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Nvidia chip settlement lists Dell, HP, Apple laptops

Dozens of potentially defective laptops from Apple, Dell, and HP appear in a legal settlement by defendant Nvidia.

Dozens of potentially defective laptop models from Apple, Dell, and HP appear in an Nvidia legal settlement, the first time that defendant Nvidia has publicly recognized a comprehensive list of models potentially affected by a bad graphics chip.

A Dell Vostro model was among the HP and Apple laptops potentially affected.  The list from all three vendors exceeded 50 models.
A Dell Vostro model was among the HP and Apple laptops potentially affected. The list from all three vendors exceeded 50 models. Dell

As CNET has reported, the case dates back to 2007, but the recent settlement of a class action suit against Nvidia documents a lengthy list of laptop models from Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Apple. To date, these lists have been issued separately by vendors.

Laptop product lines potentially affected, as listed beginning on page 4 of the settlement (PDF), include the Dell Insprion, Dell Vostro, Dell Latitude, Dell Precision, HP Pavilion, Compaq Presario, 15-inch MacBook Pro, and 17-inch MacBook Pro. The list contains more than 50 models from Dell, HP, and Apple combined. The settlement also states that affected laptops will be repaired "free of charge."

To recap, Nvidia has already taken charges--starting in July 2008--totaling over $450 million to cover the costs associated with the warranty, repair, return, and replacement of laptops affected by a "weak die/packaging material set" in certain graphics processing unit (GPU) products. Weak die and packaging refers to the chip itself and the chip's packaging, respectively.

In July 2008, Dell described the problem as "multiple images, random characters on the screen, lines on the screen, no video," among other symptoms.

In response to the settlement dated August 12, 2010, Nvidia issued this statement today. "We can confirm that Nvidia has settled litigation concerning a weak die/packaging material set in certain versions of our previous generation MCP (media and communication processor) and GPU products used in notebook configurations. Notice of this settlement has been sent to potentially affected eligible customers. Claims are being processed through a third party administrator who is working directly with our customers. Consumers who believe they are affected and wish to file a claim should read the notice and follow the instructions that it sets out. As previously announced, our second-quarter financial results reflected costs associated with this settlement."

However, starting on page 24 of the settlement, Nvidia also stated that it "has denied, and continues to deny, all allegations of wrongdoing or liability" related to the claims. And it goes on to say that it is settling "solely because it will eliminate the burden, expense, management distraction and uncertainties of further litigation and the concomitant distraction of resources and efforts from their business."

The settlement Web site cautions that "claim Forms will not be available and should not be submitted until after the Final Approval hearing, which is scheduled for December 20, 2010."

The settlement document spells out on page 10 a Settlement Class "who own a Class Computer that has experienced an Identified Symptom, and who submit a timely, complete, and valid Claim Form to the Administrator with the Claim Period, shall upon verification and approval by the Administrator, be entitled to the replacement of the Nvidia GPU, MCP and/or motherboard, as the case may be (the 'Chip Replacement'), free of charge."

The document continues. "The chip replacement shall be performed by the OEMs, or the original device manufacturers or designees...No Chip Replacement approved and authorized by the Administrator pursuant to Section 2.7(4) below shall be denied or refused by an OEM, original device manufacturers or designees."

Updated at 7:20 p.m. PDT: adding additional information about remedies from settlement.