Info about DDR4 Motherboards
Last Updated On: August 10, 2015
At the heart of any DDR4 system lies the DDR4 motherboard. The motherboard is the critical component for several reasons. First, it provides the interface that connects the processor to the DDR4 memory. Second, it provides the x99 chipset features that enable computers to maximize their use of the DDR4 memory and Haswell-E architecture. Finally, the DDR4 motherboard provides the expansion slots necessary to house the graphics cards and other expansions cards that translate the DDR4 memory, x99 chipset, and Haswell-E architecture into practical and actionable benefits.
Like with all new technology releases, DDR4 has some drawbacks. First, DDR4 memory has a different physical interface which makes it incompatible with existing DDR3 motherboards. A DDR4 motherboard will be required in order to use DD4 memory. That means that in order to make the switch you will have to upgrade your motherboard and possibly your CPU, which adds extra expense to the project.
According to Forbes, this new platform of the Haswell-E, X-99 chipset, and DDR4 memory is such a huge leap that it makes PCs just a year old look and feel like antiques. It’s true, this new platform sports some very impressive features that we will discuss next, but I don’t know that I would go so far as to say that less than one year old hardware is antiquated by this platform. Perhaps if you are the sort of enthusiast that spends thousands of dollars every year constantly upgrading your technology then that statement might be true, but I think that for the majority of computing consumers out there, this new platform is not going to make their current rigs into dinosaurs – unless their current rig is an abacus or a Gateway PC.
In this article, we discuss the various features of DDR4 motherboards, including the Haswell-E architecture and x99 chipset. After that we discuss the process of upgrading the motherboard in an older computer to a DDR4 motherboard, including looking at current prices and comparing the process to building a new computer from scratch.
Features of a DDR4 Motherboard
DDR4 motherboards will all support the Haswell-E platform and the x99 chipset. These two features are required in order to use DDR4 memory. For the other features, it would be most helpful to look at a sample DDR4 motherboard. For this discussion we will look at this ddr4 motherboard – Asus 3000 Motherboard (http://www.amazon.com/ASUS-DDR4-3000-Motherboard-X99-DELUXE/dp/B00MNPA9SS).
This motherboard features 8 memory slots. A cursory glance over the available DDR4 memory shows that at 16GB per module we should expect to get a staggering 128GB of memory. With that much memory you could load your entire hard drive (assuming a 128GB hard drive of course) into memory. I doubt that any consumer will have a real, legitimate need for this much memory in their computer.
For storage, there are 8 SATA ports. This means that a maximum of 8 hard drives can be connected directly to the motherboard via SATA ports. With drives reaching up to 3TB in size at reasonable prices, you could put up to 24 TB of storage in this computer. That amount is simply insane for a consumer desktop. Midsize companies don’t even have storage systems that large. You might think that with this much capacity you would have to trade-off for speed. Not true. This motherboard supports up to 10 gigabits per second data transfer rates via the SATA express port.
This motherboard supports overclocking its memory up to DDR4 3200. This is blazing fast for memory access. This speed means that data zips in and out at Autobahn speeds. The faster that data moves in and out of memory, the faster that programs can react to that data, and the higher the perceived performance of a computer system is.
Another feature of this board in the integrated wireless networking. Finally, a desktop motherboard that can access Wi-Fi without needed to install an expansion card. It may not seem like a big thing, but having Wi-Fi on board in a desktop gives you automatic network redundancy in case your pet cat happens to chew through your patch cable during your long awaited gaming session.
This board is also really easy to overclock. Overclocking is an important technique to get the most performance out of your hardware, and a motherboard that allows for easy overclocking is important. With overclocking, you can make your 3.0 GHz CPU run like a 4.5 GHz CPU, much like encouraging Scotty in the engine room to give the Enterprise just a bit more power.
While the specific details such as number of SATA and USB ports will differ among the various DDR4 motherboards, two features that will always be consistent will be the Haswell-E architecture and the x99 chipset.
Haswell-E is a processor architecture, much like the good old x286 and x386 processors from way back when. The architecture of a processor must match the architecture of the motherboard that it is being installed into for it the work. If they don’t match, you end up with a square peg and round hole situation. This architecture is also the reason why you have to get a new processor if you upgrade your motherboard to take advantage of the new DDR4 memory. Most of the processors currently in use in computers do not support the Haswell-E architecture.
The release of the Haswell-E platform is good news for gamers and those with heavy workloads. The platform has support for eight core processors and up to four graphics cards, in addition to the DDR4 memory support. Unfortunately the Haswell-E platform only supports the Core i7 CPU, which means that you will have to upgrade both your motherboard and CPU before being able to use DDR4 memory.
The primary benefit that computer users can expect from the Haswell-E platform is to performance with lower power consumption. Now, the power consumption reduction is not going to make this new platform pay for itself. However, for users with heavy loads such as gamers, video editors, and developers, this platform packs plenty of punch for rendering, compiling, and playing. Finally, the Haswell-E platform processors can be overclocked up to 4.5 GHz which moves data a blinding speed.
