Under one fell swoop, Intel removed support for software guard extension (SGX) in 11th and 12th-generation Intel Core processors last week, preventing modern PCs from playing Blu-ray disks in 4K resolution.
Blu-ray discs feature digital rights management that requires support for SGX. SGX offers hardware-based memory encryption that isolates specific application code and data in memory—something that’s infused into Intel CPUs from the get-go. This security extension technology allows code to be separated into different levels of security, categorizing some as more private than others.
Ultra HD Blu-rays with 4K resolution require SGX as part of the chain of trust. This protects contents from either being read or saved by any process outside of intended use. Since Intel is removing SGX from its 11th and 12th-generation processors (including the upcoming Alder Lake lineup), compatibility with 4K Blu-ray playback will no longer be in place. Although this seems a considerable inconvenience for affected users, there’s a reason why SGX isn’t worth the trouble anymore.
SGX is exclusively Intel, meaning developers need to design specifically with SGX in mind, as opposed to other competitor systems. Over the lifespan of SGX, several vulnerabilities were found within the security extension that allowed for various attacks including malware, allowing hackers to disrupt PC systems that featured Intel SGX.
Most modern PCs don’t even have a disc drive, and many viewers go the streaming route while watching TV shows and movies. If being unable to run your favorite Blu-ray title on your PC is a deal-breaker, however, you’ll have to go with a 10th-gen Intel CPU or older, or a non-Intel-based CPU system. Regardless, it’s something to consider for anyone looking to put together a new PC with their home entertainment needs in mind.