It is not easy to build the best gaming desktops these days due to severe component shortages. But strong demand and great profitability tend to make entrepreneurs creative. Companies from China found a new way to equip their PCs by re-using Intel’s Xeon CPUs, mobile BGA CPUs, and even decade-old AMD Opteron processors for new desktop PCs, reports HWcooling.net.
Server CPUs Get a New Life
Servers are decommissioned fairly often these days, so it is relatively easy to obtain CPUs from scrapyards, recycling centers or even eBay. This presents an opportunity for some PC makers whose clientele is not afraid of getting a desktop with an outdated processor.
There are a bunch of AMD Opterons based on the K10/Bulldozer/Piledriver microarchitectures in G34 packaging available from the said sources. So, select PC makers from China equip special desktop motherboards with a G34 socket to build new desktops. These motherboards are readily available from Aliexpress for $100 ~ $200.
AMD’s Opteron 6100 ‘Magny-Cours’ carries up to 12 K10 cores (which derive from the company’s K8 microarchitecture from 2003), whereas the Opteron 6200/6300 feature up to eight Bulldozer/Piledriver modules (which were advertised as 16-core CPUs). However, since their per-core and instruction-per-clock (IPC) performance are from 2010 ~ 2011, we have reasonable doubts that these parts can compete against today’s quad-core or six-core CPUs.
Apparently, there are also loads of Intel’s Xeon E5 processors (Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, Haswell, and Broadwell architectures) with up to 22 cores lying around, so some PC makers build desktop motherboards for these chips. Intel’s Xeon E5 parts have better per-core and IPC performance than their rivals from AMD, but these CPUs are still outdated, so it is hard to say how they stack up against modern desktop CPUs.
Mobile CPUs Inside Desktops
There is still a way to get a desktop with a relatively new processor that was originally intended for other form-factors. Some inventive companies have designed special adapters that allow the installation of Intel’s mobile BGA processors into regular motherboards featuring an LGA1151 socket.
Intel’s H-series laptop CPUs based on Comet Lake or Coffee Lake designs feature up to eight relatively new cores as well as a TDP of up to 45W. Using a special adapter, such chips can be installed into almost any LGA1151 platform, including those based on Intel’s 100/200-series chipsets that do not officially support CPUs with more than four cores. Furthermore, those processors can even be overclocked.
A particularly interesting thing to note is that such ‘BGA to LGA1151’ and ‘Modified laptop CPU to LGA1151’ processors are available not only in new desktop PCs sold in China, but they can be bought separately at AliExpress to upgrade existing machines. If you are lucky, you can even get a converted engineering sample of a Comet Lake-H CPU (desktop CMLs require an LGA1200 platform) to upgrade an LGA1151 machine from, say, 2017.
However, there is one major caveat with converted BGA-to-LGA1151 CPUs. They are compatible with select motherboards that are flashed with a modified BIOS, which poses obvious security and compatibility risks.
Re-using laptop and even server CPUs for desktops is something that has existed for ages. But with an insufficient supply of processors and other components, the practice seems to be gaining considerably more traction.
While recent Intel Core processors based on Coffee Lake or Comet Lake designs should offer decent performance, completely outdated AMD’s Opteron or Intel Xeon E5 CPUs from 2010 ~ 2016 may be too old to provide experience that one comes to expect from a modern gaming desktop with the best CPUs.