Could Intel kill off the removable CPU?

At some point, a self-confessed computer geek will have built a computer for themselves, or a friend. They’ll have invested much time and love selecting the right components including motherboard, CPU and memory, to fit their computing and budgetary needs.


An example of the BGA solution, with the Intel Atom CPU (bottom right) soldered to the board

But if Intel’s rumoured shift to a ball grid array (BGA), where the CPU is soldered directly to the motherboard, turns out to be fact, it will take some of the magic and mysticism out of building a computer. Not to mention alienating the enthusiast market, where CPU choice is a key factor in spending a premium on a CPU that can be pushed to the limit through overclocking and voltage mods.

Broadwell is the codename of the 14nm product that Intel is developing as the successor to the 22nm Haswell (which replaces the current 22nm Ivy Bridge tech). It’s these Broadwell chips that are rumoured to be soldered directly to the board, with southbridge functionality integrated into the chip. This will essentially turn the Broadwell chips into a System on Chip (SOC) solution.


The Core i7 using the LGA socket solution

Power and cost savings are being touted as possible reasons for the shift in direction. The Broadwell chips top out at 57 watts and Intel will still maintain profits while pushing the cost of the SOC onto the motherboard manufacturers. They have done this already by introducing the LGA socket with socket 775 CPU’s. It also means motherboard manufacturers may have to limit their catalogue of motherboards and will need to eat up the support costs if there is a problem with the CPU.

Intel and AMD both offer BGA solutions already with their Atom and E series chips, but these are generally seen as budget friendly solutions, where people are happy to sacrifice performance to keep a few bucks in their pockets.

The good news; Intel is not giving up on LGA just yet. With Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge both co-existing, Intel envisage Haswell and Broadwell sitting alongside each other, with Haswell being the preferred choice for enthusiast due to probably performance gains and swappable CPU. The product that will follow Broadwell is tipped to be offered in both BGA and LGA solutions as well.

But rest assured, Intel will be watching how Broadwell performs – from both cost and power perspectives. If they feel that it’s better for their profits to dump the LGA socket in favour of BGA, they will. And it’s this attitude that could benefit the struggling AMD, as they are prepared to offer swappable CPUs as long as people are buying them.

Source: PC Perspective | Images courtesy of iBASE and Tweaktown

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i build my own computers and have for 15 years.If i can't get a normal cpu then i will have to use the 2 computers and 2 laptops i have for a whole lot longer.I don't use Intel anyway,and i sure don't put it in customers computers

They would still have to make the other kind because of 3rd party motherboards. It is highly unlikely Intel is going to put motherbaord makers out of business with such a move. Plenty people still want customized PC's. I had a PC i had 10 years siimply because I could upgarde to 4 different processors. I started with dual Pentium III 450's and end at Pentium III 1.3's and there wree plenty in between.

This solution would be ok for intel made boards of for laptops and OEM desktop in certain categories like the consumer models. But many businesses still update the CPU only where possible.

How about a Cpu die on the motherboard.
Cpu ON Die On Motherboard, they could call it CONDOM, sounds better than SoC.

and it brings a new meaning to "Intel Inside" haha

clearly this is just a variant of broadwell meant for TABLETS and ULTRABOOKS where a removable cpu is a pointless thing to have for nearly everybody who buys it.

no doubt there will be versions of broadwell chips and skylake (it's successor) which will be LGA socket based.

If this will finally put the "useless" OEM's out of business I'm all for it. My number one complaint working with PC's have always been OEM's that have flooded the market with the ********* motherboards and components. It is these morons that have given PC's a bad rap, causing system to fail an to be unstable. As long as the quality and reliability is top notch then I don't mind giving up some control. And of course there's always AMD, so all is not lost.

deepfunkysoul said,
If this will finally put the "useless" OEM's out of business I'm all for it.

Well considering that ASUS makes better MoBos than Intel you worst nightmares could come true... Not to mention that to this day Intel doesn't understand how quiet cooling works (their CPU coolers are just a joke...)

MFH said,

Well considering that ASUS makes better MoBos than Intel you worst nightmares could come true... Not to mention that to this day Intel doesn't understand how quiet cooling works (their CPU coolers are just a joke...)

