5,200MT/s.
The single-rank, single-sided Crucial pair put up the expected showing in the first benchmark.
The Crucial set is surprisingly good with respect to latency, matching the performance of the G.Skill operating at a higher speed.
This is strange but welcome. The single-core speed is immense and shows little variability over several runs. There’s something about the Crucial it really likes.
The CPU-centric performance is also robust.
Game updates can throw up surprising results. The Crucial DDR5 set is adjudged to be excellent for Far Cry 6 and Borderlands 3 but not as hot in Final Fantasy XIV and Forza Horizon 4.
In benchmark summary, the Crucial kit does exactly what it says on the tin.
Increasing the base voltage from 1.1V to 1.3V and keeping latencies the same, we managed to achieve a 5,600MT/s speed. That sounds good on first blush, but running a few benchmarks illustrates very little gain – no more than two per cent in any non-memory test – for extra heat and potential instability.
It is entirely reasonable for Crucial to be one of the first vendors to list DDR5 memory. It is somewhat disappointing to see kits solely based around the default JEDEC speed of 4,800MT/s. Compounding matters is a lack of stock that’s in plentiful evidence across the DDR5 industry.
That said, Crucial is wise to remove extraneous features such as fancy heatspreaders and RGB lighting for entry-level kits. Performance is healthy across all of our benchmarks and overclocking in line with what would be termed enthusiast modules.
Crucial DDR5-4800 32GB (CT2K16G48C40U5)
Verdict: Crucial tends to be priced well compared to peers, so if you want a no-nonsense kit that works with the minimum of fuss and fanfare, this 32GB pack is well worth a look.
No superfluous RGB
Never gets hot
Blank on one side