back to article Apple: Fine, we admit it – MacBook Pros suffer wonky GPU crapness

Faced with a class-action lawsuit, Apple has agreed to fix MacBook Pros with knackered graphics electronics free of charge. The iPhone giant said its expensive notebooks must be repaired to address faulty video hardware that causes frequent restarts, distorted graphics and blank screens. The crappy models are the 15in and 17in …

  1. Keef
    Coat

    New slogan?

    It Just Wonks.

    1. CaptainBanjax

      Re: New slogan?

      Wonk. Different.

  2. Craig Vaughton

    Not the first time

    Not the first time Apple have had what looks like the same problem. They were forced to recall and replace motherboards for 2009 pre-unibody MBP with nVidia chipset that cooked itself, but that time nVidia coughed up to do the work.

    1. Mike 16 Silver badge

      Re: Not the first time

      Indeed. Same problem occurred with the "Dual USB iBook" and followon iBook G4. These were the last of the iBook line, being somewhat of a transition between the original "Space Clam" form factor to something a bit more corporate. Lots of discussion in the forums about DIY fixes involving hot-air guns, torches, and tea-lights.

      As for the "defective solder", I have to wonder if that's just the typical crap we now are saddled with to avoid lead (and connections that have a service life over 3 years)

      1. captain veg

        Re: Not the first time

        Surely the solution is to lift the system several inches above your desk and drop it to reseat the chips. Worked for the Apple III.

        -A.

        1. P. Lee Silver badge

          Re: Not the first time

          >Surely the solution is to lift the system several inches above your desk and drop it to reseat the chips. Worked for the Apple III.

          That also worked the Apple ][+ and ][e, though I'm glad to find out at last why it worked - thanks!

    2. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Re: Not the first time

      Previous one was a soldering problem inside video chips, multi-layered sandwitches as they are. Nvidia took responsibility, after lots of wrangling, and paid reparations to computer companies. Web search on "Nvidia Bumpgate" should turn up a series of articles about that.

      This time it's alleged to be between the video chip and motherboard. Not entirely same thing. That part of soldering is done on Foxconn lines. Whether it's done with a single heatblast for the entire board, or is there a separate step for GPU, can't really tell. Could be either way. Certainly looks like solder didn't turn out strong enough to withstand years of thermal stress (expansion and shrinkage cycles) around GPU. Which is painfully difficult to achieve.

      In any case, Nvidia is probably out of the loop. Maybe Foxconn takes the hit this time. If it was an overlook in manufacturing. Or Apple will find that GPU cooling was a bit underspecced, which would be a design issue.

  3. gtardy

    Apple takes no responsibility for its crap.

    Apple says "a small percentage of MacBook Pro systems" are affected. What a nonsense!

    All MacBook Pros are crap, it's just a matter of time. What Apple means is that only a small percentage will fail within the warranty period, and after that you are on your own. No wonder Apple could amass such a huge pile of wad (about $160B today), selling defective goods and not taking any responsibility for it.

    I used my MacBook Pro (top of the range 15-inch, summer 2007) for 3.5 years, and then the screen started to freeze. And what did Apple offer me ? No repair or replacement, but only 5% on my next purchase. Thanks, but no thanks.

    A friend purchased his MacBook Pro (15-inch, fall 2011) and had its motherboard swapped already 3 times in as many years because of a problem with the graphics card and audio connector.

    This company is a sham. When I spend $3'000+ on a laptop, I expect to enjoy my investment for more than a couple of years. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Apple takes no responsibility for its crap.

      What a nonsense!

      1. Richard Jones 1
        Meh

        Re: Apple takes no responsibility for its crap.

        While I hate being fair to Apple, they do not actually make the things, not an excuse but part of the explanation. Sadly when the real assembler of the bits runs them through the soldering process it is not exactly a craft operation. It is run down to a cost limit, which is bad, a time limit which is necessary to protect the bits and a quality control limit which is supposed to be good.

        Sadly for too many years the process has been somewhat hit or miss, fine when it works perfectly, not so fine when it fails. Lead free solder has almost certainly increased the miss rate. However in the past it was not unusual to have the process fall over in so far as some items would be perfect, most would just pass initial inspection but a large number would then fail after shipping and some period of use.

        I have to agree that knowing the risk of such failure any manufacturer should run a good, responsive repair or replace policy and in this case Apple appear to have been late to the party. Almost certainly they should have known there was a problem a good while back and it should not have taken so long to step up and deal with the the matter. If they carry out any checking they probably know where, when and how the process went off the rails, if they do not know, a double bad for them, not finding the problem and not preparing a more responsive action plan for so long.

        In an industrial context I once had 19 out of twenty complex connectors fail bringing a public telecomms switch to a halt each time. The fault was rapidly traced to a fault in the OEM soldering processes and fixed

        1. the spectacularly refined chap

          Re: Apple takes no responsibility for its crap.

