As far as I can tell GPUs can easily run at much higher temperatures than CPUs without problems. Aren't they both made out of the same materials? Why are GPUs capable of operating at temperatures that would kill CPUs?

  • Mistaken conception to assume GPUs are capable of operating at CPU-killing temperatures. Just that it's been the way of the PC world to protect the CPU with conservative operating temps, whereas GPU is left to operate till critical temp is reached. – caliban Sep 2 '09 at 10:35
  • CPUs can run just as hot as GPUs; most CPUs are rates to 105C temperature, just like most GPUs, though it's rare for a properly cooled CPU to reach that temperature. – Mircea Chirea Sep 23 '11 at 21:28

GPUs will similarly suffer meltdowns running at high temperatures for prolonged periods of time. If you surf the hardware support sites, you will realize that the occurrence of GPU meltdown far exceeds CPU meltdowns.

One advantage GPU has over CPU is that they usually have a larger area to play with in terms of heat dissipation, at the same time the GPU chip is not constrained to a die as small as a CPU, thus enabling a GPU chip to have better tolerance.

At the same time, CPU thermal shutdown is usually set conservatively - most BIOSes by default shut down the CPU when it hits 70 degrees Celsius. Unless you manually override the BIOS settings, it is not often a CPU gets pushed beyonds its limits (thus having less reports, and perceived lower failure tolerance). However, GPU overclocking is extremely common, and many situations arises where people push GPUs to extreme temps - thus resulting in a perception that GPUs have higher temperature tolerances than CPUs. Not true - I have seen CPUs go up to 100 degrees Celsius and still remains stable.

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    On my laptop fan is turned on by ACPI to the speed I can hear it only at 90 degrees. Without undervolting it was running about 85 degrees all the time. My personal best was 110 but after that NHC thinks it is enough and put the system to sleep :) – vava Sep 2 '09 at 10:53
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    You are really brave to risk that on a notebook that has the CPU soldered on. I would have quickly pressed the power button at 90. ;) – caliban Sep 2 '09 at 11:11
  • @scoopdreams, I was gaming at the time, so I didn't know :) But seriously, BIOS guys could have turn the fan to it's max when CPU is over 100 and they didn't. I had to install third-party software that can keep my CPU cool enough. – vava Sep 2 '09 at 11:41
  • @scoopdreams, I just found out that you CAN replace CPU in ThinkPads! This is amazing! – vava Sep 19 '09 at 8:40

Because they consume way more energy when displaying graphic heavy stuff. Consumed energy transforms into heat.

They may be made from the same materials, but the overall demand on the GPU is far greater than the one on the CPU depending on the applications and state (idle or workin 100%).

  • Actually, the question is more "why they are able to run on higher temperature than cpu (material question)", and not "why they get to higher temperatures". – Gnoupi Sep 2 '09 at 9:11
  • Typically, the "safety shutdown" occurs at lower temperature for a CPU. I guess the question is more about this kind of facts. – Gnoupi Sep 2 '09 at 9:12
  • The question might have been a bit misleading. Edited for clarity. – Manos Dilaverakis Sep 2 '09 at 9:14

Oh, well, new answer then:

Because they aren't made of the "same" material. Sure, the core material is the same.

But like I previously said, since the energy demand on GPUs is far greater than on the CPUs (which translates into heat), the GPUs must be able to withstand high temperatures, thus the materials are changed and adapted accordingly and different cooling techniques are implemented.

Excatly HOW they are changed and adapted, I believe those are patented secrets of each GPU manufacturer.

Which is why they can run with temperatures upwards 80 °C and more without trouble. I've seen NVIDIA GPUs running at 95 °C without trouble for a long period of time.

  • Silicon in GPU are not structurally different from silicon in CPUs - I would argue in fact that CPUs have higher QC than GPUs. – caliban Sep 2 '09 at 10:22

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