Intel K Vs. KF Vs. F – What is the KEY Difference?

Tech companies are notorious for adding random-looking letters in their product names. That is especially true for processor manufacturers. I’m sure you’ve noticed letters like K, KF, F, or X after Intel processor names.

These seemingly random letters are far more useful than most people think. The fact that you looked it up means you want to know what they mean.

The K series signifies that you can overclock that chip. F means it does not have an integrated GPU and is a bit cheaper than the standard version. And KF is the one with both of those features. There are price differences between each type as

Differences between core-i3 and core-i7 are easy to see. You can tell which is better by the bigger number, so it does not take a tech junkie to figure it out.

Unfortunately, the letters in the product name are not so explicit. This K vs. KF vs. F drama has confused folks for a long time now.

So, in this post, I’ll explain what the letters mean and how they affect PC performance.

Also, check out our separate post on whether or not a motherboard bottlenecks a GPU.

Understanding Intel Processor Suffixes

The Intel processor names begin with the brand name followed by the chip model- Core, Pentium. Next are the brand modifiers like i3, i5, i7, which represent the brand modifiers. The numbers after that signify generation. And lastly, you have the suffixes like “K, KF, F, and G” and sometimes “Y and U” that describe various features or lack of features of a processor.

On desktop GPUs, you have suffixes like G, K, KF, and F. The G in the CPU name stands for the processor having a discrete iGPU.

If you buy these processors then you do not have to install a GPU in your system to run basic apps.

But these GPUs are not really powerful enough to run demanding software like modern video games or editing software.

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The K indicates that a given Intel CPU has an uncapped base clock. These CPUs can be programmed to reach a higher clock speed if you provide the necessary cooling.

When you see the letter F at the end of an Intel CPU model, it just means the CPU does not have a GPU. Many gamers opt for these as they already have a dedicated GPU which renders the iGPU useless. Not including the iGPU allows manufacturers to ask for a lower price for their CPUs.

Then comes KF. As you can guess, it means that the CPU is both overclockable and cheaper compared to the base model for not having an iGPU.

A suffix like Y and U means it has power-saving features, and you usually see those on laptops. Suffixes can also imply additional hardware inclusion. The suffix G signifies it comes with a discrete graphics card or external GPU.

K vs. KF vs. F: Performance Comparison

People often want a good CPU for gaming or other demanding work. These folks often overclock the CPU to dredge up more performance. So, the F series sounds like a terrible choice for them. It also needs discrete graphics, so average users won’t like it much either.

In a sense, the F series has the worst of both worlds, with a cheaper price tag. Performance-wise, it is not that different from the other two. You can buy the 10th generation’s Intel Core i9-10900F Desktop Processor.core-i9-10900f-processor

But the lack of both iGPU and overclocking hurts its value. I would press F for this series.

The K Series has been the standard go-to option for people with high-performance requirements. It can easily overclock without causing any overheating. And it has an integrated GPU too. So, the K series works for everyone regardless of what they want to do. Check out our expert’s recommended Intel Core i7-7700K Processor.core-i7-7700k-7th-gen-processor

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The only downside is the price tag. The K series is a bit higher in the price range than the F.

The KF is overclockable but lacks an iGPU. Some people think that puts it on a lower rank than the K series, but they could not be more wrong. Yes, the lack of iGPU seems bad but no serious graphics designer or gamer uses integrated GPU in the first place. And the KF series is more optimized for overclocking than the K series.

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One downside to KF is that you cannot use some apps. Notably, QuickSync from adobe does not work without an integrated GPU.

It’s a downside that the F series also shares. Also, the lack of integrated GPU means your pc will use the external GPU all the time. That will increase power consumption and increase heat generation.

Check out the following table to get a quick and easy idea of the difference between these types of processors:

Feature K series F Series KF Series
Base Performance Same Same Same
iGPU Present Absent Absent
Overclocking Possible Not Possible Possible
Compatibility Some Apps Are Unsupported All Apps Are Supported Some Apps Are Unsupported
Price Higher Lower Lower

Features Of Intel K Series

The suffix K is always shown on the unlocked CPU chips by Intel. The unlocked CPU allows people to adjust the CPU clock speed. It is a hardware-level modification. So, people without an unlocked CPU can never overclock their CPU normally.

All the mainstream Intel Core CPUs with the letter K will have an unlocked clock. It could be plain K, or KF, or even HK, depending on other features it has. HK series is mainly for high-end laptops.

Features Of Intel F Processors

The F series does not have an unlocked multiplier. It does not have any conventional features that people know of either. The F series came in quite recently. The only defining quality of the F series is the lack of integrated GPU.

No one is quite sure how that worked. But Intel managed to deliver a cheaper processor chip with barebone features. The lock on the multiplier is there, but you could try BCLK to do an artificial overclock. Though, there are many drawbacks to doing that.

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Usually, forcing an overlock increases power consumption and heats the chip. The F series does not have the hardware optimization to handle overclocking stress. So, it reduces the lifespan of the chip too. Most people would advise against doing that unless you have no other options.

Features Of Intel KF Processors

KF is the latest processor series suffix. It has an unlocked multiplier and no integrated GPU. It may sound controversial, but the lack of features is sometimes a good thing. The KF series proves that. Though, it is not the best choice for casual users.

Also, since KF ditches the iGPU, it has more room for cooling equipment. The latest KF 9900 series is one of the best intel core models on the market. These processors are optimized for performance, rather than utility.

Final Words

I believe you now understand what all the fuss is about K vs. KF vs. F. I personally think the KF series is the best choice for most people.

Most of us already have a discrete GPU. So, that GPU will just stay there without being used. It is better if you save a few bucks by opting for the KF CPUs.

But if you are going to use apps that specifically need an iGPU then go for the K series. Even though it is a bit more expensive, you will have the opportunity to overclock it and boost performance in the future.