Yesterday Intel announced the largest stop shipment/recall I can remember it ever making (excluding FDIV). The product in question? All 6-series chipsets, a necessary part of any Sandy Bridge (aka 2nd generation Intel Core microprocessor, aka Intel Core i7/i5/i3 2xxx) system. The problem? A transistor with a thin gate oxide being driven by too high of a voltage. The aforementioned transistor is present in the clock tree circuitry of the 3Gbps SATA ports that branch off of all 6-series chipsets. The 6Gbps ports are unaffected. Over a period of 3 years, at least 5% of all these chipsets will have some failure on the 3Gbps SATA ports. The failure could start in the form of errors on the SATA link and ultimately result in an unusable SATA port. No damage to attached hardware should result.

Because of the nature of the problem Intel has set aside $700M to deal with the replacement (ahem, not recall) of up to 8 million impacted 6-series chipsets. After stopping shipments and production of the 6-series chipsets, Intel began talking to its partners about how to proceed yesterday.

The fix for the problematic transistor requires a hardware change. The 6-series chipset design doesn’t have to be redone, but there’s a metal layer change that must be made. The result is a new stepping of the 6-series chipsets. Intel shipped with stepping B2, and the fixed version will carry a B3 stepping.

Just half an hour ago, Gigabyte sent its replacement strategy for all of its own motherboards.

The key messages are as follows:

1) Gigabyte has stopped shipment to and recalled any unsold 6-series B2 motherboards from distributors and dealers.

2) Any Gigabyte 6-series B2 motherboards that have already been sold will be accepted back for replacement with a B3 board, regardless of condition. I asked Gigabyte if this meant that non-working boards could also be returned, Gigabyte said yes - all eligible 6-series models with B2 stepping chipsets will be accepted back.

Elligible Gigabyte 6-series Motherboards

3) Gigabyte says that it should have 6-series B3 chipsets in April.

4) The replacement program will happen at the dealer/distributor level. You will have to exchange your board at the location you purchased it from.

5) Customers can either exchange their board (you'll have to wait until April for this to happen) or you can get a full refund sooner (immediately?). Gigabyte recommends going the refund route as that gives you more flexibility for what you want to do next.

6) The replacement board you get will be a brand new motherboard based on the B3 chipset. Gigabyte isn’t ready to disclose if there will be any new design features to these boards as well.

7) The cost of the product exchange will be handled by Intel and Gigabyte (presumably Intel is footing the entire bill).

April is two months away, that’s later than the end of February. I’m guessing the first recipients of B3 stepping chipsets will be large OEMs and notebook manufacturers. The component guys will likely come second. Getting replacement motherboards won’t happen on April 1st if that’s when Gigabyte gets chipsets either. This could end up being an April/May thing instead of March/April.

Sending all returns/exchanges through the distributor/retailer channels is an interesting approach. I would rather Gigabyte handle the whole thing (e.g. send us an eligible board, we’ll send you a new one) but I can understand if getting the distributors/retailers to help makes things easier.

The refund option is a nice one, although I'm not sure whether etailers will let you return your CPU as well once it has been used. I suspect that's something you'll have to take up with the vendor itself. If you plan on sticking with a Sandy Bridge system, your best bet is probably to keep using your system as is today and just exchange when the time comes.

I'm glad Gigabyte will be providing brand new motherboards for users who opt to exchange and that Gigabyte is accepting boards regardless of condition. Gigabyte hasn't yet decided what it's going to do with all of the returned boards.

Until April rolls around, the best you can do is use the 6Gbps SATA ports on your Sandy Bridge board. We’ll keep you posted as we get more of these notices from manufacturers.

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  • ggathagan - Wednesday, February 2, 2011 - link

  • Kivan2400 - Wednesday, February 2, 2011 - link

    Does the same goes for Asus motherboards ?

