Dell has pulled the wraps off its newest workstations, revealing the full skinny on its all-new CAMM memory module. Word of this new design leaked a few days ago, prompting people (including us) to speculate on what exactly Dell was up to. As it turns out, it’s not as sinister as it seemed at first. However, it’s unclear if any company other than Dell will adopt the form factor going forward.
As a refresher, Dell’s CAMM stands for Compression Attached Memory Module. It’s included in the company’s new Precision 7770 and 7670 mobile workstations. It’s a replacement for the ancient SO-DIMM module and is a new design made by Dell. The company claims it’s 57 percent thinner than SO-DIMM, allowing it to make its laptops thinner without sacrificing power. It also allows for higher density, with up to 128GB of DDR5 on one PCB. That PCB then goes into the CAMM.
To achieve that density with a SO-DIMM would require four 32GB modules, mounted on both front-and-back sides of the motherboard. According to Wccftech, Dell says the CAMM design allows for easier repairs and upgrades. Like a traditional memory module, it is user-accessible via a small panel on the bottom of the laptop. We’re guessing the big benefit here is all the memory is one one PCB, as opposed to having modules mounted under the motherboard. This would make swapping memory sticks a trivial matter since it’s easily accessible.
The PCB with the memory on it is the CAMM module. It attaches to the mainboard via the CAMM Compression Connector. It’s held down with screws and top-and-bottom bolster plates. It’s a modular design and it can even accept a SO-DIMM connector as well. The memory modules will range in size from 16GB all the way up to 128GB. Although it is designed by Dell the company says it is not proprietary, and other companies are free to make CAMM modules. We will have to wait and see if that ever comes to fruition. One thing that concerns us is the CAMM is bolted in place. This is unlike a SO-DIMM stick, which is held in place by easily toggled latches. This would seemingly require you to unscrew the CAMM module to replace it, as opposed to just lifting the memory sticks out of the module. It’s also possible the entire CAMM mechanism can be removed with just a few screws though.
After we published our skepticism about Dell’s new memory modules, the company reached out to address our concerns. It explained it was pioneering this new design “as an industry standard” that was made “for the good of customers and the industry.” A Dell rep stated the main benefits of CAMM are threefold: a thinner chassis design, faster memory (DDR5), and more accessibility for repairs and upgrades. Those are certainly laudable goals, but the crux of our complaint was that users would have to buy memory upgrades from Dell. We suppose it’s possible third parties will begin making and selling CAMM modules, but it remains to be seen if that will occur. We’ve reached out to Dell to help answer some of our questions about CAMM, and will post an update on it soon.