Intel Corp. (INTC) is yet again repeating the "upgrade card" strategy, which it first employed with the Nehalem G6952 CPU. Intel has announced [press release] new $50 upgrades for three Sandy Bridge series processors -- the 2.6 GHz 2 core/2 thread G622, the 3.1 GHz 2 core/4 thread i3-2102, and the 2.1 GHz 2 core/4 thread i3-2312.
The upgrades buy you an undisclosed increase in clock speeds (and in the i3-2312's case, increased cache as well). In all, this nets you somewhere around a 15 percent average performance bump.
As AnandTech points out, this is a rather tough sell as the G622 sells for around $65 USD a pop, so you're talking about a 77 percent premium for a small performance bump most won't notice. However, the upgrade may be useful to some users of OEM machines who wish to avoid voiding their warranty with DIY processor upgrades.
One has to wonder how long Intel's secret unlocking procedure will stay unbroken, given that similar "crippled" hardware models on Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD) and NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA) have been perpetually defeated. Currently the process is quite straightforward -- you just download an upgrade utility, punch in the product key during the installation process, and enjoy your faster CPU. How long it takes for that processor to become "enjoy your faster CPU for free" remains to be seen.
The upgrade does not appear to be available yet on Newegg or Amazon.com. Intel did not indicate when it would be available.