Existing CPU Coolers Might Struggle With Alder Lake Even With LGA 1700 Bracket Kits
Several CPU cooler makers are offering LGA 1700 bracket upgrades for existing all-in-one liquid cooling solutions, so users who jump into Alder Lake will have one less expense to worry about (or a nominal one, as Corsair is selling its 'Retrofit Kits' for a small fee). But will they work as good as coolers designed from the ground-up with Alder Lake in mind? A photo of current-generation cooler contact plates after they've supposedly been applied to Alder Lake potentially casts some doubt.
Among other things, Alder Lake takes a different physical shape than Rocket Lake and other LGA 115x processors. It's packing a mix of Golden Cove (high performance) and Gracemont (power efficient) cores underneath the hood, and from what's been showed in early leaks, it features a rectangular shape instead of being squarish.
It also reportedly has a different Z-height, so there's a bigger concern than just matching the bracket assembly to the new hole orientation on Z690 motherboards. And that is where a recently leaked picture raises some questions about how effective those socket LGA 1700 bracket adapters might be.
The folks at WCCFTech have come into possession of "a few pictures of how some older AIO coolers stack up with the new design" for Alder Lake. They shared one of them, which you can see above. It purportedly shows three coolers from MSI, Corsair, and Cooler Master after they contact plates have been squished on top of Alder Lake, with thermal grease applied.
Bear in mind that this is something that could easily be manipulated. The uneven distribution of thermal grease on two of the coolers could also result from user error or several other causes, like defective hardware. So take all this with a giant cube of salt.
That said, what the picture purports to show is that MSI's K360 cooler makes adequate contact with the integrated heat spreader on Alder Lake, while AIO coolers from Corsair and Cooler Master do not. At a glance, and if taking this at face value, this suggests that cooling performance could take a hit if using certain existing coolers with Alder Lake.
Ideally, the thermal paste would be more evenly spread than what's seen in the middle and right coolers, in the leaked photo. Even little gaps can affect cooling, hence why thermal grease is necessary in the first place (to fill in those microscope pits and grooves that aren't seen by the naked eye).
We'll reserve judgement until we've had a chance to test things for ourselves. In the meantime, it's one of those things that make you go "Hmm..."