If there is one consistent theme between the dd4 motherboards, memory, and processors it is overclocking. The motherboard BIOS makes it easy to overclock, and the Haswell-E platform provides a great overclocking foundation.
The X-99 chipset unlocks the full power of the Haswell-E platform and is available with the Intel Core i7 line of processors. This chipset launched in the third quarter of 2014, so it is still brand new to the market. This chipset supports USB 3.0 and 2.0, and supports up to 14 USB ports. With that number of ports, you should have no problem connecting all of your devices. With 6x USB 3.0 ports and 8x USB 2.0 ports, if you run out of USB ports on this chipset, you have too many devices.
Need storage? No problem. With 10 SATA ports you should have no problem connecting up enough hard drives and optical drives to solve any storage needs in any configuration. With the integrated gigabit networking this chipset makes a great foundation to build a media server or file server on, while making the same computer pull double duty as a gaming platform.
HD Audio, Rapid Storage, and Rapid Start technologies all round out an already exciting platform for building computers. Some people might say that lack of an integrated graphics chip is a shortcoming in this design, but I say who needs integrated graphics? If you are looking at this motherboard there is a strong chance that you already have your eyes on a sexy video card to round out the performance of
Upgrading an Older Computer
A quick search on Amazon.com for ddr4 motherboards indicate that prices range from $250 to over $500 for a motherboard. The Asus Rampage V Extreme motherboard (http://www.amazon.com/RAMPAGE-EXTREME-Extended-Motherboard-2011-V3/dp/B00N1QKUQO/), for example, is $463.99 on Amazon.com and uses the LGA 2011 socket for its CPU. This motherboard requires at least an Intel Core i7 CPU so if your processor is a few years old, you will likely need a new CPU ranging from $320 to $375 on Amazon.com.
Finally, a 16 GB DDR4 memory kit consisting of two 8GB modules runs around $259.99 if you order the Crucial brand kit. This leaves a total expense of $1,098.98 for a bare minimum DDR4 upgrade. Obviously upgrading an older computer is a fairly costly project at this point, and if you do upgrade an older computer you need to be cautious about introducing bottlenecks at the video card or hard drive level. However, as with all things technology, prices should drop as adoption rate increases.
Building a new PC on the other hand is not a completely unreasonable endeavor at that price. Once you get the motherboard, memory, and CPU, you basically have a complete system. You just need to add a case, power supply, hard drive, and optionally, video card and optical drive. If you are in the market for a new PC, try your hand at building your own DDR4 based system. With the performance of the DDR4 platform, the PC you build today should last for an easy five years or more with minor upgrades needed along the way.
Wrapping It All Up
In this article we looked at an example of a DDR4 motherboard and what features it provides. We saw that the particular motherboard we looked at supported the Haswell-E architecture and the x99 chipset. We also saw that the motherboard had lots of USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports as well as a very healthy amount of SATA ports for storage. This motherboard also supports a staggering amount of memory with 8 memory slots fitting 16 GB modules in each one for a total of 128GB of memory. Finally, we saw that the board was easy to overclock to achieve higher performance levels.
The Haswell-E architecture supports processors with up to 8 cores for lightning fast processing. Like the DDR4 motherboards, these processors are also easy to overclock past their stated clock speeds. The new architecture means that a processor upgrade is most likely required to move to a DDR4 system. This new architecture is a great boon for gamers and graphic or video professionals, as the architecture can support up to 4 video cards to make rendering intense graphics or videos much easier.
The X-99 chipset provides access to the full power of the Haswell-E architecture. Motherboards that support this chipset provide a large number of USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports, as well as a surprisingly large number of SATA ports. This combines together into one package for plenty of storage and the ability to connect a large number of devices simultaneously. This chipset makes a great chipset for building a media server, storage server, or a multimedia creation station.
Finally, upgrading an older computer to run the DDR4 platform is quite an undertaking. In most cases it will require replacing the processor, memory, and motherboard which makes up the bulk of any computer build. Since the motherboards are ATX boards, the case should be reusable and the power supply should be able to be reused as well as the hard drives, video cards, and optical drives, but the whole process is not a cheap undertaking. The examples we looked at work out to about $1,098 just to upgrade the motherboard, processor, and memory. Now the amount of memory in this upgrade is 16 GB, and most computers these days run between 4 to 8 GB of memory, so we could reduce the amount of memory to bring the price down a bit.
The new platform build on DDR4 motherboards does promise higher performance, but like with most all technology, early adopters need to beware about overpaying for minimal performance gains. At this point, performance levels between DDR4 systems and DDR3 systems is very similar as applications and games are not being designed to take advantage of the higher performance of the DDR4 system. As time goes on however, and applications are made more intense, the DDR4 platform will really shine.