Why Do Intel Chips Not Have Pins?

If you haven’t built an Intel system in a while, you’ll be surprised when you get your hands on one because it won’t have pins. It’s not a damaged chip. It’s simply an architectural design that Intel uses for its chips. So, why do Intel chips don’t have pins anymore?

Intel’s Pinless Processors

Intel still uses gold pins for contacts, but they’re installed on the motherboard. If you look at the underside of the CPU, you’ll notice that it has flat gold-plated contacts.

The CPU uses these contacts to attach to the motherboard pins.

An Intel CPU without pins.

This architecture is called LGA (Land Grid Array). Intel started using LGA when they released the LGA 775 Prescott Pentium 4 CPU in 2004.

Since then, Intel has slowly updated its chips from gold pins to flat gold-plated contacts. Nowadays, if you’re looking for a motherboard, you’ll notice that they have different labels, like:

  • LGA 1156.
  • LGA 1155.
  • LGA 1150.
  • LGA 1366.
  • LGA 2011.

These numbers refer to the number of pins on the motherboard, which also dictates its compatibility with your CPU.

The more pins a motherboard has, the better its performance and power efficiency, especially for HEDTs (High-End Desktops).

Types of CPU Sockets

There are three different types of sockets for computers. However, only two will be relevant if you’re trying to build a desktop computer:

  • LGA (Land Grid Array).
  • PGA (Pin Grid Array).

The other socket type is called BGA (Ball Grid Array), but you can’t use it for DIY computers. Unlike LGA and PGA, BGA chips are soldered onto the motherboard.

It’s an integrated circuit that is commonly used for laptops. You can’t remove or replace BGAs when it goes bad, and you’ll have to replace both the CPU and motherboard to keep your device working.

What Is a PGA Socket

An AMD CPU with a PGA socket type.
PGA CPU

PGA or Pin Grid Array is the traditional socket for older Intel systems and consumer-grade AMD chips like the Phenom, Athlon, FX, and Ryzen Series.

The CPU for this socket has pins that go inside pinholes located on the motherboard. This is what the CPU uses to make contact with the motherboard.

Chips for PGA sockets are slightly more expensive to manufacture because the integrity of the pins relies on the CPU manufacturers.

For AMD, using PGA adds more direct cost to their manufacturing while allowing motherboard manufacturers to not worry about pin integrity, helping them lower costs.

Since PGA sockets use pins, they’re more backward compatible with older motherboards.

AMD even promises five years of support for older motherboards, making it a better choice for people who prefer to update their PCs one component at a time.

What Is an LGA Socket

An Intel CPU with an LGA socket type.
LGA CPU

LGA or Land Grid Array uses gold contacts instead of pins you’ll normally find in traditional chips.

Manufacturers use this architecture because it allows them to fit more pins into the CPU without significantly increasing size.

Intel uses LGA sockets for all their CPUs, giving their systems better efficiency and power delivery.

Using LGA is a better option when manufacturers need more contacts for higher power and better performance.

Even AMD use LGA sockets for their HEDT CPUs. These CPUs require so much power that they need thousands of pins for contacts.

This won’t be possible without making the chip too big and expensive if they use PGA sockets.

Advantages of Using LGA

Let’s talk about the advantages you can get from using LGA sockets and why you should consider using them for your next build.

Better CPU Durability

CPUs are the most durable component of a desktop computer.

In fact, it’s easy for CPUs to outlive every component of a computer, and it’ll still work fine even with your new build. The only problem with CPUs is the integrity of the pin connectors.

Bent pins are the most common problem for many PGA CPUs. Although rare, some CPUs are delivered with slightly bent pins that a user may not notice immediately.

These slightly bent pins won’t fit the pinholes on the motherboard perfectly, which may result in severely bent pins.

Although you can repair them, depending on the severity, improper installation and mishandling can still be costly mistakes for many people.

However, this doesn’t mean that bent pins don’t happen for LGA sockets. It’s easier for some people to accidentally drop their chips on the motherboard socket, which can severely damage some of the pins.

The only difference between the two is the cost of replacing these parts. It’ll be easier and cheaper to replace a motherboard than a CPU.

LGA CPUs are more durable because they remove the most common reason people unintentionally replace them.

If you’re trying to build a high-end computer where the CPU costs more than the motherboard, it would be best to use a CPU with an LGA socket.

Efficient Power Delivery

Since manufacturers can put more pins on an LGA socket, it creates an environment with a more efficient power delivery system.

It can even handle higher power delivery, enabling the computer to work faster and perform better under heavy loads.

