Much of Core 2010′s confusing branding is due to disabling features and units. E.g. Core i7 and Core i5 quad cores are separated by HyperThreading; Core i5 dual cores feature Turbo while Core i3 don’t, and Pentium G has both Turbo and HyperThreading disabled, alongwith a “hard disable” of 1 MB L3 cache. While AMD does not disable software features, Phenom II X2 an X3 are basically Phenom II quad cores with two or one core disabled, respectively. The Phenom II X4 800 series features disabled cache. However, AMD allows the end user to attempt unlocking locked units through the BIOS. While the main purpose for AMD is to salvage dies, Intel uses feature disables mostly as a marketing tactic, which hasn’t been popular with enthusiasts. Now, Intel is trialing an option to enable these locked features, but at a cost. Enter “Intel Upgrade Service”.

9 18 10 intel600 Intel trials Upgrade Service for CPUs

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Much of Core 2010′s confusing branding is due to disabling features and
units. E.g. Core i7 and Core i5 quad cores are separated by
HyperThreading; Core i5 dual cores feature Turbo while Core i3 don’t,
and Pentium G has both Turbo and HyperThreading disabled, alongwith a
“hard disable” of 1 MB L3 cache. While AMD does not disable software
features, Phenom II X2 an X3 are basically Phenom II quad cores with two
or one core disabled, respectively. The Phenom II X4 800 series
features disabled cache. However, AMD allows the end user to attempt
unlocking locked units through the BIOS. While the main purpose for AMD
is to salvage dies, Intel uses feature disables mostly as a marketing
tactic, which hasn’t been popular with enthusiasts. Now, Intel is
trialing an option to enable these locked features, but at a cost. Enter
“Intel Upgrade Service”.

9 18 10 intel600 Intel trials Upgrade Service for CPUs

Simply put, Intel Upgrade Service lets you download a software, which requires a PIN. This PIN is available in retail in an “Upgrade Card” like the one pictured above. Enter the PIN in the software on your PC, and it magically upgrades the CPU. The first Upgrade Cards are targeted at Pentium G6951, and unlocks 1MB L3 cache and HyperThreading. The card costs a whopping $50, which makes it nearly 60% of the price of the CPU itself. In essence, it turns Pentium G series into Core i3, except with a lower clock speed and a higher price (including the upgrade). It is clearly useless for a new computer, but could offer a convenient upgrade for existing PCs.

This is something AMD offers for free – users can attempt to unlock cores/cache at their own discretion. However, Intel’s upgrades are guaranteed as they are purely marketing-oriented soft disables, whereas AMD’s are more hardware and yield maximisation-oriented, they may not work or work with compromises. (E.g. Unlocked cores may require higher voltage and thus power consumption) Of course, Intel’s “upgrades” are much easier to execute as well, especially for casual users.

Do note that Intel is only running a “small pilot program” now in the USA, Canada, Netherlands and Spain. There’s no doubt this is going to be a controversial “service”, but it could be useful for certain markets. Perhaps an existing business PC (Pentium G6951 based) requires a quick upgrade – it is certainly easier, cheaper and faster to use Upgrade Service than upgrading to a Core i3 CPU. Of course, whether this CPU should already have these features enabled is a different argument altogether… Whether the Intel Upgrade Service becomes widely available for a range of CPUs in the future depends largely on the success of this trial.

Reference: Engadget