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Recap: When Intel introduced Alder Lake last year, some users quickly noticed a fault: the new socket's integrated loading mechanism (ILM) pushes down on the CPU from only two small tabs, causing it to bend in a way that separates the CPU from the cooler and increases its temperature.
In January, Buildzoid from Actually Hardcore Overclocking developed a straightforward solution: adding thin washers to the screws between the motherboard and ILM that reduce the pressure exerted by the ILM to a level that doesn't bend the integrated heat spreader (IHS).
Igor's Lab tested it then and found that it offered about a 5° C temperature decrease with the 12900K. It became the de facto solution for overclockers that didn't want to delid their CPUs (a popular option with the 12900K), but because it also reduces socket pressure, it can cause minor problems.
Thermal Grizzly is now producing a more polished solution in collaboration with legendary overclocker Der8auer. It's a Contact Frame that replaces the stock ILM and provides even pressure to all four sides of the CPU. It's also able to deflect the tension in the IHS to the edges, improving the contact in the center between the die, IHS, and cooler.
Der8auer made a video about the frame before it was released, which explains how it works in more detail. In his testing, with a lapped EKWB Magnitude water block, it offered a 7° C temperature improvement at best and 3-5° C of improvement in most cases, depending on the CPU he used.
It turns out that the helpfulness of the Contact Frame varies with the CPU and cooler depending on how flat they are to begin with. Some CPU coolers made for Alder Lake come from the factory with a slight curve to balance out the bend in the IHS, and Igor's Lab's recent review found that they don't benefit from the Contact Frame.
In their testing with three different models of CPU coolers, Igor's Lab discovered that the frame offered an improvement of 10° C with one, 6° with another, and had no effect with the third. However, the best two temperatures they got, roughly 60° C, were with the frame.
Thermal Grizzly Contact Frame Via Der8auer
Igor's Lab also tested another solution, the Alphacool Apex Backplate. It supports the socket from underneath and makes it more rigid but isn't quite as effective as the Contact Frame: in testing, it only offered a 5° C improvement. It's also only compatible with Alphacool hardware.
However, the frame isn't necessarily the better product. Both Der8auer and Igor's Lab warn that it can apply too much pressure to the CPU in the socket, causing it to make a bad connection to the motherboard that can often result in memory instability. The solution to this is to reseat the memory and dial back the pressure by loosening the screws, but it's tedious.
The Contact Frame also runs about €40 ($43), which is a lot for a small aluminum bracket. The Alphacool Apex costs about $15. If you are finding that your 12700K or 12900K is cooking, though, picking one or the other up -- or even trying the $5 washer trick -- might be worth it.