SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Some more details of a design error in a companion chip to the Sandy Bridge processor – and the fix being implemented – have emerged in a conference call held by Intel with financial analysts to discuss the issue and the impact on Intel's revenues and margins.
The chip, known as Series 6 or Cougar Point, passed rigorous functional testing performed by both Intel and its OEMs but nonetheless there is a problem which can show up in a low percentage of chips, according to Steve Smith, vice president of PC client operation enabling, speaking on the call.
Smith said his best estimate was that a single-digit percentage of the chips, about 5 percent, have the potential to be affected over the typical 3-year life of a notebook computer. And the error would manifest itself with up to 4 of 6 serial-ATA channels being degraded in performance or failing altogether.
Systems including the chips only started shipping to consumers on Jan. 9 and there are no known reported failures in the field. Nonetheless Intel has suspended shipments of the chip while it brings up a corrected design and will provide replacements and support to affected parties.
"The root cause is a design oversight, if you will, and all we needed to do was make a metal change to configure that circuit back to a robust operating mode. And it's on one of the later layers of metal so we actually can utilize all the chipset pipeline that has been there and is there in the fab right now," said Smith.
Because the chipset is built in a relatively mature 65-nm process, Smith said there is confidence that the corrected chip can ramp up production quickly.