What Is Thermal Design Power?

An explanation of TDP

Have you been reading a CPU or graphics card review and run across the term TDP? Do you wonder what exactly TDP is and how it affects performance?

Definition of TDP, or Thermal Design Power

TDP stands for Thermal Design Power. And while many computer users may think it equates to the maximum amount of power at which a component can run, that isn't the case. TDP is technically the max amount of power the cooling system needs to dissipate in order to keep the chip at or below its maximum temperature. For instance, a 244-watt TDP on a graphics card means the cooler can siphon out up to 244 watts of heat to keep the GPU in check. Typically the higher the TDP for a graphics card or CPU is the amount of power consumed by the part.

How Much TDP Do You Need?

This is a very important figure to have in mind if you are intending to use a third-party cooler with a CPU or GPU. You must have a cooler that is rated at or above the TDP of the part the cooler will be attached to. In addition, if you are planning on overclocking the part, you will need to have a cooler that is rated above the TDP of the part in order to properly cool it. Failure to have a properly rated TDP cooler can result in decreased lifespan of the graphics card or CPU in addition to thermal shutdowns when the parts are pushed too hard.