          While I hate being fair to Apple, they do not actually make the things, not an excuse but part of the explanation. Sadly when the real assembler of the bits runs them through the soldering process it is not exactly a craft operation. It is run down to a cost limit, which is bad, a time limit which is necessary to protect the bits and a quality control limit which is supposed to be good.

          Yes, but the onus is still on Apple to specify exactly what they want, how is it to be made and what materials they will use, and they will do so in exhaustive detail. Hell, this is a company that goes to exacting lengths even for the cardboard boxes it sells it phones in - that vacuum-induced whoosh when you open an iphone box is not by accident, it is a deliberate feature to subconsciously persuade the buyer they really have bought something of quality.

          Selection of soldering processes used will be a far more significant factor than the mere box. Indeed if you look at pretty much any semiconductor data sheet you'll see a section on soldering towards the end. This is something the designers will pay close attention to even at the schematic design stage to ensure all the components needed can be physically assembled on the same board without the involvement of mutually-incompatible processes.

          All of the manufacturers do this - after all it is their reputation on the line - even for components. This is why for example if you compare a Dell desktop with an equivalent white box the Dell seems to have too small a power supply - perhaps 400W as opposed to 600W. However if you test the two PSUs side by side you see that the Dell delivers more power, their specifications state how that power rating is to be determined which is more conservative than the optimistic ratings so prevalent on the open market.

          Apple are big spenders, not some two bit operation, and can afford to specify anything they want and their suppliers will bend over backwards to deliver it. If the process used is the wrong one it is because Apple said to do it so. If QA is not up to scratch it is because they cut corners in that part of their demands. Note that Apple are not blaming their suppliers here - they realise they have to stand by the quality of their own products. They would take production back in house in a heartbeat if they though poor quality outsourced work was going to damage their reputation.

    2. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: Apple takes no responsibility for its crap.

      I bought this HP dual-core 15.4" laptop exactly five years ago for £300. It's been used every day since then and apart from cleaning the fan I have had no problems. Lovely matte screen (which is going a bit dim now) and a great keyboard. A brand new screen from ebay is £40.

      I'll shortly upgrade to a SSD as the drive now has some bad sectors. Been running Linux from day one with XP in a VM if needed.

      You really spent $3000 for a shiny thing?

      Apple has always been overpriced and under-powered, I would never buy one.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Apple takes no responsibility for its crap.

        I've seen and experienced plenty of faulty HPs, if not as many as Dells.

        My early 2008 macbook, on the other hand, runs happily on, with screen as good as ever, running XP in a VM for those very, very rare occasions - just faster than in my old Thinkpad did. If your 5 year old HP screen is fading, it must be a rubbish screen or you treat it abominably and should be nowhere near a computer. Still, at that price, I suppose one gets what one pays for. Linux! I use that, daily at work. Thank heavens I gave up running it at home - my spare time is too precious to waste in tracking down compatible libraries etc.. BSD is closer to real UNIX anyway with less crud than many Linuxes (as supplied, not as painstakingly stripped down or built and compiled from Slackware as I used to have to do). Actually I have got onw, and FreeBSD in VMs on this ancient Macbook, just because one can. The only thing I changed was the old disc for SSD.

        As for response: Apple are not perfect and can be reluctant sometimes (personally never experienced that, only fast and good response on the few occasions); but tell me, do other manufacturers and suppliers respond at all outside the guarantee period? I suspect the problem is that one has got lower expectations for most kit but grabs any chance to bash Apple (or Microsoft). Google can do no wrong and all other hardware suppliers are wonderful of course.

        Please drop the old chestnut about price: do genuine comparisons and take into account the pretty and practical design. You may be happy lugging a brick around and staring at a ghastly lump of electronics in your living room. Personally I resent the sheer ugliness and weight of, for instance, my daily work laptop (HP) and my previous IBM one. The Dell before that was acceptable only because it was the smallest model available and so weighed little more than my old, bigger 13" macbook (it plugged into a dock so the awful screen was not an issue for sustained use). If it is so easy to make attractive, light, slim laptops for a cheap price, why are so few makers doing it? Surely nobody chooses an ugly doorstop of a laptop by choice when there is a svelte alternative with decent battery life. This is not to say that there are not some nice-looking, very light and slim alternatives on the market, running Windows usually. But to get the same performance and attributes the price will be little different, more in some cases.

        I assume that those boasting how they improved their OSX by replacing it with Linux know nothing about UNIX (especially BSD) or lack the ability to install VM software if it is just to have a Linux available. Do not bother to mention all the free software: just go to the usual sites and download the OSX binary packages or the source and build it for most the free software you rely upon. Or use macports or similar. Even Windows has got a plethora of free software available.

