What In The Dell Is CAMM RAM Anyways?

Semi-Proprietary Flat Pack Memory

Dell CAMM was announced yesterday to mixed reactions, with some impressed that Dell Precision mobile workstations will ship with 128GB of RAM and many others expressing concerns about the somewhat proprietary nature of this new type of memory module.   It is the second point that most techies are focussing on as Dell’s response to their reactions about CAMM has been at best interesting, at worst confusing.

Dell claims that the design is not proprietary at all, regardless of the fact that they are the only source for Compression Attached Memory Module replacements or upgrades.  They also hold the patents on both CAMM and an interposer which would let you use regular SO-DIMMs on a CAMM compatible motherboard, so there will  be royalties, however Dell doesn’t want to talk about those royalties at all.  They also describe CAMM as the next standard in memory, except that they seem to be presenting it to JEDEC as a fait accompli instead of working with them on the development of the new memory standard.  This could help when it comes to arguing about the reasonable fee portion of JEDEC’s Reasonable and Non-Discretionary terms and agreements; the point that everything in modern computers are cross licensed is not incorrect however it also generally has meant a consortium of companies were involved in the design of the new standard.

That is not to say all is bad about CAMM, there are some interesting features it offers.  As it is single sided it allows for even thinner laptop chassis to be designed, the 16″ 7670 is a mere 0.98″ while the the 17″ 7700 is a hair thicker at 1.13″.  The design of the modules should also both offer more protection to the chips onboard and also act as a heatspreader which could allow CAMM to run cooler than SO-DIMMs usually do.   The existence of an interposer to allow the use of SO-DIMMs on a CAMM motherboard is also far from an awful feature.

There is also the very good point that the SO-DIMM interface is about 25 years old and DDR5 is giving it some troubles.  The tracing on SO-DIMMs is currently limiting the performance of large pools of DDR5, for instance a laptop with 128GB of traditional RAM would be limited to DDR-4000, while CAMM is still able to hit DDR5-4800.

There has not been much reaction from other laptop makers, who will have far more impact on the future of CAMM than users will, so for now we will have to wait and see if Dell can get other companies to back their proposed new mobile memory standard.

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