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Graphics Businesses Software Apple

Apple Admits Nvidia GPU Defect In Some MacBook Pros 89

Posted by Soulskill
from the theya-culpa dept.
bigwophh writes "The brouhaha over defective Nvidia mobile graphics chips keeps rolling along, even months after the initial headlines have faded. Despite Nvidia's promises that Apple's GeForce 8600M GT-based MacBook Pros had dodged the bullet and were immune from the defect, Apple now counters that it wasn't, in fact, so lucky. 'In July 2008, NVIDIA publicly acknowledged a higher than normal failure rate for some of their graphics processors due to a packaging defect. At that same time, Nvidia assured Apple that Mac computers with these graphics processors were not affected. However, after an Apple-led investigation, Apple has determined that some MacBook Pro computers with the NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics processor may be affected.' The units in question are the 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro notebooks with Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT GPUs, built between May 2007 and September 2008."
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Apple Admits Nvidia GPU Defect In Some MacBook Pros

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  • by TheLink (130905) on Saturday October 11, 2008 @11:36AM (#25340021) Journal
    So Charlie of The Inquirer was right?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by aliquis (678370)

      Too bad Apple got rid of the quality control but kept the price level.

      • Too bad Apple got rid of the quality control but kept the price level.

        And to add insult to injury they went with the x86 architecture. It would have been really good to continue with the PPC or some other decent chip.

        The titanium cases also hold up better and have a nicer feel. With enough wear, they get *really* smooth.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          The real insult was not going with AMD processors, with their inherently superior architecture for multiprocessing. It sure seemed like Apple understood that multiple processors were necessary, and then they went and ruined it by going with the second-best choice. With some more customers and thus some more money, AMD could likely have held on to the #1 spot in the TDP race. I have nothing against PPC but I would love to be able to run OSX, Linux, and XP (for games, of course) on the same system.

          I'm getting

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by aliquis (678370)

            Apple probably got to know the short term future plans of both companies and Intel had the better one for Apples kind of products. Sure I would had preferred if they said AMD, but there is no denying Intel is ahead now and AMD don't do as good notebook chips and that AMDs high-end desktop ships use a lot of power.

            So as of right now I think their decision was right. I'd rather complain on other decisions than AMD vs Intel.

            And since both are x86-chips they always have the benefit of being able to change I gue

        • by aliquis (678370)

          Well, since there isn't much development of desktop PPC chips (What happened with PA-semi?) of which Alpha is gone I don't know what they could have choosen? I'd rather take Intels chip than the current PPC stuff. Or well, the 64 bit e600&e700-series or whatever they was called seemed decent. I'll answer drinkypoo directly.

        • by dal20402 (895630)

          It got awfully hard to continue with PPC when the fastest available mobile product was less than half the speed of competitive Intel offerings.

          Even without considering the massive speed gains, the switch to Intel was the best thing that's ever happened to the Mac platform. Macs, being able to natively run all of the multitude of other x86 OSes out there along with OS X, are now the most versatile PCs in the world.

          Without the switch to Intel, the Mac would still be in a 2%-3% ghetto.

          Also, the idea that

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 11, 2008 @01:45PM (#25340933)

      Yup, at least about the G84 and G86 chips being universally defective. There's a long thread [apple.com] on the Apple discussions forum full of people who experienced these failures. It got so long that people's browsers were timing out, so the moderators closed it and opened a follow-on thread [apple.com].... Somebody on the thread put together a spreadsheet on Google Docs [google.com] with almost three hundred affected machines.

      The failure symptom is that the internal display dies completely and the external display fails over to the integrated chipset. A check of video hardware shows that the video chip is an Intel chip because the NVIDIA chip is no longer detected.

      Assuming that only a small percentage of people who experienced this failure are listed on that spreadsheet, that represents a staggering number of component failures as a percentage of unit sales. Figure that Apple sold about 6 million notebooks (best guess) in that 1.5 years. I'd bet that only about 5% are MBP, which would be a total of 300k units (ballpark). That means that this one thread alone represents a failure rate of one unit out of every 1000 units sold. However, because most people don't even know about discussions.apple.com, much less seek out a particular thread and post in it, that estimate is probably way low....

      What scares me is that there is no clear evidence that NVIDIA has fixed the problem. Thus, there is no reason to believe that the replacement chips won't fail after another year once they're outside the warranty extension period.

      • by dal20402 (895630)

        Maybe I'm hanging out with a bunch of snooty elitists, but way more than 5% of the Mac notebook owners I know have MBPs.

        I have no real data -- just "what I see around me" data -- but I expect the proportion of MBPs within total Mac notebook sales is more like 25%-33%.

