A CPU socket is the arrangement of pins that serve as the interface between the processor and motherboard in a computer. Therefore, it is a crucial component in the entire CPU hardware setup and something you should consider before picking your next motherboard.
How can a CPU socket determine your desktop experience? Below, we’ll take a deeper dive into why CPU sockets matter and which ones you should be on the lookout for when building your PC.
What is a CPU Socket?
CPU sockets are a series of pins that connect the CPU’s chipsets directly to the computer’s motherboard. Modern hardware with CPU sockets allows quick CPU chip replacements because the sockets connect directly to the board.
Typically, you’d find more CPU sockets in desktop PCs due to their larger footprint. However, they are often also present in modern modular laptops currently on the market.
Furthermore, while the CPU socket allows you to interchange between chipsets, the sockets aren’t replaceable themselves. So it is important to ensure that the motherboard and CPU which you are looking to add to your build are both compatible and have the same socket. The sockets are also delicate and require careful handling at all times, as a single bent pin could render the entire setup useless.
Importance of CPU Sockets
You might think that CPU sockets only allow the chipsets to work properly with the motherboard. However, they also determine how quick and power-efficient your entire setup will be over time thanks to their role in keeping your entire PC Build working well together.
Beyond that, they are also specific to CPU models and brands. For example, the sockets may only support Intel chipsets and wouldn’t work if you tried an AMD CPU. Also, CPU sockets meant for HEDT (High-end Desktops) wouldn’t work for mainstream CPUs, and vice versa.
Therefore, it’s essential to check the CPU sockets on your motherboard before picking the right chipset, and right motherboard, for it. This is why following OvrClock’s motherboard buying guides can be a great resource for building the perfect setup for you, as you don’t have to worry about compatibility (we do all the hard work for you!).
CPU Socket Types
Below is a chart showing some common CPU socket types and the chipsets they support:
|CPU Brand||CPU Socket Name||CPU||Compatible Chipsets||Target Market|
|Intel||LGA 2066||10th Gen Core||X299||High-end Desktops|
|Intel||LGA 1200||11th Gen Core, 10th Gen Core||Z490, H470, B460, H410||Mainstream Desktops|
|Intel||LGA 1151||9th Gen Core, 8th Gen Core||Z390, Z370, Z370, Q370, H370, B365, B360, H310||Mainstream Desktops|
|AMD||sTRX4||Ryzen Threadripper 3000||TRX40||High-end Desktops|
|AMD||TR4||Ryzen Threadripper 2000 and 1000||X399||High-end Desktops|
|AMD||AM4||Ryzen 5000, 3000, 2000 and 1000||X570, X470, X370, B550, B450, B350, B450, A320, X300, A300||Mainstream Desktops|
As the table above shows, certain CPU sockets only support specific processing chipsets and CPU models. This information is particularly handy when building your PC, so you know which chipsets you can work with. It also helps to seek further instructions and guides in the CPU manufacturers’ compatibility tools when buying their products to ensure your CPU and motherboard are compatible (generally a matching socket between the motherboard and CPU is enough, but there are exceptions to this rule).
As you can observe in the table above, land grid array (LGA) socket types are used for Intel CPUs, while pin grid array (PGA) socket types are used for AMD processors. While there are exceptions to this rule, this rule tends to hold more often than not. The main difference between these types of sockets is where the pins are located. For PGA sockets, the pins are on the CPU, while for LGA sockets, the pins are on the motherboard — making them completely incompatible with one another. See the picture above for an AMD CPU Socket, and the picture below has an Intel CPU Socket.
While different CPU sockets are extremely frustrating for consumers, they often are made by two competing companies (Intel & AMD) that seldom collaborate with each other. Wishes for a universal CPU socket are likely not going to see fruition anytime in the near future, barring some kind of regulations in the EU or US.
The modular nature of the CPU socket makes it easy for customers to upgrade their CPU without needing to buy a new motherboard. This makes integrated CPU and motherboard units, as in a ball grid array (BGA), very expensive and environmentally-unfriendly. While having an integrated CPU and motherboard may seem easier for beginners, it can be more expensive, and harder to fit into smaller PC cases for many builds.
AMD and Intel are constantly walking a fine line when it comes to introducing new CPU sockets with their new processors, as they want to encourage users with existing motherboards to upgrade to the new processor, but, they also want to constantly innovate and increase the functionality and features of the socket by creating new sockets. Creating a new socket may encourage some users to upgrade their CPU and motherboard which would be ideal for them, but it may also force other users to stick to their old build by not allowing them to upgrade to new CPUs which use a new socket that is incompatible with their motherboard.
Choosing the right motherboard and CPU doesn’t always have to focus on speed and efficiency. It’s essential to pay attention to other technical details during the setup. Motherboard CPU sockets are essential when determining which new motherboard processor to buy, as buying a motherboard with a socket that doesn’t fit your needs could limit future CPU upgrade options.
We’ve given a handy explanation of CPU sockets and their specifications for different brands and models. The table detailed above should also allow you to shop for CPU motherboards with more knowledge, as will the product guides in OvrClock’s motherboard section.
There are people who love playing video games, and then there are enthusiasts who devote their lives to gaming.
Corey has been playing games since The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy III were still young.
Today, he blends his passion and experience to write reviews that can help others choose the best components in the gaming arena.