Dell Issues NVIDIA GPU Update Laptop Owners

In a recent business update call earlier this month, NVIDIA CEO, Jen-Hsun Huang went on record to address the company's high failure rate problem with respect to certain mobile GPU designs and the charges against the cost of revenue for Q2 that are anticipated to cover warranty, repair or return of the product.  The blank check was estimated to cost NVIDIA $150 - $200 million and as as a result NVIDIA's stock tumbled hard on Wall Street. 

Fast forward to Friday last week and it looks like Dell has set the wheels in motion with respect to a more detailed notification and service program that will help bail their customers out of their notebook GPU jam.  In an update post by Dell Chief Blogger, Lionel Menchaca, the specific issues observed with respect to failing Dell notebooks based on NVIDIA GPUs were noted as follows:

  • Multiple images
  • Random characters on the screen
  • Lines on the screen
  • No video

These issues were the result of  "a weak die/packaging material set in certain versions of its previous generation GPU and MCP products used in notebook systems"  And with regards to these obseved issues, Huang noted on the NVIDIA call, "This has been a challenging experience for us. However, the lessons we've learned will help us build far more robust products in the future, and become a more valuable system design partner to our customers. As for the present, we have switched production to a more robust die/package material set and are working proactively with our OEM partners to develop system management software that will provide better thermal management to the GPU."

That said major OEMs like Dell are dealing with the here and now.  In his update, Dell's Menchaca notes that a system BIOS update would modify the notebook's fan profile and mitigate GPU failures in the future but goes on to say that if anomalies were already reserved, the BIOS update would not correct them.  In short, what you're looking at here, as an unlucky notebook user, is the option of turning your fan speeds up to drive heat out from the GPU assembly or returning the system for repair or replacement.  Here's the rundown of system BIOS updates available from Dell that could ease future pain and anguish:

Source:  Dell

Our recommendation, if you're still in warranty, you're better off getting that system serviced by Dell, rather than sitting it out with your fans cranked up higher, hoping that some day down the road you don't have problems.  Lot's of luck to you once you're out of warranty but this issues has been so widely reported that we'd suspect Dell and others will have to offer some sort of resolution one way or another.  And that just means the pain flows back down hill to the good folks at NVIDIA.