Micron Bringing LPDDR5X to Desktops, Laptops, Data Centers

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LPDDR memory (or mobile DRAM, as it was once known), was developed in the late 2000s primarily with smartphones in mind, which is why it was tailored for low power consumption and point-to-point connectivity. But the quick evolution of handsets also prompted the quick evolution of LPDDR, which is why LPDDR5X is faster than commodity DDR5 SDRAM as far as data transfer rate is concerned. But to address applications beyond smartphones, tablets and laptops, LPDDR5X needed to be modular—exactly what Micron’s low-power compression attached memory modules (LPCAMM2) offer, said Praveen Vaidyanathan, GM of the compute products group at Micron.

Micron’s LPCAMM2 module.
Micron’s LPCAMM2 module (Source: Micron)

High performance, low power use, modularity

Micron’s LPCAMM2 modules comply with a subset of JEDEC’s CAMM2 specification and are meant to address applications that need to bring together low power consumption and high performance. LPCAMM2 is based on LPDDR5X memory and offers many advantages compared with regular DDR5 SODIMMs used for desktops and laptops. This includes an up to 9,600-MT/s data transfer rate and therefore a 50% higher peak bandwidth over a 128-bit interface, an up to 58% lower active power and an up to 80% lower standby power, a 64% smaller physical footprint for the same capacity (the height reduces from 9.3 mm to 4.5 mm, according to Micron), simplified routing complexity and a unified printed-circuit–board design for all module capacities.

“The modularity of LPCAMM2 is clearly the value prop you get from a module form factor that you can get [while retaining LPDDR5X’s] higher performance, lower power, [and] smaller space, and you can upgrade and you can replace modules,” Vaidyanathan said.

Dimensions of an LPCAMM2 memory subsystem, compared with the dimensions of a dual SODIMM memory subsystem.
Dimensions of an LPCAMM2 memory subsystem, compared with the dimensions of a dual SODIMM memory subsystem (Source: Micron)

Meanwhile, LPCAMM2 also has several advantages over soldered-down LPDDR5X memory stacks, including easy factory configurability, serviceability/repairability of actual devices (which is important for IT departments of large enterprises) and end-user upgradeability.

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Micron’s Praveen Vaidyanathan.
Micron’s Praveen Vaidyanathan

“One of the biggest impediments in LPDDR5X adoption has been enterprise IT—when our IT department goes and buys laptops, serviceability is pretty important to them,” Vaidyanathan said. “Now, we do expect that [modularity] will help drive LPDDR5X adoption to other portions of the market like commercial and enterprise IT. [There are] a lot of value props, depending on your use case, that we think the PC OEMs are going to be looking at very carefully.”

Some of Micron’s customers are working on applications featuring LPCAMM2 that do not use screws (which attach them to motherboards) to make their replacement/upgrades easier, so there is interest in this technology from various manufacturers.

Up to 64 GB at up to 8,533 MT/s initially

Micron initially plans to offer LPCAMM2 modules in 16-GB, 32-GB and 64-GB capacities and support data transfer rates of up to 8,533 MT/s initially and 9,600 MT/s over time, the maximum announced speed for LPDDR5X memory devices to date.

This is tangibly higher compared with a 6,400-MT/s data transfer rate of DDR5-based SODIMMs, and while DDR5 has tighter latencies, considerably higher transfer rates of LPDDR5X offset performance penalties introduced by higher timings in real-world applications, according to data shown by Micron. 128-GB LPCAMM2 modules are also possible, but for them, Micron will need 32-Gb LPDDR5X DRAM ICs.

“Eventually, there will be a 32-Gb die, which will actually help us go to even 128-GB LPCAMM2 modules,” Vaidyanathan said.

Such high data transfer rates are possible because traditionally, LPDDR memory has used point-to-point connection with its host processor. Meanwhile, LPCAMM2 connectivity is designed to ensure very short connections to ensure high speeds and not increase latencies.

“The way the LPCAMM2 connector is designed, it allows you to place it physically very close to your CPU,” Vaidyanathan explained.

Different types of CAMM2 connections.
Different types of CAMM2 connections (Source: JEDEC)

Each LPCAMM2 module carries four memory packages that can stack up to eight memory devices, a PMIC with power supply circuitry and an SPD and boasts a 128-bit interface (or, rather, eight independent 16-bit interfaces), which is twice as wide as an interface of a regular DDR5 SODIMM.

Meanwhile, an LPCAMM2 takes 64% less space inside a laptop or desktop than two SODIMMs, which is a significant benefit for space-constrained systems.

For example, instead of using two SODIMMs, a PC OEM could install one 128-bit LPCAMM2 device, get higher performance and lower power consumption, and either make a laptop thinner or install a higher-capacity battery to lengthen its battery life.

It should be noted that 64-bit DDR5-based CAMM2 modules are also possible, though they are designed for applications that primarily need higher memory capacity and can stack two CAMM2 modules.

Coming to market in second half

Micron envisions that eventually, LPCAMM2 could be used not only for client applications but also for data center devices, gaming PCs, embedded systems, the internet of things and networking solutions, which will drive the adoption of LPDDR5X memory well beyond smartphones, tablets and ultra-thin laptops. In fact, Micron believes that over half of PCs could adopt LPDDR over the next few years.

Performance advantages of LPDDR5X over DDR5, as demonstrated by Micron.
Performance advantages of LPDDR5X over DDR5, as demonstrated by Micron (Source: Micron)

“If you think about where OEMs are predicting the LPDDR [share] in PCs in general, I think it is in a 20% to 30% range,” Vaidyanathan said. “We think that LPCAMM2 will drive LPDDR to be more in the 50% to 60% range of overall PC use cases over the next few years.”

Micron expects the first systems with LPCAMM2 to ship in the second half of this year, and adoption could accelerate next year if PC makers are willing to redesign their platforms for the new form factor.

“We have sampled all of our key OEMs [with LPCAMM2 devices], and we expect platforms that will use LPCAMM2 to launch into the market in the second half of 2024,” Vaidyanathan said.

Power consumption of LPDDR5X vs. DDR5, as presented by Micron.
Power consumption of LPDDR5X vs. DDR5, as presented by Micron (Source: Micron)

The company expects LPCAMM2 to coexist with SODIMMs for years to come, as the latter has benefits like higher capacity and developed infrastructure. Yet because the LPCAMM2 specification is expected to support LPDDR6, the form factor will likely live a long life with little changes, if at all. However, keep in mind that LPDDR6-based LPCAMM2s will require processors that support this type of memory.

“They’re obviously working on making sure that pin-outs and all that are compatible with LPDDR6 and you do not have to go change something,” Vaidyanathan said. “Is it going to be an LPCAMM3 because we had to change something? I do not know that yet. But the fundamental nature of the CAMM form factor will not change.”

For now, only Micron has announced its LPCAMM2 devices, but because LPCAMM2 is an industry standard (which development the company has sponsored), the company expects other suppliers of memory modules to follow with their LPDDR5X-based memory modules.

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