Tuesday, April 26th 2022

Dell's DDR5 CAMM Appears in More Detail, Comes in Several Shapes, Won't be Proprietary

Last week the first details of Dell's CAMM (Compression Attached Memory Module) made an early appearance courtesy of a product leak, but now official details have appeared and the good news is that Dell is saying it won't be a proprietary solution. The Compression Connector looks unlike anything used by consumer computers today and Dell is said to be hoping that it'll be the next industry standard for memory modules, according to PCWorld. The interposer mentioned in the previous news article is also mentioned and allows for a pair of DDR5 SO-DIMMs to be used, albeit with a much taller Z-height.

Dell is apparently planning on getting its CAMM approved by the JEDEC, which is the standards organisation when it comes to memory. However, even if the CAMM format is accepted as a JEDEC standard, Dell holds patents and is likely to charge some kind of royalty fees to interested parties. That said, if it becomes a JEDEC standard, Dell has to follow RAND or Reasonable and Non-Discretionary terms, so the royalty fees would have to be reasonable for JEDEC to agree on making CAMM a standard. The main benefit of Dell's CAMM is that the memory traces end up being shorter and more direct, since the CAMM has a single-sided interface, whereas SO-DIMMs are interfaced on both sides, just like standard DIMMs. This would allow for higher speed memory interfaces, without the need of using something like signal re-drivers or re-timers.
Dell is apparently getting ready for DDR6 already and told PCWorld that by the time DDR6 arrives, SO-DIMMs are no longer going to be fit for purpose. Another advantage of the CAMM, is that higher memory speeds can be used in combination with greater densities of RAM, as a single CAMM can host 128 GB of DDR5. The type of connector used is known as DGFF and Dell is already using it in some of its products today, as a bridge connector for GPU boards among other things. Dell claims that the DGFF connector is capable of handling frequencies of up to 20 GHz, or four times the speed of DDR5 memory at 4800 MHz. The physical CAMM will come in different shapes and sizes, but the common part is the compression connector, which is as the name implies, compressed in place with the help of a pair of screws. Additional screws are also used to hold the CAMM securely in place, with the modules shown, using between four to six screws in total.

Dell also claims that the CAMM connector can act as a heatsink and help with heat dissipation, although the company didn't go into any details of exactly how this is meant to work. There will be what Dell calls a bolster plate that sits above the CAMM, most likely to protect it from damage from the screws, but it seems like it could also be extended as part of a heatsink if needed. The bottom bolster is what the top bolster screws into, rather than the compression connector itself. It should be noted that the CAMM doesn't have any kind of pins, so precision installation is going to be key, but judging from the pictures provided there are some kind of guides to make this easier. Each of the 14 interface rows appears to have 44 contacts per, for a total of up to 616 interface contact points. The contact points seem to vary in shape and size depending on their function. A CAMM can be single or double-sided, depending on memory density and Dell has developed CAMM's ranging from 16 to 128 GB. Dell will start shipping computers with CAMMs installed later this quarter.
Sources: PCWorld, VideoCardz
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37 Comments on Dell's DDR5 CAMM Appears in More Detail, Comes in Several Shapes, Won't be Proprietary

#1
samum
That's a lot of horizontal real estate. I don't see it being useful in a desktop format, and laptops usually have components crammed in tightly. Can the PCB underneath have other components, or does it have to be empty?
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#2
ShiBDiB
Further hampering laptop upgrading and forcing you to spend more on the customization screen.

My Lenovo Legion already solders one of the sticks to the board for no good reason, this just takes that to the next level and makes the memory a board.
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#3
Makaveli
I'm not brave enough to run 128GB of non ECC memory.
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#4
trsttte
There's some parts of the design that were pretty smart like all modules being compatible (the smaller 16gb hole patter still matches the much bigger 128gb) but there's some obvious "dumb" cost optimizations (the 32gb module is bigger than the 64gb to be able to fit in a single side, it's an easy way to save cost on the pcb but a bit dumb in my opinion to have an extra mechanical form factor that will require extra clerances and extra screws for less memory).
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#5
Chrispy_
Thinner?

Who cares?! The height of a SODIMM slot isn't the thing that prevents laptops from getting thinner, it's the thickness of heatpipes and their associated cooling fins. Make those too thin and you get machines that thermally throttle with woeful little high-pitched fans that can barely handle a 15W TDP
*cough* Apple *cough* Dell XPS *cough*.

No thanks, laptops are already thin enough and the benefit of having an almost unnoticeably thicker chassis is that the speakers can be a little bit less godawful and the battery can be very slightly larger.

