Intel has revised a product change notification (PCN) announcement which claimed to have identified hardware degradation in selected Apollo Lake processors over multiple years of use, claiming the affected B-1 steppings 'meet all Intel quality goals.'

An apparent problem with long-term usage of selected Apollo Lake processors came to light late last week with the publication of an official product change notification (PCN) detailing the reason for a new F-1 stepping. 'Intel identified an issue with the Low Pin Count (LPC), Real Time Clock (RTC), [and] SD Card interfaces on Intel Celeron N3350, J3355, J3455 processors and Intel Pentium N4200 processor,' the notice explained, 'resulting in degradation of these signals at a rate higher than Intel's quality goals after multiple years in service.'

While some reportage described the move as a recall, the company wasn't talking about replacing parts that were already on shelves and with customers; it was simply replacing the apparently-faulty B-1 stepping with a revised F-1 stepping that resolves the issue.

At least, that appeared to be the plan. The original PCN has since been deleted, however, and its replacement - first spotted by ExtremeTech - downplays the severity of the issue considerably.

'Customers who do not need Intel IOTG [Internet of Things Group] Long Life Product Availability can continue to purchase existing B-1 Stepping Intel Celeron N3350, J3355, J3455 Processors and Intel Pentium N4200 Processor as they meet all Intel quality goals for PC Usage and will continue to be available,' the revised update reads. 'Intel IOTG is now offering the new F-1 stepping of Intel Celeron N3350, J3355, J3455 Processors and Intel Pentium N4200 Processor for Long Life Product Availability. The F-1 Stepping Intel Celeron N3350, J3355, J3455 Processors and Intel Pentium N4200 Processor also meet all Intel quality goals for PC Usage.'

In the revised notification, Intel appears to be making a clear distinction between the two most common use-cases for the parts: 'PC Usage' covers installation in low-end desktops, laptops, tablets and the like, which typically have a short design life before being replaced with a hardware refresh and which spend only part of their life actually powered on; the company's IOT Group, however, sells the same parts for Internet of Things embedded use in hardware which may have a decade-plus shelf life and run 24/7 - meaning it will meet whatever conditions trigger the degradation issue considerably more quickly than in the 'PC Usage' scenario.

Thus far, Intel has not indicated it plans to recall any parts, nor has it publicly offered to replace any faulty parts which have failed outside their warranty. The advisory itself, meanwhile, comes around two and a half years after the company's Atom C2000 parts suffered similar age-related failures.

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October 14 2021 | 15:04