New Platform, New Memory
The emergence of Intel 12th Gen Core processors earlier this month heralds good news for motherboard and memory makers. A key feature of the platform is support for either DDR4 or DDR5 memory, which is a first.
Using a new LGA 1700 socket, compatible Z690 motherboards are outfitted with dual-channel DDR4 or DDR5 slots, though not at the same time. Most manufacturers are using established DDR4 for entry-level boards and new, higher bandwidth DDR5 primed for high-end offerings.
As an enthusiast memory provider of note, G.Skill comes out of the gate with three DDR5 series – Trident Z5, Trident Z5 RGB and Ripjaws S5. Curiously, all kits comprise 32GB (2x16GB) and none are offered at the base 4,800MT/s speed.
The most cost-effective entry into the DDR5 club is via Ripjaws S5, available at 5,200MT/s speeds with either CL40 or CL36 latencies. We have the wonderfully named F5-5200U4040A16GX2-RS5W in for review today.
Said kit, available in black or white heatspreaders, appeals to the broadest church of Alder Lake devotees by offering 40-40-40-76 timings at a standard 1.10V. The figures are much looser than DDR4, of course, but the performance premise is based on massively increased bandwidth counteracting initial access latencies.
Our white review kit ably exemplifies the minimalist nature of the design. Being DDR5 and carrying over the same 288 contact pins as DDR4, don’t expect it to function in anything but Intel 600 Series boards presently; the notch is shifted a few pins to one side meaning modules don’t fit into DDR4 boards. Even if they somehow physically did, DDR5 is electrically incompatible with the predecessor.
Fit and finish are both good. There’s no pressing thermal need for the ventilation holes on the right-hand side, serving as decorative rather than functional. A matte finish is handy for repelling fingerprints whilst the low-profile nature – these modules are merely 33mm tall – is handy for small-form-factor systems.
The black PCB, white heatspreader and red accenting may cause style issues with themed builds, so it’s just as well there’s a black option. Activating the base 5,200MT/s speed is easy; simply switch on XMP 3.0 in the motherboard’s BIOS and away you go.
On the face of it, G.Skill’s set provides an extra 8.3 per cent bandwidth over the JEDEC-certified 4,800MT/s all Intel Alder Lake chips are specified at, and we’ll determine how beneficial that is in upcoming benchmarks.
Price Remains Premium
It’s worth knowing new technology always carries a price premium over the established norm. For example, a 32GB (2x16GB) kit of DDR4-3600 is readily available for £125. Stepping this up to the same capacity for DDR5-4800 doubles the price, while jumping onboard an enthusiast kit like this one further inflates cost to around £300 for the same capacity.
This premium will persist for the near future, at least until DDR5 becomes more mainstream, so it’s definitely worth thinking about when pricing up a prospective build.
That said, the question we’re tasked with is evaluating how much quicker does an Intel 12th Gen Core processor run when using incrementally faster DDR5 memory. Let’s find out.
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
G.Skill Ripjaws S5 DDR5-4800
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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Comparing the two memory speeds is always going to play well with analysis tools such as AIDA. We see a near-linear increase in synthetic performance as speed scales from 4,800MT/s to 5,200MT/s.
Keeping timings the same and increasing frequency has an obvious, preferable effect of reducing latencies by an appreciable degree. Though a chip like the Core i9-12900K is cache-heavy, getting access to oodles of lower-latency bandwidth ought to show real-world benefits.
Moving over the CPU benchmarks we see that, generally speaking, there’s a reasonable gain. Geekbench shows a decent uptick by solely switching memory speeds from 4,800MT/s to 5,200MT/s. Not bad when you’re already dealing with the fastest mainstream chip Intel produces.
Underscoring the benefits of faster RAM, every benchmark on this page gains from 5,200MHz memory. The performance difference is enough to be to be representative of a processor upgrade.
As the cost difference between 4,800MT/s and 5,200MT/s memory is negligible in the grand scheme of things, this is one of the cheapest methods of gaining even more oomph from a shiny, new 12th Gen Core i9 build.
We managed to push our sample kit, at native latencies, to 5,600MT/s using 1.2V. The increase over default frequency is less impressive than going from 4,800 to 5,200, as other than AIDA, regular benchmarks improved by, on average, 1.2 per cent. 5,200MT/s, it seems, is a nice sweet spot for this memory kit.
Opting for the premium Intel mainstream platform in late 2021 entails using a 12th Gen Core chip, Z690 motherboard and DDR5 memory. This newer standard offers higher frequencies at lower operating voltages, albeit with inflated latencies.
It is sensible for G.Skill to launch multiple families around DDR5, and the Ripjaws S5 is a good place to start for enthusiasts who want iteratively better performance than afforded by sticking to JEDEC speeds. The sample kit, operating at 5,200MT/s, offers a small, consistent boost in performance that’s most welcome in games.
The colour scheme may not to be to everyone’s tastes and DDR5 is inherently expensive compared to traditional DDR4, but get past that and G.Skill offers a solid kit which, in our eyes, is worth the £30-£50 over a same-capacity 4,800MT/s set.
G.Skill Ripjaws S5 DDR5-5200
Verdict: Don’t bother with DDR5-4800 unless you absolutely have to; spending a little more provides real-world benefits.
Worth it over 4,800MT/s DDR5
Lack of availability
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