Site claims new Nvidia GPUs are faulty, Nvidia denies

Ever since admitting that a bad packaging material caused some of its mobile chips to fail, Nvidia has been under close scrutiny from the press. Last week, The Inquirer claimed to have hit the jackpot by showing that new GeForce GPUs inside Apple’s latest laptops use the "bad" packaging material that caused previous chips to fail.

After cutting apart a new, retail-bought MacBook Pro and putting its chips under an electron microscope, The Inq showed that the discrete GeForce 9600M graphics processor used high-lead bumps to connect GPU silicon and substrate—all despite Nvidia’s assurances that the GeForce 9600M package uses a "new material set."

The evidence seems clear, but we noticed a problem with the site’s assertions: Nvidia explicitly told us two months ago that there’s nothing inherently wrong with high-lead bumps. In fact, many other companies continue to use them. Nvidia attributes the mobile chip failures to a "combination of factors" and not the use of a certain bump type.

That left the "new material set" claim. Had Nvidia lied to The Inq about the 9600M’s packaging? We sent the company an e-mail to ask for more details, and though we still haven’t received a reply, we see Nvidia indirectly answered our question in a chat with CNet News. Here’s the word from Nvidia VP Michael Hara:

The Inquirer reporter "believes high-lead bumps are bad. That’s his underlying theory. It’s not true," Hara said. . . . Hara talked about how the original problem announced by Nvidia on July 2 was rectified. "A more robust underfill would have taken the stress off the bumps and kept that (original problem) from happening. What we did was, we just simply went to a more robust underfill. Stopped using that (previous) underfill, kept using high-lead bumps, but we changed the underfill. And now we don’t see the problem."

In other words, Nvidia was apparently referring to a different underfill material (the "glue" that keeps bumps from failing) when it mentioned the "new material set." As for high-lead bumps, Hara went so far as to say, "Intel has shipped hundreds of millions of chipsets that use the same material-set combo. We’re using virtually the same materials that Intel uses in its chipsets."

Unless GeForce 9600M GPUs suddenly start failing in droves, MacBook Pro users can probably breathe a collective sigh of relief and go back to flaunting their notebook choice on Internet forums.

Comments closed
    • TaBoVilla
    • 12 years ago

    ah comme’on, we’ve been hearing this since 2007, give Huang a brake so he can finally open his can of woop-dough

    • pluscard
    • 12 years ago

    nVidia did get “caught” on this one. Rather than provide a description of how they solved the problem, they said they use a “new material set”. It’s perfectly reasonable for someone to check it out.

    If you go back to nVidia’s October response – they say they’re committed to delivering lead free devices by 2010. Then they defend high lead. Then they say they are using “industry standard” packaging materials.

    It’s reasonable when they said they used a new material set in the macbook pro, to assume it wasn’t high lead. However, nVidia, and their lawyers were careful to not be precise with their comments.

    Will be interesting to see where this goes.

    Plus

      • Lans
      • 12 years ago

      yep. Just waiting to see how this plays out.

      As things stands, I’ll take The Inq’s word over Nvidia’s any time. In case people forgotten, Nvidia was painting a pretty rosy picture until all the suddenly they took a one-time charge related to this a lowered their forecast… and there is still a pending class action lawsuit? The Inq is not the most reliable source but what they presented seems way much more reliable than what Nvidia presented thus far.

      Maybe sites like TR should go and confirm or reject claims by The Inq by doing some investigative journalism instead?

        • ludi
        • 12 years ago

        You provide the notebook, and I’m sure TR will be happy to saw it in half.

        • Silus
        • 12 years ago

        LOL, where is the reliability of what “The Inq” showed ?
        I sometimes wonder who can support the claims of this troll (Charlie), but I guess the answer to that is obvious…

        There is no problem in using high-lead solder. CPUs still use them and will continue to use them. Charlie is just chewing on the wrong bone, because NVIDIA already explained the problem and it’s NOT related to the solder bumps they are using (or were using). The only problem with high-lead is that it’s actually more expensive to use, but it’s betterin some situations, which is why it’s still used a lot.
        Switching from one kind of solder bump to another, is also something that companies do, because there’s an environmental policy that pushes hardware manufacturers to stay away from lead as much as possible, but that can’t be done at all times.

        Charlie is obviously being payed by someone to do this. No one can be such a tool for free. And it must be some NVIDIA competitor. I would bet on AMD, since they are the only ones that actually compete with NVIDIA in the graphics market. It may not be a coincidence that a guy from AMD made comments on the “NVIDIA GPU failures” a while back (reported in TR), that contradicted some of the known facts in the industry, regarding high-lead.

          • LiamC
          • 12 years ago
            • pluscard
            • 12 years ago

            “Before we break out the electron microscope again, we feel the need to point out some of the things that Nvidia managed not to talk about in its purported explanation of the fix. It is sad to have to point this out, but underfill does not crack, bumps do. The bumps that cracked did so for a long chain of reasons that are explained in my earlier three-part article linked above.

            Nvidia changed one of the steps in the chain, and seemingly none of the others. This might change the frequency of the bumps cracking, for either good or bad, or it might not. It might also introduce a new and much more serious failure mode, and that is what we believe Nvidia did.”

