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Asustek Computer believes that the mainboard industry will find a way to offer high-performance solutions for do-it-yourself (DIY) and enthusiast markets even if Intel adopts the strategy under which it will only sell processors in ball-grid array (BGA) packaging, which eliminates upgrade possibilities. However, Asus does not really believe that Intel would completely eliminate processor sockets.

Joe Hsieh, vice president of mainboards business at Asustek, said in an interview with Digitimes.com.tw web-site said that Intel would almost certainly offer processors in both BGA as well as LGA [land grid array] packages even after 2014 – 2015, when the world’s largest chipmaker is rumoured to start pushing BGA chips soldered to mainboards into the desktop segments. The high-ranking executive noted that interchangeable microprocessors still drive a lot of profit opportunities for Intel as well as its infrastructure partners, including mainboard makers.

Even in the worst case scenario – if Intel’s chips are only supplied in BGA types of packages – large makers of mainboards - such as Asus, Asrock, Gigabyte Technology, Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS) or MicroStar International (MSI) - will continue to offer solutions for the DIY market as end-users will still be able to change graphics cards, memory modules, hard drives, solid-state drives and so on.

Intel said earlier this month that despite of the recent rumours, it would continue to produce and sell interchangeable microprocessors in land grid array packaging and will not transit to soldered chips in ball grid array (BGA) only in the foreseeable future. At the same time, Intel did not comment on longer-term future, which may easily indicate that CPU sockets are going away in case of certain market segments.

It is obvious that Intel will continue developing server-class processors in LGA packaging, which automatically means that the company will continue to offer high-end desktop platforms with CPU sockets. In the meantime, at least in case of the low-end and/or low-power platforms, it makes sense to sell microprocessors with mainboards. For example, both Intel and its arch-rival AMD already sell low-cost/low-power Atom-series and Fusion E-series products in BGA package that are soldered directly to mainboards.

Recently it was reported that the code-named Haswell microprocessors may be the last mainstream desktop chips in LGA packaging, which enables easy switch of CPUs on mainboards. Starting from Broadwell chips, which are due in 2014, all mainstream desktop processors will be available in BGA packaging only, which means that they will have to be soldered to mainboards, something that can be done in relatively sophisticated manufacturing facilities.

The BGA MCMs [multi-chip modules] should provide advantages to makers of high-performance tablets, ultra-thin notebooks as well as all-in-one desktops as ball grid array packaging ensure small footprint. However, when it comes to fully-fledged desktops, BGA means that system makers will have to keep a large amount of different mainboards with various features and dissimilar microprocessors in order to provide the right choices for their clients. Such stockpiling increases business risks to smaller makers and decreases abilities to differentiate for mainboard makers.

Tags: ASUS, Intel, Broadwell, 14nm, Haswell, Core

Discussion

Comments currently: 35
Discussion started: 12/21/12 09:00:59 AM
Latest comment: 01/19/13 09:26:30 AM
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1. 
Well, there's always AMD, and there's always Opteron...I'm wondering whether it'll be more fun to build a 16 or 32 dual socket Interlagos on a G34 with quad channel ram, though 2x8 PCI-e 2.0 seems to be a more limiting bottleneck atm. There aren't any games that I know of needing that much ram (64GB+ non ECC) yet, but when PCI-e 3.0 comes out for AMD chipsets, I wouldn't mind using an Opteron board that supports it- the Quad channel and the many-core would have an advantage, but how much under HyperTransport 3.1? It would be future proofed for several years, limited only (well, among a few things now) by the lack of multi-threaded apps above 4 and 8 cores.
2 3 [Posted by: qubit  | Date: 12/21/12 09:00:59 AM]
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2. 
sell there is always BGA to Socket adapter...
3 5 [Posted by: allenpan  | Date: 12/21/12 10:08:08 AM]
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Indeed. (I don't understand the downvotes to the above post.) If there's market demand, and it also works in the interests of mobo makers, I suppose if needed they might just come up with their own socket standards and sell BGA-on-a-card CPUs.
0 2 [Posted by: sanity  | Date: 12/22/12 07:44:28 AM]
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Soldering a BGA chip is not an easy process. It would have to be done by professionals. It certainly wouldn't be as easy as the "Slocket" devices that were available when Intel was transitioning from Slot 1 to Socket 370.
1 0 [Posted by: Klinky  | Date: 12/24/12 12:53:24 PM]
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3. 
Wait 'til the first AMD CPUs that have been tweaked/designed by Jim Keller are released. Then we'll really see the return of AMD to the performance CPU market.
3 4 [Posted by: anubis44  | Date: 12/21/12 10:43:24 AM]
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4. 
I can easily see Intel getting rid of sockets for the mainstream products, and it's a good idea. It saves the vast majority of people buying them some money, although not a huge amount. Plus, it adds greater differentiation between their high-end and high mid-stream product.

