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Intel CPU Naming: K vs. KF vs. F - What's the Difference?

Find out how Intel CPUs are named. Do some perform better than others?

Alder Lake State Park Eric Friedebach / flickr

Last Updated: January 11, 2022

Written by Kevin Jones

Are you wondering the difference between an Intel processor ending in K, such as the Intel Core i9 12900K, and a processor ending in KF, such as the Intel Core i9 12900KF?

This article will cover these common Intel processor name suffixes and suggest which processor type will better fit your needs.

What Is K vs. KF. vs. F?

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Processor Name Suffix Meaning
K "K" means it's an unlocked CPU. Unlocked CPUs have configurable frequencies and thus support overclocking. Your motherboard must use a Z-series chipset to overclock these unlocked CPUs. For example, motherboards with the Z690 chipset support overclocking Intel's 12th Gen Core CPUs.
F "F" means it requires discrete graphics. In other words, it doesn't have integrated graphics (basically a GPU built into the processor), thus requiring a standalone graphics card.

The suffixes can be combined. If a CPU's name ends in KF, it is both unlocked and doesn't include integrated graphics support in the processor.

Your motherboard must support video output capabilities to use the integrated graphics support of non-F suffixed CPUs.

Here are some examples:

Example Processor Unlocked Integrated Graphics
Core i9 12900K Yes Yes
Core i9 12900KF Yes No
Core i9 11900F No No

Check out my Recommended CPUs and Motherboards below.

Intel Core i9-12900K Processor 16 Cores (8P+8E) up to 5.2 GHz Intel Core i9-12900K Processor 16 Cores (8P+8E) up to 5.2 GHz Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

Benefits of Integrated Graphics

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The integrated graphics of non-F suffixed CPUs provides a few benefits:

  • It allows you to use the computer for basic tasks without needing a graphics card
  • It will enable you to connect additional monitors without competing with a separate graphics card's resources
  • It allows you to troubleshoot your computer without needing to install a graphics card
  • It includes support for Intel Quick Sync Video, which is dedicated hardware that can speed up the encoding and decoding of video content

Which Processor Types Are Cheaper?

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Unlocked processors (K suffix) and processors with integrated graphics (non-F suffix) will theoretically have a higher price. However, depending on the available supply of each type of CPU, they may have a similar price.

Which Processor Type Is Better for Gaming?

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Suppose you are planning to use a new computer for modern games. In that case, you should plan on getting a standalone graphics card rather than rely on integrated graphics. For the reasons listed above, you can still benefit from having support for integrated graphics (non-F suffix), even if you are using a separate graphics card.

Aside from potential price differences, there are no drawbacks to integrated graphics support (non-F suffix).

Are K Processors Better for Gaming?

Assuming an otherwise equivalent processor, the unlocked processors can be better for gaming if you plan to overclock your computer.

However, suppose you don't plan to take advantage of overclocking the processor. In that case, the unlocked processor will provide no benefits.

Are K or KF Processors Better for Gaming?

Assuming an otherwise equivalent processor, processors with and without discrete graphics support should perform about the same when using the same graphics card.

The only difference would be the addition of dedicated video encoding/decoding hardware (Intel Quick Sync). However, that is not something that many games would use. A dedicated graphics card can typically perform video encoding/decoding tasks just as well.

Can You Enable XMP With Locked Processors?

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XMP, which helps set memory speeds and timings automatically, can be enabled even without an unlocked processor. Motherboard support is required for XMP, but you can make similar memory configurations manually.

When Should You Buy a K, KF, or F CPU?

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This decision is typically made based on cost and features.

If all variations are at the same price point, go with a K processor, which supports the most features.

Processors with an F suffix (no integrated graphics) will typically have a lower price.

Processors with a K suffix (unlocked) will typically have a higher price.

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Best Intel High-Performance Enthusiast CPU: Intel Core i9-12900K

  • Up to 5.2 GHz: perfect for games, video editing, and high-intensity tasks.

  • 16 cores (8 Performance + 8 Efficiency): Quite a few cores considering the frequency! This combination makes it a great all-around system that can handle almost any task.

  • Virtualization features make it great for running virtual machines.

  • Check the latest price of the Intel Core i9-12900K on Amazon (affiliate link).

    Intel Core i9-12900K Processor 16 Cores (8P+8E) up to 5.2 GHz Intel Core i9-12900K Processor 16 Cores (8P+8E) up to 5.2 GHz Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
  • For the Intel Core i9-12900K CPU, you'll need a motherboard with the Z690 chipset to support CPU overclocking. Otherwise, you can use a motherboard with Intel's other 600 series desktop chipsets (e.g., H670, B660, H610).

  • Our recommended DDR4 motherboard to pair with the i9-12900K is Gigabyte's Z690 AORUS Elite AX DDR4: GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Elite AX DDR4 GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Elite AX DDR4 Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

    • PCIe 5.0 support
    • It supports up to 128GB of DDR4 memory!
    • 2.5 Gb Ethernet port is faster than most home Internet speeds with room to spare for file transfers.
    • Wi-Fi 6
    • Bluetooth 5.2 is great for streaming music to Bluetooth headphones.
    • Four x4 NVMe M.2 slots, which is fantastic! All four of these run at PCIe 4.0 speeds.
    • USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 offers 20 Gbps USB speeds!
    • Check the latest price of the GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Elite AX DDR4 on Amazon (affiliate link).
  • Our recommended DDR5 motherboard to pair with the i9-12900K is Gigabyte's Z690 AORUS Master: GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Master GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Master Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

    • PCIe 5.0 support
    • It supports up to 128GB of DDR5 memory (DDR5 provides the fastest memory speeds)!

