Intel K vs KF vs F Series CPUs – Understanding the Differences

If you read the model names of different Intel (or AMD) CPUs, you will notice that they include peculiar suffixes. While they may seem trivial, they hold tremendous significance. The letters in the suffix all have a different relationship to the specs of the processor.

While Intel has several suffixes, the most confusing to understand is the difference between Intel K vs KF vs F series processors. 

Basically, the difference between the three primarily lies in whether a certain CPU is overclockable or not, or whether a certain CPU has an integrated graphics card or not.

In addition to that, you can also tell by the suffix whether a certain CPU comes with cooling solution or not i.e CPU Fan + Thermal Paste.

In the following article I will talk in detail about the differences between the different suffixes in general and talk about K, KF and F series CPUs in particular.

Differences Between Intel K vs KF vs F Series Processors

The Intel naming convention can tell you a lot about the type of processor you have.

intel model naming convention

The model name can tell you the CPU’s series, the generation as well as its type. 

Take for instance, the Intel Core i7 1065G7 above. Here we can see that it belongs to the Intel Core i7 series and 10th Generation. The “G7” suffix tells us that it is a mobile/laptop based processor with a graphics processing level rated at 7 (rated from 1-7).

Similarly, Intel Core i7 12700K

  • Belongs to Core i7 series
  • Belong to 12th Gen
  • It is of “K” type, meaning it is unlocked (more on this later).

The suffix in the end is known as the “product line suffix” and it basically represents the nuanced differences a processor shares with the rest of its close counterparts.

So while Core i7-12700, 12700K, 12700KF, 12700F may all have the same architecture, they are a whole lot different in some key specs which we will now explore:

Intel K Series CPUs – Unlocked and Overclockable

The Intel K Series processors are also called “unlocked” processors. This basically means that they are overclockable. 

These are the most powerful CPUs of any given Intel CPU lines (SKUs) and they are also the most expensive.

In other words, among the Core i7-12700, 12700K, 12700KF, 12700F, the Intel Core i7 12700K would be the most powerful and expensive. 

The following table lists the K series processors from the latest Gen Intel CPUs:

Model Specs iGPU MSRP
Intel Core i5 12600K 6 P Cores
4 E Cores
16 Threads
4.9 GHz Max Clock
Intel UHD 770 $289
Intel Core i7 12700K 8 P Cores
4 E Cores
20 Threads
5.0 GHz Max Clock
Intel UHD 770 $409
Intel Core i9 12900K 8 P Cores
8 E Cores
24 Threads
5.2 GHz Max Clock
Intel UHD 770 $589

The Intel K Series processors are intended for enthusiasts who wish to push the limits of the processing power of their processor by overclocking it.

A big caveat here is that it in order to overclock a “K” series CPU, you need to have the right motherboard!

Only the premium and often the most expensive “Z” series motherboard support overclocking for Intel CPUs!

There for the 12th Gen “K” series CPUs, you need to have a motherboard with Z690 chipset. Similarly for the 11th Gen “K” series CPUs you need to have a motherboard with the Z590 chipset.

Intel K vs KF vs F
Intel 600 series chipset. Only the Z690 supports overclocking for the 12th Gen “K” series CPUs. Source: Intel.

In addition to that, another two very important points to note are:

  • The “K” series processors come with an integrated graphics card

In other words, you do not need to have a dedicated graphics card in order to connect your monitor to your PC. The integrated graphics card will power the video ports found on the back I/O panel of the motherboard.

  • The “K” series processors DO NOT come with a cooling fan!

In other words, you will need to arrange the cooling solution for the “K” series processors yourself.

Also Read: Does My Motherboard Support Overclocking?

Intel F Series CPUs – No Integrated Graphics Card

Intel CPU SKUs with the F suffix do not have an integrated graphics card. This has great ramification on your overall system build.

A CPU without an integrated graphics card is certainly cheaper than the rest of its counterparts, however, it also means that the video output ports on your motherboard will NOT work.

Do Motherboards have Integrated Graphics
The back I/O ports on this board are powered by the iGPU as the motherboard itself does not have any graphics processing chip. Image: Asrock AMD A320M-HDV R4.0

Take for instance, the video ports on the motherboard above. These, like on all motherboards, require an integrated graphics card on your CPU to work.

Motherboards DO NOT have onboard graphics processing chip of their own. Therefore, if you have an “F” series processor like the Intel Core i7 12700F, then connecting to your monitor to the motherboard HDM, DVI, VGA port will result in no display.

