Print 34 comment(s) - last by JediJeb.. on Aug 16 at 6:46 PM

How long until someone cracks Intel's secret upgrade process?

Intel Corp. (INTC) is yet again repeating the "upgrade card" strategy, which it first employed with the Nehalem G6952 CPU.  Intel has announced [press release] new $50 upgrades for three Sandy Bridge series processors -- the 2.6 GHz 2 core/2 thread G622, the 3.1 GHz 2 core/4 thread i3-2102, and the 2.1 GHz 2 core/4 thread i3-2312.

The upgrades buy you an undisclosed increase in clock speeds (and in the i3-2312's case, increased cache as well).  In all, this nets you somewhere around a 15 percent average performance bump.

As AnandTech points out, this is a rather tough sell as the G622 sells for around $65 USD a pop, so you're talking about a 77 percent premium for a small performance bump most won't notice.  However, the upgrade may be useful to some users of OEM machines who wish to avoid voiding their warranty with DIY processor upgrades.

One has to wonder how long Intel's secret unlocking procedure will stay unbroken, given that similar "crippled" hardware models on Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD) and NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA) have been perpetually defeated.  Currently the process is quite straightforward -- you just download an upgrade utility, punch in the product key during the installation process, and enjoy your faster CPU.  How long it takes for that processor to become "enjoy your faster CPU for free" remains to be seen.

The upgrade does not appear to be available yet on Newegg or  Intel did not indicate when it would be available.

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Pardon my French,
By quiksilvr on 8/15/11, Rating: 0
RE: Pardon my French,
By amanojaku on 8/15/2011 10:45:23 AM , Rating: 5
Or, you could buy AMD.

RE: Pardon my French,
By Reclaimer77 on 8/15/11, Rating: 0
RE: Pardon my French,
By Taft12 on 8/15/2011 12:29:24 PM , Rating: 2
The stock Intel's destroy anything from AMD though.

Not at equivalent price points.

i5-2500K = Phenom II X6 1090T
i3-2100 = Phenom II X4 955
Pentium G850 = Athlon II X4 640
Pentium G620 = Athlon II X3 450

You'll find benchmarks to be quite competitive in these matchups. Unless you need i7 horsepower, you have a non-Intel option that will suit you just fine (and almost nobody needs i7 horsepower, even readers of this site)

Another upside to buying AMD is you're sending a message to Uncle Monopoly that you won't stand for a company blocking 3rd parties from making chipsets, paying Dell et al not to carry AMD systems, and you won't pay Intel to overclock your CPU for you.

RE: Pardon my French,
By Reclaimer77 on 8/15/2011 1:37:31 PM , Rating: 5
What benches are you looking at? The i5-2500k is clearly the better buy, it's a beast, even at that price point. Only in a few heavily threaded apps will the 1090T come out on top in this match up.

So again, even at equivalent price points, AMD still falters behind. And there is no "i7" equivalent from AMD. Just because you assume nobody "needs" i7 horsepower does not excuse AMD for not being able to provide a true flagship chip. And just man to man, since when was there ever such a thing as "too much" horsepower in a PC?

Being just cheaper doesn't cut it in today enthusiast PC market. Why do you think AMD is in the position that it's in today? Now maybe Bulldozer will finally change all this, and maybe not. But you guys have got to understand that if all you can counter with is "AMD is cheaper", well, that just doesn't blow anyone's skirt up these days.

When AMD was making a name for itself it was cheaper AND faster than Intel. Now it's just cheaper. Until AMD starts scoring decisive victories again Intel in the benchmarks, this slow slide will continue. And if the "3d" transistor is as revolutionary as everyone says it is, AMD is in some serious trouble.

Another upside to buying AMD is you're sending a message to Uncle Monopoly

No no no, stop right there. I will buy what best suits my needs. I'm not interested in paying AMD as some silly protest against Intel. Are you serious with this?

RE: Pardon my French,
By MrPoletski on 8/16/2011 7:05:59 AM , Rating: 1
And just man to man, since when was there ever such a thing as "too much" horsepower in a PC?

Too much horseplay, maybe.

