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Intel release CPU upgrade cards

Intel release CPU upgrade cards

Intel rolls out $50 upgrade cards for its low end CPU's.

Intel today announced a bizarre move to sell $50 'Processor Performance Upgrade Cards' which users will be able to buy to improve the performance of their Intel CPU's. The cards will unlock additional CPU features that are physically present on the CPU die but are disabled in its default state.

CPU World explain that the Intel Pentium G6951, which ships with 3MB of L3 cache and hyperthreading disabled, can have its full 4MB of L3 cache and hyperthreading enabled through use of an upgrade card. Intel however have yet to confirm if any other processors will be included in the scheme and whether upgrade card costs will be the same across the board or scale with the features they unlock.

The magic process is apparently performed through the use of a downloaded software program into which users enter the pin number from their upgrade card. The only caveat is that you'll have to be running a Windows 7 based system however.

Intel claim the upgrade will be useful for consumers that are looking to do a lot of multitasking, photo rendering or HD video editing and we'd be inclined to agree. Extra cores are always welcome in CPU intensive tasks, even if they are theoretical hyperthreaded cores.

We cant help thinking how long it'll take the internet to develop a work around. Unlocking a bunch of extra performance in a budget chip is a pretty big carrot and we know from experience that locking things through key codes isn't exactly the most effective method of security.

Do you think the idea has got legs or are you worried this could simply lead to more confusion for the consumer? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

48 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
Eriku-Kun 20th September 2010, 13:43 Quote
Never thought i would see DLC for hardware...
r3loaded 20th September 2010, 13:49 Quote
Most likely, this probably just flips a couple of settings in the BIOS. If not, someone's sure to hack it - and failing that, Asus/Gigabyte/MSI are sure to come up with a workaround ;)
PT88 20th September 2010, 13:50 Quote
I give it a month b4 hackers have blown it open and u can get code generators from every torrent site on the net!
Centy-face 20th September 2010, 13:56 Quote
Yeah as others have said people will find ways round it and it will make intel look all the more greedy for charging for something you already have. Stupid ideal this DLC thing is just getting out of control when it comes to the hardware market. Whats next AMD and Nvidia charging you to unlock DX11 capabilities?
Phalanx 20th September 2010, 14:02 Quote
If Intel do this, I think AMD will be laughing so hard as people just flock to them for their CPUs.
Cogwulf 20th September 2010, 14:11 Quote
I would prefer to just spend $50 extra on buying a better CPU
Mraedis 20th September 2010, 14:20 Quote
And for $500 extra, your car could have a working cd player! It's already in there, but you need a pincode to unlock it!

^That's what I thought when I read this.
K.I.T.T. 20th September 2010, 14:44 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mraedis
And for $500 extra, your car could have a working cd player! It's already in there, but you need a pincode to unlock it!

^That's what I thought when I read this.

But doesn't that happen anyway....

"Yes we know we unhooked the battery to do repairs but it's still gonna cost you £50 for us to open a book and find the unlocking code for you"
Snips 20th September 2010, 14:46 Quote
I think the pricing has to be right for this to work.

I can see the need for it for those on a budget. Since they will be building a new system but just can't stretch to a more powerful CPU now. They could opt for the lower one and in a month or two buy the upgrade code.

I'm sure there will be a work around at some point but would you risk your CPU which would probably go to shut down kill mode if cracked? This isn't an overclock risk, so I think don't many would fall down that road but it all depends on how heavy Intel come down on you.

I don't agree with Ph4lanx at all. If the stock CPU before any upgrade is already better than the competition then why would you flock to that competition?
Nedsbeds 20th September 2010, 14:58 Quote
Either they are completely naive, or this is a rather canny way of making buyers think they are getting something for nothing (that's if you assume this will be widely abused via key generators).

