There’s a revolution coming to the desktop and laptop computer space, although the average computer user will likely never notice. The most fundamental foundational aspect of computer hardware is about to change and it translates into the end of customized hardware configuration: No longer will you be able to mix and match CPUs and motherboards, as the next form factor will have both integrated into one. While you bid adieu to the prospect of keeping a single motherboard through a CPU upgrade or the ability to design a bespoke system to your precise needs, there are going to be some advantages in the soldered-CPU world.
BGA turns your PC into a single indivisible assembly
From the very dawn of the personal computer age, one of the most fundamental hardware tenets was that the entire system was a collection of individually sourced parts which were combined and assembled in specific ways to come up with a rig that would best suit the user’s requirements. A scientific or engineering user would opt for an eATX, XL-ATX, or HPTX motherboard with many slots to fit a number of proprietary expansion cards designed to capture data from a variety of external devices, while a basic consumer could opt for a micro-ATX with only a couple of slots or even choose an Intel Atom-based mini-ITX that had no slots at all. The different strokes for different folks paradigm is beginning to break down thanks to the advent of Ball Grid Array (BGA) mounts which solder the CPU onto the motherboard, essentially turning all of your computer’s primary circuitry into one indivisible assembly.
LGA will be a dinosaur
The next Intel CPU family after the upcoming Haswell will be named Broadwell, and it is with this microprocessor that BGA will make its impact in desktop and laptop computers everywhere. Intel has announced that they plan to continue to support the swappable CPU enthusiasts for the foreseeable future with other CPUs but at some point in the next few years, the current individually configurable LGA socket motherboards will be looked upon as dinosaur carryovers of the computer hobbyist era when circuitry was assembled from HeathKits and the most basic applications were hand coded by the user.
Just try upgrading your iPad4’s CPU
Living in the BGA age will mean that you’ll buy a computer, it will work as advertised from day one, and when you’re no longer happy with it and want to upgrade you’ll just try to flog it on eBay and buy a new one. This may be a revolutionary prospect to the traditional owner of the “feta cheese block” mid tower PC humming next to their monitor but is yesterday’s news to the entire generation of tablet owners who are accustomed to their devices being available only as a single unit. You can try to upgrade the CPU on your iPad4 and you’ll soon end up crying in frustration over your wrecked tablet.
The end of technofuddlement
The market dynamics of computer hardware will be transmogrified as well. Fully integrated systems will likely translate into far fewer offerings to the consumer and a stratification of pricing options. Intel currently offers a total of six families of processors between the powerhouse Core i7s (with 28 CPUs) and the low end Atoms (with 48). The possible combinations of mixing and matching these hundreds of processors with the motherboards manufactured by Intel and a plethora of third party companies end up being well into the trillions, thus it was pretty well inevitable that there would be a rationalization of the entire concept of user configurable personal computer systems. This policy will remove much of the daunting technofuddlement from computer innards and make PCs more easily understandable to the masses.
Just like shadetree mechanics were rendered extinct by the advent of fully integrated, computerized automobiles which require half a million dollars of support mechanisms in order to do absolutely anything at all to the engine, personal computer hobbyists are going to go the way of the dodo bird in the new integrated age. Depending on which side of the hobbyist fence you’re on that’s either great news or tragedy.