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Intel tests charging $50 to enable existing CPU features

updated 12:15 am EDT, Sun September 19, 2010

Intel artificially disabling CPU features in trial

Intel has quietly begun a trial program, Intel Upgrade Service, that charges customers to unlock the full performance of a chip. Certain PCs, such as Gateway's SX2841-09e, are running an artificially limited Pentium G6951 processor and asked to buy a $50 Processor Performance Upgrade Card to get the built-in feature set. Installing a Windows app switches on Hyperthreading, giving the system support for up to four program threads, and reenables another 1MB of Level 3 cache.

The rollout isn't a full one and is limited to a "small pilot program" in parts of Canada, the Netherlands, Spain and the US. Intel hasn't said whether it's leaning towards continuing or cancelling its plans.

While potentially a way to simplify upgrading, the practice is already controversial as it shows the company capable of selling a full processor at a given price but charging a premium to get its full support. In the past, Intel, AMD and other processor makers have sold full-fledged chips with reduced features only when production yields generate chips that have lose some features. Some Intel single-core processors, for example, are dual-core chips that shipped with one defective core or too little cache to drive a full set of cores.

It's unlikely every computer manufacturer would agree to the strategy. Performance-oriented builders are likely to balk as they depend on performance as a selling point. Budget PC designers may look to the option to fuel low-end sales by promising a system at one price but knowing some customers will pay a premium later. [via Engadget]

by MacNN Staff



  1. chas_m




    I predict any profit made from this "premium" will be eaten up in lawyer costs.

  1. facebook_Justin

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Sep 2010


    comment title

    Reminds me of what Apple used to do with the 802.11n. MacBooks, like mine, came with 802.11n wifi but in order to take advantage of the N, you needed to buy an enabler.

  1. icewing

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Seems kind of....slimy to me.

  1. Parky

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Not the same

    "Reminds me of what Apple used to do with the 802.11n. MacBooks, like mine, came with 802.11n wifi but in order to take advantage of the N, you needed to buy an enabler."

    That is not the same at all.
    1. 'N' was not included on your computer originally as it had not been ratified and agreed as a standard, therefore Apple could not deliver the device with 'N' turned on.

    2. They had to change under the Sarbane-Oxley financial rules for delivering additional functionality, which if not charged for the shareholders could sue Apple about for loss of income.

    3. It was not a deliberate ploy by Apple to make money at a later stage, the costs was minimal but had to reflect an fair value for the same reason as point 2.

    This on the other hand is a deliberate ploy by Intel to sell perfectly capable devices, not limited by approvals or standards, and then charge for them again to make more money.

  1. Makosuke

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Even if this were the same as the n-enabler--which it's not for the aforementioned reasons--that doesn't make it any less slimy and insulting to the consumer. Not saying I'm surprised, but this alone would be enough reason to make my next system one with an AMD chip if I built my own.

    Based on where performance was four years ago Apple going all-Intel made complete sense, but I suddenly find myself hoping to see some AMD processors in Macs sooner rather than later.

  1. ebeyer

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Intel has an effective monopoly on the chip market. Everybody
    knows it. This is the only way they can even begin to think
    they can get away with this c***. Look for action from the
    FTC if/when this gets announced.

  1. starwarrior

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Slimbags on Intel List

    These people are suspect as usual:

    Acer* Compaq* Dell* Fujitsu* Gateway* HP* IBM* Lenovo*

    Thank goodness Apple did not make the list

  1. Lifeisabeach

    Joined: Dec 1969


    This is not a new tactic for Intel.

    Intel did similar things back in their earlier i486 days. They sold one cpu (the 486SX) that was really a 486DX, but had part of its processing power shut off. The processor upgrade they sold (the 487) was in fact a 486DX also, un-hobbled, but had a different pin arrangement so it couldn't be used in place of its hobbled brother. Plugging it in simply shut off the old one.

  1. boris_cleto

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Kind of like IBM

    IBM used to sell 2 models of mainframe. 1 that cost a $1million and 1 that cost $1/2million. The one that cost $1/2million ran at 1/2 the speed of the one that cost $1million. The only difference between the 2 was that the $1/2million model had a card in it that made it run 1/2 speed. If you removed the card it ran at full speed, and violated your service agreement.

  1. qazwart

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I wonder how computer manufacturers will respond

    Imagine you're a computer manufacturer. One model has this Intel chip and a $75 option to upgrade to the next level of processor.

    Now, instead of customers paying you the $75, they simply hand $50 to Intel. What should have been your income now goes directly to your supplier.

    I can't imagine manufacturers being very pleased with this. I suspect they're not on board.

    The big question is what will Apple do. You know they're not going to let Intel play that game with Macs.

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