Intel’s SGX Discontinuation Impacts DRM and Ultra HD Blu-ray Support

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The big picture: Today’s technology has made high quality video available at the touch of a button. But while streaming offers the ultimate in convenience, factors ranging from superior A/V quality to the need for physical media due to poor connectivity have kept the Blu-ray community alive and well, no if only in a niche. Unfortunately, Blu-ray enthusiasts using modern Intel hardware just got some not-so-good news about 4K UHD Blu-ray support.

A data sheet released by Intel this month provides an in-depth look at the changes behind Intel’s Core processor lineup. The brief details the latest technologies and performance behind the new processor family as well as a short list of deprecated features. This last list includes the deletion of Software Protection Extensions (SGX), a requirement for protected 4K UHD content.

Digital Rights Management (DRM) solutions, such as those used in Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, rely on SGX to facilitate secure communication and computation within a user’s system. The removal of SGX in Intel’s 11th and 12th Gen series processors means that Intel users using their PCs for 4K UHD Blu-ray content will no longer be able to display the expected 3840×2160 resolution offered by the high format. definition.

Introduced with Intel’s Skylake line of processors, SGX is a specific set of security-related instruction codes designed to support secure computing, browsing, and DRM. SGX-enabled secure hardware creates a secure container, or enclave, designed to protect the confidentiality and integrity of all data sent to that secure container. A cryptographic hash is used to prove the authenticity of any interaction with the container and the computer data it contains. Based on this requirement, no data can be processed through this enclave if a corresponding cryptographic hash is not provided.

Although the removal of SGX means that UHD DRM protected content will no longer be accessible to many late model Intel users, the overall ability to view the format is not lost. Based on the available information, it seems that 4K formats and data not taking advantage of DRM solutions should still work as expected. Functionality would also be restored if the Association of Blu-ray discs always chooses to remove DRM or other SGX related protections from their format.

The deprecation of SGX and the inability to display 4K UHD is just one more challenge in a series of DRM-based challenges from Alder Lake. For a few weeks after launch, the new line of processors had rendered a bunch of DRM-protected PC games unplayable, but as of this month, all those DRM-based game issues have been fixed.

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