A curious use case for CAMM2 memory modules on desktops: Liquid cooling

msi camm2
(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

When MSI introduced its desktop motherboard with a socket for CAMM2 memory modules a few weeks ago, we scratched our heads — as these modules were designed primarily with laptops in mind and they do not have any noticeable advantages for desktops. But the company has apparently thought of one: it is easier to cool down a CAMM2 memory module using liquid compared to liquid cooling of regular DIMMs.

To prove its point, MSI developed a special waterblock for its Z790 Project Zero Plus motherboard that is designed specifically to be installed on a CAMM2 memory module with DDR5 memory. The setup looks pretty neat, but for some reason MSI did not demonstrate such a system in action — perhaps because the product is far from final, or because CAMM2 is still in its infancy and there are no such modules with cherry-picked DRAMs designed for overclocking.

msi camm2

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

While MSI's idea to cool CAMM2 modules using liquid looks strange — if not absurd — it may actually make a lot of sense. CAMM2 modules with DDR5 memory carry power IC and voltage regulating modules, which tend to heat — just like memory chips themselves. Cooling down PMIC, VRM, and DRAM with liquid will obviously increase the overclocking potential of the module. Furthermore, since CAMM2 modules are attached to motherboards horizontally, it is indeed easier to build and install waterblocks for them.

msi camm2

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Of course, such a concept requires several factors fall into place to be fruitful. First, the motherboard maker (MSI, in this case) will have to ensure sophisticated, clean power delivery to the modules. Second, the DRAM module maker (Kingston, in this case) will need to cherry pick DRAM ICs with maximum performance potential (which is nothing new for the company) and will have to ensure ultimate quality of the module itself (i.e., build custom PCB for overclocking). Third, waterblocks for CAMM2 modules have to be readily available.

While it is easier to cool down CAMM2 modules using a waterblock, it should be kept in mind that this form-factor was designed for density, not for ultimate performance. Therefore its signal contacts are located very close to each other, which could result in such effects as cross talk and interference. This is not a problem for operation at standard frequencies, but it usually affects overclocking potential.

Anton Shilov
Freelance News Writer

Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.

  • salgado18
    I can think of two reasons to use them not only in desktops, but as the only form factor for RAM:

    - Cooling: nevermind water, a small heat spread would cool it way better than current DDR (which doesn't have the space for any)

    - Economy of scale: instead of two (DIMM and SODIMM), companies only need to work on one form factor. This makes RAM even interchangeable between desktop and mobile
    Reply
  • thestryker
    I saw a picture on Tweaktown of one of the CAMM2 MSI boards which has a heatsink somewhat similar to those large M.2 ones that cover the motherboard in the DRAM area covering the module. As long as the chips on the back don't get too hot I could see this being good enough to negate the need for active cooling. Now we just need higher capacities available along with much higher frequencies without blowing up the price for this to make sense.
    salgado18 said:
    - Economy of scale: instead of two (DIMM and SODIMM), companies only need to work on one form factor. This makes RAM even interchangeable between desktop and mobile
    CAMM2 has two pinout specs one for LP and one for regular DDR and DIMMs aren't going anywhere due to enterprise so this isn't likely to be a meaningful benefit.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    Except you can't cool the bottom side. So, if you actually needed to cool your RAM, CAM2 still wouln't be ideal!
    Reply
  • Eximo
    It has pins/pads on the backside so should be some cooling from the motherboard. No memory on the back.

    But if you slap a chunk of aluminum as big as that MSI board I don't think it would be that big of a deal.

    As for the laptop/desktop compatibility. MSI showed that desktop could accept bigger modules. So there would still be two standards unless laptops decided to waste the space for the larger ones.

    I like the idea of a monolithic CPU/VRM/Memory block.

    But I also see a lot of advantages for the RGB and interior display crowd. That is a big flat area...
    Reply
  • bit_user
    salgado18 said:
    I can think of two reasons to use them not only in desktops, but as the only form factor for RAM:

    - Cooling: nevermind water, a small heat spread would cool it way better than current DDR (which doesn't have the space for any)
    DIMMs have room for heatspreaders, which many of them feature. Unlike CAMM, they don't trap a set of chips between the bottom side and the motherboard!

    salgado18 said:
    - Economy of scale: instead of two (DIMM and SODIMM), companies only need to work on one form factor. This makes RAM even interchangeable between desktop and mobile
    We already have that. The scale of desktops and laptops is already big enough that you're not going to see further discounts by unifying products for those markets.

