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Intel gets tough on its thermals

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Tom's Hardware Guide – one of our favourite sites – was bemoaning its observation that all the Gigahertz Pentium III systems it had seen had gigantic heat sinks, featuring a special copper 'heat pipe' that leads to yet another heat sink outside the case. THG reckoned that this heat sink added an extra cost of between $50–80 to the system price. We were surprised at this extra cooling requirement as the fastest machine we're running at the moment is a 750MHz Cumine clocked at 800MHz (sorry, Intel). This box runs about 12 hours a day, six days a week and has a cheap (£10) and cheerful active heatsink no bigger than the old Pentium II ones. The chip runs stone cold. So why all the extra gubbins for a part running just 150MHz faster? Intel tells us the reason is simple – it's moved the goalposts on thermal requirements for GHz and above Coppermines to ensure reliability. While current 800 and 866 chips have a recommended maximum running temperature of 75 degrees C, Chipzilla has decreed that the GHz parts should not exceed 60 degrees – something of a challenge for the cooling and chassis designers. So the systems THG and other reviewers have seen have had extra cooling bolted on to meet Intel's stringent new thermal guidelines. Smaller, cheaper, more efficient sinks are on the way. "There are several cooling solutions in development, some of them already in production and ready for volume in Q3," says a spokesman for Intel Europe. "We might get less conservative with the next Ghz processors," he adds – presumably referring to Willamette. ®

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