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A Tale of Two Sockets
Page 1 - Introduction and Electronic Limitations
Author: Matt Krick (DCFlux)
Editor: Tim Whitcomb (DuffMan)
Date: January 13, 2004
Category: Information
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A Tale of Two Sockets

As an avid overclocker, I have noticed that from time to time seemingly identical boards will have different properties once I start pushing various parameters higher and higher, even when using the same processor. I've concluded, based on some instinct and a little research, that these anomalous discrepancies may be due in part to the difference in the socket. While overlooked by the average consumer, I have found that there are some significant differences between various socket manufacturers. In this article, we will explore two test sockets -- the differences between the two and the implications for you, the end user.

While data acquisition for evidence was problematic, I was able to find enough information on the internet to piece together a basic overview of the socket. In order to shield myself from lawsuits, I will refer to the two test subjects as originating from Companies A and B.

The Infamous Socket
The Infamous Socket

The socket is the connection between the CPU and the motherboard. With 462 pins arranged in tight quarters with large energy flows, the socket must be prepared to deal with the stresses of daily operation. Each contact is rated for a maximum of 1.5 amps -- this is why, in most modern processors, upward of 100 pins are dedicated to supplying power. Furthermore, the insulation resistance for both sockets is given as 1000 megohms. Considering that the average resistance for air is far less, this provides excellent insulation between the pins. Each socket can withstand 1000 DC volts -- hopefully a potential this large will never grace your computer. For these electronic benchmarks, both test sockets are essentially the same.

Why are these electronics important? Besides being the conduit between the pins on the chip and the traces on the motherboard, the socket has its on inherent properties that can make an overclocker's hell. When you shift a DC current (as is used inside your computer), you generate an AC signal. For both sockets, the AC properties were rated at 1 pF of capacitance and 3.5 nH of inductance. While these numbers may not mean much, if you recall your physics you would recognize that placing an inductor and a capacitor in a circuit yields oscillatory behavior. This has a characteristic frequency ("resonance") and can interfere with the logic signals moving across your motherboard. To illustrate this, imagine the waves spreading from when you throw two rocks into a pond. They interfere when they meet, and in some cases can cancel each other out completely. This is not desirable behavior when you have square waves moving through your computer!

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