Sandy Bridge chipset flaw halts board shipments

Written by Ben Hardwidge

February 1, 2011 // 11:55 a.m.

Tags: #bug #chipset #flaw #intel #motherboard #msi #problem #recall #sandybridge #sandy-bridge #sata #s-ata

If you've managed to resist the urge to plunge into the speedy world of Sandy Bridge so far, then you may have made the right decision. Intel has just revealed that it's discovered a 'design issue' with its new 6-series motherboard chipsets, and has stopped shipments of all the offending chips.

In a statement, Intel says that the issue can potentially affect the 'performance or functionality of SATA-linked devices such as hard disk drives and DVD-drives.' Both Intel's P67 and H67 chipsets support up to six SATA ports; two 6Gbps ports and four 3Gbps ports.

According to the folks over at Anandtech, who spoke to Intel yesterday, the flaw only affects the 3Gbps ports, and Intel's statement simply says that the 'SATA ports within the chipsets may degrade over time.'

How long are we talking about here? We asked a spokesperson from motherboard manufacturer MSI, who told us that it looks as though 'the performance of some of the Intel SATA ports on Intel 6-series products can degrade over a period of three years.'

Intel says it's already developed a silicon fix for the chipset issue, which will be in the hands of motherboard manufacturers by the end of February. According to Intel, the Sandy Bridge motherboard business should be back in full flow in April.

That's a long time to wait, though, and while it's good to see that Intel has released a fix, this issue raises all sorts of questions for anyone who's already purchased a Sandy Bridge system. Intel promises that it 'will work with its OEM partners to accept the return of the affected chipsets,' and also says it 'plans to support modifications or replacements needed on motherboards or systems.'

However, as Intel is only the chipset manufacturer, it looks as though any decisions about recalling boards that have already been sold will be up to the motherboard manufacturers themselves. A spokesperson from a motherboard maker that wished to remain anonymous told us that 'there is likely to be a recall situation, and from my thinking that would be down to the specific vendor to put that in place. The likelihood is that Intel will bear some responsibility in that, or we hope so anyway.'

Thankfully, MSI appears to be tackling the situation diligently, and we hope other motherboard manufacturers will follow suit. 'MSI takes the quality of its products very seriously,' commented the company, 'so at this moment we are investigating product batches that may be affected and, meanwhile, have stopped all shipments to our distributors and resellers. Additionally, we've asked resellers to hold sales of the Intel 6-series-based MSI products to customers until the issue can be resolved.'

In terms of product recall, the company says that 'end-users who have already purchased MSI Intel 6-Series motherboards are advised to wait for our update highlighting the actual products affected. We are working closely with Intel to help identify this as soon as possible. For MSI notebook and all-in-one product lines, we can confirm that there are currently no products in the UK channel which are affected by this issue.'

The situation appears to have caught everyone in the motherboard chipset business by surprise, though. Intel UK has refused to comment until it gets more information from the US, as have other motherboard makers, and we may well have to wait a couple of days before we find out exactly what's going on.

Have you bought a Sandy Bridge system, and are you worried about this design issue? As always please share your thoughts in the forums.
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