Intel K vs KF vs F: What’s the difference?

If you are considering an Intel processor, you may have stumbled across suffixes like K, F, and KF, which were absent from previous generations. Though confusing at first, we have prepared a comprehensive guide explaining the differences between Intel’s K, KF, and F processors.

Difference Between the K, KF, and F Intel Processors

The K means that the Intel processor is unlocked and can be overclocked for maximum performance. While the F means that that processor lacks integrated graphics or iGPU. The primary difference between the K and KF series of processors is the lack of or iGPU in the KF series processors to provide a slightly lower cost than the K series processors. Though both the K and KF chips offer the same clock speed, TDP, and processor count. The F series Intel processors are identical to the non-K series of processors, which both have a locked multiplier and, on a few occasions, lower clock speeds.

K Series Intel Processors

First, we start with the K series. The K suffix means that the chip is unlocked, allowing for features like overclocking, which would enable you to push the processor to its limits to squeeze out every little bit of performance. But to make use of such features, you will also need a specially designed motherboard supporting overclocking and an excellent cooling system, preferably liquid cooling, as overclocking results in higher temperatures, which might be too much for some lower-end air cooling solutions. Overclocking a processor also needs a thorough knowledge of the different settings available in your computer’s BIOS. A majority of buyers who opt for the K series processors are enthusiasts aiming to make the most out of the CPU’s abilities. It is not recommended to choose from this processor range if you don’t plan on overclocking since the price difference is quite significant between the K and non-K processor types.

KF Series Intel Processors

We now move on to the KF series of processors. These chips are identical in all aspects to their K counterparts, except for the lack of integrated graphics to reduce costs. The absence of iGPU means that you will need to employ the use of a dedicated graphics card like Nvidia’s GTX 1650 as a monitor needs a graphics processor to give a video output. This is especially problematic if you intend to use these processors by themselves. However, if you are planning to pair such a CPU with a graphics card for gaming or content creation purposes, it might seem to be the right choice. But by scraping the iGPU, your desktop will be running the discrete graphics continuously, which will inadvertently lead to more power consumption, higher temperatures, and a lower graphic card lifespan. Also, keep in mind that features like QuickSync used by Adobe applications will not work since they depend on the iGPU. Continue reading if you want a more detailed description and any suggestions on what type of processor to choose for your needs.

F Series Intel Processors

The F series range of processors is basically the multiplier locked version of the KF processors. Also, lacking an iGPU, these processors will need a dedicated GPU to run. Though the multiplier seems locked, it is possible to lock all cores at a high frequency and play around with the BCLK settings for a performance gain. This will prove to be more complicated since you will need to know what you are doing, and there is the risk of corrupting your system. Nevertheless, these processors have the same boost clocks as the KF series but can sometimes have a lower base clock.

Non-K, KF, and F Intel Processors

Finally, we discuss the options available other than the ones listed above. The first kind of processor is the Non-K lineup of Core processors. These processors lack overclocking capabilities like the K series of processors but come with an integrated GPU, unlike the F series processors. These processors are best suited for light workloads, which do not make use of a dedicated graphics card. Another series of processors is the Core X series of desktop processors. These processors offer the ultimate performance and best overclocking capabilities but come at very high prices. These are aimed at tech enthusiasts who want the ultimate experience in their respective workloads.

Final Thoughts

If you are in the market for an Intel processor, our suggestions would be to first, be confident of your intended use case. If you want a processor for basic photo or video editing and productivity workloads, we would recommend the non-K series of processors, for their relatively low price and the inclusion of an integrated GPU. Preferably choose the i5 variant for optimal performance or the i3 variant if on a budget. If you want to invest in a desktop for light gaming, we would recommend the F series, preferably the i7 option, and a relatively affordable discrete GPU like the Nvidia 1650 Super. Chose this option if your primary use case for the machine is gaming. Otherwise, it would be suitable to select the non-K variant for mixed workloads or for medium content creation. The i5 option of the K or KF series would also do great if overclocking is your thing.

If you want a processor for moderate to demanding games, then we would suggest the i7 variant of the K or KF series. Again, choose wisely between the two options depending on your workloads. Also, these processors can be overclocked to get some extra performance. If you deal with heavy workloads, especially for the CPU, we would recommend the i9 option of the K family. The K and KF i9’s are almost the same price, and the added advantage of the iGPU should not be ignored here. Make sure you have a great graphics card to pair it up for the best performance. Finally, if you have a budget that allows for it, the X series of processors provide the best overclocking capabilities and cores among any Intel CPU. Only buy this if you are absolutely sure you need one or if you are a tech enthusiast wanting to try out the best. Make sure to snag one up as soon as they are released as they are quite hard to snag later on.


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