MicroCenter to replace Sandy Bridge motherboards

Intel first announced the flaw in its chipsets for Sandy Bridge processors on Monday morning, and that public announcement was, according to multiple sources, the first time Intel's partners heard about the problem. We understand Intel was bound to announce the problem to the whole world simultaneously because such disclosures can affect its stock price.

As a result of the fact that consumers found out about the problem the same time as everybody else—including PC makers, component manufacturers, and resellers—information about replacement programs for faulty hardware has been slow to arrive. That problem has been exacerbated the arrival of Chinese New Year this week, as folks in Taiwan have been forced to return from vacation and engage in damage control.

We finally got formal statements out of Asus and Gigabyte today with preliminary commitments to refund and replacement programs. Now comes word that MicroCenter is joining the fray.

A friend of mine who purchased an Asus P8P67 Deluxe board from MicroCenter a few weeks back just received the following email, with the subject line: "Important Information Regarding Your Recent Intel 2nd Generation Core Processor Purchase."

Intel has recently identified an issue with their 6 series chipsets, which are used with all their 2nd generation Core processors (code-named Sandy Bridge). This is a potentially serious issue, but it should not affect your data, just your system's performance. Intel believes that consumers can continue to use their systems with confidence, while working with their computer manufacturer for a permanent solution.

However, some users may see degradation in the performance of SATA devices attached to the system, whether internal or external (such as hard drives and DVD drives). Intel is not aware of any end-user who has seen this issue yet, but they expect it to affect a significant percentage of users eventually, and to worsen over a three year period.

Please be assured that Micro Center will stand behind every customer who purchased a system or a motherboard from us that features this chipset. Intel has already made the necessary change in the manufacturing process to correct the error, and properly functioning replacements will be available in approximately 8 weeks.

To minimize the disruption to you, we suggest that you continue to use your system until replacement parts are available. At that time, we will contact you with instructions regarding how to get your motherboard replaced or your system repaired.

PLEASE NOTE: There is no problem with the Intel 2nd Generation Core Processors themselves.

Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience caused by this issue, and our assurance that we will keep you informed of any further developments.

Obviously, this is just a first step, but it's a postive sign for MicroCenter customers—and another indication of where that $700 million Intel has said it's allocated for replacement of components already in the market will be going.

Notice, also, the estimated eight-week delay before boards based on the corrected B3 stepping of the chipset will become available. We've had some debate internally over the meaning of Intel's timelines for the production ramp and shipment of the new stepping. Today's statements from both MicroCenter and Gigabyte point to early April as the likely target date for the arrival of corrected motherboards. I expect that's an optimistic estimate, given everything. We could be waiting even longer.

At least the major players are stepping forward and committing to making things right, once the time comes.

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