      DDR5 memory appears to be out of stock at most retailers, so I recommend sticking with a DDR4 motherboard or preparing for a long wait.

    • 10 Gbps Ethernet port is faster than any home Internet speed available with tons of room to spare for file transfers.
    • Wi-Fi 6E makes it easy to reach the fastest speeds and future-proof your Wi-Fi system.
    • Bluetooth 5.2 is great for streaming music to Bluetooth headphones.
    • Four x4 NVMe M.2 slots, which is fantastic! Three of these run at PCIe 4.0 speeds, and one at PCIe 3.0 speeds.
    • USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 offers 20 Gbps USB speeds!
    • Check the latest price of the GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Master on Amazon (affiliate link).

Best Value CPU: Intel Core i5-12600K

  • Less than half the price of the i9-12900K, but still excellent performance at up to 4.9 GHz.

  • 10 cores (6 Performance + 4 Efficiency): This core count makes it suitable for everyday multi-threading tasks, such as having tons of browser windows open.

  • Virtualization features make it great for running virtual machines.

  • Check the latest price of the Intel Core i5-12600K on Amazon (affiliate link).

    Intel Core i5-12600K Intel Core i5-12600K Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
  • For the Intel Core i5-12600K CPU, you'll need a motherboard with the Z690 chipset to support CPU overclocking. Otherwise, you can use a motherboard with Intel's other 600 series desktop chipsets (e.g., H670, B660, H610).

  • Our recommended DDR4 motherboard to pair with the i5-12600K is GIGABYTE's Z690 Gaming X DDR4 motherboard: GIGABYTE Z690 Gaming X DDR4 GIGABYTE Z690 Gaming X DDR4 Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

    • PCIe 5.0 support
    • It supports up to 128GB of DDR4 memory!
    • Four x4 NVMe M.2 slots, which is fantastic! All four of these run at PCIe 4.0 speeds.
    • 2.5 Gb Ethernet port is faster than most home Internet speeds with room to spare for file transfers.
    • USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 offers 20 Gbps USB speeds!
    • Check the latest price of the GIGABYTE Z690 Gaming X DDR4 on Amazon (affiliate link).
  • Our recommended DDR5 motherboard to pair with the i5-12600K is GIGABYTE's Z690 AORUS PRO motherboard: GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS PRO GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS PRO Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

    • PCIe 5.0 support
    • It supports up to 128GB of DDR5 memory!

      DDR5 memory appears to be out of stock at most retailers, so I recommend sticking with a DDR4 motherboard or preparing for a long wait.

    • Three NVMe M.2 slots, which is excellent! These all run at PCIe 4.0 speeds.
    • 2.5 Gb Ethernet port is faster than most home Internet speeds with room to spare for file transfers.
    • USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 offers 20 Gbps USB speeds!
    • Check the latest price of the GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS PRO on Amazon (affiliate link).
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Intel's 12th generation Core CPU uses an LGA 1700 socket.

Locked Intel CPUs may come with a stock CPU cooler. These CPU models do not have a "K" in the name. While stock coolers will prevent your CPU from overheating, your CPU will throttle its performance during games and other intensive tasks. Higher TDP coolers will keep your CPU at turbo speeds for longer durations. Stock coolers are often quite loud at their maximum speed.

The LGA 1700 socket will require a CPU cooler that supports the new socket size. Some manufacturers are releasing upgrade kits for LGA 1200 heatsinks to support the new size.

Best AIO Liquid Cooler: Enermax Liqmax III 360

  • This Enermax liquid cooler has an excellent cooling capability with a 360-watt TDP (Thermal Design Power).
  • Supports a variety of CPU sockets, including Intel LGA 2066, 2011-3, 2011, 1700, 1200, 1366, 1156, 1155, 1151, 1150 and AMD AM4, AM3+, AM3, AM2+, AM2, FM2+, FM2, FM1.
  • Quiet operation at 14-27 dBA.
  • You can request an LGA 1700 mounting kit via the LGA 1700 Mounting Kit Request Form.
  • Make sure your computer case dimensions support this, as it will take up a decent amount of space! Enermax Liqmax III 360 Enermax Liqmax III 360 Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

Best Dual-Fan Air CPU Cooler: Thermaltake TOUGHAIR 510

  • This CPU cooler doesn't have any fancy LED lights, but the dual 120 mm fans do a great job of cooling LGA 1700 CPUs.
  • Suppose you think this cooler will take up too much space. In that case, Thermaltake has a few single-fan TOUGHAIR variants which use different orientations.
  • This CPU cooler has a 2000 RPM max speed for optimal cooling.
  • 180-watt TDP (Thermal Design Power). Thermaltake TOUGHAIR 510 Thermaltake TOUGHAIR 510 Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
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Due to the limited availability of DDR5, I'm only recommending a specific DDR4 product at this time.

However, you can check the current availability of DDR5 on Amazon (affiliate link).

  • It comes in a variety of frequencies, including 3000 MHz, 3200 MHz, 3600 MHz, 4000 MHz, and 4400 MHz
  • Reasonable CL16 timings (CAS Latency)
  • The low-profile form factor ensures that the heat spreaders don't get in the way of other devices, including your CPU heatsink
  • Crucial is a reputable brand, and I have used their memory in my machines
  • The customizable LEDs zones are a pretty cool bonus Crucial Ballistix RGB DDR4 Crucial Ballistix RGB DDR4 Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

Other Considerations When Building a PC

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Want to brush up on other new technologies to consider when building a computer? Check out these articles:

Learn More About PCI-Express

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Want to brush up on the latest PCIe products, versions, and features? Check out the articles in this PCI-Express series: