AMD 'committed' to CPU upgrade path

AMD 'committed' to CPU upgrade path

Summary: AMD makes it clear that it is committed to socketed CPUs and APUs and has no plans to move to BGA only 'soldered' CPU packaging.

TOPICS: Processors, Hardware, PCs

While reports suggest that Intel could be preparing to put a stake in the heart of user-upgradeable CPUs, AMD remains committed to socketed processors.

In an email to ZDNet, an AMD spokesperson said that the company has "a long history of supporting the do-it-yourself and enthusiast desktop market with socketed CPUs and APUs that are compatible with a wide range of motherboard products from our partners," and that this will continue through 2013 and 2014 with the "Kaveri" APU and FX CPU lines.

"We have no plans at this time to move to BGA [ball-grid array] only packaging and look forward to continuing to support this critical segment of the market," the spokesperson said.

AMD was also keen to point out that as the company that introduced new types of BGA packages in ultrathin platforms several years ago, and today offers a wide range of BGA-packaged processors for devices such as ultrathin notebooks and all-in-one desktops, the company understood "Intel’s enthusiasm for the approach."

See alsoIntel 'preparing' to put an end to user-replaceable CPUs

However, for the desktop market, and specifically PC enthusiasts, AMD stresses that it understands what is important to its customers and will "continue to bring better value and a better experience."

Traditionally, the processors in desktop systems are fitted into a socket on the motherboard that allows them to be removed and replaced, while systems such as notebooks and tablets have the CPU soldered onto the motherboard.

The rumor that Intel was planning a switch from land-grid array (LGA) to BGA has been circulating for months, but last month Japanese tech site PC Watch was the first to break the news that Intel has informed OEMs of the change.

At present, Intel uses the LGA package design, which allows the processor to either be fitted into a socket or soldered directly to a motherboard. This gives the OEM down the line options as to how to mount the processor onto the motherboard.

A switch to BGA would mean that the processor could no longer be fitted into socket where it could be removed or replaced, and instead would be soldered to the motherboard much like processors for notebooks and tablets are nowadays.

The repercussions of a move like this would be felt far and wide. While not many people bother to upgrade their PCs, instead choosing to buy a new one, the market is large enough to support countless manufacturers and vendors. A move like this by Intel would be the final nail in the coffin for this industry, taking down a number of players. This, unfortunately, would have a corresponding knock-on effect on jobs.

Modularity made the desktop PC, and removing this key feature will bring this to a close. 

Topics: Processors, Hardware, PCs

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  • I'm glad AMD has seen common sense

    Intel has failed to realize that many businesses and institutions require the option of component replacement for systems. Many thousands of data-centers, the world 'round, are far more likely to want autonomy over the expedience of a BGA, throw-away, type board scenario.

    The line being touted by Intel is one of trying to shaft more $ from already squeezed businesses and institutions. There is simply no way that Intel's proposal makes business, economic or practical sense. It's plain, out 'n out, money grabbing on their part. Don't even get me started on the environmental repercussions: when a whole Intel board is consigned to the landfill, when under the old paradigm, a chip swap would've sufficed.

    More power (and Kudos) to AMD for having the wisdom and foresight to err on the side of economic and logistical sense.
    • ditto!

      ditto! main reason i'm useing a new amd 8 core powered desktop right now!
  • Props to AMD

    its imperative that consumers are offered a choice and AMD are not following Intel. I think they will carve a niche in the enthusiast market. However looking back over the last 10 years I upgraded my CPU only once, and that was when going from a single to dual core processor. Other times I've always upgraded my MB together with the CPU. I've hardly come across a business that goes around upgrading CPU's on their workstations. Intel's approach makes sense if it means more compact, cooler and quieter PC's. The prices should also be lower to buy a MB with integrated CPU.
    • More emotion than fact

      I too have been building my own (modest) systems for over 20 years and it's only a time or two that I've not rebuilt the whole thing and just got a new processor. Most of the time I have bought cpu/motherboard combo deals (thanks Fry's!).

      But it's funny how my instinct was to demand the replaceable processor, even though I never do it. Though, I do do it with old systems on occasion, take a good processor out of a bad board and move it, etc.
  • Good move

    AMD may be relatively small, but stupid they are not. Kudos to AMD!
  • More About Choice than Upgrade Path

    For the most part, the articles I have read about this issue seem to only address the question of how upgradeable processors will be, and question how much processor upgrading goes on in the first place. They use this idea to question whether or not anything is really lost by going to non-socketed CPUs.

    However, I think that the bigger issue with non-socketed CPUs is limitation of choice. Right now, with socketed CPUs, a buyer can pick out a motherboard with a certain socket and then choose whichever processor that fits that socket that he wants. He can mix and match motherboard/CPU combinations at will. If CPUs suddenly have to be soldered to the motherboard, it can't help but significantly reduce the choices a system builder will have. This applies not only to people who build their own machines, like myself, but also to small custom OEM builders.
    • It's not all about the upgrades

      What if a Motherboard fails but the CPU is still good? What about the system builders that may in fact upgrade a CPU if one will fit in the same socket? This would limit choice and possibly raise costs and cause supply issues if you have to get a board and CPU packaged together.
    • Too many SKUs

      I agree- while I don't plan to upgrade my CPU, when building a system I pick the MB, then the CPU. I cannot expect Newegg (et. al.) to stock anywhere near the choice I have now with socketed CPUs.
  • So if Intel does go to BGA what does that mean for system builders?

    Can people still assemble their own computers and choose their motherboard and processor separately or will this force board makers to pre-solder a processor to the board and selling them as a package?
    • Only if you stick with Intel CPUs

      As AMD is apparently saying they'll have socketed options available.

