AMD just announced their Ryzen 6000 series of “Rembrandt” mobile APUs a few days ago at CES 2022. While the APUs are meant for just laptops, they will eventually make their way on to desktop, just like every other AMD APU release in the past. Ryzen APUs usually release a year apart with the mobile version debuting first and the desktop release following suite. Ryzen 5000 APUs, aka “Cezanne“, however, only had a 4 month gap between their mobile and desktop release. That begs the question – will we see something similar with Ryzen 6000 on desktop?
The big DDR5 problem
Tom’s Hardware‘s Paul Alcorn sat down with AMD CEO Dr. Lisa Su and AMD’s Corporate VP and GM of the Client Channel business David McAfee to ask this exact same thing. As expected, they weren’t as kind as to just outright disclose details about their upcoming products (likely) months before announcement. However, we still got some interesting bits of information that gives us a hint as to when we can expect with Ryzen 6000 on desktop.
[…] Of course, I’m not commenting on future products that are announced at this point. One of the dynamics that we do think about a great deal is how and when to introduce that AM5 ecosystem and ensure that the DDR5 supply, as well as pricing of DDR5 memory, is mature and something that’s easily attainable for an end-user.
McAfee makes it clear with that quote that AMD is currently evaluating DDR5 supply to see if it’s ready. The company knows that DDR5 is currently not a feasible option for the masses because of its exorbitant prices compared to the miniscule gains offered in performance. The real issue here is that DDR5 is just too new. It will take time to become the new de-facto and emerge as a real alternative to DDR4.
Memory transitions are a long haul. Going from DDR3 to DDR4 took years and only in the past few years did DDR4 become the new norm. Even if the organizations and authorities name a new standard, it first needs to be widely-adopted before it gains recognition as the actual new standard for the masses. That is how it goes in normal condition and right now, they are far from that. We’re experiencing the worst supply-chain disruption the world has ever seen in perhaps the most scarce goods have ever been in modern history. So you can see how DDR5 is starting to looks like a distant reality under these circumstances.
[…] There may be other forces beyond the product itself that slow down or meter the introduction of APUs into that AM5 socket. You know, we do expect that to be an enthusiast-first introduction. And I think we’re going to have to watch very carefully just how the DDR5 transition takes place and how quickly both supply and prices come in line to make it more affordable for a mainstream consumer that might be more interested in making a product in that socket.
McAfee also confirms that Ryzen 6000 desktop APUs will indeed by making their debut on the AM5 platform, cementing the Ryzen 9 5800X3D as the last AM4 chip in history. The AM5 socket supports DDR5 but there’s no word on DDR4 compatibly as of yet. Intel had to add DDR4 support on top of the DDR5 compatibility in Alder Lake as it wasn’t just simply backwards-compatible on its own. So it’s same to assume that AMD might be doing something in similar vein to ensure that users are not left behind while early adopters get their benefits at the same time.
DDR5 on Ryzen 6000 mobile
Ryzen 6000 mobile APUs have full DDR5 compatibility but no DDR4. McAfee mentioned that AMD felt it was better to pair DDR5 with Ryzen 6000 as they felt the tech was ready there. AMD is working closely with its partners to alleviate any supply chain constrains and make sure that supply for mobile DDR5 memory is as clean as possible and made the decision to go DDR5 on Ryzen 6000 based on the confidence they had in stable supply.
We’ve been working very closely with partners across the ecosystem, as well as our OEMs, to make sure that we’re well-positioned from a supply standpoint to be able to satisfy the demand for DDR5 and LPDDR5 memory associated with our 6000 series
That being said, there are two types of DDR5 memory supported by Ryzen 6000: DDR5 SODIMM and LPDDR5. The prevalent chip shortage is primarily affecting power management ICs when it comes to DDR5 memory. Those ICs are not needed on LPPDR5 memory, only DDR5 SODIMMs. That’s because LPDDR5 doesn’t have power management on board, the motherboard is actually responsible for the memory’s power when it comes to LPDDR5. Same is the case with DDR4 memory.
That is one reason why AMD is confident in Ryzen 6000’s pairing with DDR5, because the main issue concerning DDR5 shortage is simply not present in LPDDR5 memory. However, as mentioned before there will be normal DDR5 SODIMM laptops as well with Ryzen 6000 APUs and for that there is no such mercy. The second reason is the new RDNA 2 integrated graphics inside Rembrandt APUs. RDNA 2 will benefit significantly from the increased memory throughput and DDR5 will provide precisely that, resulting in better performance.
Lastly, Dr. Lisa Su also let Tom’s Hardware know that AM5 is here to stay after it releases in the second half of 2022. Maybe even as long as the AM4 socket which debuted back in 2017 with first-gen Ryzen. AM4 was revolutionary in many ways as it stayed the same across 4 different Ryzen desktop generations and is only going to retire now. So if AM5 is going to be anything like that then we’re in for at least 4 years of service which means your first AM5 motherboard could still work two or three generations in.
Now, we just have to wait and see if AMD will bring both DDR4 and DDR5 support in Ryzen 6000 or perhaps even Zen4 “Raphael” which will launch alongside the AM5 platform. There is also only a few months left in Zen4’s release so it remains to be seen if DDR5’s pricing and availability will stabilize by then as AMD wants to ensure it does before AM5 goes public.
As things stand right now, it’s looks increasingly difficult for prices to come down as things are only getting worse. Plus, the best way to make a new standard cheaper is to arguably force wide adoption. If enough people buy DDR5, its prices will start to come down as it will shift to a mainstream product rather than more of a niche. But few actually will buy it since its expensive right now. So, you can see how we’re in a bit of paradoxical conundrum right now. Whatever happens, let’s just hope everything works out in the end.