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Intel Releasing Upgradable Processors Crippled by Default

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Intel has a new pilot program that may not go over well with consumers. Imagine going into a store to buy a new computer and being told that you needed to pay extra in order to access all of the processor’s features.

The new pilot program will focus on a single Pentium processor SKU (line) and require a special code to access the processor’s full capabilities. The purchase price to unlock the processor is $50 and you would need to have the store (Best Buy) do the upgrade or download the code and do it yourself.

From the article: Intel is conducting a retail pilot program that introduces desktop PCs with an Intel Pentium G6951 processor that has certain features turned off–namely, part of the cache memory and a function called hyper-threading. Cache memory is critical, very-high-speed memory built into the chip, while hyper-threading allows a processor to use, on some applications, virtual cores, essentially doubling the number of physical processing cores.

Would you:

  • Accept a computer with a limited-function processor and use it as is?
  • Accept a computer with a limited-function processor and pay for the upgrade?
  • Or simply refuse to purchase it at all?

Let us know what you think in the comments!

Photo credit: Intel.

Would you buy an Intel chip hobbled by design? [via CNET News]

Akemi Iwaya is a devoted Mozilla Firefox user who enjoys working with multiple browsers and occasionally dabbling with Linux. She also loves reading fantasy and sci-fi stories as well as playing "old school" role-playing games. You can visit her on Twitter and .

  • Published 09/23/10

Comments (43)

  1. David Levine

    I would simply refuse to purchase it at all and get an AMD processor.

    Next thing you know, you buy a PC with a 1 TB hard drive and 4 GB of RAM, but out of the box it you only have access to 500 GB and 2 GB of RAM until you pay extra.

    I’m sure people will find ways to circumvent this. I can’t see this taking off.

  2. Kryptic Chewie

    If I am buying it then it is mine. How can they give me a crippled piece of hardware. If it is on lease then that is a different story.
    I wonder what will happen when people find a hack for it seeing as it is their own hardware.

  3. Djblois

    Actually that is the wrong analogy and it is a perfectly good business strategy. What is the difference between having one chip that has different levels that you pay for and several chips at different levels? There is only one difference – the one chip at different levels would reduce costs for Intel and for the computer manufacturers. Intel only needs to make one Chip per line and the manufacturer will need to customize the computer less. Plus, you can do things Similar to the anytime upgrade that Microsoft does – you buy the computer now and in the future you pay a little more to get the power upgraded. This could be a great help for laptops which usually you cannot upgrade the processor.

  4. AsianAngel

    @Djblois – Honestly, I would have to disagree. If I purchased any computer with a particular processor I would expect that processor to be working at 100% from the beginning and no less.

    It may “seem” to make good business sense all around but in the end it is still open deceit. You get lured in with the promise of a computer having “X” processor only to get “gut punched” when told that you have to pay extra just for it to even work at 100%.

    To me all this new idea of theirs amounts to is just a way to skim (perhaps scam is a much better word) extra money off people. There is absolutely NO way that I would accept this.

  5. Matthew

    I can’t imagine it would be that long before a hack is figured out.

  6. DJGray

    This is a foolish strategy. It leaves a very sour taste in the consumer’s mouth. If I want a lesser performing system, I’ll buy a lesser performing system. I’m going to have to go with AsianAngel here. I want what I buy to be working at full capacity from day one. AMD will benefit from this.

  7. Tony

    This was done decades ago for mainframe users, where the customer would buy a computer at a set performance and then be able to increase the performance by paying more – without having to go through any hardware (or software) changes – made sense then and on a PC it is better than having to reload all your software on to a new PC when you need more performance.

  8. HappyUser

    Oh Yes! I’ve bought a new house that has three bedrooms and it is big and nice….. except I can’t use bathrooms. I have to pay extra to take a $%!t. They will never learn on their own mistakes!

  9. beergas

    Or simply refuse to purchase it at all? And await the hack else AMD.
    Dumb idea that will be seen as such.

  10. onedeafeye

    As long as it’s up front that the chip is limited, I see no problem. You can spend more for a computer with a better chip or less for one with a lesser chip – or, you can spend less for a computer with a lesser chip that you can upgrade by paying more. Same difference.

  11. Paul N

    Intel has been doing this somewhat for a long time now (at least at the hardware level). For example, the difference between the various incarnations of the Celeron versus the Pentium chips has been some combo of hyper-threading, cache, or math-co for many years now. Granted these cannot easily be switched back in by the consumer, as they were deliberately disabled within the hardware.

    It is for this reason and the fact that they are not always good for Linux that I prefer AMD.

  12. Philip

    When the costs of a full performance chip is the same of a locked one, then they should just sell the whole thing at the low price! There is no way I am buying a locked chip, I would rather go for AMD….

  13. david

    I would never buy a “locked” chip.