Who the hell is asking for thinner laptops anyway? They're already so thin that they're horrible to type on and way too fragile....
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#6
trsttte
Given that the devices will need to have the necessary clearance to accomadate bigger modules anyway, I question the value of the bigger 128gb when the 64gb is so much smaller and then a single mechanical format would be able to fit all sizes. Devices that can use the max ammount of memory can have a slot for an extra module, which would make module production volumes higher and hence costs lower.

Doesn't look like a great standard candidate to be honest
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#7
Zareek
I'm happy to see Dell hasn't changed any. Solving problems nobody ever had to begin with, using proprietary hardware solutions. Do they pay engineers just to think up new crappy ways to throw curveballs at the PC industry? Open standard that no one else will bother with, looks expensive to implement too.
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#8
trsttte
ZareekI'm happy to see Dell hasn't changed any. Solving problems nobody ever had to begin with, using proprietary hardware solutions. Do they pay engineers just to think up new crappy ways to throw curveballs at the PC industry? Open standard that no one else will bother with, looks expensive to implement too.
That's not entirely true, there's a limit to the ammount of storage and what kind of speeds can be pushed with an old connector and format like so-dimm. It just needs to move and propagate to the rest of the industry, if stays confined within dell yeah it's crap
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#9
ThrashZone
Hi,
Dell has always been overpriced for what they sell but devices like laptops have always been limited upgrades wise.
Thinner the devise the more limited they become.

Just getting to some cmos batteries is a freaking sad joke :laugh:
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#10
Daven
Its just so ugly though.
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#11
SunMaster
It's good to know Dell don't see any future temperature issues with this, nor having the rest of the industry paying them royalties.

Unless donated to the public domain, I know proprietary when I see it.
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#12
Slizzo
MakaveliI'm not brave enough to run 128GB of non ECC memory.
DDR5 has some form of error correction built into the spec, no?
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#13
Steevo
Kinda like their non proprietary Mobos, PSUs, coolers, and HD cages they had for years that no one else bothered to replicate as they were cheap crappy designs
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#14
ThrashZone
SteevoKinda like their non proprietary Mobos, PSUs, coolers, and HD cages they had for years that no one else bothered to replicate as they were cheap crappy designs
Hi,
Yep hiding behind alienware.
Posted on Reply
#15
Valantar
Chrispy_Thinner?

Who cares?! The height of a SODIMM slot isn't the thing that prevents laptops from getting thinner, it's the thickness of heatpipes and their associated cooling fins. Make those too thin and you get machines that thermally throttle with woeful little high-pitched fans that can barely handle a 15W TDP
*cough* Apple *cough* Dell XPS *cough*.

No thanks, laptops are already thin enough and the benefit of having an almost unnoticeably thicker chassis is that the speakers can be a little bit less godawful and the battery can be very slightly larger.

Who the hell is asking for thinner laptops anyway? They're already so thin that they're horrible to type on and way too fragile....
Have to disagree with you here. This will have a much easier time fitting into a thin laptop chassis between a motherboard and keyboard, for example. There's a reason essentially every thin-and-light has soldered memory - you literally couldn't fit SO-DIMM sockets in there if you tried.


This, to me, looks quite good. Not an elegant design, but seemingly flexible and functional - and the size scaling is interesting. Hopefully the smaller sizes are though through to fit in 13"-class chassis sizes though. Love the fact that it's dual channel by default. The fact that it's backwards compatible through a board with SO-DIMM slots is also neat, though likely only useful for embedded use cases or troubleshooting. Still, a lot of good things here.
samumThat's a lot of horizontal real estate. I don't see it being useful in a desktop format, and laptops usually have components crammed in tightly. Can the PCB underneath have other components, or does it have to be empty?
If the traces to the CPU run underneath there likely not, but that seems unlikely. So likely yes - though clearance would obviously be an issue. It could likely also overhang the board edge, overlapping the battery, connectors, or other components.
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#16
RealKGB
Well I'll be darned.
Dell engineers made something good for once.

