Friday, November 07, 2008

Hewlett-Packard & Nvidia: Partners in Crime

In October of 2007, I purchased a beautiful new HP Pavilion Laptop DV9535nr with Nvidia Geforce graphics card from my local Best Buy. After all was said and done, the purchase totaled over $2,400.
I began to notice that the laptop would get very, very hot (like cook an egg hot) whenever I used it for more than an hour or so. (bad sign #1) In early June of this year, the laptop began to shut itself off without warning and upon restart, would display strange colored lines on the screen. (bad sign #2) In July, it died. The laptop would turn on, but there was no video, at all, nothing, just a backlit black screen.

I returned the laptop to Best Buy, who sent it off to HP. Almost a month later, I received the laptop with the simple explanation that my "motherboard had been replaced." (bad sign #3)

A few weeks ago, and exactly one week after the one-year warranty had expired, the motherboard failed again, completely. This time, I got no warning first, it just died. So, I returned the laptop to Best Buy, who sent it back to HP.

Two weeks later, I received an email from Best Buy that my laptop was ready to be picked up (yippee!). Once I arrived, I was informed that HP "was not able to reach me by phone, so they shipped the laptop back unrepaired." When I inquired as to why HP was trying to reach me by phone (and P.S. I am registered as a customer on their website) I was told that the cost to replace the motherboard was going to be $1,003.00. (Let me repeat that) $1,003.00!!!!!

The Geek Squad employee asked me to authorized the charge and she would ship it back to HP for the repair. "Hang on!" I said, gritting my teeth. "I just had the motherboard replaced three months ago. Are you telling me that HP is going to charge me for a new motherboard that is only 90 days old??" I was then informed that "yes" HP was going to charge me if I wanted the laptop repaired.

I snatched up the dead computer and left in a mighty huff, certain that the I.T. guys in my office would save the day. (Wishful thinking on my part)

Now here's the really bad news: For months and months, Nvidia (the maker of the graphics card in my laptop) has been aware of a design defect in some of their chips attached to motherboards. These chips overheat and basically fry the motherboard (hence the scalding hot lap top issue). This defect has affected millions of Apple MacBook Pro, Hewlett-Packard, and Dell laptops.

Nvidia has delayed recalling this part, giving their business partners (Dell, HP, Apple) time to push these chips past the one-year warranty period, which prevents these companies from having to pay for the repair. Unfortunately, the problem has become so enormous that Dell and Apple have finally agreed to replace the faulty motherboards free of charge for up to two years from date of purchase. HP has offered this on a limited number of their models, but is refusing to cover every model that is affected with this issue.

There is a huge raping of consumers going on with HP. If you read the complaints on HP's forum pages, the number is astounding (I have made about 6 posts, three of which HP has promptly removed. They are censoring the forum, but not responding to the issue). The bigger shock is that HP is refusing to budge. I guess they'd rather piss of their customers than ask Nvidia to pay for the replacement parts.
If HP doesn't want to pay for the repairs, then they should sue Nvidia for providing them with faulty hardware, not pass the cost on to consumers. HP should also extend the warranty (like Dell and Apple have done) for ALL affected models, not just a select few.

In the meantime, Nvidia should do the right thing and issue a major recall of these defective chips, instead of allowing their business partners to take the heat for their own blunder. I won't be buying another laptop with Nvidia graphics. ATI, here I come.
Here are some interesting articles on the subject for all my techy friends:


Anonymous said...

I wish for your sake that none of this was happening. After making some adverse posts on your behalf, the moderators of the HP forum censored and then ultimately deleted my posts too. HP can, if they are inclined to do so, trumpet about their right to control the information presented on forums owned by them. The reality is, I think, that they are making themselves look very ruthless in doing so. And all of that comes on top of HP's willingness to select some models as being worthy of recompense but to decline other models because "there is no known issue" with those models!!! I am confident that while that sort of circumlocution will buy HP some time, the U.S. government will take an entirely different point of view. Nvidia and HP have a statutory obligation to fix their lemons and while the process of holding them to account will take time and energy, I urge all affected owners to hang in there and continue to badger HP and to participate in the class action suit.

♫gaurav♫ said...

Facing the same issue...I used to like HP a lot, now I don't think I can any HP product with confidence. These guys have reported a surge in profits, something tells me most of it came from repairs of faulty products.

Anonymous said...

