Intel P67 Cougar Point SATA problem related to an extra transistor

Yesterday’s recall of Intel’s Cougar Point based chipsets have caused quite a stir on the net and Intel has as yet to offer any additional information as to why the problem cropped up. However, Anandtech has done some digging and contacted Intel with regards to the matter and got something of a clarification as to what has gone wrong.

Intel P67 Cougar Point SATA problem related to an extra transistor

Yesterday’s recall of Intel’s Cougar Point based chipsets have caused  quite a stir on the net and Intel has as yet to offer any additional information as to why the problem cropped up. However, Anandtech has done some digging and contacted Intel with regards to the matter and got something of a clarification as to what has gone wrong.

As far as what Intel’s VP and Director of Intel Client PC Operations and Enabling, Steve Smith told Anandtech the problem is related to an extra transistor in the SATA 3Gbps PLL source, something that got added in the revision B Cougar Point chipsets. It’s unclear why this extra transistor was added or what its function was meant to be, with the only explanation being that it is no longer needed and as such will simply be disabled in the new revision of the Cougar Point chipset.

It’s hard to understand how something like this got overlooked by Intel’s engineers, especially as the extra transistor wasn’t part of revision A of the Cougar Point chipset. On top of that, it’s only meant to cause problems in some very specific situations when a certain Voltage and/or temperature level is met. Apparently this is serious enough to cause some real world problems, but again if this extra transistor is part of every single Cougar Point chipset, we wonder why Intel claims that only 5-15 percent of chipsets will be affected. We don’t want to play conspiracy theorists here, but Intel should really be clearer in its explanation as to what has gone wrong.

In related news, we’re seeing responses by some of the first motherboard makers to the problem. MSI has issued an official statement which reads: “MSI has been informed by Intel about the design issues in the Intel 6 series chipsets. According to Intel the performance of some of the Intel SATA ports on Intel 6 series products can degrade over a period of 3 years. MSI takes the quality of our products very serious, so at this moment we are investigating product batches that may be affected and, meanwhile, have stopped all shipments to our distributors and resellers. Additionally, we asked resellers to hold sales of the Intel 6 series based MSI products to customers until the issue can be resolved. At this moment we are together with Intel looking into a solution for customers who purchased an Intel 6 series based MSI product. As soon as we have more information we will announce this to our customers.”

We’re not expecting detailed information as to what will be done to rectify this issue from all of the motherboard makers until some days after the Chinese New Year, so early next week would most likely be the time when we can expect more official statements. In the meantime, the only way to avoid any potential problems is to stick with the SATA 6Gbps ports, but this is far from an ideal situation, especially for those that have more than two hard drives in their system.