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Do you need DDR5 RAM with Intel 12th Gen CPUs?

GeIL Polaris RGB SYNC
GeIL Polaris RGB SYNC (Image credit: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central)

Do you need DDR5 RAM with Intel 12th Gen CPUs?

Best answer: No. DDR4 is compatible, but the performance benefits of going with DDR5 can't be ignored, and there are other caveats to using DDR4 as well that make it largely a better bet to go with DDR5.

No need to upgrade from your DDR4, but there are caveats

The best RAM isn't the cheapest of PC components, so if you can reuse stuff you already have it takes the edge off putting together a new or upgraded PC. Fortunately, Intel's new 12th Gen "Alder Lake" CPUs are compatible with both DDR4 and DDR5 memory.

However, there is a small caveat with that. Intel's specs for the 12th Gen chips say that DDR4 is supported at 3200MHz and above, so assuming your kit meets that requirement it'll be good to go. You will need a new motherboard for 12th Gen regardless, and you'll have to be extra careful that you buy one compatible with DDR4 if you're going that route.

DDR5 will have a performance edge

GeIL Polaris RGB SYNC

Source: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central)

Using a 12th Gen CPU with DDR5 RAM will give a number of workloads a performance edge, despite having higher timings. The sheer clock speed and additional memory bandwidth will benefit intensive tasks such as gaming.

That's not to say that these tasks will suffer with DDR4, and in lighter use you probably won't be able to tell the difference.

For more on how the Intel 12th Gen chips respond to DDR5 RAM, be sure to check out our reviews of the Intel Core i5-12600K and the Intel Core i9-12900K. All told, it's probably a better idea to get DDR5 RAM since you'll be buying a new motherboard regardless, and this way you're going to be better set for the future.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.