Thursday, March 9, 2017

Is Intel engaging in planned obsolescence?

I have an i5-2500K CPU in my PC. This particular CPU is rather famous among PC enthusiasts in that it's amazingly overclockable. Its official base clock rate is 3.3 GHz, with an official maximum boost frequency of 3.7 GHz (which is a technique supported by more modern Intel processors where, if enabled, the CPU will automatically and dynamically "overclock" itself depending on the current load.)

However, with proper cooling, people report the CPU being completely safe to be overclocked even up to 4.6 GHz without problems, which is rather astonishing.

I have an efficient CPU heatsink by CoolerMaster, which keeps the CPU incredibly cool even under full load. With this heatsink, without overclocking, the CPU stays, when idle, at about 35°C and even under. At full load (all four cores at maximum load) the temperature is under 55°C, which is quite remarkable.

I have overclocked the CPU to 4.2 GHz, and under full load the temperature is about 63°C, which is still well within completely safe limits.

A friend of mine has a Xeon E3-1281 v3, and he uses the exact same heatsink as I do. His CPU is not overclocked, yet it reaches temperatures of even 80°C when under full load. We have been pretty much unable to determine what the problem may be. However, I have a theory about this.

The main reason why CPU's have a limit on clock speed is temperature. (There are, of course, other factors at play, but temperature is, by far, the major one.) When the CPU is overclocked, its temperature under load inevitably increases, and it can only take so much before it breaks (although with basically all modern processors, before it throttles down to avoid breaking.)

One of the reasons cited on why the i5-2500K is so famously overclockable is that it has a really well-crafted heat transmission between the CPU die itself, and the heat spreader lid that's on the CPU chip (which is what then makes contact with the heatsink; or, in this case, the heatpipes of the heatsink.) This allows the heat from the CPU die to be efficiently transmitted to the heatsink, keeping the CPU relatively cool even under heavy loads and massive overclocking. With an efficient heavy-duty heatsink this means that astonishing overclocking (such as from 3.3 GHz to 4.6 GHz) becomes possible.

Many people have noticed, however, that more recently Intel processors not only run hotter, but also cannot be so massively overclocked, no matter how efficient the heatsink may be. Even if you have a really, really massive heatsink made of the highest quality materials, it doesn't help much. Moreover, the CPU seem to get worse and worse in this regard in just a couple of years, as if its heat dissipation capabilities degraded over time.

And the reason for this becomes clearer when the CPU heat spreader lid is removed: For some reason Intel has started using really cheap thermal paste under the lid (ie. between the CPU die and the lid). There are videos on YouTube about people doing this to a modern Intel CPU that is running really hot, and discovered that the thermal paste inside there has pretty much solidified and lost most of its heat transmission properties. This is something that happens with really cheap, low-quality thermal paste. When the junk paste is removed and replaced with fresh high quality thermal paste, the temperature goes way down.

Why would Intel suddenly start doing this? Even the highest quality thermal pastes out there are relatively cheap. We are talking about something like less than a US dollar per CPU. These are CPUs that cost from 200 to over 500 US dollars. One meager dollar more isn't going to change that by much.

My theory (and I'm not the only one) is that this is planned obsolescence by Intel. They are deliberately putting low-quality thermal paste in their CPUs so that they will become unusable in a few years, forcing the majority of people to then buy a new one.

The i5-2500K was, possibly, one of the last CPUs that was explicitly designed by Intel to be highly overclockable and durable, thanks to a fantastic high-quality heat transmission between the CPU die and the heat spreader lid. After that it seems that they changed policies and went for a really, really underhanded anti-consumer tactic of planned obsolescence.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, they are into that. I had my actual laptop for 4 years more or less. It's processor is an AMD E1 and it still works properly, even runs any game you try, of course at a shitty performance since the device is just for office works and that. A fiend gifted me his 5 years old Toshiba satellite with a core i5 2340m processor. It worked fine at first, but after a month of use it started to overheat for no reason, even though I applied new thermal paste. The laptop started to shut down suddenly when the gpu was in use (videogames, youtube videos or 3d modeling). Finally it died. After that I got another one, a samsung laptop with exactly the same processor... It was the same thing, overheating, crashin with no blue screen, etc. I just bury then. Some months ago a friend told me if I could clean his pc, because it was behaving bad, overheating, very slow and also random crashes that were not too often since his laptop was a thinkpad for paper work, with no gpu, not even integrated graphics. I was like "This looks like what happened to the other ones, and in fact it wais... His lap now can't even boot. Now, my cousin has another one with i7U series processor. Some weeks ago it started to crash while gaming. And it was not a heat problem, his lap was at 70°c which is not a big deal for today's standards. In the other hand, my laptop with shitty AMD hardware works nicely, I've run many games, I rendered some videos in sony vegas pro, and still works, the only time it crashed was my fault because I forgot to plug in the fan. So yeah, that's what I have to say. We have many devices that can't be used anymore, and all of them have one thing in common: Intel.