I guess you missed the "useless" OEM's part. Asus is not one of them. I would take an Intel board over Pc chips or ECS anyday.

deepfunkysoul said,

I guess you missed the "useless" OEM's part. Asus is not one of them. I would take an Intel board over Pc chips or ECS anyday.


What are useless OEMs for you? And why should they go away if CPUs are soldered? Lastly if they go away why should the useful not go away with them?

This is not the first time a non removable CPU board has been released.
~10 years ago when I used to build low budget systems, I used to use some ECS boards with non removable AMD Durons.

..so,, no Intel won't kill off the removable CPU by doing this

Intel already releases a new socket almost every year so upgrading your CPU hasn't made that much sense for a while. Not to mention these days you rarely run into a "I wish my CPU was faster" situation with any modern quad core Intel unless you use it for things like 3D rendering or scientific calculation where nothing is fast enough.

I wonder what will happen to other motherboard vendors though. Would I still be able to buy for example a Gigabyte motherboard with an Intel chip of my choosing soldered on it? Would certain motherboard features like FireWire or Thunderbolt or SLI also mean having to spend more on a motherboard with a higher spec CPU than I need, like having the best mobo features only combined with the fastest (and most expensive) CPUs?

You will definitely loose the choice we have today. It's simply not profitable for manufacturers to have MxN different models available...

if the soldered one is way less expensive, and easy to assemble a computer with it. and by that reach a broader range of audiences. so be it. i'm good with it

The problem when there really isn't any competition. Intel pretty much rules the roost now with their chips and thus can make up their own rules. I am an AMD fan and will continue to purchase their CPUs since the performance is fine for my needs, but even I know that they are outclassed on the high end by Intel. I had been toying with the idea of going Intel on my next upgrade, but if they lock out the enthusiast crowd, I know I'll be sticking with AMD in all of my future upgrades. Even if they aren't top of the line. At least I know they will still cater to the do-it-yourself geeks like myself.

NeoPogo said,
People hating progress again....

How is it that ever since 2006/7 taking away choice is perceived as "progress" by the masses?

MFH said,

How is it that ever since 2006/7 taking away choice is perceived as "progress" by the masses?

Can you back up your claim that unlimited choice is always the only path to progress?

Joshie said,

Can you back up your claim that unlimited choice is always the only path to progress?

Counter question: can you prove that limiting choice is progress?

MFH said,

Counter question: can you prove that limiting choice is progress?

Alas! You made the initial claim. By all rules of debate, the burden is yours. By dodging the request, you only cast doubt on your own assertion.

Sigh. Please stop spreading this rumour.

It's this simple - the chip after haswell will be a replacement for the Atom, which is uncompetitive in netbook / tablet / mobile market.

The second chip after Haswell will be LGA. They've even said that when Haswell is released, the existing LGA lineup will get a refresh with greater clock speeds.

All of this has come from some idiot using Google Translate on a Chinese / Korean / Japanase (I forget which) article, coupled with him apparently being a clot.

Wakers said,
Sigh. Please stop spreading this rumour.

It's this simple - the chip after haswell will be a replacement for the Atom, which is uncompetitive in netbook / tablet / mobile market.

The second chip after Haswell will be LGA. They've even said that when Haswell is released, the existing LGA lineup will get a refresh with greater clock speeds.


That just does not compute as the roadmap is clear: Sandy Bridge (Tock) -> Ivy Bridge (Tick) -> Haswell (Tock) -> Broadwell (Tick) -> Skylake (Tock) -> Skymont (Tick)

The Atom is not part of this design line! If this would be about the Atom successor, we wouldn't be talking about Haswell/Broadwell but about the Cedarview successor [Silvermont, ValleyView, Airmont]...

MFH said,

That just does not compute as the roadmap is clear: Sandy Bridge (Tock) -> Ivy Bridge (Tick) -> Haswell (Tock) -> Broadwell (Tick) -> Skylake (Tock) -> Skymont (Tick)

The Atom is not part of this design line! If this would be about the Atom successor, we wouldn't be talking about Haswell/Broadwell but about the Cedarview successor [Silvermont, ValleyView, Airmont]...