  • ASUS? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by dziman (415307)

    Does Asus manufacture Apple notebooks? Regardless, I'm still curious as to why Asus has denied the problem at all in any of their notebooks. I even called them up to ask about it and the response was... "If you think you have any problems, mail the notebook to us, and we'll take a look at it, but our notebooks are not effected by this."

    The notebook I have is the G1S-A1 that has an nvidia 8600GT.

    • by aliquis (678370)

      Well, if you don't have one with an issue how does it matter? It's not like they will replace all notebooks if they still work. If you have the issue return it no matter what if they are affected or not.

      But seems rather obvious everyone buying the chips can have the issues, why would any brand be immune since the manufacturer is the same?

  • Price Drop? (Score:2, Troll)

    by FranTaylor (164577)

    Maybe used MacBooks are in for a bit of a price drop, considering that they are ticking time bombs.

    • Pros. Macbooks use the intel on board chips which while sucky for gaming, have now proven themselves to not be mini-USS Enterprises.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TrekkieGod (627867)

        Pros. Macbooks use the intel on board chips which while sucky for gaming, have now proven themselves to not be mini-USS Enterprises.

        Because of the self-destruct? Dude, even I think that's stretching for a reference.

      • by discord5 (798235) on Saturday October 11, 2008 @02:49PM (#25341249)

        mini-USS Enterprises

        ...

        They don't have a captain that wants to sleep with the blue chick?

      • by Baricom (763970)

        Macbooks use the intel on board chips which while sucky for gaming, have now proven themselves to not be mini-USS Enterprises.

        There have been five Federation ships with that name. Please specify by registry number.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Auckerman (223266)

      They have already dropped. I've seen 9 month old Macbook pros going for $500-600 on craigslist, which is unheard of for Macs.

      • by dal20402 (895630)

        Stupid sellers... panicking just like everyone in the stock market. I'd certainly pick up a Santa Rosa MBP for $600 if I could find one in good shape.

        If the machine is less than a year old, which many of these are, then just make sure to get AppleCare for it. If the first owner already has AppleCare, it can be transferred with the sale.

        Then you'll be covered for three years. At least for me, that's about one year longer than I'm likely to use the machine.

  • by lag10 (667114) on Saturday October 11, 2008 @12:01PM (#25340227)
    The video card just randomly died one day. No video on the attached screen or an external LCD with few options for backing up data.

    Luckily, I had AppleCare at the time and Apple just kept the HD intact. This only happened two months ago, and I had only purchased AppleCare a few weeks beforehand.

    When I called about the issue, they claimed that they hadn't heard of the problem before. I wonder what happened in two months for them to change their tune?
    • The tech likely had not heard of the problem. Remember techs are always the last to know what engineers are finding, especially when you consider how many techs Apple likely has.
      • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Saturday October 11, 2008 @02:36PM (#25341179) Homepage Journal

        Actually, the techs find the problem, replace the part, the engineers have to go over all the failed parts to figure out what's causing the failure.

        For instance, the hinges on the DV9000 HP laptops were defective. The techs replaced it, made note of it, engineers went over notes techs made, decided to do a recall. The techs do most of the grunt work and are usually the first to find and report recurring problems. (We do have internal email in these depots, so techs can send in observations to the engineering staff.)

      • by Kneo24 (688412)

        You have it all wrong. Technicians are always the first to notice these problems. They of course always report the failures (especially if they become common), get ignored, by the Q&A department and the engineering department until higher up wants to feel important. Than the issue is address, and the technicians (and probably their immediate supervisor) are reprimanded for not alerting someone of this issue sooner.

        At least that's always been my experience as a technician and a manager. (And it hasn't ch

        • by hmar (1203398)

          and the technicians (and probably their immediate supervisor) are reprimanded for not alerting someone of this issue sooner

          This is why all my correspondence is in writing, with multiple backups

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)

      Meh, at least you got one of the nVidia ones. The ATi ones don't self-destruct, but it took them over a year to manage to write drivers for them that didn't cause regular kernel panics.

      That said, OS X kernel panics are the most tasteful of all operating systems I've seen crash - the screen fades to grey and a nice box (rounded corners and everything) appears in the middle telling you, in four languages, how to reboot the machine.

      • by ColdWetDog (752185) * on Saturday October 11, 2008 @01:24PM (#25340775) Homepage

        That said, OS X kernel panics are the most tasteful of all operating systems I've seen crash - the screen fades to grey and a nice box (rounded corners and everything) appears in the middle telling you, in four languages, how to reboot the machine.

        Yeah, that really lowers my blood pressure. Instead of an annoying blue with circa 1995 text on the screen. It's soo much better. Still can't figure out why my (GeForce 8600M) MacBook Pro will go on kernel panic rampages - every couple of weeks, Bridge will KP the laptop. Cleaning out the caches seems to work, perhaps it's just the dead goat and the candles in the pentagram.

