With the ever-increasing speed of processors, power consumption and heat dissipation are fast becoming very critical issues. AMD’s Athlon in particular, while being an extremely fast processor, is consuming over 70 Watts at its highest clockspeeds. The Pentium 4 is no slouch either -- the 2.40GHz part consumes nearly 50 Amperes of current, and dissipates almost 58Watts worth of power.
To combat this, Intel has implemented an excellent cooling system for its Pentium 4 processors. Heatsinks no longer clamp to tiny socket lugs, but rather clamp securely to brackets attached to the motherboard. This allows the clamp to place much more pressure on the heatsink, which improves thermal conduction between the processor and heatsink. In addition, it’s virtually impossible for a heatsink to become dislodged during shipping or movement.
Fig 3. The Intel Retail Boxed heatsink, a very good combination of performance and noise. When running this heatsink is virtually inaudible.
Despite the high levels of heat dissipation, the retail heatsink that will ship with boxed processors keeps the Pentium 4 remarkably cool, and is even more remarkably quiet. The heatsink itself is rather massive, and the large fan needs to spin at only 2500rpm to produce sufficient air flow to cool the heatsink’s large surface area. At only 2500rpm, the fan is virtually inaudible. Inside a case, you won’t hear it over the power supply fan or hard disk.
Overall, we’re extremely impressed with the way Intel is managing the Pentium 4’s thermal characteristics. Granted, the extremely large heatsink and fan will translate into a higher cost for boxed processors, however in our opinion, it’s more than worth it. Given the option between twenty dollars more for a large heatsink and slow-revving fan, and the intolerable, shrill whine of a 7000rpm screamer, we know which one we’d take.