Intel starts selling paper CPU upgrades

Not worth the paper it’s printed on

INTEL HAS JUST proven without a doubt that its CPUs are artificially restricted by launching a pilot scheme which allows owners of certain specific OEM systems to buy a scratch card and upgrade their CPU by entering a code. If this isn’t the rip-off of the century, then we don’t know what is.

Sorry Intel, but this is not the way you keep your customers happy, especially when you consider that Intel wants $50 (or €49 off Europeans, which is $64) for what, in reality, isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. The processor in question that Intel is running its pilot program with is the Pentium G6951 which is an OEM version of the G6950 with one important difference; it supports the scratch card upgrade.

So what does the scratch card get you? Well, it unlocks Hyper Threading and 1MB of extra cache and the CPU name is changed to Pentium G6952 while the clock speed remains at 2.8GHz. In reality the CPU is actually turned into a Core i3 processor, although it seems like Intel wasn’t willing to go this far. Considering that a Pentium G6950 retail for about $100 there’s no other way to put this but to call it a scam as the actual value of the upgrade is worth less than $10 as the Core i3 530 – which is a faster CPU at 2.93GHz – is only a mere $15 more in retail whereas $50 would get you a Core i3 550 which is a 3.2GHz processor.

Now if this was a $10-20 upgrade it wouldn’t be such a big deal, but what Intel is charging for is something that is a matter of entering a code in a piece of software. Hyper Threading does bring a performance boost to certain applications, but it’s not worth the asking price, neither is the extra 1MB of cache. Oh, and we forgot to mention that the special upgrade procedure is limited to Intel’s DH55TC and DH55PJ motherboards, so any OEM’s that want to offer the upgrade option has to use one of these two motherboards.

Currently the pilot program is running in the US, Canada, Netherlands and Spain according to Intel’s upgrade service website. The whole upgrade process appears to work in a similar manner to Microsoft’s Windows activation. Interestingly it seems like this isn’t Intel’s first attempt at this, as the “how it works” page mentions Intel’s Q45 chipset as being one of the supported platforms, although it’s not mentioned elsewhere on the site. Currently in the US it appears to be a specific Gateway system that’s part of the pilot program, at least according to information posted on Engadget and the scratch cards appear to be on sale in Best Buy, suggesting that this is a lot more than a pilot program.

So what’s next Intel? Will we have to pay per feature in the future – $20 for Hyper Threading, $10 per 1MB of cache, $10 per 100MHz of extra clock speed, $50 per extra core and $500 for an unlocked CPU? It’s a scary thought, but it really looks like this is the beginning of a new way for Intel to sell its processors and to make even more profit. Fit the most basic CPU in a system and let the user pay for each and every upgrade they want. Let’s hope that we’re just conspiracy theorists, but it’s not a farfetched idea. On the other hands, here’s fingers crossed for someone to work out how to hack this system, if for no other reason than to show Intel what a bad idea this is.S|A

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