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Intel Revamps Boxed Coolers for Comet Lake Processors, New Blacked-Out Design (Updated)

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Update 5/27/20 2:45pm PT: Intel responded with more details surrounding the new coolers and we have modified the text to reflect the new information. Amended text follows:

Reviewers in China and Vietnam recently purchased retail boxed Intel Core i7-10700 processors. They discovered that Intel has (rather silently) updated its boxed coolers, which were sorely in need of a facelift, with a copper slug and a new blacked-out motif. After following up with Intel, the company informed us that the new coolers come with the following processors only:

  • 10th Gen Intel Core i9 and Core i7 desktop processors (i9-10900, i9-10900F, i7-10700, i7-10700F)
  • Intel Xeon W-1200 workstation processors (W-1290, W-1270, W-1250)

The improved coolers have an 80W TDP rating, which is a step up from the 65W coolers (2015C per Intel's spec) that came with previous-gen 65W chips. Curiously, these new 80W coolers still carry the '2015C' specification moniker but come with a new copper core that helps reduce thermal resistance to improve processor cooling and acoustics. The change was largely needed to address the 80W TDP specification for the listed Xeon W-1200 workstation processors. 

The new coolers appear to be a response to AMD's boxed coolers, some of which even come with RGB lighting, that have long served as a notable advantage of buying an AMD chip. 

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Like Intel's coolers that have shipped with its processors for over a decade, the cooler comes with a central metal housing and aluminum fins splayed outward in a circular fashion towards the four plastic push-pin connectors that secure the cooler to the motherboard. The coolers are obviously LGA 1200 compatible to support the new platform, but should also work with the LGA 115x interface as well.

The blacked-out color scheme and shielded cable stand out as notably better-looking than the old grey-and-black scheme, while the reworked fan assembly now has an Intel logo emblazoned on the hub instead of the old sticker that was inscribed with various technical details of the fan motor. Intel also threw a black sheath over the four fan wires. Overall, the look is much cleaner and is now at least passable for a run-of-the-mill PC.  

The copper core helps the cooler wick more heat from the processor than the old aluminum core, and that's a sorely needed improvement. Intel did use a copper core in the past, but discarded it with its previous-gen boxed coolers, instead going with an all-aluminum core that could lead to performance limitations. That's because Intel has traditionally provided boxed coolers that match the processor's TDP specifications.

Unfortunately, Intel's TDP specifications outline the amount of cooling capacity needed for the processor when it operates at its base frequency. Still, the processor generates much more heat during boost activity. As we outlined with targeted testing, in many cases, the boxed coolers couldn't unlock the full performance of the processor.

For instance, Intel rates the Core i7-10700 with a 65W TDP, but that increases when the processor engages its turbo boost during demanding workloads. Intel now increases power consumption by 1.8x during boost activity (PL2), so the Core i7-10700 should draw up to 117W. That means the extra 15W of cooling capacity afforded by the new cooler still isn't enough to ensure you get the full performance of the processor during demanding workloads, but we'll have to test the coolers to assess the full impact during demanding workloads.

The new coolers definitely look much better than their predecessors, which is an obvious change to attempt to match AMD's ultra-impressive boxed coolers. However, some of AMD's boxed coolers even come with RGB lighting, so Intel still has some work to do to fully match AMD in that department. Intel also still uses plastic push pins to secure the cooler to the motherboard, and, barring any radical changes to the mounts, these can be among the most frustrating mounting techniques for the uninitiated. As before, the coolers come with pre-applied TIM (thermal interface material), and the down-blowing fan helps provide some airflow to the power delivery subsystem and memory. 

Coolers designed for the LGA 115x socket are compatible with the new LGA 1200 socket, and vice versa, but Intel says the new coolers will only ship with the aforementioned Socket 1200 processors.

Paul Alcorn

Paul Alcorn is the Deputy Managing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage and enterprise hardware.