        But I really appreciate tasteful screwups.

        • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday October 11, 2008 @01:29PM (#25340815) Journal
          If you look in the console, you can find the stack trace for the crash, which usually helps pinpoint which module caused the crash. In my experience, most OS X kernel panics are due to third party kernel module (virtualisation one in particular), then ATi drivers supplied by Apple, faulty hardware and bugs in XNU, in that order.
        • by lag10 (667114)

          That said, OS X kernel panics are the most tasteful of all operating systems I've seen crash - the screen fades to grey and a nice box (rounded corners and everything) appears in the middle telling you, in four languages, how to reboot the machine.

          Yeah, that really lowers my blood pressure. Instead of an annoying blue with circa 1995 text on the screen. It's soo much better. Still can't figure out why my (GeForce 8600M) MacBook Pro will go on kernel panic rampages - every couple of weeks, Bridge will KP the laptop. Cleaning out the caches seems to work, perhaps it's just the dead goat and the candles in the pentagram. But I really appreciate tasteful screwups.

          I had the same issue for a number of months before my MBP's logic/motherboard was replaced. After that, it seems to not happen nearly as often.

          Then again, I don't use Bridge very often, nor do I clear out my caches.

    • by iphayd (170761)

      Mine had two logic board replacements in a month for this problem.

    • by Kagura (843695) on Saturday October 11, 2008 @01:26PM (#25340795)

      Luckily, I had AppleCare at the time and Apple just kept the HD intact.

      I learned the hard way that you cannot leave your hard drive in the computer when you send it in for repairs. In retrospect, it was stupid of me to send my hard drive with irreplaceable items on it, but it is a mistake only made once.

    • When I called about the issue, they claimed that they hadn't heard of the problem before. I wonder what happened in two months for them to change their tune?

      Remember "The Formula" from Fight Club? If it costs more to do a recall than to lose those customers burned* by bad products, they don't do one.

      They must have recalculated it recently and got a different answer than they've been getting for the past 17 months. This is not new for Apple, it takes forever for them to publicly admit there's a problem with

  • by 666999 (999666) on Saturday October 11, 2008 @12:21PM (#25340365)

    CoconutIdentityCard [coconut-flavour.com], an app that tells you when and where your Mac or iPod was manufactured, says my MBP was made between January and July 2007 in Shanghai. I wish it was more specific about the date, so I'd have a better idea if my machine is affected.

    At any rate, I've been having some repeated video issues with external monitors as of late; a CRT recognized as an LCD and only able to match internal LCD's resolutions, regardless of mirroring settings, and a BSON (nothingness) when disconnecting from DVI, necessitating a hard power-off. I was (and still kind of am) really hoping it wouldn't be affected, as I don't have a worthy backup machine to use while this is in the shop. It's a 15" 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo with the 256 MB GeForce 8600M GT.

    At least it's still within the included first-year AppleCare. It's possible this could be handled like the issue of the failing logic boards in iBooks, when Apple replaced the logic board if it was within a certain serial number range, regardless of warranty coverage. Hopefully all affected MacBook Pro owners will get the same treatment.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 11, 2008 @02:26PM (#25341117)

      FYI: You can tell what week your machine was manufactured by reading the serial number. They're in the format of:

      XXYYYZZZZZZ

      WW is the factory code
      YYY is the last number of the year, and the week of the year of manufacture.
      ZZZ is the portion that is incremented per-unit.

      • by Tycho (11893)

        I've always wanted to reply to a post that the editors at slashdot will remove following a soon to be received C&D letter from Apple. AFAIK Apple considers posting how to decode the structure of their serial numbers to violate one of their trade secrets and have managed to bully many sites into removing the same kind of information as posted by the parent. This info has been floating around for at least ten years and almost certainly more. Every computer or device manufactured by Apple with a serial

  • Ever_So_Slightly_OT... Those of us who bought Dell laptops with a Nvidia 84/86M video, are looking at the same manufacturing defect.. Dell's only response so far, is to issue a bios upgrade that simply runs the fan all the time and add a years warantee onto whatever you already have, for any video failures... WAY too little.. Dell/HP, and whatever other laptop mfgrs who use these defective chips need to go after Nvidia in a big way, and give users with these faulty systems at least a 5yr warantee on video f

  • While that advisory has the usual neutral restrained tone that official documentation always has, I suspect Apple is displeased. The advisory comes out and says, albeit in bland language, "Nvidia has been lying to us for some time now, even as their parts are dying in our notebooks."

