CPU coolers may require a rework to fit Intel's Alder Lake chips later this year

Intel Core i5 11600K processor
(Image credit: Future)

Intel Alder Lake will require brand new coolers, or at least extra brackets, when it launches later this year. It's no surprise that Alder Lake would come with a new LGA 1700 socket fit for its slightly unorthodox shape, but recent plans published by Igor's Lab suggest a complete respec of the socket surrounding for Intel's hybrid chips.

According to the plans, the new V0 socket design will supersede the H5 socket currently in use with LGA 1200 and compatible Rocket Lake processors, which is itself nearly identical to the H4 and H3 designs fit for previous generations.

The V0 socket will not only come with a different hole pattern—the location of the screw holes for both air and liquid cooler brackets/mounting systems—it will actually feature a much lower Z-height, meaning its construction and the CPU, once fitted, will sit much closer to the motherboard than previous socket designs.

It's expected that Intel Alder Lake will feature a slightly elongated heat spreader (IHS) and interposer design compared to the current Core desktop footprint, which has remained the same since the first days of the Core i3, i5, and i7 lineups.

Board walk

(Image credit: MSI)

Best gaming motherboard: the best boards around
Best AMD motherboard: your new Ryzen's new home

With Alder Lake, everything changes. And with perhaps good reason, although we're yet to really see whether Intel's dramatic rethink will pay dividends in the gaming department. Essentially, Alder Lake will incorporate a cluster of 'small' cores, borrowed from Intel's Atom lineup and improved upon from there, alongside a collection of 'big' cores. The big cores will come from the 10nm architecture fork we're yet to experience on desktop, but which has made it into both mobile and server parts. Specifically, Alder Lake will use the latest variant of said fork available today, known as Golden Cove.

There are also changes to the I/O, including support for DDR5 and PCIe 5.0, while Intel Xe integrated graphics are set to make an appearance in some capacity.

So there's plenty of change going on under the hood, and that's reportedly bringing about a requirement for a rethink of the entire motherboard socket and package support.

It's funny Intel should be chatting socket changes today too, as we've just heard tell of a socket rethink over at AMD. The alleged AM5 socket may also demand a big shakeup for motherboard manufacturers, and that likely will trickle down to PC builders too.

So if you're planning to pick up either Intel or AMD's next-gen processors, you may want to wait before purchasing a cooler. The best-case scenario is that existing coolers can be made compatible with a few extra brackets, but the worst case is a complete redesign to fit the Alder Lake footprint.

And if my recent trouble getting hold of a Noctua kit to transform my Intel-compatible cooler into an AMD-compatible one is anything to go on, you really don't want to be waiting around for months just to get a couple of pieces of metal with the correct screw holes.

Jacob Ridley
Senior Hardware Editor

Jacob earned his first byline writing for his own tech blog. From there, he graduated to professionally breaking things as hardware writer at PCGamesN, and would go on to run the team as hardware editor. Since then he's joined PC Gamer's top staff as senior hardware editor, where he spends his days reporting on the latest developments in the technology and gaming industries and testing the newest PC components.