Intel Killed the 300-Series Chipset and Made AMD CPUs Even More Enticing

Intel Killed the 300-Series Chipset and Made AMD CPUs Even More Enticing
Photo: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo

As of January 4, 2021, Intel has started phasing out its 300-series chipsets. The company recently published a Product Change Notification detailing the end-of-life timeline for its chipsets that supports 8th and 9th generation Intel processors, and by the end of January 2022, the chipsets will be silicon history. The 2020 release of Intel’s 10th-gen CPUs and 400-series chipsets already spelled out retirement for the 300-series, but now it’s official.

The last date anyone can place an order for 300-series motherboards is July 23, 2021, with the final shipment date being January 28, 2022. This affects consumer desktop chipsets Z390, Z370, H370, B365, B360, H310C, and H310D, and consumer mobile chipset QMS380, which are based on a now old motherboard socket, the LGA 1151. (The Q370 chipset wasn’t listed, but that’s a business-focused chipset that supports vPro versions of 8th and 9th-gen Intel processors.)

From a production standpoint, this makes sense. Intel and other tech companies alike are having trouble getting the production capabilities they need to keep up with demand. CPUs, GPUs, and other components have been or still are affected — and with Intel playing catch-up with AMD in supporting PCIe 4.0, I can understand why it wants to focus on newer improvements and be more forward-thinking in its production approach. The 400-series chipsets are based on the new LGA 1200 socket, which supports the PCIe 4.0 standard Intel plans to incorporate with its 11th-gen desktop processors.

But it makes things tricky for consumers who want to stick with Intel. I’ve written about it before, but chipset compatibility is one of the biggest things AMD has over Intel at the moment. Depending on the CPU, AMD (non-APU) processors work across multiple generations of motherboards. Ryzen 2000-series works with 300, 400, and 500-series chipsets, and both the Ryzen 3000 and 5000-series work with 400 and 500-series chipsets. It’s also worth noting that AMD’s Ryzen 3000-series APUs work with 300, 400, and 500-series chipsets.

Some previous rumours pointed to AMD releasing a 600-series chipset before the end of 2020, but that obviously didn’t happen — and I’ll be surprised if AMD announces a new chipset at CES. The 500-series motherboards support PCIe 4.0 and have AMD’s Smart Access Memory (SAM) integrated at the BIOS level to work with the new Radeon graphics cards. (SAM is not proprietary to AMD, though. Nvidia is currently working on a similar update to its RTX 30-series cards.)

At a hardware-level, there doesn’t seem to be a reason for AMD to release a new chipset just yet. AMD has kept its promise to support the AM4 socket through 2020, and it seems like it will continue to do so through 2021, given that motherboard manufactures are still rolling out BIOS updates for 400-series motherboards to work with 5000-series processors. The next chipset AMD releases could have an entirely new socket, which wouldn’t be so bad considering how many CPU generations stayed on the AM4 — and it hasn’t announced any end of life plans for its chipsets.

In contrast, Intel has been releasing a new chipset and/or socket every one or two generations. In the case of the 7th and 8th-gen CPUs, the company released an update to its LGA 1151 socket that made version 2 incompatible with 7th and 6th-gen processors, so anyone upgrading to a Core i-8000-whatever at the time needed to get a new motherboard. That was near the end of 2017 and early 2018, depending on when each processor released exactly.

In 2020, Intel released the 1200 socket that would require anyone interested in upgrading from a 9th-gen or earlier CPU to purchase a new motherboard. Not only that, Intel discontinued its 8th-gen CPUs in June 2020. And while AMD has discontinued its Ryzen 1000 and Ryzen 2000 at this point (or rather I’m assuming it has discontinued the 2000 series given that there’s no longer an option to buy any of those CPUs direct from AMD on its website), if you still have one of those chips you can easily find a motherboard that will work with ‘em.

Intel’s CPUs, sockets, and chipsets haven’t carried over from gen to gen in the same way that AMD has designed its products — and now that Intel has started the EOL process for its 300-series chipsets, consumers and laptop manufacturers alike will be forced to adopt, at minimum, 10th-gen Intel processors by July 2021, which means lovely budget laptops like Acer’s Nitro 5 with a 9th-gen processor could soon be harder to find or might become virtually non-existent. Intel hasn’t released any EOL plans for its 9th-gen CPUs, or even its LGA 1151 socket, but the 300-series chipsets were the last to have the 1151 socket — and the 1151 socket is necessary for a 9th-gen processor. When you pair the end of the 300-series with Intel 8th-gen CPUs being discontinued…this could be the last step before Intel decides to phase out its 1151 socket and 9th-gen CPUs for good.

If you’re a PC DIY-er, planning your PC upgrade just got a little more difficult. At this point, if you’re still trying to find a 9th-gen CPU, you’re probably better off waiting until at least after CES, when Intel is likely to reveal more information regarding it’s 11th-gen processors.