    I wonder if this broke too late to affect the probability of the macs-with-nvidia-chipsets rumors?
  • happy (Score:2, Informative)

    by AnXa (936517)

    Now I'm more than happy I didn't buy MacBook Pro yet...

  • by dave562 (969951) on Saturday October 11, 2008 @01:52PM (#25340969) Journal
    How long until those suckers are out of the distribution channel? I bought one and although I haven't had any problems yet, I did make sure to buy the three year extended warranty from Best Buy. At this point I'm just waiting until I am sure the newer version of the MBP is in the channel and then I'm going to return my defective one.
    • Firstly, how do you know it's defective? And secondly, why on earth did you buy a Best Buy warranty instead of AppleCare?
      • by dave562 (969951)
        It may or may not be defective. In my opinion, any device that gets so hot that its uncomfortable to type on is defective. The AppleCare warranty doesn't cover accidental damage. Only a fool would buy an extended warranty that doesn't cover drops or spills.
  • by Keldi (978805) on Saturday October 11, 2008 @02:14PM (#25341075)
    There's an easy way to diagnose this specific problem and prove it to the Apple techs. Boot the computer with sound on; you should hear Mac OSX start up. Hit Command-F5 (or Command-Fn-F5, depending on your settings.) That will turn on Voiceover. This will let you navigate without the screen, (although slowly and painfully). Go to System Preferences -> Sharing -> Screen Sharing, and turn on screen sharing, setting a password. Use TightVNC to connect to your MBP's IP address. You now have a screen. Go to About This Mac -> System Profiler. Check your graphics card. If it reports as an Intel GMA X3100, take a screenshot and print it. That's the rock-solid proof of a faulty GeForce 8600. Used this method to get mine replaced 2 days ago. I had Applecare, thank goodness; if you have one of these Macbooks and you've had it less than a year, GET APPLECARE. The chip WILL fail, and then you're out $1000 for a logic board replacement, as Apple has given no indication that they're going to extend the warranty for this issue.
    • by Keldi (978805)
      Well, damn, I guess I made a mistake; that article says there's an official warranty extension. Good news for all involved!
    • by Alkivar (25833) *

      actually apple has said they would cover this:

      http://support.apple.com/kb/TS2377 [apple.com]

      "If the NVIDIA graphics processor in your MacBook Pro has failed, or fails within two years of the original date of purchase, a repair will be done free of charge, even if your MacBook Pro is out of warranty."

    • by Colitis (8283)

      It might be easier, if you have another Mac available, to do a Target Disk boot off that drive to do the screen sharing enable step.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Looks like the commenter [theinquirer.net] that mentioned a possible link between low-lead and high-lead solder might be on to something, or the inquirer.net writer if he/you brought this possible issue to light.

    I have a Toshiba A215-S7422 notebook that has video problems as well. Toshiba is covering it up and trying to run out the warranty. The screen "blanks" and the laptop freezes up. No system keys work, emergency syncing doesn't work, etc. But the cpu still is getting power because the air at the vent remains hot. The

    • by Khyber (864651)

      Then don't bother trying to get repairs under warranty, return the thing as "DEFECTIVE" and demand a new one under warranty, and say you'll take them to court if they do not comply within two weeks.

    • by dgatwood (11270)

      After obtaining the RMA, pull the drive, stick it in an external case, copy the data off, and put the drive back in. Either that or disable the video drivers in your Linux kernel and boot the machine headless. If the video chip is causing the crashes, the machine shouldn't crash if the video hardware is inactive. SSH into the headless box and copy the drive contents to an external disk. Then reenable the video drivers.

  • "8600M GT GPUs, built between May 2007 and September 2008" -- Where do I get the date information?

    • by nneonneo (911150)
      This website [chipmunk.nl] parses the serial number and displays some useful information, such as the factory and date of origin. The model number information is not always accurate from my limited testing, and I have no way of checking if the manufacturing data is correct, so use this at your own risk.
  • I own a MacBook Pro that was built in the timeframe and has the NVidia 8600M GT GPU.
    Mine has not failed ... yet.

    Is there a general recall on this, to where I can get one that won't be failing unexpectedly?
    Chip H.

  • ...and I dropped it off at the Apple Store for repair on Friday afternoon. It returns on Wednesday. Thank goodness for Apple Care, but what an annoyance. I have a friend who went through this two months ago, same model.

    I Love Apple and I Love nVidia, but I sure didn't love the lost productivity.

    And of course, it happened during the week of The Big Deadline! Oy.

  • May to September, huh? Funny, that. I got my 8600M-equipped MBP in June and the GPU has chronic overheating problems... while idling on the desktop.
  • Have they fixed the problem ?
    Is it safe to buy a MBP now ?

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