Intel has posted an upgrade service page on their website which indicates that Intel will again be offering upgradeable CPUs. This is not totally unheard of since Intel offered a similar service for Pentium G6951 a year ago. Back then, $50 bought you Hyper-Threading and 1MB more L3 cache, and the SKU of the CPU changed to G6952. This time Intel has expanded the lineup and the upgrade service is available for three CPUs: i3-2312M, i3-2102 and Pentium G622. Unfortunately we don't know the price yet but we do know that the upgrade offers higher frequency and possibly increased amount of cache. Here are the CPU before and after the upgrade:

CPU Before Upgrade CPU After Upgrade Performance increase
i3-2312M (2.1GHz, 3MB) i3-2393M (2.5GHz, 4MB) 10-19%
i3-2102 (3.1GHz, 3MB) i3-2153 (3.6GHz, 3MB) 12-15%
Pentium G622 (2.6GHz, 3MB) Pentium G693 (3.2GHz, 3MB) 15-23%

The after CPUs have not been released so the specs are just calculations based on the performance gains Intel reported. 

Upgrading the CPU is very simple. All you need is the upgrade card. Then download the installer from Intel's site and run it. At some point, you will be asked to insert the code from the upgrade card (no, you can't get this for free). 

The need for such upgrade is fairly small though. We don't know the price so it's hard to say can the upgrade be worth it or not, but if the price will end up being $50 like before, it's pretty expensive for 10-23% gains. Pentium G622 costs only ~$65, meaning that you get 23% performance increase for 77% more money. Not exactly a bargain. i3s cost a bit more but even then, you aren't getting a good performance/price ratio. 

The only useful scenario could be with OEM PCs when you may not be able to select a specific CPU and upgrading the CPU can be harder (or even impossible) and may void the warranty. Intel has blocked overclocking in non-K CPUs, so you are stuck with the stock frequency. In some rare occasions where the extra CPU speed is really needed, paying the upgrade price can be worth it. However, what we are looking at are low-end CPUs, so anyone who needs a powerful CPU should look at Intel's i5 and i7 lineups in the first place. 

Source: Intel

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  • raptorious - Sunday, August 14, 2011 - link

    "Pentium G622 costs only ~$65, meaning that you get 23% performance increase for 77% more money. Not exactly a bargain. i3s cost a bit more but even then, you aren't getting a good performance/price ratio."

    Don't get me wrong, I don't like this whole CPU software upgrade thing, but looking at a pure performance/price ratio is almost never favorable going from the low to the high end. This seems to imply that the performance v.s. price curve is or should be linear. Like many things in life, when you go higher-end, you are entering a zone of dimishing returns.
  • LauRoman - Sunday, August 14, 2011 - link

    It's diminishing returns only if most of the time you idle the higher end processor. If on a day that processor helps you finsih your job 15% faster it might make a difference.
  • Kristian Vättö - Sunday, August 14, 2011 - link

    I know but usually the gap isn't this big. You pay more than three times more $ in % compared to the performance gain in %. I would say that is terrible value. If the upgrade was $20 (as it might be), then you would pay 31% more $ for 23% increase. That isn't too bad anymore.
  • lyeoh - Sunday, August 14, 2011 - link

    Another thing: Intel can always cut the upgrade price to compete against AMD. They don't even need to ship CPUs to get the extra $$$.

    My guess is Intel's CPUs have got to the stage where their crappiest batch of desktop/laptop chips is inherently as fast or even faster than AMDs fastest desktop stuff, so at the low end Intel have to cripple lots of CPUs.

    If Intel thought AMD had a chance of pulling something much faster out of the bag, they wouldn't bother with this. But it sure looks like AMD has nothing - I don't see anything AMD has in the horizon that would overtake Intel's stuff.

    So when AMD releases their next generation, even if AMD charges lower, Intel can cut the upgrade fee (if necessary). Then the customer's old slower Intel CPU, suddenly runs as fast as AMD's new mid-range desktop CPUs (or maybe even faster). No need to ship anything except a license key/code.

    I hope that AMD survives and makes better CPUs but it sure doesn't look good.
  • Medallish - Monday, August 15, 2011 - link

    You're forgetting that Intel wouldn't allow itself to do so, lowering prices will most likely mean less income for Intel, and something tells me that's not what the shareholders want, AMD's shareholders do because that's currently how they stay competitive.

    Intel's decision to try this again doesn't have anything to do with AMD, indeed it's cheaper to get an Athlon II x4 than it is to first buy this dual core and then buy this coupon to upgrade it.

    There's been a lot of conflicting data on bulldozer, hopefully it will compete pretty well, but even if it's not the greatest out there, Intel still wouldn't shoot itself in the foot by trying to make their midrange CPU's better.

    AMD isn't as far behind as some people claim, in fact when Bulldozer comes out you could argue they are slightly ahead on the side of technology, IPC still remains to be seen.
  • lyeoh - Monday, August 15, 2011 - link

    You're not thinking straight. Customers buying AMD instead of the upgrade would mean less income for Intel. Customers not buying at all = less income for Intel.

    This sort of thing gives Intel more options.

    It may be cheaper to get the Athlon X4, but it is an inferior chip to the i3 for most desktop use:
    Intel's profits indicate that many people are willing to pay for the i3.

    Lastly buying an i3 and the software upgrade later could be cheaper than buying an Athlon X4, and then buying another AMD CPU that's as fast as an "upgraded" i3.

    Maybe the Bulldozer might come out and be much faster. But AMD is unlikely to replace most of its lineup with Bulldozers. So you may still get more bang for buck with Intel (truth is most people don't need "bang" so they can go for AMD ;) )

    I'll be happy if Bulldozer blows away the Intel CPUs. But I'm not betting on it. You can buy AMD stock and bet on it if you want.
  • Ratman6161 - Monday, August 15, 2011 - link this case we are not talking about low end vs. high end or even low end vs mid-range. We are talking about low end vs. not quite so low end
  • Daniel Egger - Sunday, August 14, 2011 - link

    My opinion on this is two-fold:

    For one why the heck does Intel cripple CPUs so they can be upgraded later. This is what I would consider foul play.

    On the other hand I'm not sure you realize that the i3-2312M is a mobile CPU which is soldered on the board. There's sensible way to replace it so having an option to upgrade is quite nice.
  • Kristian Vättö - Sunday, August 14, 2011 - link

    I edited the article to be more clear. My original thought was to mention something that upgrading the CPU in laptops is more or less impossible but looks like I forgot.
  • lyeoh - Sunday, August 14, 2011 - link

    Intel can also change the upgrade price later. Does not affect their cost (CPU is already paid for), but can certainly affect AMD ;).

    As I mentioned in my other post, this just shows how far behind AMD is. AMD couldn't do the same thing and still be competitive while covering the costs of the CPU.

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