So, you’re ready to make a GPU upgrade, but will that new GDDR6X GPU work with your older DDR4 mobo? After all, DDR5 RAM can’t work in a DDR4 motherboard – so is graphic card memory any different? If so, why? Well the gist is:
You can use GDDR5, GDDR6, and GDDR6X GPUs with a DDR4 (or DDR5) motherboard. Your GPU and CPU are physically and logically separate, which means you are free to mix and match as long as you have enough space to install the GPU card in an available PCIe slot. Just keep in mind that your GPU speed will always be capped by what your CPU can handle.
Want to be a DIY PC building pro? Here’s all the details on why you can mix and match GDDR and DDR RAM.
Why There Is Different Types of Computer Memory
This is something that always surprises people who are new to how PCs work on a hardware level. There are actually several different types of memory at work in your computer right now—it’s way more than just file storage!
You’re definitely familiar with the memory stored in your harddrive. This is a long-term type of data storage that is non-volatile. The “non-volatile” here just means that it retains that memory even after power is turned off.
This is why your harddrive doesn’t lose all of its files when you hit the power button.
The other memory in your PC is volatile. It loses all storage when the power is turned off. This is why losing power while programs are running can be such a serious problem. Your PC literally “forgets” everything it was doing!
There are plenty of types of volatile memory including RAM, ROM, DDR, and GDR, but we’re only going to focus on the difference between DDR and GDDR.
A Quick Intro to RAM, DDR, and GDDR Memory
It helps to start off with a quick introduction to the differences between RAM, DDR, and GDDR. We’re going to cover all of the essentials of these three different terms so that you know everything there is to know about PC memory.
RAM stands for random access memory. This is the type of memory that the software on your PC utilizes while it’s running.
RAM is an umbrella term. Both DDR and GDDR are different types of RAM that are used differently by your PC.
Every single piece of software from the most simple calculator app all the way up to the most demanding games in the video editing software need to use RAM in order to operate. This is computer memory that doesn’t go into long-term storage.
Taking the calculator app as an example, your computer doesn’t need to store every single calculation you run with that app. It just needs to temporarily store calculations and values while you have the calculator open.
The same is true for graphics processing. Your computer doesn’t need to store every single frame of a video game all the time, but only pull up those frames while you’re playing.
RAM is useful because computers can clear out the storage and make way for new information on the fly.
DDR4 and DDR5
DDR4 and DDR5 are the types of RAM used by your CPU. This RAM handles all of the basic calculations that allow your PC to run software. This isn’t the type of RAM that runs your graphics, but it can impact graphic performance indirectly.
This type of RAM is vital for the speed that your PC can run software at. If you want faster loading times, quicker processing, and more processing power, DDR is what you need.
DDR4 and DDR5 are also necessary for processing bandwidth. Your programs might be loading fast enough, but if you can’t run all the software you need at one time, you’re probably short on RAM.
DDR4 and DDR5 are the two dominant standards for RAM speed. DDR4 is rated to run at up to (around) 3,200 megatransfers per second while DDR5 often runs at 4,800 megatransfers per second (or more). In terms of raw performance, DDR5 is essentially 50% faster when actually running software when compared with DDR4.
DDR5 even has a data transfer cap of over 30 gigs per second. This is lightning fast when running even the most demanding and complicated software.
GDDR5, GDDR6, and GDDR6X
Now let’s talk about GDDR. This is the RAM that is built into your graphics card. This RAM isn’t used by the CPU, but is dedicated to your GPU. It is all about handling the demanding world of graphics performance.
GDDR has its own naming convention. GDDR always ends with a number and has an “X” in between generations. So, GDDR6X is the best on the market until we get GDDR7.
GDDR5 is still a very popular choice despite not being the best on paper anymore. GDDR5 has a per-pin data transfer rate of 8 gigs per second and a bandwidth of 32 gigs per second. This was dethroned by GDDR5X which nearly doubled this performance.
GDDR6 was a game changer. In general, GDDR6 had a 100% power increase from GDDR5 (side note: this is why you should double check your PSU cable set-up – don’t use pigtailed connections if you can help it!).