    I have to say, that i always think it looks bad when a company tries to nickel and dime consumers. I have always been intel or nothing, but if this hits the shelves I would never buy intel again.

  14. Bob

    Well, they have already gotten us used to purchasing additional insurance on items, so what’s next? The chip with limited features. Just one more way to get into your pocket.

  15. Jay

    Sounds like American Airlines charging you for the peanuts.

  16. WayneW

    How do you spell CPU? Oh yeah, AMD.

    Another way to smoke intel would be to include USB3 on all AMD boards.
    intel “might” incorporated it NEXT YEAR!
    I guaranty my next machine will be AMD (better value for MOST people) w/ USB3.

  17. WayneW

    Why don’t Yall supply email notification of new comments?
    ( or at least the option )

  18. Ken

    This appears to be a money grab. The IBM model of using the same mainframe then sending in a technician for upgrades at additional cost is only feasible when you have a few hundred machines with routine visits by the techs. In Intel’s case with potentially millions of CPUs, with no visits by Intel for factory maintenance, unauthorized jailbreaks will become the norm. If the new CPU has a decent price and adequate potential when jailbroken then it will only a few months before it is compromised. I will probably buy AMD until Intel voluntarily removes the artificial restrictions.

    One user, one CPU. Take that back – one user, 6 cores.

  19. Paultx

    I think this model can be interesting for a guy who, say, at a certain moment doesn’t have enough money to buy the whole stuff and perhaps doesn’t need the whole stuff at that given time. Then one fine day this guy needs or wants and now can afford to pay, so he buys the whole stuff. Thinking of a small biz that grows and needs more computing power… well, this makes sense to me.

  20. mark

    by the time you need the extra power for running word or cloud app’s on this type of pc, the pc is obsolete.

  21. Paultx

    @mark: I get your point, but thinking of how many PCs all over the world still run Windows XP…

  22. Dusty

    I thank that Intel may not have thoroughly thought through the PR associated with this type of upgrade. It will instantly give AMD a ad campaign slogan. I would not buy a new car and then purchase the upgrade that would remove the governor allow the car to run at its rated speed. I would buy a AMD processor.

  23. Mike

    I would not buy, It is just a very stupid trick to hide the final cost of the product.

  24. Armando

    I would not buy it.

  25. roger

    If Intel could afford to sell me a computer at £X, making a decent profit in the process (or obviously they wouldn’t sell it to me at that price), to then ask for an extra £Y to enable built-in, not additional, capacity smacks of pure greed. Would you buy a car that was not able to go on motorways unless you paid the manufacturer extra?

  26. kzinti1

    This isn’t the 1st time I’ve heard this story.
    Intel decides to sell cpu’s that have unlockable features. Like AMD with cpu cores that are unlockable IF you buy a motherboard that has the core unlocker feature.
    I commend Intel for trying out this feature on the suckers that always buy prebuilt computers instead of building their own custom, higher quality, much better performing and much cheaper computers!

  27. rMatey180

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!
    I’m glad my new build has an AMD processor. I unlocked the processor for a nice upgrade for free. Intel is definitely moving in reverse.

  28. Tech Yen

    This is purely profit based for the consumer market. I can understand businesses grow and may require a convenient and cheap alternative to a new processor.
    BUT… If they make one base cpu, and save costs by applying different features to the same base model, why then do the not pass these savings onto the normal everyday consumer? Why does the advancement of technology, and reduction in cost for the manufacture have to mean a price hike for average Joe?
    A better way to market this would be to pass on the savings, during the worst recession since the 1930’s… And help your beloved customer to obtain your products.

  29. Roi

    This doesn’t make sense. If I buy a CPU I want to buy everything! If I want something more or better, I would buy a new CPU and replace the one I have. Having something already built in the CPU locked is incomprehensible. I have always liked Intel but looks like I am going to have to reconsider AMD.

  30. John Saxon

    AMD are looking good! Reminds me of the old computer shop trick, partition a new hard drive and hide one of the partitions. When the customer runs out of disk space un-hide the partition and charge them for a new hard drive. Wake up Intel this won’t work.

  31. phillavery

    What a bunch of wacko’s – these guys are shooting themselves in the foot – as Mathew says, how long before some one figures out a ‘hack’ . No definitely not interested thank you….these guys must spend the night on the turps!

  32. Djblois

    I am sorry but 90% of you are 100% wrong. There is NOTHING wrong with this strategy (provided they are transparent about it, which they would be. How is it different to have 3 different chips at different levels or one chip at 3 levels? It is a much cheaper prospect for the 1 chip at 3 levels and any situation that allows corporations to reduce their costs people should welcome. (Not if the cost reduction leads to safety considerations)

  33. M.A.A.N.

    simply refuse to purchase it at all!

    Tht’s insane.

