Intel's defective Sandy Bridge Chipsets: Status Report

Redaktion (translated by Daniel Rechitsky), 02/06/2011

Not Just Water Under the Bridge. After Intel admitted that their Cougar Point chipsets of the "Sandy Bridge" generation exhibited defective 3GBit/s SATA ports, followed the initial shock and reactions of notebook manufacturers and retailers. In this article, we will provide you with constantly updated information on the issue.

Manufacturers and retailers are currently handling complaints about products with these possibly defective chipsets in various ways.  The overwhelming majority has now called for an immediate halt to the delivery of potentially affected products as well as hassle-free exchanges for customers.

Because new announcements dealing with Intels chipset defects are now arriving almost by the hour, updated information will continue to be posted in this article for your convenience.

So, what's the deal, anyway?

Intel 6 Series Express Chipsets for the Sandy Bridge and Intel Xeon C200 Series, particularly H67, P67 and the first generation mobile chipsets HM65, HM67, QM67, QS67, UM67 might exhibit a defect in the SATA-II controller.  All motherboards with Cougar Point chipsets delivered on or after 9 January will have to be exchanged according to information currently available.

The Problem

The SATA-2 ports—more specifically ports 2 through 5 (3 GBit/s (3G))—might begin to work unreliably with time or, in the worst case scenario, stop working completely.  Hard discs and DVD burners connected to through these ports might begin to react unpredictably or no longer react at all, provided there's a defect in the SATA-2 ports.  The SATA-6G ports (6 GBit/s) should not be affected by this defect according to Intel.

The Culprit: Intel Cougar Point Chipset
The Culprit: Intel Cougar Point Chipset

The Source of the Problem

Intel has unfortunately left it to other websites like Anandtech to name the particular cause of problems associated with Cougar Point Chipsets.  Intel's Social Media Strategist, Kelly Feller, in an answer to a question posted on Technology@Intel Blog concerning the chipset defect, merely stated "...You might want to check out Anandtech’s summary of the issue. They have broken it down..."

Anand Lal Shimpi of Anandtech.com names the source of the possible PCH defect in his article, "The Source of Intel's Cougar Point SATA Bug" as a transistor in the 3G-PLL Clocking Tree.  Both the SATA 3G and the SATA 6G controllers use their own individual clock generators.  This means that SATA-2 ports running at 6 GBit/s are not affected.  According to Shimpi, the metal-oxide layer of the PLL transistor for the 3Gbit/s circuit was constructed too thin.  Depending on the age of the layer, the temperature it's exposed to over time and the voltage applied, the clock generator can—in extreme cases—prematurely stop working.

What will be done?

Intel is already shifting the process for chip construction to correct the design flaw of the affected "Cougar Point" chips.  This means that the spin coating or spin-on for one of the outer metal-oxide layers on each chip will be readjusted.

Intel is currently working with partners under heavy pressure to produce a simple, quick and cost-minimizing solution to the chipset problem for all those involved.  Nevertheless, Intel estimates their losses to come to approximately 1,000,000,000 US dollars due to the current lack of sales.  The chipset defect should decrease revenue for the 1st quarter by 300 million US dollars.  Intel is expecting to spend about 700 million US dollars on replacing potentially defective chips and systems.

When?

Intel has already provided customers with approximately 8 million defective "Cougar Point" chipsets.   These must now be replaced.  According to Intel, the re-engineered chipsets can be delivered to customers by the end of February.  Full production capacity is expected to be restored by the April according to Intel.

 

Reactions

Acer: No official statements as of now.  Once we get word from Acer, updates will be posted.

Asus: According to a statement from Asus headquarters in Taiwan, production and delivery of systems with Intel Cougar Point Chipsets has been halted.  Customers who have already purchased a system with this hardware may exchange it.

+ Official Statement: Click to expand

Dell: has released an international statement, saying that the following series: XPS 8300, Vostro 460, Alienware M17x R.3, Alienware Aurora R.3, and XPS 17 (3D version) are affected by the defect.

+ Official Statement: Click to expand

Fujitsu: No official statement as of now. Fujitsu claims, however, to be examining the situation and will make a statement if need be.

Gigabyte: Gigabyte has stopped the delivery of all mainboards with Sandy Bridge chip sets.

+ Official Statement: Click to expand

Lenovo is working together with Intel on a solution.

MSI: On 1 February we spoke over the phone with Marketing Manager Sascha Faber, who told us that MSI is already working on a solution.  In terms of  Notebooks, only the High-End GT680 gaming notebook should definitely be affected, which was very recently presented at the CES 2011.  According to MSI's calculations, none of these are supposed to have reached customers yet.  For other products potentially affected by the chip bug, MSI will be accepting returns, exchanges or offering other solutions depending on the case at hand.  Faber emphasized in the phone conversation that MSI's primary concern is the quality of their products and that MSI arduously and thoroughly tests their products.  In an international statement, MSI points out that distribuition of Mainboards with H67 and P67 has also been stopped.

+ Official Statement: Click to expand

NEC: Delays observed in 4 PC models.

Samsung: Refunds for 6 models in Korea and 1 device in the USA.

Schenker Notebooks: According to Schenker, very few of their Notebooks should be affected.  In Shenker's entier Portfolio, only the recently released mySN XMG A501, XMG P501 and XMG P701 are equipped with current Intel Sandy Bridge processors.  the mySN XMG A701 model has not yet been distributed and, for the time being, sales of this notebook have been suspended.

+ Official Statement: Click to expand

Toshiba:  Toshiba USA is currently giving full refunds for the following series: Satellite A660, A665, A665 3D, E305, L655, M645, Portege R835, Qosmio X500 and X505.

+ Official Statement: Click to expand

Velocity Micro (PC manufacturer): Measures to be taken judged on case-by-case basis.

Online Shops

Alternate: Alternate has suspended all orders for products containing Sandy Bridge chipsets.  Customers have the choice of canceling their orders or choose a suitable alternative model.  Customers may also wait till mainboards with defect-free Sandy Bridge chipsets can be delivered.     

+ Official Statement: Click to expand

Mindfactory: Online retailer, Mindfactory, informs its customers about motherboards with Intel LGA1155 sockets below.  Mindfactory is giving their customers 3 ways to further handle the issue.

+ Official Statement: Click to expand

NewEgg (Online Retailer) has removed Sandy Bridge-based mainboards and PCs as well as Sandy Bridge CPUs from the website.

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Author: Redaktion, 2011-02- 6 (Update: 2012-05-26)