They've said for years that they want to do away with this cycle.

Wakers said,

They've said for years that they want to do away with this cycle.


For years? This cycle is just in place for about 5 years now (started with C2D) and they are following it ever since. Therefor I see NO indication that they will drop that cycle - especially as it has proven to be a really successful model...

Do you have any major source on how Intel is dropping Tick-Tock?

Wakers said,
Sigh. Please stop spreading this rumour.

It's this simple - the chip after haswell will be a replacement for the Atom, which is uncompetitive in netbook / tablet / mobile market.

The second chip after Haswell will be LGA. They've even said that when Haswell is released, the existing LGA lineup will get a refresh with greater clock speeds.

All of this has come from some idiot using Google Translate on a Chinese / Korean / Japanase (I forget which) article, coupled with him apparently being a clot.


This info was from semiaccurate, wasn't it?

IF they still manage to offer the same broad range of CPU choices while having them integrated...I can see that being ok.

While i don't call myself an enthusiast, i am definitely a gamer. I used to be CPU-focused however now I don't really "care" much about them - its all GPU and SSD. (I can easily keep the same CPU for years)

why do we keep spreading this rumor that is just flat out wrong, look up some information on the chips, you will find out these are portable / embedded lines which have almost always been BGA.... we are making sometihng out of nothing

The last chip like this I had was a Cyrix 386 with a turbo button on the front of the case.... one question.... WHY? Seems to me to be 2 steps forward and one step back. Back to the 1990's

OEM and 'regular' mid to low end segment will probably see this the most (but not exclusively). I suspect the high-end and enthusiast segments will remain unaffected (though surely a few BGA solutions will be offered here).

epple said,
OEM and 'regular' mid to low end segment will probably see this the most (but not exclusively). I suspect the high-end and enthusiast segments will remain unaffected (though surely a few BGA solutions will be offered here).

For the near term, yes. But in the long term, we're going to have pin density problems on sockets making this impractical.

Mordkanin said,

For the near term, yes. But in the long term, we're going to have pin density problems on sockets making this impractical.


I remember times when they said that x86 is impractical and has to be replaced by a more modern instruction set. We all know how that worked out...

MFH said,

I remember times when they said that x86 is impractical and has to be replaced by a more modern instruction set. We all know how that worked out...

x86 remains a hammer being used to fasten a screw.

We are already fast approaching insane pin count requirements with some of the latest processors, though. LGA2011 has a pin density of 1mm hex. That's terrible compared to a 0.3mm BGA. And it's only going to get worse. The sockets can't really shrink in pin density any more.

Mordkanin said,

x86 remains a hammer being used to fasten a screw.


1. The instruction set ain't got nothing to do with pin density...
2. Unless someone come up with a better instruction set - the industry until now has failed to do so - x86 is here to stay...

"Not to mention alienating the enthusiast market, where CPU choice is a key factor in spending a premium on a CPU that can be pushed to the limit through overclocking and voltage mods."

of course the modding/overclocking community has its marketing values but i'm fairly confident that this is the only thing signicifant about this section of the market; as the trend shifts towards ultrabooks, tablets whatever... mobile computers performance and overclocking begins to lose it's greater appeal

i'm not saying intel should take this step, neither that enthusiasts and HC gamers and overclockers don't deserve the love... but when reading a tech forum you get the false image of significance in this category i think

however, even if intel leaves the pc building geek behind there's always amd

Dushmany said,
Well, this might refloat AMD

Except Intel will outclass them in all other sections (read: performance) and people will keep buying Intel.

Crimson Rain said,

Except Intel will outclass them in all other sections (read: performance) and people will keep buying Intel.

Fair point, but looking at the performance versus cost, for processor chips, AMD isn't dead and buried yet, A couple of weeks ago I was going to buy the Bulldozer purely because I found one on ebay, brand new, dirt cheap, when I asked, I was told to wait because of the Newer piledriver, and steamroller cpu's coming, (so I'm going to wait) and although I whole heartedly agree with what you said, the difference in price point in the UK and real time use, unless you're a keen enthusiast isn't heaven and earth, (though I do admit there IS a difference, performance wise)

Crimson Rain said,

Except Intel will outclass them in all other sections (read: performance) and people will keep buying Intel.

