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Beware Socket AM5 cooler compatibility

Only some coolers will be Socket AM5 compatible, so you'll want to check whether your CPU cooler uses the standard plastic mounting brackets or not.

An AMD Ryzen processor in its AM4 socket

Not a lot is known about Socket AM5 at the moment. We don’t know exact CPU models or core counts, although it looks like 16 cores may be the limit, at least at first, and when I spoke to AMD’s Robert Hallock recently, he suggested that 3D V-Cache might not appear at the launch of AMD’s new socket either, but that we would be seeing it again.

However, one point that has been made clear is that coolers that are compatible with AMD’s current Socket AM4 will fit on Socket AM5, and that there has been no change in Z-height for the new CPUs either, unlike Intel’s Alder Lake CPUs.

I have, however, learned from waterblock manufacturer EK that Socket AM5 isn’t going to offer cooler manufacturers and cooler owners an entirely easy ride. While the plastic brackets on current Socket AM4 boards will remain, giving coolers that use them a free pass for cooling Zen 4 CPUs, the same can’t be said of those coolers that require the use of a backplate on the motherboard.

EK told me this month that the backplate will be fixed to the socket this time, rather than being detachable, as with Socket AM4.

This is similar to Intel’s LGA2066 socket, meaning that the use of custom backplates won’t be possible. This raises some significant problems, as plenty of air coolers, AIO liquid coolers and waterblocks require the use of a custom backplate to secure them to the motherboard.

A render of an AMD Ryzen 7000 series CPU

It remains to be seen if the CPU socket mounting holes will sit in the same place, and if the backplate itself is physically the same, with the same threads as the one used on current Socket AM4 motherboards.

If it is, then there are a number of coolers that do currently make use of the included backplate rather than using their own designs.

If that’s the case then two out of three situations will be okay. However, it’s highly unlikely that any CPU cooler or waterblock that uses a custom backplate will cleanly fit to an integrated backplate on a Socket AM5 motherboard.

The fittings for these coolers vary significantly, with different screw lengths and screw threads, so if you’re planning on jumping on the Socket AM5 bandwagon at launch, and the cooler you plan to use has a custom backplate, be prepared for some problems on day one. You’d also be well advised to check compatibility with your cooler’s manufacturer nearer the time, as they’ll probably offer adaptor kits if necessary.

That said, the similar situation with Intel’s new LGA1700 socket didn’t result in a smooth transition, with adaptor kits suffering from poor availability at launch, and many manufacturers still not offering them or even compatibility information. We’ll be updating you here with the latest news as we approach AMD’s Socket AM5 launch.