It has a per-pin data transfer rate of 16 gigs per second and a bandwidth of a whopping 64 gigs per second. The power consumption of GDDR6 also dropped to 1.25v even though the real-world power usage went up owing to more demanding performance needs.
GDDR6X is another big step up, but not as big as the jump from GDDR5 to GDDR6. GDDR6X is approximately a 40% increase from GDDR6 and offers a per-pin transfer rate of 21 gigs per second and a bandwidth of 84 gigs per second.
If you want to know which GDDR standard is the best, here’s the quick answer:
Summary: GDDR6 is likely the right choice for anyone who wants amazing performance. GDDR5 is still more than capable and is a bit more budget friendly. GDDR6X is likely overkill for everyone but people who have the most demanding graphics needs.
This leads us to a big question: Can you mix and match RAM standards on your mobo?
Can You Install GDDR5/GDDR6 GPU in a DDR4 Motherboard?
Higher GDDR, like GDDR5, GDDR6, and GDDR6X can work on a DDR4 mobo. Here’s a good analogy to think about how GDDR and DDR work together. Think about it like the classic cat meme: “If it fits, it sits.”
All that matters is that the PCIe slot your graphics card plugs into fits. You need both physical fit in terms of the size of your GPU and the space available in your PC case and a fit in terms of the length of your PCIe slot:
If it fits, it works. Here’s why.
Your GPU and CPU are separate systems. They are both separated physically thanks to plugging into different sections of your mobo and they are separated logically. Your GPU even gets its own RAM to play with. The two systems compliment each other, but are okay working independently.
This means you are free to use a GDDR higher than your DDR on your motherboard. There is one big trade off to consider though.
If your GDDR outpaces what your CPU can handle, it might limit how much you can get out of that GDDR.
A high-end GPU combined with a budget CPU will always yield closer to budget results. Your CPU is the brains of the operation and everything else has to keep pace with how fast your CPU can operate.
Can a GDDR6 GPU Be Installed in a DDR5 motherboard?
The same thing is true for using a GDDR6 or 6X GPU in a DDR5 motherboard. As long as it fits in your PC case and fits in the available PCIe slot, you’re good to go!
The same general rule applies. Your GDDR6X GPU will have to play along with the DDR5 speeds of your mobo. This means you might not get full performance out of your GPU, but you will get the maximum performance that the rest of your PC built allows!
If you have any questions, feedback or suggestions about this article, please leave a comment below. Please note that all comments go into a moderation queue (to prevent blog spam). Your comment will be manually reviewed and approved by Tristan in less than a week. Thanks!
2 thoughts on “Can GDDR5/GDDR6 Graphics Cards Work On DDR4 Motherboards?”
Thank you indeed Tristan for your informative articles and teachings. These are brilliant and very clear to someone to whom computers aren’t their forte.
I have a question. I run “Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020” with the following data while at the
FPS-hungriest airport, (KJFK). I’m getting, CPU-Memory 8.055GB/31.862GB,
GPU-Mem.. 8.550GB/11.095GB. Monitor at 3840×2126. The higher the resolution, the better it performs. At lower resolutions, it stutters a bit So, this is the optimum setting for me. I’m getting between 20 and 30 fps, stutter-free at this airport and much higher elsewhere in the Sim. I’m using: CPU 12400F GPU 3060 OC Ventus 12GB and 32GB Ram. I would like to know why it uses 6GB out of 12GB CPU and 8GB out 32GB of GPU. Occasionally the GPU goes to 98%. The CPU is at about 38% or less.
Why doesn’t it use more of the resources available?
Thank you in advance.
Good question, although unfortunately it can be really hard to work out exactly why you’re only getting certain resources hit.
In this case, it does sound like the GPU processing is the bottle neck though. As in, your graphics card can only perform a certain number of calculations per second – and it sounds like it is this that is getting maxed out. Therefore your CPU and GPU’s memory is not being maxed out, and neither is your CPU (because your GPU’s processing ability is being hit first – before your memory or CPU can be stretched further).
You could always consider upgrading to a 3060 Ti or 3070 GPU, although this won’t the cheapest of upgrades – and would only deliver specific benefits in this one area (from the sound of it).