Yeah, I love the idea that if a board goes bad, or a sata socket quits working, I get to trash the cpu also and buy another cpu/board combo. Why dont they also go ahead and solder some ram onto the board along with an ssd, that way people have no choice in building a pc. If this happens, all ill buy will be AMD.

Dushmany said,

Fair point, but looking at the performance versus cost, for processor chips, AMD isn't dead and buried yet, A couple of weeks ago I was going to buy the Bulldozer purely because I found one on ebay, brand new, dirt cheap, when I asked, I was told to wait because of the Newer piledriver, and steamroller cpu's coming, (so I'm going to wait) and although I whole heartedly agree with what you said, the difference in price point in the UK and real time use, unless you're a keen enthusiast isn't heaven and earth, (though I do admit there IS a difference, performance wise)

Just so you know. You can get the FX-8350 piledriver core now for about £150. its release hasn't been that advertised. :\

Fl3x1bl3 said,

Yeah, I love the idea that if a board goes bad, or a sata socket quits working, I get to trash the cpu also and buy another cpu/board combo. Why dont they also go ahead and solder some ram onto the board along with an ssd, that way people have no choice in building a pc. If this happens, all ill buy will be AMD.


Go ahead. Nobody cares.

Most sales are now on laptops/smartphones/tablets. Don't really see you replacing things in those when one part goes bad. Warranty. Ever heard of it?

Crimson Rain said,

Go ahead. Nobody cares.

Most sales are now on laptops/smartphones/tablets. Don't really see you replacing things in those when one part goes bad. Warranty. Ever heard of it?


So your PCs are replaced after the warranty runs out? My last desktop was in use for more than 5 years and my current won't be used for a shorter amount of time...

MFH said,

So your PCs are replaced after the warranty runs out? My last desktop was in use for more than 5 years and my current won't be used for a shorter amount of time...

Pretty sure motherboard+processor != desktop.

Fl3x1bl3 said,

Yeah, I love the idea that if a board goes bad, or a sata socket quits working, I get to trash the cpu also and buy another cpu/board combo. Why dont they also go ahead and solder some ram onto the board along with an ssd, that way people have no choice in building a pc. If this happens, all ill buy will be AMD.

Unfortunately there are laptops like that already. Dell's stupid Adamo. Its like the black version of the mac book pro. Thin, sleek, high class looking. Downside? Repairs. I had to replace the frame of it for my job (work for dell) for a customer, and wow...what a horrible task. But my post is about the fact that after taking it apart and seeing the motherboard...what a gimmic.....EVERYTHING was straight soldered to the board O_o....like the ram AND the cpu O_o

So, if you ever wanted to upgrade (which it DID need more ram as it was slow, but impossible to add/change), replace minor parts or failing parts, you cant. And out of warranty? Yup, need to spend another $2000 just because you cant replace that BAD CPU...STUPID IDEA!!! Hope intel goes belly up if they do this...its a fools idea.

theslam08 said,

EVERYTHING was straight soldered to the board O_o....like the ram AND the cpu O_o

So, if you ever wanted to upgrade (which it DID need more ram as it was slow, but impossible to add/change), replace minor parts or failing parts, you cant. And out of warranty? Yup, need to spend another $2000 just because you cant replace that BAD CPU...STUPID IDEA!!! Hope intel goes belly up if they do this...its a fools idea.


Fortunately they didn't do that to my AW M15x and I can replace everything from CPU to GPU to Bluetooth adaptor.
Guess you DO get what you pay for isn't it?

Crimson Rain said,

Go ahead. Nobody cares.

Most sales are now on laptops/smartphones/tablets. Don't really see you replacing things in those when one part goes bad. Warranty. Ever heard of it?

2 years at most, ever heard of it? Apple has 1 year without applecare, ever heard of it? No one cares about your snide comments either, boy.