Intel in January stopped shipments of the Series 6 chipsets used with its much vaunted Sandy Bridge processors. The reason: a problem with the SATA controller that could over a period of time cause problems with SATA-linked devices. PC Advisor explains what Intel's design flaw means for those who are about to buy an Intel Sandy Bridge PC, or have already taken the plunge.
Intel Sandy Bridge: what UK PC makers say
We spoke to a selection of UK PC vendors, in order that they can explain their policies.
In the short term, do you plan to continue to sell Sandy Bridge PCs while waiting for revised motherboards with Cougar Point SATA chipsets?
Chillblast, CyberPower, Eclipse and Palicomp gave us a straight yes to this question, but told us they would be keeping their customers informed of the situation.
Arbico told us it hadn't sold any Sandy Bridge PCs prior to the recall, but will do so now having first informed customers of the issues, and installing an additional PCI-based SATA 3Gbps card to provide extra SATA ports and then circumnavigate, in principal, the problem.
DinoPC said it had removed existing Sandy Bridge PCs from sale, but is selling current review systems and informing customers of the situation at the point of sale.
If yes, will you replace these first-generation motherboards as a matter of course at no cost to the customer when new motherboards appear, or only if problems are reported later?
CyberPower, DinoPC and Palicomp told us they will replace motherboards at no cost to the customer as a matter of course if a fault is uncovered. Chillblast went further, saying it "will replace these motherboards if the need arises in the future in the event of the system SATA ports failing. If customers wish to exchange [non-faulty] boards when Cougar Point appears they can do so free of charge" - although customers will have to pay for pickup and return.
Arbico said it won't take back Sandy Bridge PCs to resolve this issue because of its bundled SATA card, and Eclipse said only that it was "happy to extend any courtesy exchange policies that motherboard manufacturers will follow".
For how long will the motherboard be covered by warranty, and what costs if any will be passed on to the customer for collection/shipping, parts and labour of the replacement?
All Asus motherboards are covered by a three-year swap-out warranty. DinoPC and Palicomp will cover the motherboards in their standard one-year warranties; Chillblast for two years.
CyberPower said: "We will be recalling all at our cost, so warranty does not really come into it," while Arbico is excluding this motherboard issue from its own warranties because of its inclusion of a substitute SATA PCI card. Eclipse responded that it will "try to get goodwill claims from the manufacturers where the customers are inconvenienced as little as possible".
Do you have other contingency plans in place, such as avoiding the use of SATA 3Gbps ports or including SATA PCI cards?
Chillblast and Palicomp said they will, where possible, limit the SATA 3Gbps controllers to optical drive-use only – hard drives will be connected to 6Gbps controllers, thus minimising the risk without unduly affecting performance.
Chillblast said further that it will offer SATA controller cards similar to Arbico's, at a "reduced price".
Arbico is adding a SATA card, while Eclipse will release systems that use only SATA ports 1 and 2 (6Gbps), removing the issue (but also not using the motherboards to their full potential). Similarly, DinoPC said it will connect devices to unaffected faster connections only and recommend to customers that they change to a motherboard that has four such connections if they have more than two SATA devices, or are planning to upgrade.
CyberPower also said it would put all connections on the unaffected SATA 6Gbps ports, but said it would add SATA PCI Express cards where required.