Intel has released new details on a series of Sandy Bridge CPUs that will be upgradeable via software. Three models are eligible. On the desktop, the Core i3-2102 and Pentium G622 can be transformed into the i3-2153 and G693, respectively. Notebook users with a Core i3-2312M will be able to turn it into an i3-2393M.
Intel indicates that upgrading the two desktop CPUs will give users a clock speed boost, while the notebook chip gets a higher clock speed and additional cache. There are no specifics on the magnitude of those changes, though. Instead of revealing the specifications of the upgraded CPUs, Intel has instead released a series of benchmark results illustrating performance gains across multiple benchmarks and applications. The numbers show performance improving by 10-23%, so we're talking about more than just a few MHz.
The cost of each upgrade hasn't been released, but the FAQ includes a few notable details. Windows 7 is the only operating system that's supported, and only "select" systems will be allowed to participate. It looks like the upgrades will be tied to a system's motherboard, too. The FAQ mentions that upgrades will have to be reactivated if there's a mobo swap.
Although some folks seem to take offense at the notion that Intel could be selling "crippled" CPUs operating at less than their full potential, the fact is that the practice has been going on for ages. All the quad-core CPUs in the Sandy Bridge lineup use the same silicon, for example. Intel sets clock speeds, unlocks multipliers, and enables features like Hyper-Threading at the factory. Allowing similar upgrades to be performed via software only provides additional flexibility to end users. I'm curious to see how many take advantage.