            Looks like Nvidia might have more trouble ahead.

    • PRIME1
    • 12 years ago

    l[

      • rohith10
      • 12 years ago

      …or in your greenish comments.

    • blacksteel
    • 12 years ago

    Nvidia is just been given a beating lately, which is great. I hope it converts some Nvidia fans into ATI fans.

    The various ATI video cards I’ve had from my old 8500 to my 3870 now I’ve never had to RMA. Also drivers are pretty damn solid.

      • A_Pickle
      • 12 years ago

      Regrettably, quality isn’t necessarily where ATI falters — it’s the support of their buyers. Only VisionTek offers lifetime warranties, and considering I just had an ATI-brand X800 XL that seems to be suffering from a dead fan (it overheats and the fan pushes nearly NO air) that I make use of in many spare LAN computers… I’m a bit disappointed.

      A lot of Nvidian buyers get lifetime warranties, which is something that’d be nice to see…

        • ludi
        • 12 years ago

        Double-check the terms of that warranty. Many “lifetime warranties” mean /[

    • kvndoom
    • 12 years ago

    The lengths to which Charlie will go to put down Nvidia are amazing. It’s almost compulsive behavior.

    • eitje
    • 12 years ago

    First, I’ll say that I normally think the Inq is a trawler. However, I think it’s a good thing that SOMEONE went and looked to see what’s inside of these new chips from Nvidia. That’s investigative journalism, and we applaud TR when they do this kind of thing.

    I will say, though, that I think the *[

      • MadManOriginal
      • 12 years ago

      If they did that and found a change they probably wouldn’t report it :rolleyes: Such is the state of sensationalist journalism and bad science – only data that proves your theorem is published.

    • ew
    • 12 years ago

    Anyone following this story closely would immediately know this a publicity stunt by The Inquirer. Nvidia has said in the past that it is not the bump material that is the problem and so it actually makes sense that they didn’t change it. So either Nvidia didn’t do anything and lied or they were telling the truth and actually fixed the problem.

      • continuum
      • 12 years ago

      Yep. Inquirer story in this case = very, very bad reporting.

      Hell, some industries still *require* high-lead solders and whatnot due to excessive failure rates of eutectic solders. *GASP* OH NOES IT ALL FAILS!! WHAT DO WE DO??

      sigh. Bloody idiots… use the right materials for the application. In the case of a chip inside a typical computer, high-lead bumps are fine with proper design, eutectic bumps are fine with proper design, the article clearly does NOT understand… #$!#!#

    • Silus
    • 12 years ago

    Why are “Charlie”‘s “articles even mentioned anymore ?
    That’s just giving the guy attention that he doesn’t deserve. He’s like a dog running after a fast moving car, without a clue of what’s he’s doing or saying. It’s quite sad really.

      • LoneWolf15
      • 12 years ago

      We can only hope the car stops very suddenly one day.

        • ludi
        • 12 years ago

        …unless Charlies is the Dog 1000. Then you don’t dare stop.

    • fellix
    • 12 years ago

    So, Inq wrecked a brand new MacBook just to reveal an obvious thing, that everybody else knows, that it’s not an issue after all…

    I imagine someone shouts to the Inq staff on the phone: IT’S THE UNDERFILL YOU HAD TO LOOK FOR, MORONS!!!

    • Shinare
    • 12 years ago

    r[

    • PRIME1
    • 12 years ago

    l[

      • grantmeaname
      • 12 years ago

      reporter!=opposite of Inquirer

      • PRIME1
      • 12 years ago

      Reporting is for news, not for making sh!t up all the time.

      It would be like calling a random number generator a calculator.

        • eitje
        • 12 years ago

        it must do some kind of calculation to get to the random number. 🙂

    • sdack
    • 12 years ago

    /[

      • MadManOriginal
      • 12 years ago

      No, it wrecks a Mac!

      *puts on asbestos suit*

        • Sargent Duck
        • 12 years ago

        +1

        *stands by with fire extinguisher*

          • ew
          • 12 years ago

          That will come in handy when my Macbook Pro with 8600M GT graphics decides to burst into flame.

        • sdack
        • 12 years ago

        Is a Mac not a good computer?

        *sets himself on fire to test his own asbestos suit*

          • MadManOriginal
          • 12 years ago

          In reality? No, they’re ok. For the sake of making a troll-ish joke? Yea, they’re poopy.

            • sdack
            • 12 years ago

            Trolls are humans who have turned into trolls. No one knows how this is possible or how it starts. The individual phases of the transformation and their symptoms are completely unknown, and I am the only person who ever survived it. I will keep an eye on you and let you know if you should be worried.

            • MadManOriginal
            • 12 years ago

            STOP PATRONIZING ME!!1 LEAVE ME ALOOONE…

            • sdack
            • 12 years ago

            I apologize!

            • MadManOriginal
            • 12 years ago

            From the depths of my troll cave in Mordor…I accept your apology.

        • Scrotos
        • 12 years ago

        Suit like them intel guys in their old ad campaign?!?

      • ludi
      • 12 years ago

      How else do you think reverse engineering gets done? You go out and buy the same old thing that anyone else could get off the shelf, then you strip it down to the component of interest. In a case like this, there’s no possible way to examine the desired features without destroying the part.

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