In all reality, Intel will already be making a profit on the hardware, but the possibility of the *cough*"free"*cough* upgrade would go a long way to sway someone from purchasing AMDs alternative, even if AMDs were more powerful than the locked intel processor.
Jezcentral 20th September 2010, 15:32 Quote
Wow, Intel's must have been a bit over-zealous with their speed-binning!
general22 20th September 2010, 15:36 Quote
Software based feature locking eh, cracking this open sounds like the new core unlocking. This might even make up for gimping OC'ing on upcoming Sandy Bridge CPU's.
Star*Dagger 20th September 2010, 15:39 Quote
This is a fine way for them to lose their lead to AMD. I guess my next system will be AMD cpu and gpu, something that hasnt happened in a while!
HourBeforeDawn 20th September 2010, 15:50 Quote
lol I love how people say this is going to be hacked, listen this is for the people who walk in to big stores lke good little sheep and buy whatever they are told, so this for the ones who are not smart enough or want to take the time to do it themselves, kinda like those BS optimizations that stores offer.
Evildead666 20th September 2010, 16:01 Quote
Probably a CPU microcode update.
will also be hacked very very fast.

but then again, the people who own this type of machine, don't read any tech blogs.
(or they wouldn't have bought one).
MajestiX 20th September 2010, 16:22 Quote
it's another thing salesman can flog off
non technical upgrades where you don't have to open your pc or hire someone.
McSteel 20th September 2010, 16:23 Quote
Perhaps Intel bought McAfee to assist them with making this thing as hack-tight as possible?
It's a despicable move by Intel, and I hope they get burned for it.
Fabou 20th September 2010, 16:50 Quote
I think it's lame but even more to make it work only on windows. Does that mean in ten years you won't have the choice of your OS? That hardware goes with one software only?
Nexxo 20th September 2010, 16:51 Quote
Anyone remember the good old days when a sharp pencil could unlock the clock frequency on an Athlon?

Ah, the memories. :)
mecblade 20th September 2010, 16:52 Quote
This is another nail in the coffin for intel in the low end market. AMD CPUs require cheaper motherboards, have a decent speed and also is overclockable. This? Intel is just getting ridiculous now. They have already done a lot to upset the enthusiast market. It looks like this will kill off the low end sector of their market. Intel may have better performance than AMD, but this really only applies to Mid and High sectors. In the low end market, they absolutely suck.

Does anyone else think that Intel is becoming the new Apple of computing?

COME ON INTEL, DONT BE W***ERS
Snips 20th September 2010, 17:31 Quote
"In the low end market, they absolutely suck."

Really? G6950? i3 530? unless you are talking the sub-£50 CPU but then no one can get fantastic performance from that price range and it's pointless arguing.

I don't see a problem with this at all. I also can't see what would force people to buy an AMD CPU instead because of this move unless you want to buy a CPU for under £50 then Intel isn't interested.
thehippoz 20th September 2010, 18:48 Quote
I went with the g6950 over the i5 750.. it's so cheap to buy on ebay and some guy in the forums claims a 4.4 clock on air under intels voltage spec- have to see it myself.. it goes against the reviews but usually reviews are played to that crowd (well bit is decent).. they are usually trying to sell hardware to clueless =]

if I can get 4.4 out of it.. it should negate the extra cores on the 750/760 when it comes to gaming.. if it doesn't work out- I just buy a 760 after the next price drop

looks like the nvidias 460 1gb is capable of over 900core on the xtreme forums with custom bios voltage tweaks.. wish mvtech would finish up v5.8 nibitor
Snips 20th September 2010, 20:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by thehippoz
I went with the g6950 over the i5 750.. it's so cheap to buy on ebay and some guy in the forums claims a 4.4 clock on air under intels voltage spec- have to see it myself.. it goes against the reviews but usually reviews are played to that crowd (well bit is decent).. they are usually trying to sell hardware to clueless =]

if I can get 4.4 out of it.. it should negate the extra cores on the 750/760 when it comes to gaming.. if it doesn't work out- I just buy a 760 after the next price drop

looks like the nvidias 460 1gb is capable of over 900core on the xtreme forums with custom bios voltage tweaks.. wish mvtech would finish up v5.8 nibitor

This goes some way to help with the settings.

http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/cpus/2010/06/24/intel-pentium-g6950-cpu-review/1

If the G6951 comes in at around the same price, then a guaranteed (overclock) increase in performance from Intel for us newbies wouldn't be a bad thing.
NiHiLiST 20th September 2010, 20:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nexxo
Anyone remember the good old days when a sharp pencil could unlock the clock frequency on an Athlon?

