HP still getting heat on Nvidia graphics chips

The graphics processors have been blamed for failing HP laptops

Months after the problem first surfaced, owners of Hewlett-Packard Co. laptops continue to complain about defective Nvidia graphics cards that could cause laptops to fail.

Some customers say that they have been treated unfairly by HP, in part because their laptops are not included on a list of affected machines issued by HP last July, so they are ineligible for a free repair or an extended warranty.

HP laptops with overheating problems include those in the Pavilion dv9500 line. Problems users have encountered include screens going blank or the machines overheating, leading to system failure, customers wrote on one HP support forum. Pavilion dv9500 models aren't on HP's list of affected laptops, and in some cases HP is asking users of those machines to pay for repairs.

HP isn't moving quickly to add new laptops to the list of affected PCs, customers wrote. And users are asking the vendor to examine and update the list. Laptop failures may also result from problems with components other than the graphics cards, but a trend among posted complaints points to laptops with Nvidia parts, said Matthew Hilsenrad, an HP laptop owner.

"I hadn't seen any post of ATI chips going bad, only Nvidia chips going bad," Hilsenrad said. "A whole lot of people [on the forums] who bought the laptop around the same time seem to have the same problem."

Hilsenrad owns a Pavilion dv9500 with an Nvidia GeForce 8600 series graphics card, which he bought in September 2007. Many laptops not included in the list -- including HP Pavilion dv9500 and dv9600 series models -- bought in 2007 are now experiencing similar problems, Hilsenrad said.

He was asked to pay around $400 to replace a motherboard when overheating rendered his laptop screen dysfunctional. He called HP to request a fix, but the PC didn't fall under the extended warranty that HP issued for affected laptops.

After haggling with an HP case manager, he got the laptop repaired for around $215. However, the case manager said the affected laptop list could be updated to include the model he owned, in which case he would be refunded the amount.

Another poster, Salman Fateh, reported system failure and a blank screen on an HP Pavilion dv9500 with an Nvidia 8600 series graphic chip, which was purchased in October 2007.

"HP will not honor the extended warranty for this model. HP should honor customers and replace all laptops with defective Nvidia GPUs," Fateh wrote in a separate HP forum.

Other customers echoed Fateh's opinion, saying that unless HP addresses the problem quickly, their laptops would become paperweights.

"HP needs to add the rest of these bad GPU units on the list, get them all repaired," wrote a commenter with the screen name Sarah Locker on HP's forum. "I don't want to blame HP for Nvidia's manufacturing fault, but it appears now that HP is the one that is dragging their feet."

HP didn't immediately respond to a request for a comment for this story. Nvidia Corp. officials were not available to comment either.

Nvidia last July said that some of its graphics chips were overheating because of packaging material and the thermal design of some laptops. HP subsequently issued an advisory warning of possible laptop failure and a list of models affected by the Nvidia parts.

HP also issued a BIOS patch to keep system fans running longer to prevent overheating, and it offered to repair laptops that exhibited certain symptoms. The affected laptops included some HP Pavilion dv2000, dv6000, dv9000 models and Compaq Presario V3000 and V6000 models. HP also offered a 24-month warranty extension to affected customers in North America.

Other PC vendors, including Dell Inc. and Apple Inc., have also had to address issues related to faulty Nvidia graphics cards. Like HP, Dell issued a software patch to control heating problems, but that move drew a fierce response from unhappy users, who accused Dell of shying away from addressing a larger problem of bad hardware. Apple offered free repairs of laptops with faulty Nvidia graphics cards.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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