Thermal specification is defined as: "The thermal specification shown is the maximum case temperature at the maximum Thermal Design Power (TDP) value for that processor... For processors without integrated heat spreaders such as mobile processors, the thermal specification is referred to as the junction temperature (Tj)."
Catastrophic processor temperature is when the temperature has reached a level where potential irreversible damage might occur to the processor's silicon die, and that the THERMTRIP# signal should be activated to cut off Vcc supply "within 500ms to prevent silicon damage due to thermal runaway of the processor".
Simply put: as long as the processor stays below the thermal specificaion value, the built-in protection logic won't kick in and you won't get throttled back in speed. And as long as the catastrophic processor temperature is not reached there won't be any damage to the silicon die.
Also, almost all semi-conductor devices these days (i.e. CPUs) have an intended design life of at least 10 years, therefore, as long as it is below the quoted thermal specification value (100°C/212°F in the case of the Core Duo/Core 2 Duo), it will last that long.
Remember, most mobile processors these days are designed to run/handle higher operating temperatures, to rely on passive cooling for as long as possible without the fan kicking in to make for a quieter running system (which is desired in a notebook computer). People sometimes starts to panic when their mobile processor hits 80°C+/176°F+ running temperature, but to be honest, there is nothing to worry about. Plus Intel has for years implemented an excellent self-protection circuit which will immediately throttle the clockspeed to manage thermal dissipation levels before any long-term damage is dealt to the CPU core.
I'll only start to worry when the CPU is shooting up to past 85°C/185°F for prolonged periods, which usually means the heatsink or fan isn't doing its job.
F.Y.I., on my M1210 with the T7200, I get idle temperatures of around 45°C-55°C (113°F-131°F), and the fan only kicks in (at low speed) when it reaches 65°C (149°F). Under constant heavy loading it'll go as high as 80°C (176°F) on passive cooling before the fan kicks in and brings it back down to around 70°C-75°C (158°F-167°F).
Last edited by Angrymob; 9th November 2006 at 09:30 PM.