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Intel Moonwalks on Apollo Lake, Says Consumer Chips Aren't Dying After All (Updated)

(Image credit: Shutterstock/Intel)

Update 9/13/2019 13:32pm PT:

After an extended period of back and forth with Intel, we have confirmed that the existing B-1 stepping chips do suffer from the LPC bus degradation issue, which is rectified via a firmware update. This issue is classified as Errata APL47, as listed here (PDF). When the B-1 Stepping is used in accordance to the published specifications and design guidelines, it meets PC Client and IOT usage requirements.

The new F-1 stepping products have the LPC bus degradation issue fixed in the silicon and will be available for order for 15 years.

We've amended the article below to include the new information and a portion of the errata/fix description. 

Original Article, 9/11/2019 2:40pm PT:

Regrettable errors happen all the time in life, but we rarely see one of this proportion from the world's leading semiconductor producer. We reported this week on an Intel PCN (Product Change Notice) posted to its QDMS website that stated the Apollo Lake chips suffered from LPC bus degradation issues that have been tied to previous Intel chip recalls, but we noticed that Intel pulled the PCN from the company's website on the following day. Below you can see the original PCN that called out the LPC bug specifically as the reason for a stepping change to the processors.

(Image credit: Intel / First PCN)

We've never seen a PCN pulled from Intel's site, so we followed up with the company to investigate. Intel tells us it posted the PCN in error, and the new version has no reference to an LPC bus degradation issue.

(Image credit: Intel / Second PCN)

Here you can see the new PCN (PDF) posted to Intel's site this morning. The new PCN clarifies the stepping change, with an obvious emphasis on assuring the chips are in fact reliable. But it doesn't answer the question of why the change is being made.

Intel's original LPC bus degradation issue with the Atom C2000 series had enough of an impact that the company had to create a reserve fund to cover the costs associated with replacing the processors, so it certainly wants to make it known that the issue doesn't impact all parts. Intel also provided us with this statement in regards to the change:

There are no changes to the B-1 Stepping of the Intel® Celeron® N3350, J3355, J3455 Processors and Intel Pentium N4200 Processor as they meet all Intel quality goals for PC Usage and will continue to be available. The F-1 Apollo Lake Intel Celeron N3350, J3355, J3455 Processors and Intel Pentium N4200 Processor meet all Intel quality goals for PC Usage. With IOTG's operational decision to converge onto a single package for all of the IOTG Apollo Lake Processors, the F-1 stepping Celeron N3350, J3355, J3455 Processors and Pentium N4200 Processor has a slight increase in Z height compared to the B-1 Stepping.

You'll also notice that this statement calls out that the chips meet Intel's "quality goals for PC usage," but doesn't mention long life product availability. 

As noted above, after extensive back and forth with Intel, the company confirmed that the changes do stem from the LPC bus degradation errata. The existing B-1 stepping chips suffer from the LPC bus degradation issue, which is rectified via a firmware update.

(Image credit: Intel)

This issue is classified as Errata APL47, as listed here (PDF). When the B-1 Stepping is used in accordance to the published specifications and design guidelines, it meets PC Client and IOT usage requirements.

The new F-1 stepping products have the LPC bus degradation issue fixed in the silicon and will be available for order for 15 years.

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