  34. Telly

    1. Wait for hack/crack

    2. Buy the cheapest model you can find

    3. Apply hack/crack

    4. Enjoy!

    Intel should know better! Remember the BSEL mods!!

  35. Howard

    Intel is up to its old tricks. They did this before with one of the earlier processors, it may have been the i386. They sold one chip with the math coprocessor enabled and another with the math coprocessor disabled. It did not make sense then and it does not make sense now.

  36. Sammy

    Buy it for less money. Many chips can handle more devices than connected. Most chipsets can manage 4 RS-232 ports but there isn’t the need for them so they aren’t included. Look at the capability included in chipsets and see how many USB, SATA, etc they can provide and see if your board has them all installed. You didn’t pay for them because you didn’t need them at that time. Wouldn’t it be cool to buy what you needed now and purchase expansion capability at a later point when you need it rather than needing to purchase an entire new computer?

  37. Will

    You are looking at this from the wrong model. This is not buying a processor from and not getting all you want. This is a consumer buying a PC. He’s looking at price points. How much do I want to spend? What features are important to me? Right now, you get your models with varying processor levels. Intel makes a number of models and you pick the price point you want. Each has different features or speed associated with them. You’re picking based on cost at this level more than likely so $50 is a big deal. Lots of people go with a lower level processor for cost reasons. Once they do that, they are locked into that processor unless they shell out the full cost to buy a new one, which they will probably will never do and just buy some memory or a new hard drive until they buy a new PC in 3-5 years.

    This gives them at least an option of upgrading their processor cheaply. Sure they could have just bought the unlocked one at the time or a better one but that extra cost kept them away. When you are looking at $500 computers a $50 option is a lot. We’re not talking your high end $3k machines. This is consumer level stuff. It won’t go over with your PC geeks and that’s not the market they are going after. Those people are buying the high end stuff that won’t ever have this ‘feature’ on them.

  38. dragonassbabe

    refuse to buy it, as is i have amd turon toshiba and i think its great so why buy a brand that is scheming just for money ,when other brands are just as good. no brainer i think. they will be out some business i suspect.

  39. Kev

    Maybe I’m looking at this from a different perspective, but I don’t see how it could harm the consumer unless they start selling seriously gimped processors for cheap. In that case, don’t buy it. (I remember when we looked at 486 SX as 486 SuX lol)

    Right Now:

    Processor A – $A
    Processor B – $B
    Processor C – $C

    If you purchase the lower end Processor “A” to save some money on your build, and later decide you need a speed boost, you have to go out and pay full price for Processor “B” or “C”. You then have to open up your computer to install it and shelve the old processor.

    Possible Future:

    You want to build a system and have the following processor choices:

    Processor A – $A
    Processor B – $B
    Processor C – $C

    You choose processor “A” to save some money. (You get exactly what was advertised. Not a “crippled” processor “C”.. you didn’t pay for that.)
    Later, you decide you want a speed boost, so instead of having to run to the store to buy a new processor, you make an online purchase and minutes later you have processor “c”. Sounds pretty cool to me and is likely a much cheaper upgrade since the hardware is being reused.

    In the end, you get what you pay for. You don’t have to have a “crippled” CPU.. you can just shell out for the top end model right off the bat. If you don’t have the money, you can get in the game earlier and simply upgrade when you can afford it.

    If Intel tries to abuse this by making barely functional chips, the market will respond accordingly.

  40. akai289

    As I know, AMD 3x CPU’s have actually 4x CPU and one was disable. At least Intel give you a chance turn it on, and upgrade your process but don’t have to buy the new one.
    The most important thing is what I pay equal to what I receive

  41. Marcus Lander

    I would probably buy the processor with the upgrade. I might even find a few people who bought codes to make things easier. Afterwards, I would start experimenting with the code to discover what it’s algorithm was if it differs from system to system. Then I would release this code to the world.

    I truly believe that this is going to come back and haunt intel.Why would one even consider such a thing? If I buy a computer, then I’m going to be buying it for the power for my processor intensive CAD software and my computer programming classes.

    I wonder if this will affect people who build their own desktops and laptops?

  42. Al Fischer

    So long as Intel makes SURE that the buyer is aware of the effect of the lower performance option BEFORE purxhase then I see no problem. The case of the many totally computer illiterate consumers that will buy only on the PRICE and have no knowledge of computer technology being sold by some shady seller is a problem. There are many consumer level computer users that will be defrauded, expecially by certain large chain stores. Truth in advertising could become a big factor. (even bigger than Celeron being sold as “Intel Inside’). .

  43. Darryl C Gardner

    I can’t wait until a sharp hacker figures out a way to cripple the upgrade feature so it won’t work regardless of how much extra the customer pays Intel.

    Anyone want to guess how much it would cost to replace motherboards?

    Bring on the lawyers.

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