Intel has discovered a glitch involving some of the I/O controllers in the company’s new “Grantsdale” chip set, which can cause a PC to fail to boot up or to freeze.
An Intel Corp. official said the scope of the problem is not known and that the company has begun polling its customers for the lot numbers of the affected chips.
Intel’s 915 and 925 chip-set families, formerly known as “Grantsdale” and “Alderwood,” consist of several chips, including memory controllers and the I/O Controller Hub, known as the ICH-6.
The I/O hub controls some of Grantsdale’s new features, including the circuitry to turn a PC using the chip set into a wireless access point, a capability Intel has delayed.
Intel executives have called the chip set “the most significant platform in 12 years.”
The glitch is somewhat complicated. Normally, when a chip is being fabricated, an insulating layer of film is deposited to electrically isolate the chip. That film is normally removed from the die pad area, where the chip interfaces with the pins that connect it to the outside world.
In this case, the thin film on a pad area was only partially removed, causing the real-time clock circuitry to be susceptible to excessive leakage, according to Howard High, a spokesman for Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel.
“Almost none of it is in the end-user community,” he said of the affected chip sets. All of the PCs that are shipping now are free from the glitch, he said.
The problem may be in the early supplies of the chip set that were shipped to PC OEMs and motherboard makers. “I can’t tell you the extent of the problem at this stage,” High said. “I’d lie if I said I was able to size it, if it was 10 percent of the units. I just don’t know.”
OEMs, at this point, are playing it cautious. “It’s possible we’ll have to delay our launch by a week or so while we get this straightened out,” said a source at a major PC OEM.
But there is one telltale sign that a PC is affected: a persistent refusal to boot. When asked if the glitch might have affected any early reviews of the chip set, High chuckled. “It’s hard to say,” he said. “Reviewers get pretty early units. If a unit fails to turn on, we hear about it pretty quickly.”
Word of the problem surfaced Thursday on HardOCP.com, an enthusiast Web site.