RE: Pardon my French,
By Parhel on 8/16/2011 9:11:16 AM , Rating: 2
Not every system build is in the i5 or i7 category. For that "rest of the market" AMD's lack of a presence at the high end shouldn't matter.

No question, once you get into the quad core Sandy Bridge chips, AMD can't compete. Below that, they have at least a few areas where they come out on top.

The Llano chips, for example, if you're trying to build an HTPC for less than a grand. The E-350 and C-series chips, too. AMD has a lot riding on Bulldozer though. If it isn't competitive at the high end, they might be in trouble.

RE: Pardon my French,
By JediJeb on 8/16/2011 6:46:48 PM , Rating: 2
I for one can't afford to pay much for a new PC right now and have been getting by with an AMD 2400XP so far. When I do upgrade in a month or so price will matter a lot. If I can get enough power at half the price then I will definitely go AMD instead of Intel. I also tend to do more raw number crunching than A/V Media work and at least from what I have seen AMD is equal or a little ahead in that area. For someone doing nothing but editing movies sure Intel is by far the best option.

I am actually looking into the AMD Fusion line to put together my next build. I just need to see how well Linux is with compatibility to those. The built in GPU cores in those are good for crunching numbers with the right applications.

RE: Pardon my French,
By bjacobson on 8/15/2011 6:50:33 PM , Rating: 4
as long as AMD provides "enough" performance for what I need at a good value, I will buy them. Intel is faster in single theraded performance, whether by design or by cheat (unethical compiler performance crippling-- see but we're much better off having AMD in the market. Just look at what Intel is doing lately with socket 2011 and their segmentation of the market. Want better performance? Gotta buy a new mobo. Boo intel, rah rah amd!

RE: Pardon my French,
By nafhan on 8/15/2011 1:42:36 PM , Rating: 2
Intel tends to do market segmentation based on features as well as speed whereas AMD just does speed (in the same family of course). So, if you are going for a specific processor features rather than pure speed, AMD is often a good choice.

RE: Pardon my French,
By StevoLincolnite on 8/15/2011 2:48:09 PM , Rating: 2
But there is something to be said for future-proofing.

I was probably lucky. But when it came to have having a future proofed AMD rig...

I bought a Socket AM2 motherboard in 2007 with an Athlon 64 x2 5000+.
Then I dropped in an AM2+ Phenom X3 8400 in 2009.
Then I dropped in an AM3 Athlon 2 x4 640 this year.
4 years, 3 different CPU architectures, same motherboard, ram etc'.

Then my main rig which I built this time last year... was an AM3 Phenom 2 x6 1090T rig which the motherboard also happens to be compatible with AM3+ Zambezi/Bulldozer.

I don't think I did to bad out of AMD's platforms in regards to being "future proofed".

Granted, AM3+ will come at an end with the next refresh of the Bulldozer architecture, but I honestly don't mind if I get the same longevity out of the next sockets.

RE: Pardon my French,
By Reclaimer77 on 8/15/2011 3:25:51 PM , Rating: 2
Well that's one way to look at it. You could also look at it as being you still had to upgrade the CPU three times in only a 4 year period.

4 years ago you could have saved yourself all that trouble and gotten an i7. Something that outperforms all your previous CPU upgrades at stock speeds, and is very easy to overclock as well if you feel it's getting a bit dated.

That's the kind of future proofing I was talking about. Not having to buy and install 3 CPU's in a 4 year period.

RE: Pardon my French,
By Natch on 8/15/2011 3:39:14 PM , Rating: 2
Problem is, the top end i7 is running ~$600, and the top end AMD is <$200.

I'd say he still came out ahead, money wise, especially since there's a healthy market for used cpu's (Anandtech FS/FT forum, for one), and he could recoup some of his cost.

RE: Pardon my French,
By Reclaimer77 on 8/15/2011 5:00:01 PM , Rating: 2
Problem is, the top end i7 is running ~$600, and the top end AMD is <$200.

Misleading statement because you do not need to spend ~$600 for the top end to find something faster than AMD's top end product.

RE: Pardon my French,
By Parhel on 8/16/2011 9:22:55 AM , Rating: 2
He said that he bought the rig in 2007, though. At that time, IIRC, the top offering from Intel was a 65nm Core 2. For a Duo, you'd be in the $200 - $300 price range. For a Quad, I think it $500 and up.

