If you bought a janky Compaq at Best Buy recently you may have been offered a $50 “upgrade” card that allows you to download software that will unlock threads and cache on the Pentium G6951 inside your PC. That’s right: they are selling an upgrade that is actually a key to unlock performance that your PC already has. Internet firestorm in 3…2…1…
The chip in question has 1MB of cache and is fairly underpowered in the first place. As Engadget notes, the process of locking portions of a chip is fairly common but it usually happens because that area is defective on manufacture. This, however, is something completely different: you are paying an extra half a c-note to use the full power of your processor unhindered by what amounts to DRM.
The increase in power in this case is minor: a 5% increase in graphics performance and about 60% using the SiSoft Sandra Whetstone benchmark. I also will not go all Cory Doctorow on you and rail against the evils of DRM because, as we all know, someone, somewhere will hack this system and even if they don’t the processor is a bit to low-end for most hax0rs.
I will, however, rail against the potential for abuse. By offering a $50 upgrade to a processor, the average computer manufacturer will see a way to nickel and dime the consumer by forcing further important upgrades. Need to unlock some graphics card memory? $25. Need a faster hard drive buffer? $1.99 per minute, please. The margins on PCs and laptops are so slow that anything that can force a few pennies out of the customers pocket is fair game.
These upgrades could also be fake, creating the opportunity for further abuse by adding a fees for non-existent or dubious value. If I pay for one scratch off card, I’ll probably pay for another one, right?
I suspect this process will quickly expire as all of you scream against the indignities of the free market, as it should. Intel, however, will keep trying to make money.