Chip giant Intel has announced that it has stopped production of its chipset family Cougar Point. The new family include the whole Intels 6 series of chipsets, including P67, H67 and H65. Intel has been shipping the new Sandy Bridge processors with Cougar Point chipsets since January 9th and will replace current customers.

In a press release Intel reveals that it has discovered an error in the manufacturing of its Cougar Point chipsets. The error affects the SATA 3.0 Gbps controller in the chipset and can with time result in degraded performance and not an error that you notice easily. Serial-ATA ports can drop in performance after a while and in the end become completely useless, this will affect harddrives and optical units connected to the SATA interface. OBS! The first two SATA ports are SATA 6.0 Gbps and not affected by the manufacturing error.

Intel says it as found the error in the process and solved the problem that is related to the manufacturing of the silicon circuits. Sadly for Intel and its customers this means that hundreds of thousands chipsets that has already been shipped to system builders and end users will have to be replaced, if you want to avoid any future problems.

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Intel has already stopped deliveries of chipsets to partners and system builders, while e-tailers has issued a sales stop for Intel’s processor platform Sandy Bridge. The processors that got excellent grades in our tests a few weeks ago was not affected by the manufacturing error, but without working chipsets Intel’s Sandy Bridge platform is pretty much stranded.

Intel expects to get a new version of Cougar Point chipsets out in February when it will also start shipping updated chips to partners and customers. 

Sandy Bridge as a whole has received good grades from both press and end users over the last few weeks but is now stranded and it is still uncertain for how long it will stay there, Intel and motherboard manufacturers are most likely eager to get the new chips out as soon as possible.

Intel estimates that it will cost around 100 million dollar to fix the error on the computers and products sold on the market. In total the cost will be up to 1 billion dollar, which is an enormous setback even for a giant like Intel. This could be the perfect opening for AMD and its coming mid-range platform Llano that is expected to launch by the summer.

We will keep you updated with more information regarding Intel’s recall that will also affect partners and not the least motherboard and memory makers.

Check out Intel’s press release on the recall of the Cougar Point chipsets.

Running updates:

18:07: We are trying to get a hold of the responsible at motherboard makers and local retailers, but with Chinese New Year and evening hours around Europe Intel’s news appeared at the worst possible time and the information is scarce. What we can read from Intel’s press release is that the error is not something that will manifest rightaway, and that customers will gets its components (I.e. motherboards] replaced. How this will work in practice is still unknown.

18:15: NordicHardware has spoken to the European offices for the two largest motherboard makers, ASUS and Gigabyte, but none was willing to leave a statement since it has little information, barely any, about the technical details or how Intel and its partners will solve this practically. 

18:17 Nordic e-tailer Komplett (translated) has sent the following statement to NordicHardware regarding Intel’s recall of Sandy Bridge.

After Intel announced that it will recall all chipsets of the 6 series we have decided to stop all marketing of Sandy Bridge-based products and will remove all products from our lists that uses the chipsets H67 and P67. This includes among other motherboards, laptops, stationary computers and our own gaming PC; Komplett Gamer.

Since the information from our suppliers have been scarce we have decided to act proactively and help our customers. Since the error that can occur affects the SATA controller of the chipset we will send out a SATA controller card to all customers who bought a Sandy-bridge-based motherboard or Komplett PC and contact us. While waiting for instructions on how each company will handle this we will not recall any products just to be safe. To make sure our customers get the right information we will update this site with information as soon as we get it: http://www.komplett.se/k/kcf.aspx?id=5860

That the chipset is recalled may result in great costs for us since during the weeks have sold large amounts of av P and H 67-based products. On top of that it strikes us extra hard since we are the largest PC producer in the Nordics and has shipped a large number of P67 and H67 chipsets in our Komplett PCs.

/Komplett.se

18:20: Intel has sent out more official information on the manufacturing error that reveals that the problem is not as serious as we first thought. Only the last 4 SATA ports (SATA 3.0 Gpbs) on the Cougar Point chipset is affected by the error and in other words units that are connected to SATA-port 0 or 1 (the two SATA 6.0 Gbps ports) are not affected. That Intel didn’t mention this in the original statement seem a bit odd and even if the problem remains with the customers that invested in the new processor platform.

”This is an issues with the 6 series chipset (Cougar Point) impacting SATA ports 2-5. If you are using ports 0 and 1 there are no issues. The issue was root caused and a new stepping (B2) is coming end of March.

If you have purchased 6 series platforms, call your supplier to return them (if you are intending to use SATA ports 2-5) All the ODM’s and OEM’s are notified and are being notified and they can give you more detail (or you can use me if you have more questions)

I will keep you posted with any new information I get on this chipset.”

satafel
OBS! The SATA ports may differ from model to model, above is just an example

The first two SATA ports on Intel’s chipsets that also supports SATA 6.0 Gbps isn’t affected by the manufacturing error. In other words all units that connects to these two ports are safe, but data corruption can occur with units that are connected to the four SATA 3.0 Gbps ports.

19:20: Intel has in a conference call revealed that it still hasn’t heard any reports about errors from end users and it has calculated the error requency for a user over 3 years to between 5-15%. Again, it is just SATA ports 2-5 that are affected.

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