infoTECH Feature

February 08, 2011

Intel Again Shipping Cougar Point Chipsets Unaffected by Design Flaw

Intel (News - Alert) is once again shipping its Series 6 chipsets, code named Cougar Point, which it discovered were flawed late last month. The resumption of shipments is for Sandy Bridge-powered system configurations not impacted by a recently disclosed design flaw. Systems that are affected by the error, however, will be waiting longer for shipments to begin, but perhaps as early as next week, ahead of the end of February schedule it promised when the flaws were first identified.

According to AppleInsider, “Intel said this week it will ship the existing chipsets -- which contain a flaw related to some, but not all, serial-ATA ports -- to PC manufacturers who will have use for the parts. All existing manufactured Intel Series 6 chipsets, code-named Cougar Point, contain the error, including those for desktop and mobile systems.”

The Cougar Point chipsets found to be faulty support six serial-ATA ports that are used for connecting devices such as disk drives or DVD drives to the system. After Intel began shipping the parts, it was discovered that SATA ports numbered 2 through 5 on the chipset can degrade in performance over time in extreme conditions. The problem doesn’t seem to affect SATA ports 0 or 1, so any system configurations that utilize only those ports would be acceptable, thus allowing Intel to resume shipments. An OEM that was testing the platform with extreme heat and voltage environments reportedly was the first to discover the problem and reported it back to Intel.

Explaining the situation that caused the halt in shipments back in January in more detail, Jose Vilches, in said, “The fault affects both P67 and H67 chipsets, pin-pointing the problem to a transistor that's connected to the 3Gbps SATA II ports. Cougar Point has two sets of SATA ports: four that support 3Gbps operation and two that support 6Gbps. For the first set Intel states that performance of SATA-linked devices ‘may degrade over time.’ However, since 6Gbps SATA III circuits have their own independent clocking trees, these ports will be unaffected by the problem.”

Chris Angelini went to the source, reporting in January in Tom's Hardware US, “Intel’s Steve Smith, vice president and director of PC client operations and enabling at Intel, says that the specific problem occurs over time, and is affected by temperature and voltage. It’s more likely to manifest in configurations with lots of data being moved across the SATA 3 Gb/s ports—that’s why OEMs are encountering a problem now. The company says it would have expected roughly five of systems to be affected over a three-year period.” He continued that Intel felt five percent of systems being affected was serious, which compelled them to discontinue shipment. He said Intel would incur a total cost to replace/repair existing systems of $700 million.

Since the shipments were stopped immediately, and it had shipped only desktop-bound Cougar Point chipsets alongside quad-core desktop Sandy Bridge processors at that time, Intel said it believes less than 8 million of those desktop parts were shipped in total. Many believe, however, that a smaller number of those parts made it to consumers.

Intel also confirmed today it will begin shipping Dual-core Sandy Bridge chips on its previously-announced launch date of Feb. 20.

Linda Dobel is a TMCnet Contributor. She has been an editor in the contact center space for more than 25 years, and has the distinction of being the founding editor of Customer Inter@ction Solutions (CIS) magazine. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

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