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Frostytech Investigates: Surface Mapped Athlon
Frostytech Investigates: Surface Mapped Athlon
Abstract: We take an Athlon, crack it open, measure everything to 0.0001", then make a colourful diagram showing just how unflat the most important bit is. Interested? Read on.

 Manufacturer  Category  Published  Author 
FrostyTech   Cooling / Heatsinks   May 18, 2000   Max Page  

Home > Reviews > Page: Surface mapping the plate

The lucky Athlon was prepped with a 5mm grid (a total of 312 points of measurement). Measurements with a dial micrometer were taken at the center of each square and the resulting difference, positive or negative, from the origin (dead center of plate) noted. To make the sea of numbers understandable we converted them to a colour-coded image map showing the  variations in the Athlon's heatspreader surface flatness. The gray lines below simply form a point of location for the overlayed surface flatness image map - now say that ten times fast ;-)




From the colorful picture above a few things are instantly obvious. There are depressions around where the aluminum plate has been stamped to form the L2 cache contacts. But instead of just being flat, the plate slopes towards the punched areas. Secondly, the outside edges of the plate are raised significantly above the rest of the plate, thus giving it an overall cupped appearance. Next time you have a chance to compare two Athlons, place them face-to-face and note the large space between the plates! Thirdly we see that the center area of the plate is basically flat. It's not perfect, but variations in the central area are mute.

Considering that one of the first things we noticed after removing the heatsink was the thick layer of thermal goo, it its understandable considering the poor tolerances that have to be worked around. The processor we got was a retail version that comes standard with a Taisol heatsink. That particular heatsink (pictured at top) only makes contact with the heatspreader plate between the two cache punch outs. The rest of the surface is raised, and about 2-3mm above the Athlons plate. What am I getting at? Two things; first of all, that stepped heatsink design should eliminate the majority of problems that may be associated with full-plate contact heatsinks, and secondly, since the heatsink is making contact with a fairly flat region, its base had better be flat. But is it?

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Table of Contents:

 1:  Frostytech Investigates: Surface Mapped Athlon
 2: — Surface mapping the plate
 3:  The Taisol heatsink
 4:  The final fix is....

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