Cost-Saving Tech Causes Some Toshiba Laptops to Fail

SAN MATEO (03/17/2000) - Officials at Toshiba America Information Systems Inc. yesterday confirmed the existence of a problem with a select batch of Toshiba Satellite 4100XDVD laptop computers that causes the mobile units to overheat and fail within a week following their deployment.

"Recently, we ordered a large number of [the Toshiba units], and two out of every three laptops died," reported one San Diego-based MIS manager. "According to the users that had them, the machines would get very hot, then just shut down permanently."

"We've been aware of this problem and have been working on it for several weeks," said Steven Andler, the vice president of marketing at Toshiba's portable computer systems group.

According to Andler, the problem stems from a specific lot of faulty daughter cards that support the Intel processors used in the Toshiba laptops.

A standard daughter card was used for the Satellite 4100XDVD laptops in an attempt to span several generations of Intel Pentium processors and to avoid having to re-engineer the motherboard of the system each time a faster processor was launched.

Although this technique passed savings along to Toshiba-laptop users as the company installed generation after generation of Intel processors, at one point a disruption in the system logic occurred, causing the laptops to fail.

"When you design a computing system, you have to take into account the processors that will be coming," Andler said. "In this case, Intel made some change inside the microprocessor we didn't know about, and fortunately, it happened in a very controlled group of units."

The solution requires "minor work on the daughter card," according to Andler.

Customers experiencing the problem should report it to their service vendor or directly to Toshiba.

Toshiba America Information Systems Inc., in Irvine, California, is at http://www.tais.toshiba.com.

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