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Quick Take: Nutty Intel VT Story

May 6, 2009

ZDnet has an interesting story that’s getting some traction about Windows 7’s XP mode and how you may not be able to run it on your Intel platform. Since the technology relies on Intel-VT or AMD-v to work, if your chip doesn’t have it, you’re cooked. Unlike AMD’s all-or-nothing approach that creates uniformity across server and workstation platforms – delivering all features to all but the “Semperon” versions of the AMD64, Intel likes to market “reduced feature” versions to keep price points meaningful.

Intel’s approach also makes it a nightmare for consumer end-users to determine what they get from their money, as described very well in ZDnet’s blog:

Here’s a real-world example. Dell’s Vostro 420 is a well-built, no-frills desktop PC designed for the small and medium business market. The screen [graph] below shows the current lineup of CPUs that you can choose from when you build this system to order at Dell’s website. Four of the six options support Intel VT; I’ve circled the two CPUs that don’t support VT.

(see ZDnet’s blog entry for graphic and story)

If you stay with the entry-level CPU, XP Mode won’t run on this PC. So you decide to upgrade the E7400 to an E8500 for $90. Problem solved! Although both are members of the Core 2 Duo family, the E8500 supports Intel VT, whereas the E7400 doesn’t.

But then you realize that for a measly $40 more you can go from a dual-core processor to the Core 2 Quad Q8200. Great idea! Unless you want to use any of those four CPU cores to run Windows Virtual PC, that is. The Q8200, you see, lacks VT support. For that, you need the Q9400, Q9550, or Q9650.

Does this feature roulette still go on with Core i7 and Nehalem-EP? Not with VT – only Hyper-Threading, but ZDnet’s article can help you determine if you are at risk from Windows 7 feature disappointment.

SOLORI’s Take:  Customer confusion only works for so long before buyer’s remorse sets in. To disable a feature is somehow different than not including it in the first place, but it defies logic that this was Intel’s path. On the server side of the equation, this is unacceptable, but the consumer goods market is a different animal. All in all, this is the stuff of caveat emptor. When it gets too difficult to know what you’re being sold, switch vendors.

One comment

  1. I’m floored. Although I have an Intel chip in a eeePC netbook (first-generation), it’s critical info like this that’s made me glad I purposely use AMD.

    Here I was thinking my only reason was BIOS APCI/root-kit vector Intel has been aware of since 2005… and still present in today’s chips (AFAIK).

    Thank you.

    Like



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