The CPU and motherboard are the main components of your computer. Without them, other important components like your RAM and GPU will not work.
However, you can’t hook up any CPU with any motherboard; Both should be compatible with each other. If you pair a chipset with an incompatible motherboard, you’ve potentially wasted a lot of money.
The two main competitors in the market are Intel and AMD. You can’t install an AMD CPU on an Intel motherboard, and vice versa, for several reasons.
Key Differences Between Intel and AMD Motherboards
If you look at the underside of an Intel or AMD CPU, you’ll see a lot of pins or contact points. These pins must match the sockets on your motherboard in order to be compatible. It’s like trying to plug a UK plug into a UK socket; It won’t fit, and thus, it won’t work.
Below is an overview of Intel and AMD CPUs from 2015 and their subsequent pin counts.
You can see from a quick glance at the numbers on this list that slotting an AMD CPU into an Intel socket won’t work, and vice versa.
When buying a motherboard, you must first decide which CPU you want. For example, if you choose an Intel 12th or 13th generation processor, you’ll need a compatible LGA 1700 motherboard like the ASUS TUF Gaming B660M-PLUS WiFi D4.
On the other hand, if you’re heading to AMD, any Ryzen series CPU up to Ryzen 9 will be compatible with AM4 motherboards like the ASUS ROG Strix B550-F Gaming. But, if you go for the Ryzen 7000-series CPU, you’ll need an AM5 motherboard that supports DDR5. Unlike Intel, AMD stuck to the same AM4 motherboard socket for years.
Intel and AMD Motherboard Sockets Aren’t the Only Difference
However, sockets aren’t the only difference between Intel and AMD motherboards. Not all chipsets work with the same processor. Although, again, Intel is more complex than AMD.
A chipset determines what features a motherboard has, such as connectivity compatibility, ports, etc. Intel’s Z590 chipset is compatible with 10th-gen Comet Lake and 11th-generation Rocket Lake processors, but not 12th-generation Alder Lake processors. AMD’s AM4 chipsets work with most Ryzen, Athlon, and 7th-Gen A-Series CPUs. Some CPUs will not be supported, but in many cases, a BIOS upgrade may result in compatibility.
To add even more material to the mix, the naming conventions of each Intel and AMD motherboard may also indicate what is compatible and what is not. Intel’s 12th and 13th generation CPUs support both DDR4 and DDR5, but since DDR5 is not backward compatible, you will need to find a motherboard that supports either DDR4 or DDR5 (not both).
Similarly, the Ryzen 7000 series CPUs support DDR5, while the Ryzen 9 and below will only support DDR4.
Z-series Intel motherboards offer the best features and are considered high end. The B-series Intel motherboards are considered mid-range, generally for casual gamers who don’t need to prioritize overclocking. The H-series motherboards are on the budget end with limited ports and fewer features.
On the AMD side, there are usually X-Series and B-Series motherboards. AMD X motherboards often offer more PCIe slots, NVMe slots, and more I/O ports, while B motherboards vary between mid-range and budget.
AMD or Intel, not both
While there are many factors that determine which CPUs are compatible with which motherboards, the underlying fact is that Intel is not compatible with AMD and vice versa. It really comes down to personal preference whether you choose AMD or Intel as both are constantly competing with each other to offer the best and next-gen technology.
Whichever you decide to go with, just remember to make sure your CPU socket is compatible with your motherboard and that your motherboard chipset offers the features you’re looking for.