      Which is more than fine with me. So far, the only time I've purchased any Intel-equipped PC was my wife's laptop earlier this year. Every other PC either came pre-installed with an AMD chip, or I built it myself with AMD chips specifically in mind. Heck, even our first PC not only came with AMD's K6 (300 MHz), but I later was able to upgrade to the K6-2 (500 MHz). Having that lower-cost alternative that provided similar performance helped save me a lot of money, and is just one reason why I'm still pretty brand-loyal when it comes to AMD vs. Intel.
      • I am the same

        All my personal builds have been AMD since the AMD K6 series of Processors and for the most part when I build for family, friends or customers I usually opt the AMD route too as for most people they offer a better performance to dollar ratio.

        I think that if Intel does go this route it will end up causing many upset customers in both vendors and in end users/system builders as this would limit choice and flexibility.
  • Intel already limited processor swaps having a plethora of incompatible sockets. This is what made me choose AMD. I use my home PC for work and a couple of years ago, a major failure forced me to get a new PC before I planned to, at a time when I was short of money. Self-built PCs are MUCH cheaper here than industrialized ones, and I wanted to build a modest PC initally just for the emergency, but I also wanted to be able to upgrade it to a more powerful configuration later. That would have been impossible with Intel without replacing everything again. By contrast, all AMD processors used the same AM3 socket at the time (and many AM3 mobos, including mine, accept the newer AM3+ after a BIOS update as well) and this was exactly what I needed. (And I did upgrade it painlessly later, from an Athlon II X2 245 to a Phenom II X6 1090T, later also with other additions such as more RAM, SSD, etc., at a fraction of the cost I would have to pay for an Intel upgrade.)

    As for performance, benchmarks may show Intel's Ivy Bridges well ahead, but the truth is, nearly all modern processor speeds are far beyond the point where it makes any real noticeable difference for 99% of users and programs, and I doubt that I would have any real advantage in my daily use. My Thuban is never slow for anything I need or use (including heavy software like VMware or Adobe CS6), I'm still very happy with it, and it should be no surprise that AMD still has lots of fans out there.
    • Funny post...

      Intel: Sandy Bridge -> Ivy Bridge = Socket 1155
      AMD: LLano A series -> Trinity A series = Socket FM1 -> Socket FM2
      Who's playing with sockets ?
  • Good news

    YES! I like sockets. Soldering in a CPU would be less than great. In fact much much less than great. This means that AMD will have a leg up on "enthusiast" sales and anyone actually working on the boxes. Soldered in chips mean total replacement resoldered MB and ball grid blows big time.
  • Remember Slot 1?

    How long did that last?
  • Intel will be handing AMD a gifthorse.

    And perhaps now would be a great time to buy stock in AMD. By removing the choice from the end user, Intel will be shooting itself in the foot.
    Can you imagine how many variants of the same motherboards will be available if they have to be fitted with intel cpu's? Will this force a smaller choice of cpu / motherboard ranges?
    • anything's possible

      but Intel seem h3ll bent on making only a few options possible.

      "...Will this force a smaller choice of cpu / motherboard ranges?

      If Intel go ahead with this hair-brained idea, i don't see any other logical result for consumers than that.
  • This could save AMD

    I'm getting ready to build my own PC again and I do upgrade CPUs on my systems to extend their life. I was considering Intel for the first time in in over 15 years for a new build until I read about the rumors of their plan to surface mount CPUs and limit choice for custom system builders and hobbyists like myself. I doubt that Intel plans to use a BGA for their server chips, but new Xeon CPUs are too expensive for my purposes already. This announcement from AMD is timely for me.

    AMD CPUs/APUs are fast enough for most applications already. What speed advantage I'm giving up with AMD is not that important for most of my purposes. That's particularly been true when considering cost/performance ratios

    AMD could entirely dominate the enthusiast and gamer niches in the near future by holding onto the socketed PGA architecture. If Valve finally finishes its port of the Steam game platform to Linux, gamers may be free of the Microsoft tax as well when building or upgrading systems with the intention of dominating opponents in MMPORGs.
    • what seems completely baffling

      is that Intel, as most everyone is well aware, are leading the processor performance stakes versus AMD - and have had for a few years now. To move in this direction seems almost like giving all that up and therefore handing the industry momentum - and market edge - almost entirely back to AMD.

      There ain't any complaints from from me though: as i've always bought and used AMD processors / mo'bo's

      Interesting times lie ahead.
  • I'll bet you money that intel has found a way...

    to increase performance with the soldered on chips, probably a 5% - 8% performance increase, not to mention a possible 10% - 15% price drop to the consumer (or more). that should be enough to make Intel sales of the new soldered on chips fly out the door. in order to help keep manufacturing costs low, I would also guess they will release a low end (lower Ghz for the chips failing to meet testing levels for the higher Ghz rating) and a high end (higher Ghz, same chips, but these will be the ones that pass all testing) CPU for each new generation instead of their current offerings, this will save them a boat load of only having one manufacturing line setup per family instead of several.

    I also expect to see other benefits of the soldered chips, like reduced number of external chips to support the CPU as they will al be made internal to the single soldered on chipset, and 10nm or smaller manufacturing processes which also may require the soldered on method for one reason or another.

    In the end I doubt much will change, a few people will drift to AMD and a few people will drift to Intel, just like it has everytime a new family is released by either vendor. You can guarantee whether or not consumers like them, Intel spent a LOT of cash determining the functionality of the new chip configuration as for how it affects their bottom line.