If you bought into socket 775 later, you would have gotten a 45nm processor, and done a little better. But they never really made sense as an upgrade due to the cost. For example, I have a rig with an E8500 I'd love to replace with a Quad, but why spend $300+ for a minor increase when a few dollar more could get me into socket 1155?

I'd say he didn't too bad. That's one area where AMD has done well, IMO. They've offered a nice upgrade path for their users (socket 939 notwithstanding.)

RE: Pardon my French,
By mindless1 on 8/16/2011 6:34:52 PM , Rating: 2
The fact is, low end PCs sell in FAR larger volumes than anything else. You write about the enthusiast market as if that's what we're supposed to consider but it's such a tiny fraction of marketshare that it is not worth considering.

In related news, integrated video is still the most popular type (gasp!). Today "most" people do not buy a new computer for performance, they buy it because their old one failed and it would cost too much for replacement parts and service to repair an aging system.

RE: Pardon my French,
By ilt24 on 8/15/2011 4:21:15 PM , Rating: 2
the kind of future proofing I was talking about. Not having to buy and install 3 CPU's in a 4 year period.

If he was looking for performance his first mistake was to put a AM2+ processor in a AM2 motherboard. Hypertransport increased from 1.4GHz with AM2 to 2.6Ghz with AM2+ and then to 3.2Ghz with AM3. Memory also progressed over than time. While on paper being able to reuse a motherboard over multiple generations is sounds great, the performance gains one sees when they do it, is not close to the benchmark numbers they see from review sites who test with the latest motherboard and memory.

RE: Pardon my French,
By Taft12 on 8/15/2011 5:00:43 PM , Rating: 2
Can you tell us what the performance delta is between 1.4GHz and 3.2 GHz of Hypertransport is? I wouldn't be surprised if the impact on most things is not noticeable.

Faster memory speeds don't have much impact on anything, not a big loss between his old DDR2 667MHz and current DDR3 1333MHz.

Going from a dual-core to a quad-core CPU is where the money is, that's where the OP reaped the benefit.

PS To the OP, what was the AM2 motherboard supported well enough by the OEM to allow you to do this? It doesn't usually work out that well in practice since often Asus, MSI or whoever has abandoned BIOS updates for older boards.

RE: Pardon my French,
By Reclaimer77 on 8/15/2011 5:53:05 PM , Rating: 2
Faster memory speeds don't have much impact on anything

Excuse me? You're basing this on what exactly?

RE: Pardon my French,
By Taft12 on 8/16/2011 10:16:44 AM , Rating: 2
Excuse me? You're basing this on what exactly?

DDR2-800 vs DDR3-1333, Does Speed Matter?
Summary: NO (Incase you don’t want to read further)

There's been a good number of articles that reach the same conclusion after running the same kinds of tests.

RE: Pardon my French,
By sinisterDei on 8/15/2011 11:34:42 PM , Rating: 2

I don't know about the OP, but I performed much the same upgrade path on my Gigabyte GA-M57SLI-S4. It's an AM2 board that I started out with using an X2 4800+ (AM2), then moved to a Athlon X2 7750 (AM2+), then to a Phenom II X4 945 (AM3).

Some motherboard manufacturers (Gigabyte) support their products for the long-haul. Meanwhile, my ASUS M2E-SLI - purchased within three months of the Gigabyte - received a total of two post-purchase BIOS updates, none of which added significant CPU support nor fixed any of the outstanding problems with the board itself (poor sound quality, inability to run large varieties of memory at DDR2 800 reliably).

RE: Pardon my French,
By sinisterDei on 8/15/2011 11:35:30 PM , Rating: 2
Oops, the ASUS is an M2N-E SLI, I believe.

RE: Pardon my French,
By fic2 on 8/15/2011 7:50:16 PM , Rating: 2
Yes. 4 years ago (2007) he could have built a time machine and jumped ahead to 2009 to buy an i7.

