Laptop manufacturers have been warned of a flaw in some Intel chip packaging that has caused hundreds of notebooks to overheat.
Toshiba first reported the problem with 400Mhz Celeron and Pentium II mobile processors in its 490 and 4100 Satellite notebooks. The fault caused the laptops to overheat and shut down completely.
Intel said it had warned all laptop makers about the problem, because any of them could potentially be affected.
Steve Crawley, product marketing manager at Toshiba, said the problem was first discovered in Europe. "About five weeks ago we were getting more dead machines on testing and arrival than normal in Europe and then we discovered the same problem in Japan. Intel engineers worked with us in our German and Japanese factories to find the problem," he said.
The flaw is caused by a faulty component on the circuit board which houses the chip, called the Mobile Module One (MMC-1), said Crawley. This component, which is a transistor supplied to Intel by a third party, was "out of spec" and was releasing too much heat into the notebook, he added.
"Intel uses three companies to supply these components, but the problem was only found with one. It hit Europe the most as we use a lot of stock from that particular company in the region," said Crawley, who declined to name the company involved.
"The fault was fairly basic and caused the notebooks to overheat very quickly, usually on start up or within seven days."
Crawley said Toshiba has not had to recall any notebooks, but the company froze production in its warehouses for a week and told resellers not to ship any of the affected notebooks.
"It did cost us money, but I've no idea how much. Less than 1000 units were found to be affected in the end. Luckily, we managed to start shipping again before the end of our financial month," he said.
He added that the 400Mhz Celeron and Pentium II processors were no longer mainstream chips in the mobile market, but said he would be "very surprised" if no other manufacturers had been hit by the problem.
An Intel spokesman said he was unaware of any other notebook manufacturers who had suffered the same problems, but that an advisory letter had been sent out. "As we identified the problem, we sent out the fix to anyone we feel would be affected. We are continuing the monitor the problem," he said.
At the same time, Intel today launched two Pentium III processors running at 866Mhz and 850Mhz.
The chips are designed for users of audio, video, animation and 3D in both home and business environments, said Intel.
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