In other words, you will HAVE TO HAVE a dedicated graphics card for video processing.

“F” series CPUs are generally a good deal for gamers or for those who wish to spend on a dedicated graphics card for their build. That way they can save up a bit on the CPU as there is no need to have a a weaker iGPU if you already plan to have a powerful dedicated GPU. 

Model Specs iGPU MSRP
Intel Core i5 12400F 6 P Cores
12 Threads
4.4 GHz Max Clock
NA $167
Intel Core i7 12700F 8 P Cores
4 E Cores
20 Threads
4.9 GHz Max Clock
NA $314
Intel Core i9 12900F 8 P Cores
8 E Cores
24 Threads
5.1 GHz Max Clock
NA $464

You can see that the Intel Core i7 12700F ($314 MSRP)) is $95 less expensive as compared to the Intel Core i7 12700K ($409 MSRP). But as far as the stock CPU performance goes the “F” variant is only marginally slower as compared to the “K” series CPUs i.e 34,513 points for i7-12700K vs 31,655 points for i7 12700F according to passmark.

You can use the money saved to invest on a better dedicated graphics card for instance.

In addition to that you do not need to go for the expensive Z series motherboards. You can go for the cheaper H series or the B series motherboards since “F” series processors are NOT overclockable.

Furthermore, unlike the “K” series processors, the “F” series processors DO come with a stock CPU fan and thermal paste.

Also Read: Difference Between APU vs GPU

Intel KF Series CPUs – Overclockable but No Integrated Graphics

Intel KF series processors combine the elements of both the “K” and the “F” series processors.

The “K” here represents that CPU is unlocked and overclockable. The “F” here represents that the CPU does NOT have an integrated graphics cards.

This is often a great deal for enthusiasts and gamers. The “KF” CPUs are slightly cheaper than the “K” series counterparts as they do not feature an iGPU. The amount saved due to the absence of iGPU can instead be used for buying a better dedicated GPU.

Hence, they are excellent for gamers and enthusiasts who plan to have a dedicated GPU for their build anyways and also wish to overclock their CPUs.

Of course, in order to overclock, like with the regular “K” series CPUs, you need to have a premium “Z” series motherboard such as the Z690 for 12th Gen CPUs.

Additionally, the “KF” CPUs do NOT come with a stock cooler or thermal paste.

Here are some of the latest 12th Gen CPUs from the “KF” series.

Model Specs iGPU MSRP
Intel Core i5 12600KF 6 P Cores
4 E Cores
16 Threads
4.9 GHz Max Clock
NA $264
Intel Core i7 12700KF 8 P Cores
4 E Cores
20 Threads
5.0 GHz Max Clock
NA $384
Intel Core i9 12900KF 8 P Cores
8 E Cores
24 Threads
5.2 GHz Max Clock
NA $569

The price difference between a “K” and a “KF” CPU isn’t significant i.e the MSRP difference between Core i9 12900K and Core i9 12900KF is only $20. But it still gives you the option to play around with your PC build.

Again, since “KF” CPUs lack an iGPU, you will have to have a dedicated graphics card in order to connect your monitor to your PC; and the video output ports on your motherboard will NOT work. 

Also Read: Difference Between Intel Celeron vs i7

Intel CPU with NO Suffix – Have iGPU but NOT Overclockable

The stock CPUs for any SKU is the model with no suffix i.e Intel Core i7 12700.

These are basically the vanilla CPUs that do feature an onboard integrated graphics card but are not overclockable.

They have a slightly lower performance in terms of clock speed as compared to the “K” and the “KF” series CPUs, but are also much cheaper. 

The following table shows some of the 12th gen CPU with no Suffix

Model Specs iGPU MSRP
Intel Core i5 12400 6 P Cores
12 Threads
4.4 GHz Max Clock
Intel UHD 730 $192
Intel Core i5 12600 6 P Cores
12 Threads
4.8 GHz Max Clock
Intel UHD 770 $223
Intel Core i7 12700 8 P Cores
4 E Cores
20 Threads
5.0 GHz Max Clock
Intel UHD 770 $339
Intel Core i9 12900 8 P Cores
8 E Cores
24 Threads
5.1 GHz Max Clock
Intel UHD 770 $489

Intel K vs KF vs F Series CPU Summarized

The following table summarizes the key points for the Intel K vs KF vs F series CPUs.

