Intel’s 12th Gen Alder Lake CPUs have been in the news recently for becoming slightly warped over time. This is due to the combination of their rectangular shape and uneven pressure placed on them by the chip’s retention mechanism. Intel has even gone on the record to confirm this is happening, but says it’s all within spec.
Intel’s position is sure, it might bend a bit, but it won’t be enough to trip thermal sensors. For a lot of enthusiasts, that’s not a satisfying answer. This has lead people to take matters into their own hands, such as German overclocker der8auer. He has teamed up with Thermal Grizzly to launch a “contact frame” for Alder Lake CPUs. It replaces the stock retention mechanism, and can lower temps by a non-trivial amount.
The design he came up with is very similar to the recent Bending Correct Frame from Thermalright. It’s a finely machined piece of 775 anodized aluminum that replaces the LGA 1700 socket retention mechanism. It’s a radically different design than what Intel came up with. The stock design from Intel has two tiny “arms” that apply pressure to the center of the socket. According to Thermal Grizzly, this is what causes the issue. It applies uneven pressure to the CPU’s heat spreader, causing it to warp. This leads to reduced contact between the heat spreader and the base of a CPU cooler. The Thermal Grizzly frame applies even pressure to the perimeter of the CPU instead. To install it you must remove the stock retention module with the included wrench. You then drop the frame onto the CPU and tighten it, gently. Note that Intel previously stated that modifying your CPU socket may void your warranty, so proceed with caution.
Roman “der8auer” Hartung tested the new CPU frame with 14 different Intel 12th Gen CPUs to show its cooling benefits. As always, the results vary according to the particular CPU as well as the cooling solution being used. He used a lapped EKWB magnitude water block for his testing. Overall the results varied but almost all CPUs gained some cooling performance with the frame. The best performance was a reduction in temps of 7.1 degrees Celsius. He says based on the range of temps he recorded in testing, users can expect around four to five degree reductions in max temperatures.
Previously it was reported that Igor’s Lab had developed a similar workaround for the LGA 1700 socket. His solution was to use rubber washers to raise the height of the socket 1mm. This also reduced temperatures by around 5C or so. This is yet another example of end-users coming up with solutions for problems arising from trying to cool Intel CPUs. If you recall, back in 2012 it famously switched from using fluxless solder between the die and heat spreader to less expensive thermal interface material (TIM). The move sparked outrage amongst enthusiasts as it was a “cheap” solution that didn’t perform as well as solder. This led to a rash of overclocking de-lidding their CPUs to improve cooling performance.
To reiterate Intel’s position on this matter, it recently stated it’s seen no evidence that any 12th Gen CPUs are running out of spec. An Intel spokesperson said, “We have not received reports of 12th Gen Intel Core processors running outside of specifications due to changes to the integrated heat spreader (IHS). Our internal data show that the IHS on 12th Gen desktop processors may have slight deflection after installation in the socket. Such minor deflection is expected and does not cause the processor to run outside of specifications. We strongly recommend against any modifications to the socket or independent loading mechanism. Such modifications would result in the processor being run outside of specifications and may void any product warranties.” As of press time, it’s unclear how many motherboards and CPUs are being affected by the warping issues. Intel has said it will keep an eye on the situation, but has no plans on modifying its socket design.