According to MaximumPC, ALL retail Core i7 processors, including the Core i7-940 and i7-920, are shipping as unlocked.
If this turns out to be true, then those $299 Core i7-920 processors just got a LOT more interesting…
But why lock them, and only on engineering sample parts? Traditionally, Intel’s engineering parts are unlocked so vendors can perform various tests. This is why engineering sample parts sometimes have higher values: they often have no artificial limiters on them.
Intel’s official reason for the change of heart is: “We made a marketing decision to unlock them for the launched product due to requests from some of our customers.”
Who are the customers? Intel didn’t name names but our first guess was memory makers. If memory support for DDR3/1600 was only limited to $1,000 CPUs, they wouldn’t sell a lot of high-end memory. Perhaps some OEMs even balked as well at the thought of selling machines with RAM limited to DDR3/1066.