We’ve spilled a bit of digital ink lately about Dell’s all-new CAMM memory solution, and yet questions persist. Initially we reported on a leaked photo of the module. Next Dell officially announced it, and provided plenty of info. Yet, despite having the official word from Dell we were still unclear on a few important points. For instance, are CAMM upgrades only available from Dell? How difficult, or easy, is it to upgrade? We sent Dell our lingering questions and the company has responded with some new details.
As a brief refresher, CAMM stands for Compression Attached Memory Module. It’s Dell’s forward-looking replacement for the 25 year old SO-DIMM design. Dell claims its new design has three main benefits: easier repairs, it allows for faster memory speeds, and it’s much thinner.
How Do You Upgrade a CAMM Module?
Our first question was simple: how do you upgrade the modules? With SO-DIMM you can just swap the RAM sticks out by moving a latch. According to Dell, the process is similar with CAMM but you have to use a screwdriver. The memory dies are on a PCB that is called the CAMM Module, and it attaches to a container. Once you’ve freed it you just screw it back into the module and bracket. Since Dell is making the CAMM module accessible via a door under the laptop, this should be a trivial exercise.
Does the SO-DIMM Adapter Negate CAMM’s Benefits?
Even though CAMM is a replacement for SO-DIMM, Dell offers a SO-DIMM interposer. This allows for backwards compatibility and a wider range of memory upgrade options. However, CAMM is supposed to be an improvement over SO-DIMM. As one would expect, using the SO-DIMM + interposer solution precludes using CAMM.
If CAMM is Not Proprietary, Can Other Companies Make Modules?
Although we first reported that Dell’s design looked proprietary, the company says that’s not the case. It envisions CAMM as an “industry standard” that other companies will adopt. The Dell rep said it will be presenting its design to JEDEC soon with the hopes of it becoming “standardized for broad use.” The rep said it’s working with memory suppliers, OEMs, and others to accelerate this process. As for whether we’ll see HP or Lenovo laptops with CAMM in them, nobody knows just yet.
Do Customers Have to Purchase CAMM Upgrades From Dell?
Yes. Since Dell is the only one making this technology, the only replacements/upgrades are Dell products. The rep stated, “Dell recommends customers only use memory purchased through Dell. This ensures that all memory has been properly tested and qualified for use with our systems.” The rep did note that if a customer has the SO-DIMM attachment they can buy memory from a variety of companies. The rep also stated that as soon as other companies adopt CAMM, upgrade options should flourish.
For now, Dell’s attempt to rethink the mobile memory interface is intriguing. It remains to be seen what prices Dell will charge for upgrades though. It also seems to be something we’ll see filter down to its consumer laptops at some point. Given its supposed benefits over SO-DIMM, that seems like a no-brainer. The really interesting question is whether its competitors will adopt the form factor, or come up with their own version.