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Intel Charging $50 to Unlock CPU's Full Features

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 145 comments

Want to use all the capabilities of your CPU? Then pay up!

Software upgrade vouchers are something that we're used to. A simple code can either unlock previously dormant features or it can initiate a download of upgrade files. This sort of system is used for games and even operating systems like Windows 7. But now it's being put to use in Intel CPUs.

An Engadget reader spotted on the shelves a Best Buy a $50 upgrade card that claims to upgrade the processor inside the Gateway SX2841-09e, which is a Pentium G6951 dual-core LGA1156 Clarkdale processor.

The upgrade card appears to promise an upgrade from 2- to 4-way multi-task processing and a larger cache, speeding up data-heavy applications. Specifically, that means the enabling of HyperThreading and an extra 1MB of L3 cache for a total of 4MB.

To "unlock" the full features of this CPU, a user must go to the Intel upgrade website and install the upgrade application. From there, a PIN from the upgrade voucher must be entered for the upgrade before the reboot completes the process.

Right now, this "upgradeable" CPU is being tested in select markets, so it likely isn't a sign of things to come – at least not in the enthusiast high-end.

How do you feel about this kind of model? Do you feel that you should be getting 100 percent of the capabilities of the hardware you own, or are you pleased that you have an upgrade option that you can pay more for when or if you need it?

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  • 43 Hide
    Onus , September 21, 2010 10:06 AM
    This is money-grubbing. Soon enough, unlock codes will be published. I'm not at all a fan of crackers and pirates, but something like this was born to be hacked.
  • 34 Hide
    ac21365 , September 21, 2010 10:04 AM
    Of course! I'd love a Corvette that only went 60mph til I paid a "highway speeds" tax!

    Sigh... Of all the businesses to hop on the nickel-and-dime bus, Intel wasn't one I was expecting.
  • 27 Hide
    hemburger , September 21, 2010 10:03 AM
    WHAT!!
Other Comments
  • 27 Hide
    hemburger , September 21, 2010 10:03 AM
    WHAT!!
  • 34 Hide
    ac21365 , September 21, 2010 10:04 AM
    Of course! I'd love a Corvette that only went 60mph til I paid a "highway speeds" tax!

    Sigh... Of all the businesses to hop on the nickel-and-dime bus, Intel wasn't one I was expecting.
  • 43 Hide
    Onus , September 21, 2010 10:06 AM
    This is money-grubbing. Soon enough, unlock codes will be published. I'm not at all a fan of crackers and pirates, but something like this was born to be hacked.
  • 22 Hide
    adaman2576 , September 21, 2010 10:35 AM
    Intel is taking a page out of apple's book... Anyone remember having to pay to enable the bluetooth chip on the ipod touch 2g???
  • 19 Hide
    renami9 , September 21, 2010 10:35 AM
    you know, this may not be a bad thing, it can be a good thing. i'll just buy a cheap "locked" CPU, and then i'll just wait for someone to publish the "unlock" code or how to unlock it. yeah, i say go for it.
  • 20 Hide
    elel , September 21, 2010 10:37 AM
    I sure hope that someone comes out with an unlocking motherboard, like we already have for AMD
  • 13 Hide
    jestersage , September 21, 2010 10:38 AM
    I think this would be a gaping hole for exploitation by unscrupulous/intrepid enthusiasts. i5 750 with hyperthreading or i3 530 with turbo, anyone?

    Maybe this will be Intel's answer to AMD's ACC... but with a price-tag.
  • 6 Hide
    Miyasashi , September 21, 2010 10:40 AM
    If for instance the CPU's are sold 50 dollars cheaper than the actual value and you're not sure if you need the extra power you'll save some money.

    But if it's overpriced and you have to pay extra... well you know what I'm trying to say.
  • -6 Hide
    ares1214 , September 21, 2010 10:40 AM
    Bit late on this one Tom's. But in any event, this is an OK (at best) concept, but it is priced terribly. They are charging over $150 with this card added in for sub i3 530 performance...which costs $115. I dont even think it works with the G6950, just the G6951, which is only an OEM cpu right now, so its not like its even an upgrade.
  • 8 Hide
    abhijitkalyane , September 21, 2010 10:42 AM
    Yep, just a way of milking the cash cow. You have already bought the hardware but now you need to pay to get the max performance. It may fool many users into thinking that this is an "upgrade", while all the while they already owned it.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 21, 2010 10:45 AM
    So does it mean this is the only way to do things like over clocking? Or is this just a way for people who don't want to mess with FSB and voltages and just want a easy upgrade path? Personally I think its a bit much for what you get. But considering the fact most computers like Gateway and Dell have little in bios or motherboard settings to overclock. I guess this might be a better choice then to replace the CPU with a better one.
  • 3 Hide
    outlw6669 , September 21, 2010 10:49 AM
    I think the real news here is that there is a way to unlock the full feature sets of these CPU's.
    I only wonder if this is possible with all the gimped i series or just a few?

    Either way, once someone figures out how Intel makes this work, we can look forward to even better value from their budget offerings.
  • 27 Hide
    DjEaZy , September 21, 2010 11:01 AM
    ... WTF!?!?!?! Intel Charging $50 to Unlock CPU's Full Features?!?!?!?! Greedy m0#h3rf@#$rs!!!
  • 5 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , September 21, 2010 11:03 AM
    LOL at this, seriously...im sure people will find a way to unlock them without paying....Its so gay, its like paying for overclocking, which you wouldn't...I doubt the features are worth $50. Sadly, people WILL pay the money, and then realise its not really much faster than it was before. Intel will probably claim some rediculous performance increase that does not hold up in real world apps. I cant think of a good point to this idea....
  • 12 Hide
    jazz84 , September 21, 2010 11:07 AM
    outlw6669I think the real news here is that there is a way to unlock the full feature sets of these CPU's.


    THIS. If anything, this is Intel's money grubbing turning into an instance of them tipping their hand. If CPU features can be unlocked via software (especially cache), that's a game changer for the enthusiast crowd. Once this gets reverse-engineered (which it will), Intel is going to be kicking themselves. The enthusiast crowd will have a way to get better performance from a cheaper chip and the mainstream probably won't even show any widespread interest in this to begin with.

    It does raise a question for me, though. What does this mean to the whole binning concept? I've always been under the impression that features such as "extra" cache were disabled due to chip defects, which in turn is a way to increase yield and keep costs down. Does this now mean that Intel is taking measures to hobble good silicon just so they can maybe grab an extra $50 down the road? Seems like that would be a more expensive process in the long run...
  • 2 Hide
    Travis Beane , September 21, 2010 11:08 AM
    Many chips are already artificially binned to meet certain price points, at least this gives them a chance to have their old, completely usable cache and the such back.
  • 1 Hide
    maflynn , September 21, 2010 11:11 AM
    I wonder how long this will last, since most people will just ask the google for the unlocking codes. They'll be out on the intarweb before too long.
  • 12 Hide
    delazaren , September 21, 2010 11:21 AM
    Give me the 100% or else I'll buy from somewhere else.
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