Upgrade Card  (Source: Engadget)

Locked vs Unlocked performance  (Source: Intel)
$50 will get you slightly better performance

It was just last week that we learned that the Intel-backed HDCP DRM scheme for Blu-ray movies had been cracked. Today, however, we learn of another Intel product that is being used to "add features" to its latest line of processors, and it sounds just a little bit like DRM.

According to Engadget, Intel is selling a $50 "Processor Performance Upgrade Card" which will unlock features that are already included on an Intel Pentium G6951 processor, but are disabled from the factory. In the case of the upgrade card detailed by Engadget, it is specific to the Gateway SX2841-09e.

CPU World notes that the 2.8GHz G6951 is sold with 3MB of L3 cache and has HyperThreading disabled. By purchasing and activating the $50 upgrade card, a full 4MB of L3 cache is enabled along with HyperThreading.

The processor enhancements are performed by going to Intel's website and downloading software to your Windows 7-based computer. From there, you'll have to enter in your PIN from the upgrade card in order to boost the performance of your CPU.

Intel says that the added L3 cache and HyperThreading is useful for:

  • Multitasking
  • Rendering of photos, film, or music
  • Most kinds of digital content creation
  • Enjoying high-definition media

Intel also shows a benchmark chart which shows a standard G6951 versus an unlocked G6951 (see figure at right).

As with all forms of DRM and software unlocks, it's only a matter of time before modders/hackers find a way to circumvent Intel's $50 upgrade card.

"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis
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