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What is TDP for CPUs and GPUs?



  A CPU falling in blue water.
Nattapol_Sritongcom / Shutterstock

TDP measurements are often seen on technical datasheets and are important for users with desktop PCs. But TDP definitions are like opinions ̵

1; everyone has one. Pick up the confusion and discuss what a TDP number means to you.

What does TDP mean?

TDP is an acronym that people refer to: Thermal Design Power, Thermal Design Point, and Thermal Design parameters. Luckily, they all mean the same thing. The most common is Thermal Design Power. That's why we use it here.

Thermal Design Power is a measure of the maximum amount of heat that a CPU or GPU generates under a heavy workload.

Components generate heat as the computer works, and the harder it works, the hotter it gets. So it is with your phone. Play a game like Brawl Stars for about 30 minutes and you'll find that the back of your phone gets hotter when the components consume more power.

Some PC enthusiasts also refer to TDP as the maximum amount of power a component can use. And some companies like NVIDIA say it's both:

"TDP is the maximum power a subsystem can consume for an application in the real world, as well as the maximum amount of heat that is generated by the component that creates the cooling system. can be dispersed under real conditions. "

However, TDP in most cases means the amount of heat that a component generates and that has to dissipate a cooling system. It is expressed in watts, which is usually a measure of power (such as electricity), but can also refer to heat.

TDP is often used as a substitute for power consumption because the two values ​​are often the same or close to each other. However, this is not always the case, so you should not use TDP to determine the size of your PC's power supply.

TDPs for processors

  A water cooling system in a desktop PC.
Phuwadach Pattanatmon / Shutterstock

AMD Vs. Intel

If TDP is based on the amount of heat generated during a heavy workload, who decides how high that workload is or what clock rate the chip should run? Since there is no standardized method for assessing the TDP, the chip makers develop their own methods. This means that PC enthusiasts have very different opinions on Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) TDPs compared to Intel CPUs.

In general, enthusiasts argue that AMD's TDP numbers are more realistic. Intel often publishes TDP ratings that are lower than those experienced by people with their systems, making TDP less reliable as a replacement for power consumption.

Anandtech recently explained how Intel gets its TDP ratings and why they always seem to be out. CPUs operate at their boost levels (higher speeds) when they are under heavy load for extended periods of time. The problem is that Intel bases its TDP ratings on the processor's base frequency, not on the boost frequency. Therefore, an Intel processor is often hotter than Intel specified for the box. If the system cooler can not withstand these higher temperatures, the processor slows down to protect against damage. This leads to a poorer system performance. With a better cooler, however, these problems are less common.

On the AMD site, there are now many forum posts arguing that AMD's standard coolers are more than adequate, even with moderate overclocking.

] It's all about cooling

  A CPU cooler with a large fan and protruding copper pipes from the bottom.
Cooler Master

You can manage the TDP of your system if you are using the best cooling solution for the CPU. If you do not make any special adjustments to your system or longer AAA games, the standard cooler supplied with your CPU should be fine. However, gamers should look around – especially if you play games that are heavily dependent on the processor.

An aftermarket cooler can most likely handle any heat your CPU puts on it. On this website more than 60 coolers of the well-known PC device manufacturer Cooler Master are listed. More than half of them have a TDP power of 150 watts or more, which should be enough for most consumer CPUs. You will find CPU cooler at all possible prices. There are liquid-cooling solutions that cost hundreds of dollars and powerful 150-watt heatsink and fan coolers for $ 20 to $ 50.

A suitable radiator is only part of your PC's heat dissipation system. The right airflow is also the key. Be sure to read our introduction on how to manage your PC's fans for optimal airflow and cooling.

TDP, T-Junction, and Max Temps

TDP helps you choose the right cooling system for your CPU. However, it does not tell you how much heat a component reliably withstands. For that you have to look at one of two things.

If you have an Intel processor, you must check the T junction. According to Intel, this is the "maximum allowable temperature on the processor chip". The "chip" refers to the tiny areas of the circuit on a silicon wafer. For the Core i9-9900K, for example, the TDP is 95 watts and the T-junction is 100 degrees Celsius. To find the T-junction for your CPU, go to Intel's Ark site and look for your processor model.

In the meantime, AMD uses the simpler term "Max Temps". The Ryzen 5 3600 has a TDP of 65 watts. The Ryzen 5 3600X has a TDP of 95 watts and both have a maximum temperature of 95 degrees Celsius.

These are good numbers to know if you need to fix problems with a too hot PC. Overall, it's best to focus on TDP first.

Graphics Cards

  AMD's Radeon RX 5700 XT.
AMD's Radeon RX 5700 XT graphics card.

For mainstream consumers, TDP is more important for CPUs. Graphics cards have TDPs, but also include integrated cooling solutions. You can purchase aftermarket GPU coolers, but they are more difficult to install and generally not required unless you are looking for strong overclocking. If you want to get to know the TDP of your graphics card, TechPowerUP is a reliable source.

Thermal design performance is an important specification, especially for CPUs. But do not confuse the meaning. TDP helps you to choose the right cooling solution for your components. And done.


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