Intel finds flaw in new chipsets, recalls some units

Intel has discovered a flaw in its recently launched chipsets that can preclude a system from starting up normally, and is planning to recall a certain amount of those chipsets from system vendors and channel partners, a spokesperson has confirmed.

The 915 G/P and 925X chipsets, formerly known as Grantsdale and Alderwood, have a flaw in the I/O controller on the chipsets that can prevent a PC from starting normally, an Intel spokesperson, Howard High, said.

A chipset is the circuitry that connects a processor to the rest of the computer, such as the memory and I/O. Intel's newest chipsets incorporate a number of features that are expected to improve performance over the next several months, including the PCI Express interconnect technology and support for DDR2 memory.

Chips are built in layers, with circuits added atop other circuits. During the manufacturing process, a thin insulating film is applied to each layer before the next layer is built so signals do not leak between levels.

At certain points on the chip, that insulating film is removed to allow the layers to communicate with one another.

However, the insulating film on some of Intel's new chipsets was not completely removed from one particular area, High said.

The film was partially blocking one of the connection points and is not allowing signals to cleanly travel between levels, High said. This could cause the system to hang or fail during the startup process.

The problem only affected a certain portion of Intel's chipset shipments because it was a manufacturing error, and not a design flaw, High said. Intel is not disclosing what percentage of its shipments were affected.

The bad parts were shipped to system vendors prior to last Monday's official launch, and the company said that very few chipsets actually reached end-users.

Intel had identified the particular chipsets containing the flaw, and was working with PC vendors and resellers to remove those chipsets from circulation, High said.

Intel was not the only chip company to report processor bugs. Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) also reported a bug in its Opteron server processor that could cause a server to fail. However, AMD's bug was caused by testers in AMD's lab running synthetic software instructions that only occurred in very rare cases, an AMD spokesman said.

The company is planning to work with server vendors and BIOS companies to distribute a work-around.

Intel PR manager, Daniel Anderson, confirmed the problem did extend to Australia.

He said the affect was minimal as the problem was estimated to have affected only a few thousand units worldwide.

Anderson said the problem affected units shipped prior to June 21 and Intel was currently tracking down the faulty units which were known to be in specific batches

Delays were not expected on replacement chipsets, Anderson said, as Intel was in the process of rapidly ramping up production to meet the shortfall.

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Tom Krazit

IDG News Service
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