Ah, the memories. :)

Good times :-) My Duron 800 ran a 50% overclock on air.
Moriquendi 20th September 2010, 20:43 Quote
So what happens when you sell your CPU? Does the next mug get the honour of paying an extra $50 to unlock the features again?
HourBeforeDawn 20th September 2010, 20:51 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Moriquendi
So what happens when you sell your CPU? Does the next mug get the honour of paying an extra $50 to unlock the features again?

its prebuilt systems this is focused at, not people who buy the CPU itself but then again remember when they Sandy Bridge would be locked and have very limited OCing, maybe this is what they had plan and you have to buy the right to basically OC your CPU... with it being Intel it wouldnt surprise me if this was a consideration to them.
HandMadeAndroid 20th September 2010, 20:56 Quote
Intel have gone down in my estimation, they can suck my ram
GravitySmacked 20th September 2010, 21:01 Quote
Read this over the weekend and at first I was shocked but if they p[rice the chips low enough then I guess why not.
Cthippo 20th September 2010, 21:49 Quote
What's the price delta between buying the CPU plus unlock widget versus buying a CPU with the features this "unlocks"?
Fingers66 20th September 2010, 22:04 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Moriquendi
So what happens when you sell your CPU? Does the next mug get the honour of paying an extra $50 to unlock the features again?

Next they'll be telling us we didn't buy a CPU, we bought a license to run it that is non-transferable.

After that, they will be wanting a slice of the second hand CPU sales as well...

*sigh*...why are they so desperate to rape a market they dominate anyway? I know, I know, before you all respond, all is fair in the name of capitalism and all that but do they really think it will last the efforts of the code monkeys?

These have to be destined for the OEM/pre-built market as previously mentioned or else it would make even less sense than it does at the moment.
Snaek 21st September 2010, 00:32 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mraedis
And for $500 extra, your car could have a working cd player! It's already in there, but you need a pincode to unlock it!

^That's what I thought when I read this.

Infiniti is doing that.
ssj12 21st September 2010, 01:43 Quote
Actually, I wonder if they are selling a unlocking tool... use this to unlock some of their locked cores. Might actually be worth it. Unlock say a i7 930 and up the multiplier.
robots 21st September 2010, 01:45 Quote
Sounds good to me. If the upgrade is cheaper than me just getting a better CPU to begin with, then I'll be all for it. I can't help but think it will be haxxored though too, but you never know, Intel aren't stupid.
leexgx 21st September 2010, 04:17 Quote
makes me think of HDCP (robots comment)
cgthomas 21st September 2010, 09:50 Quote
Wouldn't be surprised if my i7 turns out to have 16 cores
Yslen 21st September 2010, 12:43 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snips
"In the low end market, they absolutely suck."

Really? G6950? i3 530? unless you are talking the sub-£50 CPU but then no one can get fantastic performance from that price range and it's pointless arguing.

I don't see a problem with this at all. I also can't see what would force people to buy an AMD CPU instead because of this move unless you want to buy a CPU for under £50 then Intel isn't interested.

The i3 530 is soundly beaten by the lowly Athlon II X4 630 in a number of tests, specifically multi-threaded ones. The Intel beats the AMD by a similar margin in single-core benchmarks, with its more refined architecture and higher clock speed. Looking at the range of benchmarks collectively there's little to choose between them; the i3 is a bit better for single threaded uses, the X4 pulling away slightly in multi-threaded apps. For gaming, they're tied, as most CPUs are in a balanced system. The AMD part has cheaper motherboards, a retail price that's £10 (15%!) lower than the Intel and a more friendly upgrade path (get an AM4 board then AM3 is finally dropped then when financially convenient get an AM4 CPU). Based on all of this, I'd say AMD beats Intel at this price point.

The G6950 is the same price as the AMD mentioned above, but gets absolutely thrashed in video encoding or any multi-threaded test. Some games show the difference between dual and quad core quite markedly too. The G6950 was shown to beat the Athlon X3 445 (which is £10 cheaper) with some heavy overclocking, though the AMD chip was only slightly behind in multitasking tests, which implies the AMD X4 would still beat the Intel despite the massive overclock it can handle. At stock speeds the AMD wins hands down.

