Noctua, a leading maker of coolers, said that many of its existing aftermarket CPU cooling systems will be compatible with Intel's forthcoming Alder Lake processors in LGA1700 packaging, with appropriate upgrade kits. The manufacturer did not say that all of the existing coolers will be compatible with the new CPUs, though.
Don't Throw Away Your LGA115x Cooler
"We cannot disclose any details yet due to NDA, but we're working on it and you should definitely be able to keep using your NH-U12A via an upgrade kit!"
The Noctua NH-U12A is a higher-end CPU cooler that's compatible with a wide variety of sockets, including AMD's AM4, Intel's LGA1200, LGA115x, LGA2011, and LGA2066. As it turns out, the device will also be compatible with Intel's yet-to-be-released CPUs using a new mounting kit.
There's a catch though. According to EXPreview, Intel's upcoming LGA1700 processors could be 0.8-mm shorter when installed into a socket than their existing counterparts. Based on our own observations, CPU substrates are indeed getting thinner as CPUs migrate to new process technologies, so it's logical to assume that Alder Lake-S — which is made using Intel's 10nm Enhanced SuperFin node — will be shorter than the current CPUs (as far as z-height is concerned).
Keeping in mind that socket LGA1700 will be completely different from existing sockets and that Alder Lake-S (or maybe its successor) are expected to be shorter than its predecessors, compatibility with existing coolers will depend on the ability of their manufacturers to design a new mounting kit that will take into account not only X and Y dimensions of the CPU, but also its Z height. To that end, it may not be easy to upgrade coolers with fastening clips.
A Major Upgrade
Intel's upcoming 12th Generation Core processors for desktops codenamed Alder Lake-S will be rather special in a number of ways. Firstly, Alder Lake-S will be Intel's first hybrid processors with high-performance and energy-efficient cores. Secondly, Alder Lake-S will be the first CPU to support DDR5 memory as well as PCIe 5.0 interconnects. Last, Alder Lake-S will use a brand-new LGA1700 socket, which is obviously different from existing LGA115x and LGA1200 sockets.
LGA1700 will be the first major upgrade of Intel's sockets for mainstream desktop CPUs since 2004. Back then, the company introduced its socket LGA775 that measured 37.5×37.5 mm. This socket was succeeded by LGA1155, LGA1156, LGA1150, LGA1151, and LGA1200, which all retained its 37.5×37.5 mm dimensions, though obviously they changed the number of pins and their layout. LGA1700 will retain the 37.5mm width, but will increase its length to 45mm, which may require coolers with a larger base and a different mounting mechanism.
Note that LGA2066 has the same 45mm length, but an even wider 52.5mm width. AMD's TR4 and TRX40 are even larger, measuring 58.5×75.4mm. Z-height is still a concern, but any cooler capable of supporting both HEDT and mainstream platforms should be adaptable to LGA1700.
Because Intel's LGA1700 processors will not only be physically larger than Intel's mainstream processors released in the last 17 years, but they are also expected to be shorter, makers of coolers will have to do some additional work to ensure compatibility and proper performance. We expect higher-end coolers and AIO designs that already support numerous sockets, while cheaper existing solutions probably won't get LGA1700 support.