The difference in power delivery for consumer-grade chips won’t be as noticeable. In fact, PGA chips may even outperform some LGA chips in terms of power delivery.

However, the difference between LGA and PGA sockets becomes more evident if you’re using higher-end CPUs that require more power.

Space Efficiency for Better Performance

LGA sockets use contact pads for connection, allowing the manufacturers to fit as many pins as possible without making the chips too big.

More contact points from the motherboard allow the CPU to have more buses, channels, and cores than its PGA counterparts.

Although this won’t have as much effect on consumer-grade CPUs, LGA sockets have more headroom for future upgrades.

In fact, AMD’s decision to use LGA for their high-end CPUs is a clear sign that they’re not leaving LGA off the table when it comes to their chips.

If you’re building a desktop computer now that you’ll only use for daily tasks, LGA sockets won’t have as much advantage over PGA.

However, if you’re planning to build a high-end desktop computer, it would be best to opt for LGA sockets because they provide you with better future-proofing and durability for your CPU.

Disadvantages of Using LGA

LGA sockets are not superior to PGA sockets, except for their space efficiency. There are also some disadvantages to using LGA, which may deter you from using it for your next build.

Let’s discuss the disadvantages of using an LGA socket for your desktop computer.

Motherboards Are Less Durable

If you decide to use an LGA socket for your computer, the motherboard manufacturer will play a significant role in ensuring that your CPU works well.

Since they’re responsible for the integrity of the connector pins, you need to be more careful when choosing the brand you’ll use for your build.

LGA motherboards are also slightly more expensive than PGA motherboards because the pins add to the manufacturers’ direct cost.

Although they’re cheaper and easier to replace than the CPU, bent pins on a motherboard can still be costly.

Using LGA and PGA depends on whether you want the CPU or motherboard to be more durable.

It only becomes less of an issue if you’re building for yourself and not planning to upgrade your computer for years.

This means you won’t have to remove and replace the CPU often, which carries many potential risks.

Installing Is a Bit More Complicated

PGA sockets use pinholes that keep the pins in place. So, you only need to wiggle the CPU a bit to determine whether you installed it properly.

LGA sockets only use contact pads, making it more difficult for an average user to check whether they have the right contacts in place.

Aside from this, you must ensure that the motherboard pins will touch the CPU contact pads for the connection.

This creates several complications and a few more things for an average user to consider, especially those without enough experience handling LGA sockets.

You can use the directional markers on the chip to determine whether you’re placing the CPU correctly.

However, you still need to take your time and be a lot more careful when installing LGA CPUs to avoid bent pins on the motherboard.

LGA Is Harder to Repair

One or two bent pins are repairable. You can easily use a blade or a precision tweezer to straighten them.

However, I personally find it easier to hold the CPU and get the right position when trying to straighten the pins compared to repairing the pins on a motherboard.

You can remove all the parts connected to the motherboard and then remove the motherboard from the case to give you enough space for repair.

However, the space you’ll have for it will still be very limited compared to working with a PGA CPU.

Backward Compatibility

LGA sockets rely on the number of pins for their performance. The more pins it has, the better the performance.

However, the advantage of LGA sockets regarding power delivery and performance becomes an issue if you’re trying to use an older motherboard for your build.

The motherboard needs to have the same number of pins to work on an LGA CPU, making it more challenging to upgrade without replacing the motherboard.

So if you’re planning to upgrade your CPU in the future, LGA might not be a good option.

It’ll also be harder to buy second-hand motherboards whenever you need an upgrade because their compatibility with other components will be limited.

That’s why many computer enthusiasts (those who change computer parts frequently) prefer to use PGA instead.

PGA sockets also present these compatibility issues, but its backward compatibility makes it easier for many people.

In fact, AMD promises backward compatibility for older motherboards for up to 5 years on their CPUs. So, people won’t have to worry about replacing multiple parts just to make their computers work.

Is LGA Better Than PGA?

LGA and PGA have their advantages and disadvantages, but they work the same in terms of performance, especially for consumer-grade CPUs.

Neither is superior to the other, and it only boils down to the preference of the person building the computer.

Power delivery and better performance wouldn’t have as much impact on an average user. So you only have to decide which parts of a computer you want to be more durable.

An LGA socket is better if you want your CPU to last longer.

If you’re using a high-end motherboard and want it to be more durable, using a PGA socket motherboard will give you better value.

Aside from that, using an LGA socket is better if you want to future-proof your system.

A PGA socket will be a better option if you want backward compatibility that makes upgrading or changing parts of your computer easier.