Behind the Tech: Sandy Bridge Recall, An Insider's Story

What was the exact timeline of Intel's Cougar Point recall? How early did the company know about its problem? How does this affect the competitive AMD and Intel landscape? Continue reading to discover our answers to these lingering questions.

On January 31, Intel identified a problem with its Cougar Point chipset family affecting SATA 3Gb/s ports. Although that issue was expected to affect between 5 and 15% of systems over three years, we told our readers to wait for a fixed Sandy Bridge platform before buying into the platform, or swapping out their existing boards if they had already upgraded. Now that revised motherboards are starting to ship, we thought it would be interesting to take a more in-depth look into what Intel called a stop-shipment and its motherboard partners deemed a recall.

We're generally not the tinfoil-hat type that always assumes the worst. But we couldn't shake the feeling that there was much more to the story than what the marketing departments spun into webs of pleasing silk. That much is clear, and it was something on which everyone could agree. Unfortunately, Intel probably won't go into any more depth that what it has already divulged. We might get an update on the company's Q1 earnings call, but every bit of news is going to be in the form of raw financial numbers.

We've seen the news reports. Beyond the $700 million it will cost Intel to cover the stop-shipment, some analysts estimate the lost sales revenue will amount to another $300 million, adding up to about $1 billion. However, Intel’s original “expected” cost is no doubt going to fall short of the real loss because the reimbursement to each motherboard manufacturer is expected to grow.

The following questions remain: How much is everything going to cost? What was the exact timeline of the recall? How early did Intel know about the problem? Why did it make the decision to pull back shipments of P67 and H67 chipsets?

Furthermore, how does this affect the competitive AMD and Intel landscape? Two weeks after the recall, AMD appeared to have a boost of self-confidence when it sent out Valentine's Day cards that poked fun at its competitor.

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  • Assmar
    Lol, that neighborhood watch picture still creeps me out to this day.
  • acku
    Anonymous said:
    Lol, that neighborhood watch picture still creeps me out to this day.

    Well that's why you shouldn't talk to strangers. :)
  • dogman_1234
    So Intel noticed the problem before hand and did nothing until it became apparent? I am not one to criticize Intel, but if any error is noticed, i would warn of it immediately.
  • ferelden
    Sandybridge performance is just too beastly for this to affect it long term, most people who have just come into the cpu market to upgrade didn't even realize there was a recall in the past and just got a b3 p67 and i5-2500k without any hesitation
  • Stardude82
    Knowing the problem, I'd totally buy a B2 board at a serious discount. Most PC's only have 2 drives anyway and SATA add-on cards are cheap.
  • f-14
    i didn't see any problem for sales, people just bought core i-7 9XX's
    AMD could crow all they wanted, they didn't have a new product going to the shelf capable of beating the previous i-series. now had AMD released llano during this, they would have made a pre-emeptive death knell strike against sandybridge, but they didn't so it didn't matter what happened until AMD does.
  • f-14
    oh and also the problem could have been more easily rectified by intel giving out coupons for sata3 devices priced to match sata2 devices and pull it off as a promo that would have sold them millions more in profits.
    as for the people who already bought a 'free' sata 2 device to sata3 replacement device coupon would have been cheaper also.
    Intel just blew a huge marketing opprotunity to grind AMD under the imperial capitalist yankee boot.
  • joytech22
    All I can say after reading this is that Intel did a great job with this issue.

    But it somehow still brings me back to how AMD is still spending money on a product we haven't even seen benchmarks about yet.

    Somebody who uses an OEM machine somewhere around the world MUST have released a benchmark of Llano or BD at some point in time.
  • rolli59
    It is just business! I wonder if the speculations on the time line is true but most definitely the OEM's had discovered problems well before release.
  • emergancy exit
    or people are just brand loyal to the point of insanity. and intel is cashing in and and keeping their prices high.
  • johnners2981
    brand loyal, I don't think so. I think people just like how much better intel's performance is.
  • Goldfolk
    I had to replace my motherboard because of this fiasco. I did have episodes of the screen freezing on MMORPGs until I switched all my drives onto the 6Gb connectors.

    I was very apprehensive about the switch but the new board performs flawlessly and one or two issues have disappeared maybe from updated drivers. I do wonder if the B3 stepping has one or two other small changes as I had to update the audio drivers for the sound on what seemed an identical board to work.
  • ivaroeines
    Intel made the right move, to my mind the worst mistake a business can make is to sell/make bad/buggy products. Even worse is to not admit you have a troubled product if you know you have one.

    I may be a bit strange but i stopped buying products from Seagate, Nvidia, IBM and Creative buggy products. Reason for not buying Seagate and Nvidia was a problem Seagate harddrives had with Nvidia chipset(s), neither Nvidia nor Seagate seemed very interested in fixing the issue or own up to the fact that there was one, so i droped them on my hardware shortlist. IBM was the click of death thing on harddrives. And bad drivers made me stop buying Creative. I may consider Nvidia gpu's if a suitable one comes along, but my trust in the company is hurt and may never be restored.
  • burnley14
    I'm sure not everyone will agree with me, but I think that AMD might be going down the right path with their APU's. I think that CPU's are getting to the point now that even low-end ones can handle just about everything, except for high-end gaming, rendering, etc. But the real demand now is in the graphics arena, since providing a reasonable integrated graphics solution would fix a much more serious bottleneck than the CPU bottleneck.

    I'm using a several-year-old CPU that does everything I want it to just fine. But the integrated graphics are abysmal. If I could change a single component, it would certainly be the graphics, the underpowered CPU still works just fine.
  • Reynod
    As an AMDfanboi even I was surprised at how well Intel responded.

    At least the part doesn't explode though ... for that you need a new NVidia Semtex 590.
  • Anonymous
    In my opinion whilst Intel has done everything right in regard to what they've done post-recall (and it's a recall, when products get shipped back to manufacturer it's a recall, 'stop-shipment' is a lie told to investors), the fact is they announced the product when they knew there was a problem with the chipset.

    Indeed they launched it a few days earlier than expected just to piss on the AMD Zacate launch.

    They played with fire, and it's cost them a lot of money. But they're such a large company with so many fans willing to pay over the top for their 60%+ margin products that it's acceptable behaviour for them to dick with their customers and their OEMs like this.

    Do you seriously think there aren't employees with decision making power in these OEM companies who have lost their holiday, gone through a lot of stress, etc, that won't remember this and exact revenge at some point in the future. I'm sure these people's holidays were refunded, and inconvenience payments made, but it doesn't really make up for the fact that in a busy year a major holiday was taken from them.
  • cadder
    This is a study on WHEN the problem occurred, but what nobody is saying is WHEN will the fixed products be available for purchase?
  • tommysch
    cadderThis is a study on WHEN the problem occurred, but what nobody is saying is WHEN will the fixed products be available for purchase?

    Last week? Newegg has them since last week and I bought a P67 sabertooth on tigerdirect 2 weeks ago...
  • 11796pcs
    cadder: I believe they have already fixed all of the problems. When this recall was taking place Newegg barred all purchases of SB MB and CPUs. Now you can buy them again. Also when the problem was reported Toms said the problem would be fixed by April.
  • tntom
    Thanks Toms and Andrew Ku! Keep up the investigative reporting.