Hot on the heels of Motorola offering a speed update for the CPU for its Milestone XT720 Android handset, Intel is doing something similar for its CPU – only charging users $50 for the privilege.
Intel has permitted Gateway to offer an upgrade card to unlock features and performance from the CPU in one of its machines.
The machine in question is a Gateway SX2841-09e (catchy, huh), and the processor is the Pentium G6951, which by default runs at 2.8GHz, has 3MB of Level 3 cache and does not offer Hyper-Threading.
However, pay $50 and you can download some software that will unlock the CPU and upgrade it to offer 4MB of Level 3 cache and enable Hyper-Threading. The clock speed remains unchanged.
The new scheme was revealed when someone spotted a voucher was spotted in Best Buy in the US and alerted Engadget.
Upgrading features in this way is common in the software world, Windows 7 and Office work in this way, with all features already available on each install, but it is the first time we have heard of it applied to hardware.
It is common for hardware manufacturers to sell more powerful parts at lower speed grades, known a binning, in order to keep up supply when there is less demand for higher end parts, or to sell parts that are partially defective with disabled cores, which are then unlocked by savvy consumers. This has been done many times over the years, with famously upgradable parts such as the ATI Radeon 9500 becoming a Radeon 9700 Pro via a simple pipeline unlock. However, this is the first time that the unlocking features in silicon has been commercialised in this manner.
When TrustedReviews inquired if the scheme will be coming to the this side of the pond, Intel UK were not aware of the Upgrade Card program, implying that there are no immediate plans to bring it to the UK.