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Friday, October 10, 2008, 06:20 am PT (09:20 am ET)

Apple says some MacBook Pros affected by faulty Nvidia chips

Apple said this week some of its more recent MacBook Pro models may contain faulty Nvidia graphics chips that produce distorted video or fail completely.

The problem

In July, Nvidia informed the Securities and Exchange Commission that it would incur a $150 million to $200 million charge to cover repair and replacement expenses resulting from "a weak die/packaging material set" in certain versions of its previous MCP and GPU products employed by various notebook vendors.

"The previous generation MCP and GPU products that are impacted were included in a number of notebook products that were shipped and sold in significant quantities," the chipmaker told the Commission. "Certain notebook configurations of these MCP and GPU products are failing in the field at higher than normal rates."

When contacted by AppleInsider shortly after the filing, officials for Nvidia refused to confirm or deny whether Apple was among the notebook manufacturers affected by the issue, citing "confidentiality obligations" to its customers that prevent it from discussing the matter.

For its part, Apple also contacted Nvidia in July and was assured "that Mac computers with these graphics processors were not affected," it revealed in a support document for the first time this week.

"However, after an Apple-led investigation, Apple has determined that some MacBook Pro computers with the NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics processor may be affected," the company said. "If the NVIDIA graphics processor in your MacBook Pro has failed, or fails within two years of the original date of purchase, a repair will be done free of charge, even if your MacBook Pro is out of warranty."

Affected MacBook Pros and symptoms

Among the models affected are those that were manufactured between approximately May 2007 and September 2008. They include the MacBook Pro (15-Inch, 2.4/2.2GHz), MacBook Pro (17-Inch, 2.4GHz), and MacBook Pro (Early 2008).

Customers who own one of these systems should look for instances of distorted or scrambled video on their screen, or the absence of video on the screen (or external display) when the computer is running.

Getting your MacBook Pro repaired

"If your MacBook Pro is exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above, please take it to an Apple Retail Store or an Apple Authorized Service Provider (AASP) for evaluation, or call your local Apple Contact Center," Apple said. "Before visiting the Genius Bar at the Apple Retail Store, please make a reservation."

Apple is also issuing refunds to customers who may have paid for repairs related to this issue. These customers should contact Apple for details on the refund process.

Lawsuit

Despite Nvidia's claim that its graphics chip failures were limited to a certain number of chips manufactured for a certain number of notebooks, the Inquirer in July charged the company with masking the severity of the problem, alleging that "all the G84 and G86 parts are bad. Period. No exceptions."

"All of them, mobile and desktop, use the exact same ASIC, so expect them to go south in inordinate numbers as well," the publication said.

Last month, Nvidia shareholders joined the fight by filing a class-action lawsuit, accusing the company of violating federal securities laws by concealing the existence of a serious defect in its graphics chip line for at least eight months “in a series of false and misleading statements made to the investing public.”

As a result of its denials, the shareholders claim the company underestimated expenses and overestimated revenues, which led to "a material negative impact on the company's financial condition, financial statements and future business prospects."