For example, many people will buy the i7-3770K instead of the i7-3970x or other LGA-2011 processors. This isn't really what Intel wants, and making one upgradeable and the other not is a way to add some extra value to their enthusiast chips.

Right now, would you rather have an i7-3770K, or a i7-3820? Most would prefer the i7-3770K. If you couldn't remove the i7-3770K for an upgrade though, which would you choose? At least a few would go with the 3820 and the socket platform. So, it's smart for Intel.

Of course, AMD will no doubt keep using sockets, so for the $200 and less market you'll still have good choices. LGA 2011, or whatever replaces it, isn't so bad if you've got $300 or more, so it's not really that bad of thing for the consumer, although the $200 to $300 market is going to be impacted.

Even so, everyone else who just wants a computer and isn't going to upgrade it will get a small cost benefit, and that's worth it to Intel and the companies that sell the machines. I can't say I blame them.

3 4 [Posted by: TA152H  | Date: 12/21/12 01:46:45 PM]
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Intel's mainboards usually suck quite a bit.
6 1 [Posted by: caiokk  | Date: 12/21/12 06:17:37 PM]
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why exactly is that a good idea, except from intel point of view?

what happens with product everyone loved, like 2500k, which was mainstream yet offered much to middle range enthusiasts? or even cheaper, highly overclockable solutions from the past?

i agree that integrated solution may be good acceptable by mainstream, but it effectively kills 500-1000$ segment enthusiast market from existence (speaking of whole system prices) - no more cheap fun for tinkerers

say i want to tweak my system, yet i'm unwilling to pay 300+$ for CPU and add MB price to it in order to overclock it? it already happened to entry-level intel cpus (castrated as oxes, all of them), now it's happening to middle range too
2 3 [Posted by: snakefist  | Date: 12/22/12 02:09:28 AM]
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It's good overall. Sure, you're impacted negatively, but how many people saved say $5 because of this? Quite a few, really. People who want to tinker are a tiny, tiny minority, and we have to look outside at the bigger picture sometimes.

No offense, but Intel doesn't owe you or me anything. The world doesn't revolve around us. It does good for a lot of people, and sometimes we just have to accept what isn't good for us, is still good for most people.

You can still buy AMD at $200 a below, and they are very competitive with Intel processors in that price range.

So, yes, few will be impacted, but not fatally so. For that, the huge majority gets to save a little bit of money on each machine. Taking myself out of the equation, I'd say that's a good thing, overall. That's all I meant.
2 2 [Posted by: TA152H  | Date: 12/22/12 09:30:30 AM]
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hmmm, but i see this more as exploit than a saving. by removing element of customization in low and middle segment, people aren't gonna save money, they'll just have to put money into intel pockets, instead MB manufacturer (a lot of that already going to intel for chipset price) - removing element of choice

i don't think world revolves around me and my needs, but this affects whole low/middle consumer market also - so i still don't see it as a good idea, but rather as "an enforceable idea" which is good for intel and nobody else

