Physical Aspect

Finally, we have the differences at the physical level. You buy memory chips already soldered on a printed circuit board called a “memory module.” Memory modules for each DDR generation are physically different, so for example you won’t be able to install a DDR2 module in a DDR3 socket. Unless your motherboard supports both DDR2 and DDR3 sockets (only a few do), you cannot upgrade from DDR2 to DDR3 without replacing the motherboard and eventually the CPU (if in your system the memory controller is embedded in the CPU, as with all processors from AMD and Core i7 from Intel). The same thing is valid with DDR and DDR2. Other than for a few are rare exceptions, you cannot replace DDR memories with DDR2. DDR2 and DDR3 modules have the same number of pins, however, the key notch is placed in a different position.

Memory Module Number of Pins
DDR 184
DDR2 240
DDR3 240

DDR vs. DDR2Figure 7: Difference in edge contacts between DDR and DDR2

DDR2 vs. DDR3Figure 8: Difference in edge contacts between DDR2 and DDR3

All DDR2 and DDR3 chips use BGA (Ball Grid Array) packaging, while DDR chips almost always use TSOP (Thin Small-Outline Package) packaging. There are a few DDR chips with BGA packaging on the market (like the ones from Kingmax), but they are uncommon. In Figure 9, you can see what a TSOP chip on a DDR module looks like, while in Figure 10 you can see what a BGA chip on a DDR2 looks like.

DDR moduleFigure 9: DDR chips almost always use TSOP packaging

DDR2 moduleFigure 10: DDR2 and DDR3 chips use BGA packaging

Gabriel Torres is a Brazilian best-selling ICT expert, with 24 books published. He started his online career in 1996, when he launched Clube do Hardware, which is one of the oldest and largest websites about technology in Brazil. He created Hardware Secrets in 1999 to expand his knowledge outside his home country.