CAMM to Usurp SO-DIMM Laptop Memory Form Factor Says JEDEC Member

CAMM memory form factor
(Image credit: Dell)

So, farewell, SO-DIMM. After a quarter century of service in laptop, all-in-ones and other compact designs, it looks like the end of the road for SO-DIMM is in sight. JEDEC committee member and Dell Senior Distinguished Engineer, Tom Schnell, told PC World that the new ‘CAMM Common Spec’ will be the next RAM standard for laptops. There already seems to have been a lot of progress in the background, with the v0.5 spec already approved by 20 or so companies in the task group, and JEDEC expected to finalize the v1.0 spec in the second half of this year.

If CAMM sounds familiar, it might be because Dell’s Precision 7670 laptop arrived with DDR5 memory on one of these packages last year. As we mentioned at the time, CAMM can slim down laptops, and a few grams in weight. It also might help ramp up laptop memory loadouts, with Dell advertising the Precision 7670 with CAMM options up to 128GB.

The new information from PC World editor Gordon Ung’s chat with Tom Schnell helps us weigh up some of the pros and cons of CAMM, and point to some ways it has progressed from Dell’s pre-JEDEC-approved spec. Apparently, as well as improved density (more RAM capacity in a smaller space), CAMM is amenable to “scaling to ever higher clock speeds.” Specifically, the new information indicates that the DDR5-6400 ‘brick wall’ for SO-DIMMs will be shrugged off by CAMMs.

CAMM memory form factor

Some insight into why the new memory standard might be easier to coax to higher speeds is provided by the SO-DIMM vs CAMM diagram, above, sketching out comparative memory traces to the CPU. (Image credit: Dell)

When CAMM reaches devices, there are a couple of tech advances which could help spur its adoption. We mentioned the faster DDR5 speeds above, but it is thought that CAMM could really take off when DDR6 arrives. Another appealing variation might be for adding LPDDR(6) memory to laptops. Traditionally LPDDR memory is soldered, so the new spring contact fitting modules might mean much better upgradability for the thinnest and lightest devices which tend to use LPDDR memory.

With the JEDEC CAMM v1.0 spec expected to the finalized in H2 2023, devices supporting this new memory standard are expected to debut in 2024. At the present time the build cost of CAMM is somewhat higher than SO-DIMM, so the first devices featuring this memory will probably be premium laptop designs.

Mark Tyson
Freelance News Writer

Mark Tyson is a Freelance News Writer at Tom's Hardware US. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.

  • alceryes
    I like the supposed advance in tech, but am afraid that Dell will still try to make money from its patents and invention, thereby actually stifling tech advancement.
    Reply
  • -Fran-
    alceryes said:
    I like the supposed advance in tech, but am afraid that Dell will still try to make money from its patents and invention, thereby actually stifling tech advancement.
    That's what everyone in the tech business does though?

    When I read about the tech itself the first time, I thought it was really good, but I was super scared about Dell just making it proprietary and screwing its customers going forward, but I'm glad to see it was only the start and JEDEC is now officially onboarding it as a legit spec.

    There's more that needs to happen, but it's definitely a good start.

    Regards.
    Reply
  • rluker5
    It looks hard to install.
    Reply
  • Elrabin
    rluker5 said:
    It looks hard to install.

    Looks like a SXM module install to me. Just lays flat on the board and screws down.

    https://www.dell.com/support/manuals/en-us/precision-17-7770-laptop/precision_7770_sm/installing-the-compression-attached-memory-camm-module?guid=guid-0320a0ce-1751-49fe-9577-5827d884c112&lang=en-us
    Reply
  • ezst036
    -Fran- said:
    That's what everyone in the tech business does though?

    There's this strange cult that exists in the tech world that everybody wants themselves to make maximum money, but doesn't want anybody around them to make a single cent.

    I don't work for Dell. I hope Dell makes more money from CAMM as a JEDEC spec that all can use than they even realize that they will. The more the better.
    Reply
  • cyrusfox
    I welcome the new standard even if it brings a price premium over So-Dimm. It is rare to find a laptop that still offers 2 Sodimm Slots let alone 1.

    This should enable upgradeability over the old solder on, we may now have the option to upgrade from the initial 16GB to potentially 128GB, although prices are obscene currently (128GB $2500, 64GB $1250, 32GB $630, 16GB $320) but like all things they should come down as the standard opens up and we get the likes of Crucial, G.Skill and Team Elite offering memory in this form factor.
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    Sounds good in theory, especially since it will mean upgradability for LPDDR, but let's hope that the ability to make laptops thinner doesn't mean they're going to make them thinner by shaving more battery capacity.
    Reply
  • rluker5
    Elrabin said:
    Looks like a SXM module install to me. Just lays flat on the board and screws down.

    https://www.dell.com/support/manuals/en-us/precision-17-7770-laptop/precision_7770_sm/installing-the-compression-attached-memory-camm-module?guid=guid-0320a0ce-1751-49fe-9577-5827d884c112&lang=en-us
    A long bar of utterly unprotected LGA pins that may or may not still be partially concealed that you will have to line up by looking through the holes in the dram wafer. Nobody will ever bend 1 pin.
    I won't have a problem doing it, but going by the number of bent pin mobos on Ebay, and that this is a significantly tougher fit than a boxed in CPU pad, I expect there will be many trashed laptops where previously there were none.

    But if you can upgrade a cheaper laptop for less money than with SODIMMs then it might be worth the extra risk. Otherwise soldered on is better in some use cases and SODIMMs better in the others.
    Reply
  • tommo1982
    I'd like to see how CAMM performs compared to DDR5 DIMM modules. It says CAMM can be quad-, dual-, single chanel. ECC support is planned, but not finalised. I'd definitely prefer a single CAMM module on a mATX mainboard, than four DIMM slots. Only two are populated anyway. There's no real benefit in populating four for a regular user.

    I believe this tech is wasted on laptops, solely. CAMM module is held by screws and in horizontal position. Easier to add aftermarket radiator or dissipate heat from one module, instead of a row of two or four. I'd really like to see real world tests CAMM vs. DDR5 DIMM.
    Reply
  • eldakka1
    rluker5 said:
    A long bar of utterly unprotected LGA pins that may or may not still be partially concealed that you will have to line up by looking through the holes in the dram wafer. Nobody will ever bend 1 pin.
    I won't have a problem doing it, but going by the number of bent pin mobos on Ebay, and that this is a significantly tougher fit than a boxed in CPU pad, I expect there will be many trashed laptops where previously there were none.

    But if you can upgrade a cheaper laptop for less money than with SODIMMs then it might be worth the extra risk. Otherwise soldered on is better in some use cases and SODIMMs better in the others.

    Of course there won't be any user error installing these. It should be just as easy as installing a PCIe power cable to a GPU ... oh, wait ...
    Reply