    Besides, I expect laptops will mostly or universally trend towards LPCAMM2, while desktops would prefer regular CAMM2, which means duplicating the same dichotomy we have between DIMMs and SO-DIMMs.

    ...that's for the laptops that don't just go with on-package memory, which looks to become more of a thing. In fact, it seems these CAMM and LPCAMM standards might've come too late.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    Eximo said:
    It has pins/pads on the backside so should be some cooling from the motherboard.
    Cooling from the motherboard is minimal if not negligible. It's going to be right next to the CPU, which is already churning lots of heat into the motherboard.

    Eximo said:
    No memory on the back.
    B.S.

    Eximo said:
    But if you slap a chunk of aluminum as big as that MSI board I don't think it would be that big of a deal.
    Or, we could just stick with the DIMM standard, which is working fine for DDR5, and can continue to do so until desktop CPUs switch over to on-package memory.

    Eximo said:
    I like the idea of a monolithic CPU/VRM/Memory block.
    So your CPU and VRM can cook your RAM? No thanks.

    Eximo said:
    But I also see a lot of advantages for the RGB and interior display crowd. That is a big flat area...
    No, we should not cater to the RGB crowd. That's putting form before function, which is always wrong for actual products.
    Reply
  • Eximo
    Hadn't seen that particular CAMM module, interesting. I am less pleased by that, but cooling the front side sufficiently should also take care of that. You could also do thermal pads between the motherboard and those memory chips for additional surface contact.

    Not really how cooling solutions should be looked at.
    You certainly get better GPU memory temperatures from a GPU waterblock than without, so not sure why you think it would dump heat into the memory. The water isn't going to ever get that hot and will always take heat away from heat sources. Similarly the motherboard stays cool relative to power using components, so there is always a heatsink effect, and again if the main heat sources are cooled, that heat will also be drawn away from the board.

    Not saying DIMMs should go away. This is just another option that I think has some benefits to they way I might build a system.

    I don't really go in much for the RGB and displays. Just saying that that is exactly what some of these companies are going to be looking at doing. Being able to charge an extra $200 for yet another display on a motherboard will please them to no end.
    Reply
  • thestryker
    bit_user said:
    Except you can't cool the bottom side. So, if you actually needed to cool your RAM, CAM2 still wouln't be ideal!
    This is the inherent question do the 4 chips on the back also need equal cooling or is getting the 12 on the front enough. The one higher clock module was a 48GB that G.Skill showed running 7800 CL36 had a large fan pointed right at it and the E-cores were disabled for stability. I know it's early on, but the benefits of CAMM2 for the desktop market simply aren't here yet.
    bit_user said:
    Or, we could just stick with the DIMM standard, which is working fine for DDR5, and can continue to do so until desktop CPUs switch over to on-package memory.
    They should allow for higher clocks/lower latency more reliably on desktop which would be a pretty big deal. Until that happens though I think they need to hold off on really pushing it because it only holds disadvantages from a technical perspective (I'm absolutely sure there's a chunk of people who'd love the aesthetic potential).
    Eximo said:
    Hadn't seen that particular CAMM module, interesting. I am less pleased by that, but cooling the front side sufficiently should also take care of that. You could also do thermal pads between the motherboard and those memory chips for additional surface contact.
    Desktop CAMM2 is all using the rectangle design modules with 4 chips on the back because it's absolutely necessary for capacity reasons. The highest capacity DDR5 currently shipping is 32Gb so 16 memory chips cap out at 64GB which is the highest capacity CAMM2 right now.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    thestryker said:
    Desktop CAMM2 is all using the rectangle design modules with 4 chips on the back because it's absolutely necessary for capacity reasons. The highest capacity DDR5 currently shipping is 32Gb so 16 memory chips cap out at 64GB which is the highest capacity CAMM2 right now.
    Does it support ECC? If so, then we should see up to another 4 chips on the backside.
    Reply
  • thestryker
    bit_user said:
    Does it support ECC? If so, then we should see up to another 4 chips on the backside.
    It does, but I'm not sure how well it would work in this size since they've seemingly maximized the chip density on that (obviously they could use the 4 on the back for ECC, but then they're limited to 12 on front). Spec does say it goes up to 32/36 chips for DDR/ECC, but that would undoubtedly require close to, if not, the maximum size which is 68mm on the Y-axis.
    Reply