Personally I'd say that's evidence to support the claim that "in the low end market they (Intel) absolutely suck". For a company with so much money and R&D power it's saddening to see that they're relying on their name to sell low-end products when they could be offering something that's actually better than their competitor's CPUs for the same price.
Tangster 21st September 2010, 14:10 Quote
Additionally, at low end price points you are looking mostly at OEM systems, which are not designed to take advantage of overclocking, thereby nullifying the advantages of Intel superiority in that area(as in the Pentium G6950 CPU's). It would be wiser instead to offer these CPU's at a much higher stock speed.
mrbens 21st September 2010, 14:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Centy-face
it will make intel look all the more greedy for charging for something you already have.

My thoughts exactly.
Tulatin 21st September 2010, 16:15 Quote
The magic process is apparently performed through the use of a downloaded software program into which users enter the pin number from their upgrade card.

What the ****? So, basically it's just a softmod, that Intel wants to sell? I wonder if you can pirate these softmods.
jon 21st September 2010, 16:31 Quote
If it's a soft-mod, it'll be hacked ...

I remember the days of flashing x800XT bios into an x800 Pro to unlock cores ... or dropping a bit of solder to re-connect a broken pipe ...

ah, memories ...
eddtox 21st September 2010, 19:09 Quote
So they are looking to charge you again for something you have already bought?
What a bunch of [insert expletives here].
I was really interested in the i3 but forget it, I will go the AMD route
Yslen 21st September 2010, 19:19 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tangster
Additionally, at low end price points you are looking mostly at OEM systems, which are not designed to take advantage of overclocking, thereby nullifying the advantages of Intel superiority in that area(as in the Pentium G6950 CPU's). It would be wiser instead to offer these CPU's at a much higher stock speed.

<bows> yet again someone makes a better point in three lines than I can in three paragraphs!
greyhavens24 21st September 2010, 22:09 Quote
I remember putting a blog on the Custom PC forums about overclocking about a year ago and getting flamed for it. Referring back to an earlier post about a 2B pencil unlocking the multiplier on early Athlons, I stated that overclocking appeared to be too common place. I remember when you had to buy a certain processer fab and yield to get good overclocking potential and sites like Overclockers UK specialised in selling those chips at very high prices. Now however you can go and buy any make of £60 chip and overclock the nuts off it! I surmised that it wasn't a case that WE were OVERCLOCKING them but the manufacturers were UNDERCLOCKING them and we were simply clocking them back to their correct levels. I have a Phenom II X3 720 BE and pretty much everyone (including CPC) manages to get 3.7GHz on air. I thought it strange that EVERYONE can achieve it with vastly different MB.

After reading this article my pondering doesn't seem so stupid now, huh! What Intel are saying essentially is by a Pentium put in this passcode and voila you have a full blown Core i5 with hyperthreading. At least we are now seeing Intel's cynicism and contempt for it's customers by actually coming out with this "wonderful" idea.

It makes me glad to be in the AMD camp.
Niftyrat 22nd September 2010, 07:35 Quote
I can just imagine what happens if you have to reformat your computer "sorry sir you need to pony up another 50 to get a new pin!"
eddtox 22nd September 2010, 10:02 Quote
I'm sure someone must have put up the objection that DLC will make companies strip a product and then ask you to pay extra for what should have been there in the first place. I just never thought they would have the audacity to do it for hardware.
st1x 22nd September 2010, 10:25 Quote
Anyone know if we get moar multiplayer maps with this DLC or is it just balancing issues?

;P

Nic
SteveU 22nd September 2010, 13:36 Quote
I'll bet PC World are gonna love this!

Imagine Joe public going in to buy a budget HP or Gateway PC (shudder) and walking out with Norton, a Wirelss Printer and a £50 processor upgrade all as part of a special 'upgrade package'.
Fizzban 22nd September 2010, 16:39 Quote
Last time I checked it wasn't April 1st. What the hell are Intel playing at? They started smoking crack or something..honestly.
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