Intel finds flaw in Sandy Bridge, halts sales

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Intel’s latest chip design, dubbed “Sandy Bridge” and released at CES, has a flaw that could cost the chipmaker nearly US$700 million to repair and replace the faulty chips. The company has also cut its sales forecast by $300 million for the first quarter of 2011.

The flaw is in its support chip, called “Cougar Point”, which is used in Sandy Bridge and to do with the SATA ports within the chipset may degrade over time, having an impact with the performance or functionality of SATA-linked devices (i.e. hard disk drives and DVD drives).

Intel has assured consumers that the microprocessor itself is unaffected and no other products are also affected by the flaw in Cougar Point. As well, because of its short time out on sale, few consumers are affected, according to the company. No word on OEM responses about the impact it has on their sales.

A rectified version is expected to ship in late February, with full shipments said to be starting in April.

Intel’s Sandy Bridge is the latest chip design for its Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 processors; promising to have greater power and energy efficiency and combining both the CPU and GPU (Graphics Processing Unit), it will be able to handle HD graphics and video without a secondary graphics card. While Sandy Bridge is also available for desktops, its architecture is also suitable for the notebook.

Press release segment is below.

As part of ongoing quality assurance, Intel Corporation has discovered a design issue in a recently released support chip, the IntelĀ® 6 Series, code-named Cougar Point, and has implemented a silicon fix. In some cases, the Serial-ATA (SATA) ports within the chipsets may degrade over time, potentially impacting the performance or functionality of SATA-linked devices such as hard disk drives and DVD-drives. The chipset is utilized in PCs with Intel’s latest Second Generation Intel Core processors, code-named Sandy Bridge. Intel has stopped shipment of the affected support chip from its factories. Intel has corrected the design issue, and has begun manufacturing a new version of the support chip which will resolve the issue. The Sandy Bridge microprocessor is unaffected and no other products are affected by this issue.

The company expects to begin delivering the updated version of the chipset to customers in late February and expects full volume recovery in April. Intel stands behind its products and is committed to product quality. For computer makers and other Intel customers that have bought potentially affected chipsets or systems, Intel will work with its OEM partners to accept the return of the affected chipsets, and plans to support modifications or replacements needed on motherboards or systems. The systems with the affected support chips have only been shipping since January 9th and the company believes that relatively few consumers are impacted by this issue. The only systems sold to an end customer potentially impacted are Second Generation Core i5 and Core i7 quad core based systems. Intel believes that consumers can continue to use their systems with confidence, while working with their computer manufacturer for a permanent solution. For further information consumers should contact Intel at www.intel.com on the support page or contact their OEM manufacturer.

For the first quarter of 2011, Intel expects this issue to reduce revenue by approximately $300 million as the company discontinues production of the current version of the chipset and begins manufacturing the new version. Full-year revenue is not expected to be materially affected by the issue. Total cost to repair and replace affected materials and systems in the market is estimated to be $700 million. Since this issue affected some of the chipset units shipped and produced in the fourth quarter of 2010, the company will take a charge against cost of goods sold, which is expected to reduce the fourth quarter gross margin percentage by approximately 4 percentage points from the previously reported 67.5 percent. The company will also take a charge in the first quarter of 2011which will lower the previously communicated gross margin percentage by 2 percentage points and the full-year gross margin percentage by one percentage point.

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