Intel Testing Unlockable Processor Upgrade Cards

Intel announced a new program late last week that allows users to upgrade to a more powerful processor with a $50 unlockable code sold for $50.

The Intel Upgrade Service as it is being called is only available on one system and one processor currently, the Gateway SX2801-01e from Best Buy with an Intel Pentium G6951 processor that can be upgraded to a Core i3 processor with more cache and hyperthreading.

Users who purchase these cards can upgrade their processor by downloading a small program from Intel and using an unlock code purchased on a scratch off card. Intel calls this upgrade a “down-the wire” upgrade, and it allows consumers to gain performance that will come in handy for editing video or photos without the need to open their desktop.

Hot Hardware has a look at the performance gains from unlocking the extra power on this processor in case you want to see what consumers who upgrade can expect.

Selling a processor that has been locked to run at a specific speed isn’t new, it’s known as binning in the industry; though binned chips are usually locked at a certain speed due to a portion of silicon going bad during printing.

Even though the program is young, there has already been some noise about the selling of an intentionally scaled down chip, comparing it to the trend of selling video games with locked content built-in that can be paid for and unlocked later.

Selling these upgrades on desktops is an interesting start since desktops can usually be upgraded by opening up that system and installing a new processor. Notebooks and laptops, it would seem, would be a more logical choice for offering “down-the-wire” upgrades.

Ultimately it will take some time to see how the average consumer feels about the ability to unlock more power down the road. It would be nice to see a clock speed boost as well as the addition of hyperthreading, but so long as the upgrade program is used as a tool to extend the life of a system or meet new user demands it could be successful. If it becomes part of an aggressive in store sales pitch when the computer is first being sold that’s a different

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