Intel yesterday announced it discovered a design issue in its 6-Series chipsets intended for Sandy Bridge processors and opted to halt shipments of new boards. News of the flaw spread almost immediately across the Internet, though it took some time for popular vendors to pull potentially affected motherboards from their virtual store shelves. Today is a different story.
A quick glance online shows that Sandy Bridge boards are increasingly difficult to come by. While you can easily find and purchase Sandy Bridge processors, which Intel ensures are in tip-top shape, we couldn't find a single socket 1155 motherboard at Micro Center, MWave, Newegg, TigerDirect, or ZipZoomFly.
While the issue puts Sandy Bridge builders in limbo, the financial impact to Intel is estimated at $700 million, which is the total cost to repair and replace busted boards and systems.
To keep abreast of this ongoing situation, be sure to bookmark our continually updated FAQ, in which we post more questions and answers as additional info surfaces.
Santa Clara, we have a problem. That's the message Intel engineers had to deliver to company execs after discovering a "design issue" in the company's 6-Series chipsets. The issue is severe enough that Intel decided to halt shipments while it implements a 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," Intel said in a statement. "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 said it has already corrected the issue and has started making a new version of the support chip that doesn't have the design flaw. In addition, the Santa Clara chip maker says Sandy Bridge processors and other other related products are unaffected.
Maybe when the dust finally settles, we'll see an Nvidia chipset supporting Intel's Nehalem architecture, after all. During an interview in Tokyo, Nvidia's normally outspoken and candid CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said the two embattled companies asked a Delaware court to postpone a trial originally scheduled for December 6, 2010.
"The two of our companies decided to postpone the court hearing until early next year," Huang said. "And we're always in talks. Our two companies are always in talks.
Huang ended it there, saying there was no other news on the matter. There's also no nForce chipset for Intel's Core i3/i5/i7 series on the horizon, as Intel contends that its licensing agreement with Nvidia, which dates back to 2004, doesn't include its Nehalem architecture. As far as Intel is concerned, the licensing agreement doesn't apply to the DMI (Direct Media Interface) communications bus found in Nehalem, while Nvidia believes it should be allowed to build chipsets around processors with an integrated memory controller.
One thing we appreciate about Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang is that he typically doesn't pull any punches. Rather than dance around marketing speak and typical PR rhetoric, the outspoken CEO gets straight to the point, oftentimes in a very candid manner. More recently, Huang got on the topic of chipsets, seemingly putting an official end to that part of Nvidia's business, Xbit Labs reports.
"We are not building any more chipsets, we are building SoCs now. We are building Tegra SoCs, and so we are going to take integration to a new level... The chipset business [has] not grown largely this year because we have not really been expanding the sales of it," Huang said.
Although Nvidia isn't building new chipsets, the GPU maker does intend to continue shippings its current products well into 2011.
"On the AMD side, our AMD chipset remains quite well positioned. My sense is that our chipset there will continue to ship throughout next year. The second thing is the MCP89, the latest and the last generation of Intel chipset that we built was just a really wonderful piece of engineering and the work that we did with Apple was great, and they are going to continue to use that for some time. So, I think that the tail off is just going to take a little longer than people expected. But I do not know exactly how long," Huang added.
None of this is really surprising, considering Intel essentially put the kibosh on a large part of Nvidia's chipset business. Prior to Nehalem, Nvidia was producing chipsets for Intel processors as part of a licensing agreement between the two firms, but Intel's stance is that the license only covers chips that don't contain an integrated memory controller.
We've been pretty critical of Intel's lackadaisical attitude when it comes to adding USB 3.0 support to its chipsets, instead leaving it up to board makers to solder third-party SuperSpeed solutions from the likes of NEC. That's about to change, says DigiTimes, which is reporting that Intel has begun prepping its partners on what's going on with Chief River.
Chief River is the codename for Intel's next-generation notebook platform, and according to reports, it includes native support for USB 3.0. The upshot is that these boards should be cheaper to produce than ones with third-party chips, and Intel's decision to finally support the spec should kickstart USB 3.0 development.
USB 3.0 is backwards compatible with USB 2.0, so your old devices will still work. But unlike the previous spec, USB 3.0 offers significantly higher transfer rates and new power management features. See our "Everything You Need to Know About USB 3.0" write-up for an in-depth look at what this spec brings to the table.
Motherboard makers have had a tougher than expected time moving boards lately and are hoping Intel's upcoming Sandy Bridge architecture will kick-start demand, particularly in the enterprise.
Intel's Sandy Bridge product line is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2011. These will include Sandy Bridge-based Core i7 2600K, 2600, 2600S, Core i5 2500, 2400, and 2390, as well as Core i3 2120 and 2100 CPUs for the desktop. On the mobile front, Intel's upcoming Sandy Bridge lineup will include the Core i7 2920XM, 2820QM, 2720QM, Core i5 2540M, and 2520M processors.
There will also be a Sandy Bridge-based Celeron chip built on a 32nm manufacturing process, which will ship in the third quarter of 2011 for about $50 (thousand unit trays).
Those ever talkative "sources from motherboard makers" are again flapping their gums to Digitimes, this time involving Nvidia. As the latest rumor goes, Nvidia's engineers are busy developing a chipset that combines the function of both a southbridge and GPU.
The funky dual-purpose chipset is Nvidia's way of sidestepping Intel's Sandy Bridge architecture and avoiding a potential messy legal battle. Intel filed suit against Nvidia back in 2009 claiming the license agreement between the two parties only covered processors that don't contain an integrated memory controller, which is the reason why you haven't seen any Nvidia-based chipsets for Nehalem.
Intel's Sandy Bridge architecture combines a CPU and northbridge into one, and as the story goes, Nvidia is hoping motherboard makers will opt to purchase Sandy Bridge without the southbridge (Cougar Point). That would save them about $15, which could then be used towards the purchase of Nvidia's combo chipset.
As details of AMD's Hudson D1 -- the southbridge the chip maker will launch in tandem with its upcoming dual-core 32nm Fusion processors -- begin to trickle out, one thing still up in the air is how USB 3.0 will factor in. According to whispers among some notebook makers, there's a good chance AMD will integrate USB 3.0 into Hudson.
We won't have to wait very long to find out. The Hudson D1 chipset is expected to debut in the fourth quarter of 2010 and will primarily target ultra-thin notebooks and netbooks. USB 3.0 is somewhat of a rarity so far on mobile PCs, and with Intel taking its sweet little time pushing the SuperSpeed spec, something like this could give the Sunnyvale chip maker a leg up in a segment mostly served by Intel.
While nothing is yet decided, there's reason to believe AMD will get this done. AMD is already tapping into NEC to outfit its desktop boards with USB 3.0, and extending that relationship over to notebooks shouldn't be overly challenging.
How's that netbook working out for online 1080p HD content? Probably not so well, which gives VIA reason to tout its new VX900 chipset. According to VIA, this full featured single chip solution takes the jitters out of HD videos when coupled with the latest VIA Nano-3000 series processors.
"VIA's trail-blazing VX900 will bring welcome relief to those pining for the best view of HD video online," said Richard Brown, Vice President of Marketing, VIA Technologies. "The VIA VX900 represents the most complete solution for HD digital content consumption on the market today."
At the heart of the VX900 is VIA's ChromotionHD 2.0 video engine, which features hardware acceleration for H.264. VIA promises smooth playback of 1080p video "without incurring a heavy CPU load."
Other features include support for DDR3 memory up to 1066MHz, a Chrome9 HCM 3D integrated graphics core, DX 9.0 support, and a 128-bit 2D engine with hardware rotation capability.