MSI’s first motherboard using new CAMM2 memory

The first herald of a radical change in desktop RAM modules?

Some time ago, we reported that CAMM2 (or LPCAMM2) compression memory modules could be extended from laptops to desktops in the future, where they could improve performance or enable the use of LPDDR-type memory. Now there is even talk that may move desktop processors from using DDR6 to LPDDR6 memory. MSI has shown what this could look like, and has already shown the first prototype motherboard for CAMM2 memory.

MSI has prepared this prototype in a series of hardware labeled Project Zero, which also has connectors flipped to the back side pointing under the motherboard in order to remove cabling from the interior of the case visible though the usual glass side panel. The memory in the CAMM2 slots seem to be quite a fitting addition to this approach that seeks to make PC build interior more aesthetic by removing cabling and such (which is a matter of taste though – personally speaking, I feel that the actual functional components have their own industrial aesthetic value that deserves more recognition).

The board is called the Z790 Project Zero Plus, and since it’s based on the current platform, it uses CAMM2 modules based on classic DDR5 memory – or rather one module, since it’s a single board that provides a 128-bit wide memory, like a pair of DDR5 modules in a classic DIMM design. It seems you can’t fit the equivalent of four modules on the board in the sense that you would pair two CAMM2 modules, only one module is ever installed (at least in the present implementation). There might be CAMM2 modules that carry the equivalent of four DIMM modules on one PCB in the future, though.

Less obstructing memory

The CAMM2 module is installed in the same place where boards already have DIMM slots. It lies flat on the board, so there is the advantage that it does not restrict airflow to the CPU cooler, which could also go closer to the PCB with its fins. Also, a VRM cooler could be less obstructed from airflow. If CAMM2 modules like this use a cooler themselves, it will easily be able to cover all the chips on the module, and if it has intelligently designed fins, it will be able to benefit from airflow in the case.

MSI Z790 Project Zero Plus motherboard demonstrating the use of Kingston’s CAMM2 memory (Author: MSI)

The module used on this board in the photos is also a prototype, designed and manufactured by Kingston. The CAMM2 designation, by the way, belongs to modules using DDR5 memory, while modules based on LPDDR5(X) are called LPCAMM2. It is possible that future use of such modules in desktop will come hand in hand with transition of desktop computers to LPDDR6 (instead of DDR6, which would remain only in servers), in that case we will be using LPCAMM2.

MSI describes (LP)CAMM2 as the “next revolution in memory design”, but we don’t yet have confirmation that this transition is really planned for future platforms at this moment. For platforms that use DDR5 memory, we’ll probably stick with DIMM for compatibility – although it’s possible that some boards will deviate and there will be modules made for them, even in the current DDR5 era. For the next generation of desktop platforms, which will be a transition to DDR6 – or LPDDR6 – memory, the move to (LP)CAMM2 probably on the table and at the very least this option is being seriously considered.

Presentation of DDR5-based CAMM2 memory from Dell (Author: JEDEC)

CAMM2, besides its compact memory size (though it may not save that much space on the board when it comes to the footprint on the PCB) and small height, can also provide better performance and overclocking capabilities. This is because the compression-attached contacts design of the modules provides better electrical properties of the wiring traces between the memory and the processor, allowing the memory to run at a higher clock speed. It is also the reason why it was not possible to use LPDDR-type memories in removable and upgradeable form with DIMM and SO-DIMM modules, but with LPCAMM2 it will be possible.

Presentation of DDR5-based CAMM2 memory from Dell – various formats (Author: JEDEC)

On the other hand, a special mounting is needed to ensure the required pressure, so this memory has to be fastened to the board with screws, at least in today’s implementation. This is perceived as a disadvantage (probably from similar standpoints are the ones that see disadvantage in components and cabling being visible inside the case), and the JEDEC consortium is reportedly looking at ways to make the mounting tool-less.

On the other hand, CPU coolers also still need to be screwed in today (admittedly, there are exceptions), personally I wouldn’t consider the need for a screwdriver a big disadvantage.

Sources: MSI, VideoCardz

English translation and edit by Jozef Dudáš

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