Intel finally responds to flexing of 12th Gen Alder Lake processors on LGA1700 motherboards

Intel Alder Lake Processor Flex
via AnandTech

Intel has done a good job with its 12th Gen Alder Lake processors in terms of chip performance. However, Alder Lake-S desktop processors have been reported to bend for a long time when placed inside their Socket LGA1700 motherboards. For example, even reviewers like AnandTech, among others, have noticed the issue (image above).

Intel has finally responded to all these reports. In a statement to Tom’s Hardware, the company said that bending of the integrated heat sink (IHS) shouldn’t cause a major problem and that this type of deflection is common. Here’s the company’s full statement:

We haven’t received any reports of 12th Gen Intel Core processors operating out of specification due to changes to the integrated heat sink (IHS). Our internal data shows that the IHS on 12th Gen desktop processors may exhibit slight deviation after installing into the socket. Such minor deviation is expected and does not cause the processor to operate out of specification. We strongly advise against any modification of the sleeve or independent loading mechanism. Such modifications will cause the processor to operate outside of specification and may void any product warranties.

The problem seems to stem from the Independent Loading Mechanism (ILM) of the LGA1700, as the apparent uneven pressure seems to bend the processor when mounted inside its socket.

Here is a comparison of before-after images of the incident:

As you can see above there is a clear gap between the flat surfaces of the cooler and the IHS indicated by the visible light between the chip and the cooler when placed inside the socket. You can also watch this video below by Jisaku Hibi which shows the bend in action:

Tom’s Hardware also posed additional questions to Intel regarding how the flex could affect various performance aspects and the well-being of the processor as well as the socket which you can read below. The Intel spokesperson’s responses are emboldened.

  • Are changes planned in the design of the ILM? This condition may only exist with certain versions of the ILM. Can you confirm that these ILMs are within specifications?
    • Based on current data, we cannot attribute the IHS deviation variation to any specific vendor or socket mechanism. However, we are investigating any potential issues alongside our partners and customers, and will provide further advice on relevant solutions where appropriate.
  • Some users report reduced heat transfer due to the deflection issue, which makes sense as it clearly impacts the IHS’s ability to mate with the cooler. Would Intel RMA the chip if the mating was poor enough to cause thermal throttling?
    • Minor IHS deviation is expected and does not cause the processor to operate outside of specification or prevent the processor from meeting published frequencies under appropriate operating conditions. We recommend that users who observe functional issues with their processors contact Intel Customer Service.
  • The chip deflection issue also impacts motherboards – due to the deflection on the chip, the socket ends up bending the back of the socket, and thus the motherboard. This increases the possibility of damaging traces passing through the motherboard circuit board, etc. Is this condition also within specification?
    • When there is backplate flex on the motherboard, the deformation is caused by the mechanical load placed on the motherboard to make electrical contact between the processor and the socket. There is no direct correlation between IHS deflection and backplate deflection, except that they can both be caused by the mechanical loading of the socket.

For those wondering if there is an unofficial solution to the problem, there is a puck mod that has been tested by Igor’sLAB. However, Intel has warned that such and other modifications will void your warranty.

Source: Tom’s Material