HP still getting heat on Nvidia graphics chips

Some customers are being charged for repairs to notebooks

Months after the issue first surfaced, Hewlett-Packard laptop owners continue to complain about defective Nvidia graphics cards that could cause notebooks to fail.

Some customers say that they have been treated unfairly by HP, in part because their notebooks are not included on a list of affected machines that was issued last July by HP, so they are ineligible for a free repair or an extended warranty.

One notebook model with overheating problems is the Pavilion dv9500 line, with screens going blank or overheating, leading to system failure, customers wrote on one HP board. The laptop model isn't on HP's list of affected laptops, and in some cases HP is asking users to pay for repairs.

HP isn't moving quickly to add new notebooks to the list of affected PCs, customers wrote. Users are asking HP to examine and update the list of laptops affected by the issue. Notebook failure may also result from components unrelated to the issue with graphics cards, but a trend among posted complaints points to laptops with Nvidia parts, said Matthew Hilsenrad, an HP notebook owner.

"I hadn't seen any post of ATI chips going bad, only Nvidia chips going bad," Hilsenrad said. "A whole lot of people [on the boards] who bought the notebook around the same time seem to have the same problem."

Hilsenrad owns a Pavilion dv9500 model with a Nvidia GeForce 8600 series graphics card, which he bought in September 2007. Many laptops not included in the list - including the HP Pavilion dv9500 and dv9600 series - bought in 2007 are now experiencing similar problems, Hilsenrad said.

He was asked to pay around US$400 to replace a motherboard when overheating rendered his laptop screen dysfunctional. He called HP to request a fix, but the PC didn't fall under the extended warranty that HP issued for affected notebook.

After haggling with an HP case manager, he got the notebook repaired for around $215. However, the case manager said the affected laptop list could be updated to include the model he owned, in which case he would be refunded the amount.

Another poster, Salman Fateh, reported system failure and a blank screen on an HP Pavilion dv9500 with a Nvidia 8600 series graphic chip, which was purchased in October 2007.

"HP will not honor the extended warranty for this model. HP should honor customers and replace all laptops with defective Nvidia GPUs," Fateh wrote in a separate HP forum.

Customers echoed Fateh's opinion, saying that unless HP addresses the issue quickly, their laptops would become paperweights.

"HP needs to add the rest of these bad GPU units on the list, get them all repaired," wrote a poster with the screen name Sarah Locker on HP's board. "I don't want to blame HP for Nvidia's manufacturing fault, but it appears now that HP is the one that is dragging their feet."

HP didn't immediately comment on this story. Officials from Nvidia were not available to comment either.

Nvidia last July said that some of its graphics chips were overheating due to packaging material and the thermal design of some laptops. HP subsequently issued an advisory warning of possible laptop failure and a list of models affected by the Nvidia parts.

HP also issued a BIOS patch to keep system fans running longer to prevent overheating, and offered to repair laptops depending on certain symptoms. The affected laptops included some HP Pavilion dv2000, dv6000, dv9000 models and Compaq Presario V3000 and V6000 series laptops. HP also offered a 24-month warranty extension to affected customers in North America.

Other PC vendors, including Dell and Apple, had to address issues related to faulty Nvidia graphics cards. Like HP, Dell issued a software patch to control heating problems, but it attracted a fierce response from unhappy users, who accused Dell of shying away from addressing a larger problem of bad hardware. Apple offered a free repair of laptops with faulty Nvidia graphics cards.

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