There is a technical error in this blog where it reads:

"Now here's the really bad news: For months and months, Nvidia (the maker of the graphics card in my laptop) has been aware of a design defect in some of their chips attached to motherboards. These chips overheat and basically fry the motherboard (hence the scalding hot lap top issue). This defect has affected millions of Apple MacBook Pro, Hewlett-Packard, and Dell laptops."

nVidia's design does not cause the chips to overheat. The laptop manufacturers use of inadequate heatsinks causes the chip to overheat and when the chip overheats it does as many other chips do, it fails.

Look at it another way, if you have a car and the radiator leaks to the point where the car overheats and fails as a result, the car manufacturer did not put a defective engine in it, rather the cooling system was either defective or suffered damage and/or wear causing the failure.

nVidia's only fault in this is that by creating a dense chip that produces a fair amount of heat, it will be damaged if it isn't heatsunk properly. After they change the solder bumps, if inadequate heatsink designs still allow them to overheat, there will still be problems. If inadequate heatsink design allows an Intel or ATI chipset or video to overheat, there will also be problems.

The reason laptops are failing is not due to the nVidia chipset. The nVidia chipset is failing because the cooling was bad, nVidia is only implicated because their chip produces more heat than others at the time but the same is true of any era of laptop, no matter what chip is hottest the laptop designer has to either design for that amount of heat or pick lower heat parts.

This was also evidenced by the mention in the blog about it running hot - that is a sign the laptop cooling subsystem was inadequate. There's nothing new or unusual about overheating causing failure on any system, hopefully the engineers that designed the heatsink fan on these laptops has been fired and their replacements have learned from that mistake, because chip density will keep rising and laptops with fewer chips but more features are coming in the future so the lesson is an important one.

Itsa Mystery said...

Anonymous..I disagree with you. The solder bumps Nvidia used in these chips has been identified as the defect. I am working on my technical reply and will post it soon.

Itsa Mystery said...

I'll let the experts address the issue (P.S. I did my homework before calling the chips "defective.") :o)

The article above explains this complex issue in great detail.

Here's another one:

Failure rate has drastically declined in the chipsets produced after Nvidia switched the type of solder they were using in July of this year(in the same model laptops that were previously overheating, without cooling system enhancements).

So while your theory that the laptop cooling system is insufficient may be partially true, people should not have to put their laptops in the freezer to get them to work (as many people with these chip sets have recommended on the HP Forum site).

Nvidia goofed and admitted it by paying out $200 million to its business partners, Dell, Apple and HP to "cover the cost of repairs."

Turns out, $200 million was not NEARLY enough.

In addition, Nvidia was sued by its shareholders for withholding the information that this batch of chipsets was bad for ONE YEAR before going public, and then not being honest about the enormity of the problem.

If you research further, you will not find one article about Nvidia claiming that laptop manufacturers are not building effective cooling systems for their chips. They begrudgingly admit fault in this instance.

To further make my case, there has not been a similar spike in motherboard failures in laptops with ATI chipsets - laptops with very comparable cooling systems. So if an almost identical laptop can handle an ATI chipset without this problem, it makes sense that the cooling system is NOT the cause.

Obviously the problem IS overheating, but in this case it is due to the faulty design of the Nvidia chip set and not the laptop manufacturer's cooling systems.

I urge you to read the articles above for the technical explanation.

Thanks for your contribution to this post.

Anonymous said...

Hi there. Hey, it happened to me, on my MAC! The video cut out, two days before I had to leave for a training program. I sent the laptop into Apple the day after I called (they sent me a box) and had it back all nicely repaired two days after that. Everything seems to be working fine now. It's an aluminum macbook pro, and it's an awesome computer. SWITCH! You would be SO much happier on a Mac. You're such a Mac type...creative, friendly, wonderful.

Jackson MacKenzie said...

Thank you for this well-written and thoroughly researched entry! I knew something bad was going on, but wasn't sure of the exact dynamics. My laptop had the exact same failures as yours, I spent hours with HP arguing that I refused to pay for it (because I'm out of warranty).

Finally they agreed to let me ship it in and the technicians would determine if I got the free repair. Good news is that I checked today and it's free; bad news is... aren't they admitting it's defective? In which case... Why was it not recalled?

Also the tech support people and case managers lie; they say they haven't heard of a problem like mine or yours. Then you see the threads with 500+ posts and users with the same exact problem. I emailed the CEO of HP (obviously won't go to him, but it will get some attention) and said HP is stealing from the customers and that they will lose all credibility and respect from these customers if they don't fix this problem immediately.

Again, thank you for the post... This is so frustrating - I am concerned that even with the repair, my laptop will still be unreliable and buggy