SONY HAS FINALLY confessed that it used defective graphics chips in 14 models in its Vaio laptop range. The defective chips, manufactured by Nvidia, can cause distorted video, graphics display artifacts, random characters and blank screens.
The problem first arose over a year ago and Nvidia finally admitted it in an SEC 8K filing in July 2008. Major PC manufacturers including Apple, Dell and HP have long since implemented free recall and repair programmes, paid for at least in part by Nvidia.
Nvidia's problem was caused by cracking in the underfill material of the graphics chips and worsened by high levels of heat generated in laptops, and it was diagnosed by the Inquirer in September 2008.
Some manufacturers initially attempted to cover up the chip problem by supplying system patches that continually activated cooling fans to prevent further damage and stave off expensive warranty repairs.
But persistent pressure from the Inquirer and lots of angry users led to admissions from Nvidia and the manufacturers as well as high volumes of laptop repairs under warranty and even some product recalls.
Throughout this whole debacle, Sony remained tight-lipped, insisting that its products were unaffected.
Until now, that is.
A statement from Sony, dated August 4th 2009, reads as follows:
"In July 2008, Nvidia publicly acknowledged a failure associated with some of their graphics processors (GPU) due to a manufacturing defect in the graphics chip packaging. At that time Sony and Nvidia jointly investigated whether Vaio models equipped with this GPU were impacted by the issue. This investigation revealed that the issue had not occurred in such Vaio models.
"However, after closely monitoring the situation, Sony has now determined that a very small percentage of computers with the Nvidia graphics chips may be affected.
"These PCs may exhibit distorted video, random characters or a blank screen due to failure of the Nvidia graphics chips.
"As part of our commitment to quality, for any customer who requires repair of their Vaio due to the Nvidia graphics processor issue, Sony will cover the cost of repair (parts and labour) at no charge during the first four years following the date of purchase of the models in question (see list below).
"In case your model is shown in the list below, we invite you to contact Vaio support to arrange service for your Viao."
Is it coincidence that this announcement - which is buried deep in the Sony Vaio support website, and only accessible if you have your model number and serial number to hand - came exactly 13 months after Nvidia finally admitted its culpability?
We can only guess how many disgruntled Sony Vaio owners have scrapped an apparently dead 'out of warranty' laptop because of the faulty Nvidia graphics chips. µ
Here's the list of Sony Vaio models affected:
VGN-FZ11x, VGN-FZ18x, VGN-FZ21x, VGN-FZ31x, VGN-FZ38x,
VGN-AR11x, VGN-AR21x, VGN-AR31x,
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