Intel offers Performance Upgrades for Low-End CPUs – Via Software

Some folks may remember a “service” that Intel had tried out not too long ago. A special sub-$60 upgrade card (shown below) allowed users with a Pentium G6951 desktop processor to do a “software” upgrade of sorts, unlocking HyperThreading support and an extra megabyte of L3 cache (for a total of 4MB) on their CPUs without even opening up the case. The result was a noticeable performance boost, and the processor name becoming “G6952”.

Upgrade Card: For the Intel Pentium G6951.Upgrade Card: For the Intel Pentium G6951.

While many balked at this, saying that Intel was simply charging extra cash to enable features that the chip could already do from the beginning (which is true), the attempt has apparently been a success, and Intel is now offering three Sandy Bridge-based processors capable of these painless upgrades.

These are the Core i3-2102 and Pentium G622 on the desktop, and the Core i3-2312M for laptops. Intel indicates that, when upgraded, the first two CPUs will get a boost in their clockspeed (and become the i3-2153 and G693, respectively), while the mobile chip will unlock some extra cache alongside a clockspeed boost (and turn into an i3-2393M). Intel isn't specifying exactly how big the boosts are (how many megahertz, etc.)

In order to make use of the upgrades, one would have to download the software from the Intel site, as well as have the special PIN code that comes on the upgrade card. Changes to the motherboard firmware are carried out, and, after a reboot, the chip will be in the upgraded state.

Intel has some benchmark graphs on their site that show just how much extra performance the Upgrade Service can bring to several applications and loads:

Intel's performance graph for the i3-2153.Intel's performance graph for the i3-2153.

 Intel's performance graph for the Pentium G693.Intel's performance graph for the Pentium G693.

 Intel's performance graph for the i3-2393M.Intel's performance graph for the i3-2393M.

With speed increases ranging from 10 to 23%, perhaps this will be a good option for those that don't want to futz around with their PC's innards, yet still want more CPU horsepower, without having to take their PC to a shop.

There are a few snags to the Upgrade Service, though – apparently you have to be running Windows 7, only certain computer systems can do the upgrades, and if you change your motherboard, you'll have to reactivate, if it's still possible to do so.

The official pricetags for the respective Upgrade Services are currently unknown (though Engadget says that they will cost $50 each). (Via Cnet)