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Alienware Transmission - Highlights

Recently, we launched the new Alienware Transmission show. Since then we have heard from many of you that you love the content but would also love to see it in smaller more digestible sizes. So today we're doing just that! We'll be taking some of the major discussion points from the show and condensing them down and giving you a summary here for your viewing and reading pleasure.


  1. Planning the Systems
  2. Workloads and Thermal Terminology
  3. Testing our Systems
  4. About our Guests

In our first episode, we were joined by Travis North - Sr. Distinguished Engineer at Alienware/Dell and Mark Gallina - System Thermal & Mechanical Architect at Intel, to talk about Alienware thermal design and how we consider thermals when we design our systems for the best gaming experience.

Planning the Systems

Travis and Mark discuss design and thermal requirements

The conversation starts off with Travis explaining that they start with a blank sheet of paper and start building from there. The first question we look at are what are the intended uses of the PC? Is it video rendering? Gaming? VR? etc. and from there begin to determine the power conditions they're working with for the system. Later in the process, Travis and the team begin working with Mark and Intel to gather the requirements from a thermal cooling perspective.

From there, testing begins on a number of other elements of the system. Travis mentions things like skin temperatures, WASD key heat, and much more. Mark also explains some of the more tricky challenges dealing with laptops from a CPU cooling perspective.

The reason skin temperatures become a very critical thing for our mobile systems is when you put heat inside that small box, it goes everywhere, right? So even though we’ve got all the fans, we’ve got the heat exchangers, we’ve got the heat pipes, those bring the majority of the heat to the ambient, which is where we want the heat to go. But it's still going to conduct up through the system, so it's going to get to the keyboard, it’s going to get to the bottom channel, the D panel that Travis mentioned, that's the bottom surface of the laptop, right? So if you have it on your lap, that's what's touching your legs, but no matter what we do, the heat is going to go to those surfaces, and so the amount of heat that goes there, the ratio, that’s somewhat fixed based on the total design of the system, and so that does end up being one of the critical parameters we pay attention to in terms of the total system power that we can handle.
-- Mark Gallina

Workloads and Thermal Terminology

Do you want to know more about how your Alienware or Intel system cools itself? Do you want to know the nitty gritty engineering details around the CPU cooling process?

Discussion about how different workloads affect design

In this segment, Travis and Mark dig into the more engineering focused conversation around CPU cooling and specific workloads. What has changed in the last 10 years? Is 100° C a scary number (Spoiler: It's not) for your system?

As well, Travis and Mark explain a number of terms, such as TJMax, which leads us to a comparison between older processors and more modern ones. And Mark brought some very interesting charts and diagrams! We discuss how a lot of the ways we still discuss cooling and thermals in the community is now outdated and based on decade old understandings.

So historically where you were used to seeing temperatures in the 50 to 70 range, maybe up to 80, legacy 5-10 years ago, back to Haswell pre-Haswell. Now you're going to see temperatures that hug much closer to TJMax. And that's on purpose. It is to maximize performance at runtime. So, temperature, TJ, means the junction temperature. It's literally the junction within the silicon itself.
-- Travis North
Comparison of a Pentium III core and Alderlake-S

And remember that 100° C question? Listen in as Mark explains why it's normal now for a system to peak up to the higher temperatures and what the reasoning for them is. There's lots of good information (and a decent amount of math!) here so make sure to give it a listen.

Travis and Mark also explain why when we often describe a system as "idle" that's very often not the case from the system's perspective. Your PC is often doing a lot more work than you think about in the background. Jon also gets called out for his 100 open Chrome tabs which is entirely not an "idle" state that you might think. There was a lot of things to cover on the topic of thermals, which is what you'd expect when you talk to thermal engineers!

Testing our Systems

How Alienware systems are tested

We also wanted to give an insight into some of the testing processes that your Alienware products go through that you may not have known about! There's a lot of technical specifications and tests that the systems need to go through before they get out in the wild! From freezing airplane travel, to the QWER (or WASD) keys being at different temperatures, Mark and Travis explain how they test it all.

About our guests:

Travis North is a Texas Registered Professional Engineer, and a Sr. Distinguished Engineer within Dell’s Technical Leadership Community. His responsibilities include strategy, research, product development, and performance optimization with a focus in high impact technologies for mobile and fixed compute products. He leads a talented technical team of engineers, technologists, and key partners focused on pushing the boundaries of cooling, power, acoustics, and performance technology. Travis graduated from the University of Missouri Columbia with a Master of Science in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering with a focus in heat transfer.

Mark Gallina holds a Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M University (2002) and a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from University of Idaho (1999). He joined Intel in 2002 with a focus on fluid dynamics and heat transfer as applied to system thermal designs. Over the course of Mark's career he has developed new thermal solutions for all Client system form factors ranging from passively cooled phones and tablets up to liquid cooled desktops. Mark's work has resulted in numerous shipping products and 9 granted US patents. He is currently the senior system thermal and mechanical technologist in Intel's Client Computing Group. His current focus area is on detailed CPU design and the transient temperature response of the CPU during high voltage and frequency operation.