NVIDIA has admitted to a major manufacturing screw-up, which is seeing thousands of its GPUs overheating, burning out and failing.
NVIDIA have had a long history of making great graphics processors but lately there's something terribly wrong coming out of their factories.
If you bought a laptop with either the NVIDIA Geforce 8400M (M for Mobile) or 8600M in it, you can now stick yourself in the pile for people with bad luck. This includes laptops from the following brands (take a deep breath): Acer, Apple, Asus, BenQ, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, LG, MSI, NEC, Sony, Toshiba... to name a few. Now it's not with everyone, of course. If you hit your Control Panel and find yourself using either the 8400M or 8600M graphics processor, you're affected; everyone else can move on.
What's wrong with your computer might you ask? Something small that can affect it in a large way. Quite a few of the graphics chips NVIDIA have been producing are defective. We know that the rumour of every 8400M and 8600M chip being bad is probably true, but now we're hearing that it might extend to other models like in the mobile NVIDIA chips running off of the 6000 and 7000 designs. That's a lot of graphics chips and this can cause your computer to overheat, lock-up, and possibly not work.
What's troubling about all of this isn't so much that it's happened but the way in which it's being handled. While this news has been out for a week or two now, only two companies have really responded.
Both HP & Dell have released "fixes" for the issue at hand -- BIOS updates that will cause affected computers to fire up the fan when it's needed to cool down the problematic graphics chips so that they, you know, don't die. But this isn't really a solution. This is a fix in the same way that say putting a plank of wood over a hole in the road fixes a dodgy stretch of road. This is a quick fix that has its own issues.
On the one hand, updates that force your computer to cool itself down not only kill your battery life further but also leave you running the risk that now with the extra needed fan cycles, that cooling system built into your laptop might die sooner than expected. As a result, these "fixes" can be as damaging as the whole chip issue in the first place.
But at least Dell and HP are doing something about it. What about everyone else?
For instance, where is Apple amongst all of this and why aren't they informing their MacBook Pro customers that their shiny silver laptops might just stop working and provide issues? APC has previously covered the fact that the current-generation MacBook Pros are plagued with graphics glitches -- it seems likely that the NVIDIA hardware fault and Apple's on-screen graphics corruption is related, but Apple just isn't saying.
The real problem in this whole thing is that the companies using NVIDIA chips in products probably won't want to tell the public. Computers that die all of a sudden will be easier for them to replace on a one-by-one basis. Telling everyone that "your computer has an issue and needs to be returned" will only result in a ridiculous loss of face & money, and that's probably going to happen to NVIDIA too. They're already being sued by memory makers Rambus and now this has happened.
It's not good news for NVIDIA at all; very bad news for computer makers that have got the faulty NVIDIA chips soldered onto their motherboards, and awful news for consumers who may have to fight tooth and nail to get their computer repaired, and then, be without it for weeks as technicians work through the backlog.
UPDATE: NVIDIA supplied the following response to this article:
NVIDIA’s highest priority is to ensure complete satisfaction and delight for all of our customers. We fully stand behind our products and are cooperating with our partners to resolve the recently announced notebook field failure issue.
Please remember the following:
1) The issue is limited to a few notebook chips only; we have not seen and don't expect to see this issue on any NVIDIA based desktops.
2) Only a very small percentage of the notebook chips that have shipped are potentially affected and the problem depends on a combination of environmental conditions, configuration and usage model.
3) We continue to work closely with our partners and have taken the necessary steps to ensure that all NVIDIA chips currently in production do not exhibit the problem.
As a result, it is very unlikely that your NVIDA based notebook product is affected.
Again, we truly appreciate our customers passion for our products and apologize for any inconvenience. We are dedicated to delivering quality products that raise the bar on graphics performance across the spectrum from the world’s fastest gaming desktops to the sleekest ultra-portables available.