        No hardware is consistently reliable and robust. Every firm sells a duff model now and then, whether computers or cars (Mercedes has made a couple of errors, as has Toyota recently; yet no one dismisses all their products as a result). When, as with computers, most of the physical realisation is farmed out to external suppliers this is unavoidable except at a cost that would make even the top, maxed-out Apple machine look cheap.

  4. razorfishsl

    Yep it is nonsense.

    I had to farm out a load of company systems... pop off the GPU re-solder and then good to go.

    cost several hundred per system.. and all I got from apple was a 'FU'

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Crumbs - you have added flow soldering to your skill set?

  5. tempemeaty
    FAIL

    Sad

    As much as I like my Mac more than my PC one sad fact continues to stand out with Apple. When they do make a mistake, it takes a public knock down drag out legal fight to get them to correct it. On these kind of issues, Apple continues to comes across as the company most combative against their own customers. It's mind boggling. ( just my two worthless cents)

    1. Wade Burchette

      Re: Sad

      This is because Apple is trying desperately to maintain the persona that their products are somehow better and just using their products makes you better. It is a brilliant marketing strategy.

    2. wayward4now

      Re: Sad

      Nothing has changed since the Apple][ days. It's just that no one remembers history. I was still making payments to the bank for my original Apple][ when they told us all to get stuffed. The Woz wouldn't have done that. I blame Jobs for the idiot mindset they acquired regarding customer support. Namely buy the next shiny or fuck you if you don't. Well, FUCK YOU Apple!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I bought a Lenovo

    Solder seems fine, but someone cleaned my bank account out.

  7. chivo243 Silver badge

    Lemons

    Anything manufactured can be a lemon. This goes for cars, computers, game consoles, the list goes on and on. The trick is finding the units not assembled on Mondays or Fridays or in the lead up to western holidays.

    I've had Apple products die quickly, and I also have some from 10+ years ago still on the job. I also have a pc box from 2002.

    @tempemeaty

    I couldn't agree more. Apple has always had an affinity for the law.

  8. Adam JC

    RoHS?

    Please forgive my ignorance and I may be completely wrong, but is this something to do with using lead-free solder? I worked in an electronics factory briefly, doing SMD soldering and repairs and I used to hate using the RoHS lead-free solder! It had to get so stupidly hot to flow compared to plain lead solder.

    1. david 12 Bronze badge

      Re: RoHS?

      >something to do with using lead-free solder?

      Lead-free solder is more difficult to use, but it is possible to make bad joints with any kind of solder, including tin-lead. The failure isn't "because they used silver-solder", it's "because they didn't do the job properly".

      And FWIW, my guess would be that the difficulty traced back to no-clean flux, rather than silver-solder.

  9. 2StrokeRider

    I use a macbook pro for work, it's very overpriced but shiny kit. Comparing the specs to a comparably equipped Dell/Hp, whatever, puts the mac far out of consideration for my personal use. The failure rate doesn't appear to be any different than the Dells that many in the company use, but it's a small sample set.

    Having lived the Nvidia solder issue with both the work Mac back in the day and a personal HP, I wasn't happy with either company...but at least the HP was cheap enough that tossing it in the skip at 2 years old wasn't that painful.

    1. TechicallyConfused
      FAIL

      I think the issue isn't so much that people feel Apple products fail more it is that when they do fail apple simply don't give a crap and actively try and profiteer from their own failed tat.

  10. aaaashy

    i am still annoyed that they "archive" equipment that is 5 years old and refuse to have anything to do it or supply parts for it ... and they call themselves GREEN???

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    they're all the same

    GPUs get hot, so they experience more thermal stress than other parts perhaps - especially in laptops

    Yes Apple have been dragged to this, but I wonder if the other guys wouldn't also ? The trouble is that Apple cost so much more, and people's expectations are proportionately higher

    Rooking people for repairs doesn't help mind-you -

  12. Zantine59

    Apple leaves a bad taste!

    The other day I read a posting by a financial tips site that explained that Apple achieved its amazing profit margin because it was focused on the customer experience. Unfortunately once you own one of their products that customer focus may be sadly lacking as they have repeatedly failed to take responsibility for faulty products. Only months of complaining, and even possible class action lawsuits, forced Apple to address part of the issue with an extended repair program for some of their laptops. My personal experience of this comes in the shape of a mid 2010 15 inch Macbook Pro. The recent free OS X upgrade sadly revealed the faulty graphics that have been a feature of many Apple models, but my machine was only covered by an earlier repair program that Apple terminated before the issue ever became apparent. I fully accept Apple has no legal responsibility to fix a manufacturing fault in a four year old product, however the resulting customer experience is very much at odds with Apple's premium image. The problems of one customer may not concern Apple, and certainly not its investors, but you only have to read the thousands of posts on Apple related websites to see this experience has been shared by many other people!

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