what are true benefits behind it? if *some* models of every segment would come as BGA, and not all of them, i could see it as useful addition. if *all* models are going to become BGA by force (ok, 300$+ excluded), than it bothers me, and brings doubts about any real savings for consumers
3 3 [Posted by: snakefist  | Date: 12/22/12 10:18:53 AM]
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True, but If I wanted to go Intel, I'd prefer the i7 3930k, because it has six cores instead of 4 (I prefer more cores than same number of threads), and that's the least expensive one they have at $569, and AMD has a a 6-core FX 6300 for $139 and and eight core for $189. The 12 threads on the i7 39__ are nice though. There is a ok range of options with LGA 2011, such as the i7 3820, but it starts at $300, so it means there is less money to invest on a technology that supports a range of speeds for upgradeability, provided that there really are upgradeable processors that will be compatible, providing 2-4x better performance (14nm, etc) for the motherboard's lifetime. AMD, on the other hand, supports processors from entry to high-end processors all on one AM3+ socket (AM2/AM3 lasted a while). There's not necessarily a technological obstacle to providing general scalability, it's rather that Intel is creating a new type of binning, where there's manufacturing more incompatible chipsets to separate slow (Atom, Celeron) to fast (i7 EE) and profit more in the meantime. From an environmental PoV, it's a little wasteful. Simply physically disabling a chip's defective or "extra" cores and selling it for less isn't profitable enough, apparently.
2 2 [Posted by: qubit  | Date: 12/22/12 10:17:40 AM]
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though entry level for AMD, will have different definitions, considering there's now an FX platform and the FM1-2 split. While a dual core APU A4-5300 could be had for $65 on an FM2 mobo, "entry level" gaming today is better off with a quad core FX-4100 at $109 for a budget gaming build, where the CPU can be upgraded for a lot less (i.e Steamroller) when it starts to show its age. It's very likely that a future AM3+ CPU will perform better than an i7 3770k at 1/3rd of the price (as opposed to the FX8350, which is about 2/3rds the price at slightly less the speed). Haswell will release a 4000 series with much better performance, but Haswell won't be on LGA1155, it'll be on LGA 1050.
2 3 [Posted by: qubit  | Date: 12/22/12 10:43:16 AM]
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I don't know why those two guys thumbed you down
1 0 [Posted by: madooo12  | Date: 12/26/12 12:30:55 PM]
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5. 
Intel might even face anti-trust issues if they try to eliminate the independent mobo makers entirely.
3 3 [Posted by: beenthere  | Date: 12/22/12 02:22:56 PM]
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6. 
Intel wants to concentrate their profits further by monopolising the motherboard market, after they kill off the Taiwanese. This way they can squeeze more money out of the likes of top tier OEMs like Apple. It's almost predictable in tough and protracted economic conditions. By the way, the Taiwanese are also getting assaulted from the other end by Microsoft, who themselves are trying to concentrate their profits by designing and producing their own hardware.
4 3 [Posted by: linuxlowdown  | Date: 12/22/12 05:35:08 PM]
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7. 
This is bad not because of lack of upgrade possibility.
Now, a motherboard manufacturer has to support the price of the chipset. The final price it is including all the costs, like waste, like the estimated percent of units not sold. In the end, the buyer is paying all. If a manufacturer is not selling enough, he has to raise the price of what he is actually selling.

Now, under the umbrella "great integration" Intel wants to force the OEMs to support the cost of the entire SOC. This has a big potential to go wrong for the consumer, price wise.

This system makes sense in mobile market for 2 reasons. It's a requirement for improving power consumption and second the SOC it's cheap ! The price is somewhere between 5 and 20$. The mobile market is moving big volumes now. If something is not sold, isn't the end of the world. But this is not the case any longer in the desktop market. If something is left unsold, a big cost will go down with it. That for Intel is good. They are selling more chips anyway and the end costumer will have to support the cost of the entire operation.

But Intel is stupid and so is Microsoft. The ecosystem around x86 made this platform world wide accepted. Involving other companies was successful in the long run. Now that the market is slowing down they try to shut out the other participants and claim the entire pie for them self. That is greedy and stupid and will not pan out as intended in the end. The ones they shut out will have to find or develop alternatives. An entire ecosystem which worked for them will work against them.

This 2 companies had a lot of opportunities to keep the x86 riding in front of the new trends but they preferred to sell less and expensive instead of more and cheap. Now they try desperately to keep up their revenues and by doing so they impose more costs on whats already slowly becoming an unattractive ecosystem.
4 0 [Posted by: etre  | Date: 12/23/12 03:12:51 PM]
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8. 
People are making a lot of assumptions here. I don't think self built systems are going anywhere anytime soon. Even the guy from Asus doesn't seem to think so. Even if they do start going to all or mostly BGA CPU's it doesn't necessarily mean the end.

I think the mobo makers would simply start mounting the BGA chips onto some sort of a board. The other side of the board would have pins on it to plug into the motherboard. If it would make manufacturing any easier they could even make the board a little bit bigger so they could maybe spread the pins out a little bit wider than the diameter of the processor. There should be enough room on the motherboard since so many former motherboard components are now being integrated into the processor.


They could charge maybe an extra 20 dollars for their trouble, and they would probably even make money off of it. But if this happens I hope the different mobo makers come up with a universal standard, instead of them all using proprietary mounting systems. Heck if they're smart the top 4 or 5 motherboard company's could even chip in on development of a universal BGA socket adapter. Then they could maybe even license the tech and somebody else could start a business buying Intel BGA processors and mounting them onto these cards. So it could potentially start a totally new type of VAR business.

I don't mind having to pay a little bit more for this work around, as long as it's well under 50 dollars. Us DIY enthusiasts don't make up such a large market as we used to, but I still think we're big enough to be worth messing with. We are the type of people who will upgrade our systems even though we already have a very powerful computer. Just because we like to have the maximum power with the latest and greatest hardware. Just look at all of the enthusiast websites and enthusiast component websites. They wouldn't be there if there wasn't much of a market. I also think if Sony and Microsoft use X86 in their next gen consoles it will help advance PC gaming by giving us better ports.
0 0 [Posted by: actionjksn  | Date: 01/19/13 09:26:30 AM]
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