Some of the heat spreaders on high performance memory can be quite tall. Third party cpu heatsinks can interfere with those memory modules.
Would removing the heat spreader reveal that the height of the memory module's pcb board conforms to an international standard? I know the 5 notches in the pcb board conform to a standard and the memory banks on a motherboard conform to an international standard but what about the height of the pcb board?
All the memory in the same class used to be the same height before they started installing heatspreaders as a matter of course. I believe within minor fluctations that they are the same height (except for the low profile) without the spreaders. I also don't believe the spreaders are needed they just look cool and give the memory companies another way to differentiate.
You are right about all the memory in the same class being the same height. As it turns out JEDEC controls the international standard. JEDEC specifies mechanical outlines (MOs) to provide an industry standard that can be used by any module manufacturer. The specifications can be accessed on the JEDEC Web site and are referenced by numbers.
The MO for 240 pin DDR3 Ram modules is MO-269. According to the specifications the height is 30mm (about 1.18 inches). There are no other heights, even for low profile memory.
Next I visited the Crucial web site to see what I could find out. Crucial has quite a few 240 pin DDR3 memory modules without heat spreaders. Luckily Crucial published the physical dimensions of the modules. They were all 30mm in height. Even their low profile were 30mm in height. There was no difference between standard and low profile memory. That leads me to believe it is an advertising gimmick. It probably just means that their low profile modules are standard height modules that are not as tall as the one ones with the giant heat spreaders. Oddly, there was no height published for the memory modules with giant heat spreaders.
Finally, I went back to newegg and took a look at quite a few photos of memory with giant heat spreaders. Some of the photos showed the sides with notches and the top corners of the pcb board. Between the JEDEC standard, Crucial specifications, and the newegg photos I am positive that pcb boards in memory modules with giant heat spreaders are only 30mm in height.
I absolutely agree that the heat spreaders are not necessary in most configurations. A long time ago, sometime around 2007, Tom's Hardware published an article about heat spreaders and actually tested memory with and without heat spreaders. Their conclusion was that heat spreaders did not provide any additional memory cooling of any significance. A user would have to be a hardcore overclocking enthusiast hell bent on pushing a system to the max for heat spreaders to make a small difference.
My first IBM PC computer was 1990 and I remember upgrading that memory. It still had the "rooster comb" metal pins and that memory got pretty hot. Of course back then everything ran hotter. I think that is when heat spreaders started to come out and they have just stayed because people expect it.
It is surprising sometimes how marketing drives perception in the computer building/buying. How many big retailers even tell you what power supply is in their system? They insinuate by leaving it out that it really doesn't matter. I remember when it was the came with CPU's and Intel started their Intel inside campaign. At the time I said who cares what CPU is in the computer? Now it is the major decision in building the computer and the dozen manufacturers has dropped to two.