Asus is developing a DDR4 to DDR5 adapter card

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Intel Alder Lake processors and Z690 motherboards brought DDR5 memory to the desktop for the first time. The problem is that the supply of DDR5 has been severely affected due to the shortage of key components. While there are Z690 cards that support DDR4, these are mostly low to mid-range options. If you must have a high-end DDR5 system and don’t want to pay the prices of scalpers, it would be easy to wait a few months before upgrading, when the DDR5 memory offer should have stabilized a bit. But, there is another potential option.

Asus is working on a DDR4 to DDR5 expansion card. How is it going for a skunk works project? Asus has shown in the past that it is capable of achieving great engineering feats, including the co-development of dual capacity RAM modules, but developing a DDR4 to DDR5 adapter with all the challenges that entails is pretty extreme!

A Youtuber by the name of Bing (via Anandtech) posted a video (in Mandarin) that explains the concept and shows a prototype in action. The idea is simple. Take a DDR4 memory stick, place it on the converter board, and insert it into the DDR5 slot of a motherboard. However, if the idea is simple, in a technical sense, it is much more complicated. While Alder Lake’s memory controller supports both DDR4 and DDR5, the modules are fundamentally different in terms of architecture and power. The latter is a major hurdle as a DDR5 motherboard does not have the ability to handle the power supply of a DDR4 module, so this should be done through the converter.

Asus ROX Maximus Z690 Apex BIOS showing DDR4 support

(Image credit: Bing via Youtube)

Could this kind of solution benefit die-hard overclockers? The high latency of DDR5 is unsuitable for some benchmarks and therefore the ability to use DDR4 memory in a high-end card might give it limited appeal. but there are other issues as well such as very long memory trace lengths which means that even if everything else works just fine, it will never be able to achieve the same maximized clocks and timings as a DDR4 motherboard.

The converter is very large, so it is likely to interfere with air coolers. In its current state, the converter can only accept one module, so you will need to run two for dual channel. Running the device would require significant BIOS changes, since Asus’ Maximus cards all use DDR5, it would take a lot of engineering hours for a proper implementation.

Asus DDR4 to DDR5 adapter card in a working system

(Image credit: Bing on Youtube)

While this is an impressive feat of engineering, I find it hard to see how it can be marketed. A mainstream user can just go for a DDR4 motherboard, or if you must have DDR5 you can just wait for it or grab a 2x8GB 4800 base kit to help you out. it’s hard to imagine that the Asus converter would sell for cheap, especially if you have to buy at least two of them. I would be inclined to think of this as a favorite project of an enterprising engineer. That’s quite a feat and intrigued me a lot, but I think it’s ultimately of little use to 99% of the broad market.


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