updated 06:00 pm EDT, Tue August 11, 2009
Sony admits graphics fault
Sony recently issued a statement of confession admitting it used defective NVIDIA graphics chips in 14 models of its VAIO notebooks, according to a Tuesday report. As with other companies' related video issues, the chips would gradually be worn down by heat problems and result in distorted graphics, display artifacts and eventually blank screens. Sony will repair the affected VAIO PCs for free for up to four years after the systems were bought.
The problems were traced back by the Inquirer to cracking in the underfill material of GeForce 8400M and 8600M graphics chips that joins the chip die to its package, and was made worse by the additional heat inherently present in the tight spaces of notebooks. Some makers tried to fix the issue by sending out system patches that had the cooling fans spin faster to prevent damage from occurring, but this has typically only delayed the onset of symptoms rather than solving the problem.
Other notebook and PC manufacturers with the faulty NVIDIA parts issued recalls and repair programs under warranty, with some of the cost picked up by NVIDIA and contributing to its recent quarterly losses. Apple extended its warranties for affected MacBook Pros, with Dell doing the same. HP and others are also known to have put in special warranty clauses.
Sony did no such thing at the time, stating a joint investigation with NVIDIA did not reveal the same kinds of problems with its VIO notebooks. In a statement released on August 4th on its support website, however, the electronics giant said a small amount of its computers with NVIDIA graphics chips may indeed be affected.
GeForce 9-series and later graphics chips shouldn't be affected by the problems as they use different underfill mixtures that aren't prone to the same behavior.