Intel’s Haswell lineup has three BGA-only chips

It looks like Intel’s BGA (ball grid array) socket is coming to market a little earlier this year and will feature in three desktop products in the Haswell family.

The Core i5-4570R, the i5-4670R and the Core i7-4770R will be the first of the high-end desktop processors to receive this treatment and they’re all designed to fit under a 65W TDP (thermal design power), which means that they’ll be drawing less power and producing much less heat than their socketed counterparts.

The R-series is a little neutered compared to their desktop siblings and does have less L3 cache, but they make up for it by using the Haswell HD5200 graphics engine, which is possibly the final name for Intel’s Haswell GT3 graphics core.

Capture

The 65W TDP is the most interesting part because that means we’ll see the R-series in both the desktop and NUC markets. NUC (Next Unit of Computing) is Intel’s name for a small mITX-sized computer that they’ve marketed and sold for the past few months. It requires processors that put out less heat, and so Intel put a mobile chip in the first-generation NUC to get everything right with their plans to exhaust heat from the small chassis.

Based on a Core i3 mobile processor with the HD4000 GPU, it offers just a few upgrade options, such as shoving in an mSATA SSD, a mini-PCI Wi-Fi card and up to 8GB DDR3 RAM using SO-DIMM memory modules. Intel’s aim with NUC is to compete against the very popular Apple Mac Mini, a small-form-factor desktop computer that’s about the same height as NUC but packs in a lot more hardware.

In the case of the R-series processors though, it’s anyone’s guess how these will be sold. Most likely Intel will continue to make use of their in-house motherboard assembly chain until they shut it down with the arrival of the Broadwell processor family in late 2014, slowly moving to putting all desktop processors in the BGA socket.

For those of you who don’t know, BGA sockets have been used in laptops for years and involve soldering the processor into the board using small ball joints underneath the board. Its not as costly as implementing an LGA (land grid array) socket like LGA1155 has, but it does mean that Intel no longer has to come up with reasons for a socket change. AMD has been using the PGA (pin grid array, shown below) socket for a while now, keeping the pins on the processor’s adapter but still allowing users to swap chips when they need to.

BGA setup

BGA cuts out the requirement for an adapter and a socket, fusing the chip directly to the board.

Intel still has a lot of little details left to flesh out, including how RMAs (return merchandise authorisation) will be handled if there’s a fault. For example, what if the board dies but the processor remains functional – do they swap out the whole thing and re-solder the processor into another board for resale to someone else? Would Intel even mention that it’s practically a refurbished unit? These are issues that Intel needs to address before the product launch.

The three processors are also slower than their socketed counterparts and do not allow for any overclocking. The HD5200 GPU may make up for that, but its unlikely to take away any desktop share from AMD’s APU family for now.

Pricing could be cheaper than the socketed options as well, given that you’re tied to the board and can’t upgrade to a faster processor on a whim. Intel is planning to release Haswell and its compatible motherboard products a week before the start of Computex 2013 in June, so we’ll know all the details by then.

Source: Tom’s Hardware

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Intel’s Haswell lineup has three BGA-only chips

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