With Intel and AMD releasing more and more powerful CPUs nearly every year, new sockets are also introduced to accommodate these CPUs. But what exactly are CPU sockets, and how do they work? Read on to find out.
- A CPU socket (or CPU slot) is a mount that houses the CPU and allows the CPU to communicate with the motherboard. This communication takes place through metal pins.
- There are three types of CPU sockets: LGA, PGA, and BGA. In LGA sockets, the pins are on the motherboard; in PGA sockets, they are on the CPU. Conversely, in BGA sockets, the pins (solder balls) are placed on a chip carrier.
- Sockets are named LGA #, PGA #, and BGA #, with # referring to the number of pins, holes, or solder balls.
- As of 2023, both Intel (LGA 1700) and AMD AM5 (LGA 1718) use LGA sockets for their desktop CPUs and BGA sockets for their laptop CPUs.
What Are CPU Sockets?
A CPU socket, or a CPU slot, is a mount on computer motherboards that allows data and power transfer between the motherboard and CPU. CPU sockets allow easy installation of CPUs without soldering, allowing you to replace them easily. They also hold the CPU firmly in place.
CPU sockets are commonly found in desktop computers and servers. They take up more space than soldering, but again, allow easy installation and replacement.
How Do CPU Sockets Work?
A CPU socket contains pins or holes on which the CPU is placed and a retention bracket with a lever to lock the CPU in place.
The CPU is placed on the socket, and the retention bracket is then placed over the CPU, and the lever is locked in place, allowing contact between the CPU and the socket. More in the heading below as I explain the types of CPU sockets.
Types Of CPU Socket
There are three types of CPU sockets: LGA, PGA, and BGA. Here’s a breakdown of the differences between them.
|In this design, the pins are housed on the socket on the motherboard.
|In a PGA socket, the pins are on the CPU.
|In BGA sockets, the solder balls are placed on a chip carrier.
|Have been used in Intel CPUs since 2004 and (mainstream) AMD CPUs since 2022.
|They were used in AMD CPUs until 2022 and Intel CPUs until 2004.
|They are used in Intel and AMD laptop CPUs.
|Advantages are higher pin density and cheaper replacement in case of damage.
|Their advantages include easier repair and the ability to transfer more current.
|Their advantages include less heat conduction, better electricity conduction, and less space utilization.
|The main disadvantage is that it is difficult to repair due to fragile pins.
|Replacement is expensive since the pins are on the CPU, not the motherboard.
|Disadvantages are complicated installation and no option for replacement. Also, the solder balls lack flexibility.
In LGA (Land Grid Array) sockets, the metal pins are located on the socket on the motherboard. The CPU has flat electric contact pads that connect to these pins. Intel has been using LGA sockets since 2004, and AMD switched to LGA in 2022 with their AM5 platform. Furthermore, AMD’s enthusiast-level Threadripper lineup has used LGA sockets since its 2017 launch.
The primary advantage of LGA sockets is higher pin density and, consequently, more data and power delivery. Additionally, the pins are on the motherboard, which is cheaper than the CPU in most builds, so in case of pin damage, replacement is not as costly. These sockets have one con: the pins are thinner and fragile, so repair is difficult.
In PGA (Pin Grid Array) sockets, the pins are placed on the CPU, and the socket has holes with which the CPU aligns. Intel used PGA sockets up till 2004 and AMD (with the exception of Threadripper) all the way till 2022.
PGA pins are thicker, more rigid, and easier to repair. Additionally, due to this thickness, they can handle more current. The downside is that with the pins being on the CPU, pin damage can be costly.
Learn More: LGA Vs PGA Sockets
BGA (Ball Grid Array) sockets are named similarly to LGA and PGA ones because the contacts (solder balls) are arranged in a grid-like pattern. They are placed on a chip carrier. However, as you may have guessed, it involves soldering the CPU on the socket. Both Intel and AMD use BGA sockets for their laptop CPUs.
The advantages of BGA sockets include less heat conduction and better electricity conduction. Moreover, BGA sockets take up less space than LGA and PGA ones. Its disadvantages are difficult (and permanent) installation. In addition, BGA the solder balls used in BGA sockets are not very flexible.
CPU Socket Naming Hierarchy
LGA, PGA, and BGA sockets are named as LGA #, PGA #, and BGA #. The # refers to the number of pins (in case of LGA), contact points on the motherboard (in case of PGA), or solder balls (in case of BGA). So, for example, Intel’s LGA 1150 socket means the socket has 1150 pins, while AMD’s PGA 1331 socket means the motherboard has 1331 contact points. The number of pins typically increases with newer sockets as CPUs become more powerful and need more power and higher data transfer speeds.
Intel And AMD Sockets
So, as mentioned, both Intel and AMD are on the LGA socket platform as of 2023. Intel CPUs typically move to new sockets after every two generations (although the LGA 1151 socket lasted four generations). Meanwhile, AMD promises to support their latest AM5 (LGA1718) socket up to 2026. Here’s a list of the most recent mainstream sockets from both CPU manufacturing giants:
|Supported CPU Lineups
|AM5 (LGA 1718)
|Ryzen 7000-Ryzen 9000 Series (Expected)
|B650, B650E, X670, X670E
|AM4 (PGA 1331)
|Ryzen 1000-Ryzen 5000 Series
|AM3+ (PGA 942)
|970, 980G, 990X, 990FX
Normally, you can upgrade from a lower-end to a higher-end CPU as long as they’re on the same socket. Running newer CPUs on older-generation motherboards requires a BIOS update, though.
Frequently Asked Questions
Intel has been using the LGA (Land Grid Array) socket design since 2004. The most recent one is LGA 1700, which has 1700 pins.
A CPU socket or CPU slot is a physical connector that allows the CPU to communicate with the motherboard. It does so through metal pins.
The three types of CPU sockets are LGA, PGA, and BGA. In LGA sockets, the pins for power and data transfer are on the motherboard. In PGA sockets, these pins are on the CPU; in BGA sockets, the pins (solder balls) are placed on a chip carrier.
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Ali Rashid Khan is an avid gamer, hardware enthusiast, photographer, and devoted litterateur with a period of experience spanning more than 14 years. Sporting a specialization with regards to the latest tech in flagship phones, gaming laptops, and top-of-the-line PCs, Ali is known for consistently presenting the most detailed objective perspective on all types of gaming products, ranging from the Best Motherboards, CPU Coolers, RAM kits, GPUs, and PSUs amongst numerous other peripherals. When he’s not busy writing, you’ll find Ali meddling with mechanical keyboards, indulging in vehicular racing, or professionally competing worldwide with fellow mind-sport athletes in Scrabble at an international level. Currently speaking, Ali has completed his A-Level GCEs with plans to go into either Allopathic Medicine or Business Studies, or who knows, perhaps a full-time dedicated technological journalist.