As personal computers become smaller, their flexibility is decreasing. According to a media report starting from code-named Broadwell generation of processors, Intel will only offer mainstream desktop chips in BGA packaging, which will eliminate upgrade options as well as increase risks for PC makers.
Both Intel and Advanced Micro Devices supply two different desktop platforms these days, making a very clear difference between mainstream and high-end desktop. Still, mainstream PCs with simplistic processors may easily be upgraded with very fast processors thanks to the fact that the chips are interchangeable and come in the same LGA1155 form-factor. Unfortunately, the ease of upgrade may come to an end in two years as starting from Broadwell generation of central processing units (CPUs) mainstream chips will cease to use land grid array (LGA) and micro pin grid array (µPGA) packages and will only be available in in ball grid array (BGA) form-factors, just like Intel Atom processors.
According to Japanese PC Watch web-site, code-named Haswell microprocessors may be the last desktop chips in LGA packaging, which enabled 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, which means that they will have to be soldered to mainboards, something that can be done in relatively sophisticated manufacturing facilities.
Due to the market trends towards low-power microprocessors, Intel will offer various Broadwell multi-chip modules – which will contain Broadwell CPUs with integrated memory controller, graphics core, etc. and Wildcat Point input/output controllers – with various thermal design power envelopes, e.g., 10W, 15W and 47W/57W, according to the report.
The BGA MCMs 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.
While mainstream chips will reportedly be only supplied in BGA form-factors soldered to mainboards, which eliminates upgrade possibility, it is likely that high-end desktop (HEDT) platforms will still be supplied in LGA packaging. What remains to be seen is how expensive will such chips be. For example, at present the most affordable LGA2011 HEDT chip costs $294, whereas the most expensive performance-mainstream LGA1155 processor costs $332. In case upgradeable platforms remain on the HEDT’s price levels of today, that will essentially mean the end of upgrades of the mainstream PCs.