 OverclockableiGPUStock
Cooler
Preferable
Motherboard
Chipset
PricePerformance
No SuffixNoYesYesAnyLess ExpensiveLower Performing
KYesYesNoZ SeriesMost ExpensiveHighest Performing
FNoNoYesAnyLeast ExpensiveLower Performing
KFYesNoNoZ SeriesMore ExpensiveHigher Performing

In terms of price point, the suffixes follow the follow patter:

  • F – Least Expensive
  • No Suffix – Less Expensive
  • KF – More Expensive
  • K – Most Expensive

Also Read: How is Processor Speed Measured?

More Suffixes and Their Meaning

There are more suffixes than just K, KF and F for Intel processors. The following table summarizes these below:

PlatformSuffixMeaning
DesktopNo SuffixVanilla CPU of a given SKU
KUnlocked/Overclockable
High Performance
KFOverclockable without iGPU
FNo integrated graphics card
SSpecial Edition
High Performing CPUs
TPower efficient (Low TDP)
X/XEUnlocked,
Top of the Line CPU intended of HEDT
Not really general consumer grade
Does not offer an iGPU or stock cooler
Laptop/MobileG1-G7Has iGPU
The number describe the graphics power of iGPU ranging from 1-7 (7 being best)
HHigh performance
HKHigh performance overclockable
ULow power/ power efficient
YVery low power
EmbeddedEFor embedded system
For enterprise or for prebuilt CPUs
Surface Mounting TypeBCPUs with Ball Grid Array socket (often for embedded and laptop CPUs)

Also Read: What is a Good Processor Speed for a Laptop?

FAQ

Intel K vs KF vs F – Which CPUs Have the Best Performance?

The following chart shows the Passmark scores of the Intel Core i7 and Core i5 CPUs from the 12th Gen.

Intel k vs kf vs f series CPUs
12th Gen Intel K vs KF vs F series CPUs.

It is quite clear even from this small sample of CPUs, that the “K” series CPUs are the most powerful in a given SKU. However, the “KF” are only marginally less powerful.

In fact, the performance difference is within the margin of error. In other words, the K and KF are more or less the same in terms of performance.

The F and the No-Suffix CPUs are weaker and have a similar performance.

Do You Need a Dedicated Graphics Card with F and KF CPUs?

Yes, F and KF series CPUs DO NOT feature and integrated graphics card.

Therefore, the motherboard video output ports will not work since they rely on the iGPU to function.

As such you will have to have a dedicated graphics card in order to connect your monitor to or have any graphics rendering capability for your PC.

Is K Series CPU Worth It?

That depends on your budget and your use case. The “K” series CPUs are certainly the most powerful of them all and also the most expensive.

However, to truly justify the purchase, you have to take advantage of the fact that they are overclockable.

If you do not wish to ever overclock, then you can do without a “K” series processors.

Often for non-gamers, the “K” series CPUs aren’t a whole lot worth it. Plus, in order to overclock you not only need to have the premium Z series chipset, but also a robust cooling system. All this incurs additional costs for your PC.

Is Intel K or KF Better for Gaming?

In terms of performance, the “K” and “KF” CPUs are both the same. The only difference is that the “KF” series CPUs lack an integrated graphics card.

Integrated graphics card aren’t really intended for gaming anyways. Therefore, having them or not having does not really impact the experience of a gamer since a true gaming PC will most certainly have some form of dedicated graphics card anyways.

Can You Use Any Motherboard to Overclock K and KF CPUs?

No, you need to have a premium Z series motherboard in order to overclock the K and KF series CPUs.

Hence,

  • For 12th K and KF series CPU you need Z690 motherboard to overclock
  • For 11th K and KF series CPU you need Z590 motherboard to overclock

So on and so forth.

You can use K and KF CPUs on B and H series motherboards as well, but will NOT be able to overclock them.

Do K and KF Series CPUs Come with CPU Cooler?

No, K and KF series CPUs do not come with any thermal solution. They neither come with a CPU cooler nor with a thermal paste.

Since they are intended for overclocking, you need after-market high performance cooling solution, preferably liquid cooling, to overclock these CPUs effectively.

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Author:

Atif Qazi
Atif Qazi is the founder of PCGuide101. He is a digital nomad who loves everything PC. He is a PC builder, tech enthusiast, engineer, and a lover of single player lore-rich RPG games.

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