CAMM memory module

What is a CAMM?

CAMM stands for Compression Attached Memory Module and is a new memory module form factor designed for thin-profile laptops or all-in-one systems. Initially a Dell proprietary design, in late 2022 the CAMM concept was introduced by Dell to JEDEC, the industry standards body for memory modules, to create a new standard for anyone to use.

Initial designs for the industry standard CAMM, called CAMM2, were made available in late 2023 for computer and memory module manufacturers to adopt, with additional designs in development slated for release by the second half of 2024. The challenge to any new memory design is always standardization and adoption by the industry, particularly chipset architects (Intel, AMD). Dell’s investment and willingness to share their design royalty-free with the JEDEC standards body is a testament to their commitment to standardization.

Instead of leads on the bottom edge of the conventional memory module that plug into a socket, the CAMM uses a compression connector that mounts to a thin interposer on the motherboard. Screws are then used to secure the CAMM in place. A CAMM can be single-sided to reduce z-height to accommodate a very thin profile system, placing the DRAM memory components on one side, with options for the width and length of the CAMM module to support higher memory capacities. The JEDEC CAMM2 designs support different types of memory components (DDR5 and LPDDR5/X) to be used on the same socket, which provide flexibility for manufacturers to choose the right memory type for their systems.

CAMM modules were created to address specific challenges for computer manufacturers. Since the introduction of the first Intel Ultrabook™ design, the Apple MacBook Air in 2011, manufacturers have struggled with memory and other components squeezing into a thin profile form factor. Traditional SODIMMs (Small Outline Dual In-line Memory Module) proved to be too thick to fit into this class of systems, with the SODIMM socket having specific height requirements that couldn’t be accommodated in the Ultrabook. This forced computer manufacturers to use discrete DRAM (aka DRAM down) surface mounted directly to the motherboard. In manufacturing, there are many downsides to this approach. For example, if one DRAM component failed during testing, the entire motherboard would need to be reworked for the DRAM to be removed and replaced (versus simply swapping out a module on the production line). As chip prices and availability tend to fluctuate with the memory market, manufacturers also struggle to plan for the most cost-effective memory type for their systems.

Computer builders like Dell need flexibility in manufacturing and component cost to offer systems at the right price point for their customers. They also need to adjust quickly to changing market conditions. Traditionally they've done this with memory. When there are shortages and memory is expensive, they reduce the build cost of their system by lowering the amount of memory they install. With DRAM down, that's much harder to do, let alone plan for. Both DDR DRAM and LPDDR DRAM are supported by laptop processors, so choosing a higher-priced memory component can ultimately affect the end-cost of the system. Upgradeability is also a challenge and is usually ruled out for this class of system since DRAM chips cannot be simply added to the motherboard by a user or system integrator.

Advantages engineered into the CAMM2 designs are support for higher capacities not available with SODIMMs, such as 128GB on a single module, and support for dual memory channels. Traditionally it would require two SODIMMs to complete a dual channel configuration. With select CAMM2 designs, both channels are featured on one module, allowing for double the aggregated memory bandwidth in one socket.

As an approved memory supplier to Dell, Kingston is well-positioned to support the CAMM revolution, with investment and infrastructure to manufacture and test this new form factor already in place. Keep an eye on the Kingston website for our CAMM2 solutions to appear in the second half of 2024.

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