Intel Series 6 recall: What you need to know
Launched at the CES trade show last month, the latest Core i5 and i7 processors from Intel have been winning plaudits from PC Gamer chums like TechRadar. Codenamed Sandy Bridge, performance of these new chips is notably up against the already respected older Core processors, while the price has been kept the same or, depending on where you shop, even lowered.
It's not surprising, then, that most online pundits have marked the new range as 'the one to get' if you're after a new CPU.
So yesterday's news that Intel was performing a massive product recall for PCs designed around Sandy Bridge CPUs put a bit of a dampener on things. Something which none of the early reviewers spotted has gone wrong, and it's going to cost Intel an estimated $1bn to fix.
So should you be worried if you went out and spent the £300 Grandma gave you for Christmas on a shiny new Core i5 2500K set-up? Possibly, but don't panic too much yet.
The fault itself as described by Intel is a problem not with the CPU, but with the socket 1155 motherboards needed to use Sandy Bridge chips. Specifically, it's in the part of the chipset that handles the SATA requests, known as the Series 6 chipset.
Intel says a design flaw in the B2 stepping versions of this chipset – which is all of the ones produced thus far - could cause performance to degrade over time, causing read/writes to return errors and possibly corrupt your data. Only a small number of boards are affected, it says, but it's planning to recall all six milllion sold so far, just to be safe.
While such pre-emptive action on Intel's behalf should be applauded, there's an interesting discussion of whether or not such a small problem requires such drastic action over on Tom's Hardware.
If you do have a Sandy Bridge CPU in your machine, PC Gamer has begun receiving instructions from the various motherboard manufacturers for what you should do next.
The basic line is that Intel doesn't think it will have replacement chipsets – B3 stepping - available until April, so you should contact the retailer you bought your motherboard from and plan to swap it then. The general advice is that you can carry on using your kit as normal until then.
Sounds sensible to us.
Our favourite comment so far comes from Gigabyte, which effectively suggests that since the problem only affects the legacy SATA ports, you could just attach your hard disks and optical drives to the newer SATA 3 sockets and ignore it. Not a terrible idea, so long as you don't have too many drives (or are thinking of adding more in the future).
Business as usual for us, then, but it remains unfortunate – not to mention coincidental - that a fatal flaw in Intel's “most exciting product... ever” should come within days of AMD's rival Fusion CPU being sent out to early reviewers. Watch the web for more news of that soon.