RE: Pardon my French,
By Reclaimer77 on 8/15/11, Rating: -1
RE: Pardon my French,
By Parhel on 8/16/2011 9:34:37 AM , Rating: 2
Umm the i7 was released in 2008 and we're nearing the end of 2011.

No, the socket 1156 i7 was released at the end of 2009, and that's a dead platform. Sandy Bridge came out early this year.

RE: Pardon my French,
By Taft12 on 8/16/2011 10:29:52 AM , Rating: 2
He's talking about socket 1366 (another dead platform, incidentally)

RE: Pardon my French,
By Parhel on 8/16/2011 2:01:03 PM , Rating: 2
Ah, you're right, I didn't think of that. Maybe I didn't think of that because it doesn't make sense to compare someone spending maybe $300 on CPU+Mobo+RAM to a system that would have cost maybe $1000 at the time. :)

RE: Pardon my French,
By Taft12 on 8/16/2011 10:27:17 AM , Rating: 2
You're losing arguments all over the place in this thread, but someone who bought an i7 in 2008 (socket 1366 platform) would have spent over $600 for the CPU and motherboard ALONE (never mind the DDR3 that was more expensive than DDR2 at that time).

We're still in a different price universe than any AMD stuff, even if you count the 3 CPUs purchased over 4 years.

RE: Pardon my French,
By dark matter on 8/16/2011 6:34:09 PM , Rating: 1
Out of principle.

"Principles" being something your absolutely devoid of given your derogatory comment and attitude.

My advice is be more civil towards people, or continue to be a fucking douche all your life. Choice is yours.

RE: Pardon my French,
By CharonPDX on 8/16/2011 2:59:38 PM , Rating: 2
Or you could just not buy something not targeted at you, and buy the better price-to-performance product in the first place.

I mean, you probably weren't considering buying a Hyundai Accent and then getting the 98 horsepower to 115 horsepower engine upgrade, were you? If you were even considering a Hyundai, it would either be a higher-end model, or you'd go ahead and buy the cheapest model and mod the hell out of it.

Just because YOU aren't the target market doesn't mean there IS no target market.

Hardware level protection
By jdietz on 8/15/2011 10:47:07 AM , Rating: 2
That's what it probably is. It'll be tough to crack.

From :
Some Intel CPUs have a feature called TXT. It interacts with trusted platform module (TPM) chips to provide a secure boot. It's not yet widely used.

The mechanism to upgrade CPUs could be some sort of scaled-down version of that. Something like the key to decode the upgrade key (that you buy from Intel) is stored in the CPU and never copied into memory. If that's how it actually is, someone at Intel could leak the key (that's never copied into main memory). There must be some way they get around that...

RE: Hardware level protection
By Flunk on 8/15/2011 10:55:57 AM , Rating: 2
I think we're more likely to see a resistor-related hardware hack, but that really won't be too useful for the type of people who have these low end chips anyway.

RE: Hardware level protection
By Warwulf on 8/15/2011 12:10:18 PM , Rating: 2
I see this as being a very secure process. It shouldn't be too difficult to have a flash ROM on-die that's only able to be access by uniquely encrypted command pathways (perhaps based on the serial number plus some hash), which the upgrade utility can obtain from an Intel server via secure channel (after purchase has been verified). I don't foresee this as beinh a simple "resistor hack". Especially since the ones commonly used are on Graphics Cards to overclock them (something that's available on most CPUs thhrough BIOS).

Personally, I see this as a good thing. It would reduce cost for Intel by having less variety of processors to physically manufacture. Let's face it, they need budget processors as well as enthusiast processors. If they can make your existing 2.0 GHz budget model go to 3.2 GHz with a sofft upgrade, it would be more convenient for everyone wiithout having to buy an entirely new processor and going through the pain of CPU replacement.

RE: Hardware level protection
By tastyratz on 8/15/2011 1:51:54 PM , Rating: 2
I think it doesn't matter how secure the hardware is at the physical level because it will be interfaced with... by a user... in a windows program. Lock the hardware down hard and someone will still just download the program put it on pirate bay and then crack it. The biggest issue is that these are low budget chips with minimal performance gain cards. There simply will not be enough market to garner hacker attention.
Now if they start offering i5/i7 mid to high class upgrade cards...

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