Land Grid Array (LGA) and Ball Grid Gray (BGA) are both Surface Mount Technologies (SMT) for motherboards. They basically define HOW the CPU will actually be mounted on the motherboard’s CPU socket.
Essentially, the most basic difference between the two is that an LGA based CPU can plugged in and out of the motherboard and can also be replaced. A BGA based CPU, however, is SOLDERED on the motherboard and thus cannot be plugged out or replaced.
The BGA based CPUs are generally found in mobile devices like laptops. Whereas an LGA based CPU is commonly used in desktops.
In the following text, we will dive deeper into the LGA vs BGA comparison and talk about both sockets in detail.
Note there is also the PGA (Pin Grid Array SMT). You can read more about this here: LGA vs PGA
LGA vs BGA Physical Differences
An LGA based CPU has flat surface contacts and they plug into a motherboard’s CPU socket that has several pins sticking out.
The CPU has to be aligned with the pins perfectly in order to lock itself in place on the motherboard socket.
A Ball Grid Array CPU, on the other hand, has spherical contacts which are then soldered onto the motherboard.
A BGA CPU with spherical contacts that get soldered onto the motherboard. Source: Wikimedia
What is a CPU Socket?
A CPU Socket is an integral part of a motherboard. It essentially defines the make and model of the CPU it is compatible with.
Depending upon whether your CPU is LGA, BGA or PGA based, the socket on your motherboard will also differ.
There are many different sockets for different CPUs out there. Intel for its desktop motherboard, for instance, uses LGA1151 socket for its 8th and 9th Gen CPUs and LGA 1200 for its newer 10th and 11th Gen sockets.
AMD uses the PGA based AM4 socket for its motherboards.
You have to make sure that you have the correct compatible motherboard socket for your CPU otherwise it would neither fit nor work.
Also Read: What CPU is Compatible with My Motherboard?
LGA vs BGA
LGA Surface Mounting Technology
The Land Grid Array socket has been widely adopted by Intel in several of their CPU models for desktops.
It’s unique in that the CPU itself has no pins or solder balls that connect to a motherboard. Instead, it has metal pads in a matrix along its bottom side.
These metal pads are the conductive surfaces that make contact with the pins. The pins themselves are located on motherboard’s CPU socket.
One of the biggest benefit of an LGA based CPU is that it can be plugged in and out of the desktop by the user.
Hence, majority of the use for an LGA based CPU is on desktops where a user can access the motherboard and customize their PC by upgrading or replacing the CPU.
An LGA based CPU is almost never found on laptops though.
Intel is the Primary User of LGA Based CPUs
As mentioned earlier, Intel extensively uses LGA based CPUs for their desktops.
Currently, Intel uses the following sockets for desktop grade CPUs.
- LGA 1151 for 7th, 8th and 9th Gen Core, Pentium and Celeron CPUs
- LGA 1200 for 10th and 11th Gen Core, Pentium and Celeron CPUs
For Intel Workstation CPUs:
- LGA 2066 for 10th Gen Intel Core Extreme processors like the Intel Core i9-10980XE.
As mentioned earlier, AMD predominantly makes use of the PGA (Pin Grid Array) socket for their CPUs. A PGA CPU is also replaceable and used on desktops.
LGA CPU Cautions When Installing
Because the contact pads of an LGA CPU, also called lands, sit flush with the bottom surface of the chip, they have to be firmly held in place to avoid any accidental movements.
To hold them in place, a pressure lever will often accompany an LGA socket on the motherboard.
Once the chip is installed, you will need to fasten it with the lever according to the method stipulated on the user manual to keep it in place firmly.
One of the biggest issue here is that if you apply the pressure on the lever when the CPU is not positioned and aligned correctly on top of the pins on the motherboard socket, it can damage the CPU or the pins on the socket itself.
BGA Surface Mount Technology
Ball Grid Array or BGA is a fairly old surface-mount technology for processor chips and CPU sockets utilized primarily by mobile devices.
Just like in LGA, CPUs utilizing this BGA have numerous connection points at the bottom of the chip.
However, unlike the LGA CPUs, with BGA the connection points are SOLDERED on the the motherboard.
BGA sockets are smaller and therefore not found on desktops. Notebooks, on the other hand, commonly use BGA sockets.
Is BGA Really a Socket? – Advantages of BGA
Essentially, BGA based CPUs do not plug in to a dedicated socket on a motherboard. The definition of a ‘socket’ entails that the CPU can be plugged in and out.
However, with BGA CPUs that is not the case. BGA based CPUs mounted on motherboards are NOT replaceable. These require special skills to be removed and replaced.
One of the biggest benefit of BGA is that it is easier to mass produce. The large solder ball contacts found on the back of the BGA CPUs are far easier to print as compared to the very precise and intricate flat contacts found on LGA and pins found on the PGA CPUs.
Additionally, a single ball has a far larger surface area compared to the precise and minute contacts and pins on the LGA and PGA CPUs, hence, they are easier to align with the motherboard as well.
All this culminates to better economical value for the manufacturers. The devices using BGA can be mass produced far more easily and quickly as compared to the other surface mounting techniques.
Additionally, given the fact that mobile devices like laptops are meant to move around and may occasionally come across serious bumps and shocks, the CPU must be soldered firmly in place so that it does not accidentally unplug from its socket.
Who Uses BGA Sockets?
In the world of PCs both Intel and AMD use BGA sockets for their laptop CPU lines.
However, the BGA sockets are also used in devices other than PCs, such as smartphones and tablets as well. Therefore, Apple, Qualcomm, MediaTek and the rest of the smartphone/tablet CPU manufacturers use BGA sockets.
How to Figure Out What CPU Socket You Have?
The easiest way to figure out what CPU socket you have is to head over to the manufacturer’s website for technical details on your CPU.
The image above shows the socket supported for the Intel Core i7-11700K. It reads FCLGA1200.
FCLGA stands for Flip Chip Land Grid Array. The number in the socket model tells you how many connections points the CPU and the socket will have. So ‘1200’ here means that this CPU has 1200 flat contact points on its back. Similarly, the socket that it get plugged to will have 1200 pins sticking out.
Here we reviewed the primary differences between LGA and BGA sockets. While in essence they perform the same function (provide a connection technique for the CPU and the motherboard), they have very different use cases.
However, for you as a consumer, the key point to note is that the LGA CPUs are predominantly used in desktops and can be replaced. BGA CPUs are predominantly used in laptops and cannot be replaced.