Facepalm: Intel's upcoming Coffee Lake CPUs won't work with today's motherboards

Builders and upgraders are crying foul as they lose their ability to upgrade-in-place on an older motherboard.

Get ready to facepalm, Intel fans. The company's upcoming Coffee Lake CPUs apparently won't work with existing stocks of motherboards, a manufacturer confirmed on Wednesday.

In a Twitter post by Asrock last Saturday, the company flat-out said the new CPU won't work with today's motherboards. 

When asked by Evan Jensen "...will the Z270 Supercarrier get support for the upcoming @intel Coffee Lake CPU's?" Asrock's official twitter account, @ASRockInfo replied: "No, Coffee Lake CPU is not compatible with 200-series motherboards."

According to at least one reliable source outside of Intel, the new Coffee Lake CPU will indeed not be compatible with Z270 boards, even though the chipsets with the upcoming Z370 appear to be the same, PCWorld was told.

PCWorld reached out to Asrock for comment on the tweet but has not heard back. Intel officials declined to comment on the statement by Asrock, saying that it doesn't comment on future products.

kiddingright IDG

Motherboard maker Asrock says Z270 owners will not be able to run Intel's upcoming Coffee Lake CPU.

So was the post just a rogue and uninformed social media post? A hack? Nope.

According to at least one reliable source outside of Intel, the new Coffee Lake CPU will indeed not be compatible with Z270 boards, even though the chipsets with the upcoming Z370 appear to be the same, PCWorld was told.

The source added that there are hopes in the industry that Intel will change its mind on compatibility. Tomshardware.com said it had independently confirmed the news with Asrock officials as well. 

Why this matters: The vast majority of new CPU sales are in new systems, and they likely won't be impacted by the incompatibility. However, there's also a very large and very vocal crowd of builders and upgraders who still swap out older, slower CPUs for newer, faster CPUs to maximize their investment. An upgrade-in-place doesn't sell an Intel chipset, but it at least keeps them on the Intel platform. If consumers are forced to dump an existing Z270 motherboard for a newer Z370 to get a six-core Coffee Lake CPU, Intel risks driving them into the arms of AMD and its Ryzen CPUs.

z270 extreme4l3 Asrock

If you have an Asrock Z270 Extreme 4 board, you're apparently out of luck on a Coffee Lake upgrade.

Why Intel, why?

Again, Intel officials would not comment, but there are many reasons for such a move.

The most cynical reason is "market segmentation," which is a fancy way of saying the company just wants consumers to buy a new motherboard with the new CPU.

Another reason is support issues. Intel is an engineering-conservative company and doesn't like to say CPUs will work with something unless all of the t's are crossed and the i's dotted. It's entirely possible that Coffee Lake could officially support Z370 only, but unofficially work just fine with previous chipsets and motherboards. Intel has done this with previous generations of CPUs by unofficially allowing motherboard vendors to support them.

Of course, there's also the chance that it really isn't compatible. Although Coffee Lake is based on the same 14nm process as Kaby Lake and Skylake and appears to use the same chipset, it's believed to be Intel's first six-core chip in a mainstream platform. More cores means more power consumption, and Intel may never have planned for the Z270 to support the power requirements for Coffee Lake.

Motherboard makers are likely unhappy with the news, too. As word spreads that Z270 won't work with the next CPU, consumers, especially enthusiasts, may decide against buying a Z270-based product, knowing that's its essentially outdated. If the new CPU were compatible, that stampede is less likely to occur.

In some ways, Asrock's slip of the tongue could convince Intel to change its mind on compatibility. As of this morning, Asrock's Twitter post had not been removed.

No matter what the reason, the news couldn't come at a worse possible time. With the company under full assault by AMD's Ryzen and Ryzen Threadripper, keeping the base happy and loyal is a given.

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Gordon Mah Ung

PC World (US online)
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