Compact memory modules may make upgradeable laptops a thing again

Zoom in / Samsung shared this rendering of CAMM ahead of the release of the CAMM2 standard in September.

Of all the PC-related stuff to come out of CES this year, my favorite wasn't Nvidia's graphics cards or AMD's new Ryzens or Intel's iterative processor updates or any of the oddball PC concept designs or anything to do with the Mad Dash. Push generative AI into everything.

No, of all, my favorite thing This important stamp is the memory module Found by Tom's Hardware. If that sounds a bit strange to you, that's because it uses the Compression Attached Memory Module (CAMM) standard – it sits flat against the board with metal contacts, rather than a fixed stick of RAM that you plug into a slot on your motherboard. The board and the CAMM module can communicate with each other.

CAMM memory has been on my radar for a while since it first made the cut in a few Dell laptops. Misidentified at the time A proprietary type of RAM that gives Dell a reason to charge more for it, Dell has been pushing for standardization of CAMM modules for a few years now, and JEDEC (the organization that handles all current computer memory standards) has been formally finalized. Last month profile.

Seeing a genuine CAMM module with a key sticker, similar to what you'd see on an old memory module from Amazon or Newegg, made me very excited about the future of the standard. I had a similar feeling when I started digging into USB-C, or when I started seeing M.2 modules appear in real computers (CAMM is slightly less of the two). Here's something that solves some real problems with current technology, and has industry backing to actually become a viable alternative.

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From upgradeable to solder (and back again?)

SO-DIMM Memory Slots on a Framework Laptop 13. RAM slots are commonplace on laptop motherboards, but now you have to do some work to find laptops that have them.
Zoom in / SO-DIMM Memory Slots on a Framework Laptop 13. RAM slots are commonplace on laptop motherboards, but now you have to do some work to find laptops that have them.

Andrew Cunningham

It was easy to save some money on a new computer by buying a version with less RAM and upgrading it yourself, using third-party RAM sticks for a fraction of what manufacturers charge. But most laptops don't give you that luxury anymore.

Most PC makers and laptop PC buyers made an unspoken bargain in the early to mid-2010s, when the MacBook Air and Ultrabook stopped being special thin-and-light outliers and became the standard template for a mainstream laptop: we'll ignore it. Almost any port or internal component in the interest of creating a thinner, thinner and lighter laptop.

One of the more immediate casualties was the CD/DVD drive, though its demise was already being heralded thanks to cheap USB drives, cloud storage, and streaming music and video services. But as laptops got thinner, Ethernet and other non-USB ports (and, eventually, even traditional USB-A ports), and space for hard drives (not entirely a bad thing, now M.2) became progressively harder to find. SSDs are cheap and plentiful), with room for socketed laptop CPUs and other easily replaceable or upgradeable components. Early Microsoft Surface tablets were some of the worst examples of this era of computer design — thin sandwiches of glass, metal, and glue that were difficult or impossible to open without destroying them entirely.

Another casualty of this change is that memory modules, especially dual in-line memory modules (DIMMs), plug into a socket on the motherboard and can be easily replaced. Most laptops had a pair of SO-DIMM slots that were stacked on top of each other (adding thickness) or side by side (taking up valuable horizontal space that could have been used for a larger battery).

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Eventually, these began to go in favor of solder-down memory, saving space and making it easier for manufacturers to build MacBook Air-like models that people wanted to buy, but also added a single point of failure to the motherboard. By setting its maximum memory capacity at startup it reduces its useful life.

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