    Because sadly I just finished my build with the P8P67 deluxe
  • ggathagan - Wednesday, February 2, 2011 - link

    Read these two articles and tell me what you think:
  • akula2 - Friday, February 4, 2011 - link

    Whom should I tell my pain in the Heart?
    I've a couple of high end builds, such as P8P67 WS Revolution, Gigabyte P67A-D7 etc.
  • ypsylon - Wednesday, February 2, 2011 - link

    And where are all doom-mongers saying that X58 is dead. X58/S1366 owners laughing all the way to the bank right now. I, particularly, can't get my head around why someone need to "upgrade" from LGA1156 to 1155 - of course beside some slightly higher random numbers appearing when benchmarks are over. Waste of time and money. If you bought X58 in 2008 you get nice 4 year run before X68 premiere, moving from LGA1156 to 1155 in space of 12-24 months is completely bonkers - unless of course you sleep on ca$h and couldn't care less about money, if so go right ahead, all such "improvements" are targeted at such as you.
  • mapesdhs - Wednesday, February 2, 2011 - link

    "I, particularly, can't get my head around why someone need to "upgrade" from LGA1156 to 1155 ..."

    I entirely agree. Anyone with a P55 that's running 4GHz+ should be more than
    happy with their system's peformance for a good long time.

    Plus, is it just me or does SB make overclocking kinda boring? I wonder whether
    this new MO will go down that well with the overclocking crowd. Afterall, where's
    the technical challenge? And as someone else mentioned recently, though SB
    CPUs are supposedly unlocked, they still have a max multiplier, so extreme oc'ing
    is out of the question.

    So yes, this is an enormous opportunity for AMD, assuming of course they don't
    adopt a similar approach to how their future chips operate.

    It's ironic, the ever increasing level of integration is slowly making PCs so black-
    box that the hobbyist crowd who like to mess around with the hardware are being
    gradually squeezed out with respect to what they can really do. Pity.

  • akula2 - Friday, February 4, 2011 - link

    @I, particularly, can't get my head around why someone need to "upgrade" from LGA1156 to 1155 ..."

    Yep, not point. But people who wanna build/buy then what? I don't see P55s perform that bad even after post Sandy Bridge days. I would suggest, if one has smart mind, apply it by comparing with the falling prices under P55 instead of going with P67s. But, it need not to be true for all. Just an idea to prove that P55 is not exactly a dead end as some reviewers tried very hard to sell the Sandy Bridge. Today, I could build a 870 based P55 and live it with it for the next 7-10 years for sure!!!
  • cyberguyz - Wednesday, February 2, 2011 - link

    Um Gee, let's see. I'm running my I7-2600 at 4.4ghz with the stock Intel cooler using the brain-dead little OC program Asus bundles with the board on 'Fast' rather than 'Extreme' setting.

    So which would I rather have? An LGA1366 chip running at 4.4ghz needing ridiculous bios timing and 3x120 rad water cooling, or a dumb lil 1155 chip running that same speed with a STOCK INTEL COOLER whose CPU + mobo that cost about the same as the motherboard for 1366 system alone. Or maybe I'll do a little bios tweaking and get the thing running at 5.2Ghz ON AIR. Duh!

    So I throw all my hard drives on the 6GB sata ports, throw the dvd b urner on a 3GB sata port and if the 3GB ports quit a years down the road, no sweat. Go out and spend a couple hundred on a new Z68 board.

    So, you tell me, who is laughing all the way to the bank?
  • MeanBruce - Wednesday, February 2, 2011 - link

    Dude, X58 is still breathing well! Intel will be offering a new LGA-1366 6-core 3.46GHz to 3.6GHz with turbo CPU brand new this month, the i7 990X Extreme! You are one of the lucky ones that bought into a platform early and carried it thru it's development, has to be the overall most cost effective methodology! I plan to do the same with Sandy-E adding an Ivy Bridge CPU two years into the run and maybe a Haskins chip if the socket remains the same. ;)
  • akula2 - Friday, February 4, 2011 - link

    X58 is more or less obsolete when we compare with Price/Performance or Power factors. See, more people are becoming Energy conscious and are trying to be more responsible. In the US I've seen most of the entry level gamers wants to start with a X58 board, such ignorance is leading to more power consumption and you know what else.
    Again, Z68, is not at all meant for everyone. Maybe this segment would be between 10-15% in the first year so I don't see any reason to waste $ on it this year. LGA1155 is a smart choice, when we take the above mentioned factors. Note that they also come upto 4-way config (SLI or CFX) so it should be more than OK for 99% folks out there.

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