This looks genuinely useful if it isn't Dell-only. The Mini-ITX scene would very much have a field day with this, if there's CAMM slots put on the back of Mini ITX boards.
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#17
Totally
samumThat's a lot of horizontal real estate. I don't see it being useful in a desktop format, and laptops usually have components crammed in tightly. Can the PCB underneath have other components, or does it have to be empty?
It's the vertical axis that's premium real estate in a notebook. Only so much can be crammed between the kb and the bottom of the notebook, versus the horizontal plane where there's a lot of under-utilized real estate, so really doesn't matter if it seems wasteful. It wasn't being used in the first place. In reality though practical this seems like a cost cutting development than a stroke of inspiration. Adding more dimm slots would result in more and longer traces that would add cost that they might not even get a return on if a unit ships with one or more slots empty instead of a DIMM they could have charged a nice mark-up for. This eliminates that since all the slots are effectively reduced to one. Reduced trace length and less risk of losing or not making money on it.
The reason they are looking to make this non proprietary is twofold the connector it's a LGA. Dell not looking to shoulder failures/defects due to the connector at least not alone. Two customers aren't going to be too interested in one of these laptop if the only game in town is Dell, what if not very long after Dell decides this was a fun experiment and decides to stop support, who gonna buy it with those kind of lingering thoughts.
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#18
Chrispy_
Totallywhat if not very long after Dell decides this was a fun experiment and decides to stop support, who gonna buy it with those kind of lingering thoughts.
Yeah, a proprietary socket is utterly pointless; It only makes sense if it's the one and only connector JEDEC use in place of SODIMM for DDR6.
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#19
natr0n
Needs more over engineering.
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#20
Chrispy_
ValantarHave to disagree with you here. This will have a much easier time fitting into a thin laptop chassis between a motherboard and keyboard, for example. There's a reason essentially every thin-and-light has soldered memory - you literally couldn't fit SO-DIMM sockets in there if you tried.
This is what I'm saying, that's a lie presented to you by manufacturers for why they solder the RAM onto the board. They do it because it's a cost-saving for them, and they can force/persuade buyers into CPU/Screen/SSD upgrades they weren't necessarily interested it by segmenting the larger RAM capacities to those upgraded SKUs. Sadly it's an incredibly anti-consumer practice that has been obscured by easily disproven claims that it's for reducing the height.

I have one of the thinnest 15" laptops on the market, an Envy X360 and it has two SODIMM slots:




Even with an EMI shield over the top, and it being directly under the keyboard deck, The SODIMM slots are still not the limiting factor in the laptop's thickness:
  • The speakers and the battery are both each as tall as the keyboard, motherboard, SODIMMS and EMI shield combined
  • The keyboard deck actually flexes a little on the right because there's no RAM behind like on the left side to fill the void between the fans and the battery.
  • The rear exhausts for the two fans are laughably thin slits because the laptop is no taller than a USB-A and HDMI port at it's thickest point. Even with two fans, this thing is very audible at just 25W cTDP and it spends most of its time at 15W because that's all the fans can handle quietly.
This thing is entirely limited by the thickness of the battery at the front and the already-far-too-slim cooling system at the back. There's loads of empty space in the middle for chunkier components and absolutely no advantage to replacing the SODIMMs with something thinner; All that would do is increase the keyboard flex. I guess in an ideal world there would be an extra M.2 slot here to fill the empty void, or a larger fan and greater fin surface area to decrease the noise when running at its rated 25W TDP.

Looking at it the other way, if there was a hypothetical laptop that was much thinner than this it would have to forgo either cooling or battery. The ancient Asus Zenbook UX305 models used 5-Watt passively cooled Core M CPUs and therefore the battery fit in the thicker end of the tapered chassis where cooling and heatpipes would go in a modern machine. They were basically as thin as the touchpad at the thin end and behind the touchpad there was nothing at all just useless space that was too thin for anything at all but had to be there as a palm rest and to make the laptop deck as long as the screen was tall. As portable as those things were, they were underwhelming in real-world use, fragile, and we retired our whole fleet of those earlier than expected due to lack of upgradeability and low, fully-soldered specs that prevented us from buying higher spec when new.
Posted on Reply
#21
Makaveli
SlizzoDDR5 has some form of error correction built into the spec, no?
DDR5 has error correction for data at rest. ECC used on servers is data in transit so not the same.

So basically ECC on DDR5 is only on the memory modules. On a server it covers the data that moves from CPU to memory and back and forth. Below video is a good explanation.

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#22
bonehead123
DUDE........

you're gettin a (Dell) CAMM, hahahahaha ..:roll:..:eek:..:fear:
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#23
Quitessa
So it's basically LGA for Memory then
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#24
Crackong
SODIMM an outdated format? Yes
Better if re-designed? Yes
But
Worth paying for Dell standard? No.
Posted on Reply
#25
lexluthermiester
samumCan the PCB underneath have other components, or does it have to be empty?
Sure, no reason why it can't..
Posted on Reply
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