Pajin of Madison, Wisconsin, is flaming mad at Dell because of problems with the LCD display on his laptop.

"The lines are so bad that I cannot read the text on the screen. I will have to throw this laptop away," Pajin complained. "This is crazy. I hate Dell. I'm never going to buy one again."

But Pajin's anger may be at least partly misdirected. The problem potentially affects millions of laptop computers — including Dell and many other brand names — equipped with an Nvidia GeForce 8M Series graphics processing unit.

Nvidia has conceded the widely-used chip has serious problems. Last month, Nvidia said it would take a $150 to $200 million charge against revenue to cover anticipated customer warranty, repair, return, replacement and other consequential costs and expenses arising from a weak die/packaging material set" in certain versions the chips used in notebooks.

While the accounting charge has clearly created a headache for Nvidia, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company's graphics boards are also causing headaches for consumers whose laptops are equipped with one of the units.

Although Nvidia has admitted that these graphics boards are failing in the field at higher than normal rates, and that testing suggests a weak material set of die/package combination ... are contributing factors for these failures, the company has not yet identified the actual number of graphics cards — or laptops — that are plagued by this problem.

Number unknown

How many laptops are equipped with these Nvidia boards? Good question.

Although Nvidia has been mum on this question thus far, other industry sources estimate that there may be as many as 18 million laptops equipped with the troublesome Nvidia boards — and judging by the size of the charge that Nvidia is taking, that estimate may not be far off the mark.

While Nvidia has admitted that these graphics boards are failing at higher than normal rates, the company has not acted to rectify the problem. Instead of recalling the GeForce 8M Series GPUs at Nvidias expense, Nvidia has thus far been content to sit and wait while the products keep failing.

While this may make business sense for Nvidia, it exposes millions of consumers to the possibility that their computer graphic display will fail without warning — possibly just as they're starting a critically important business presentation or rushing to complete a complex assignment.


What are the symptoms that you should look for and how can you tell if you own a laptop computer equipped with one of these Nvidia graphics boards?

As for symptoms, laptop users have indicated that the problem typically manifests itself by the video screen on the computer either being unable to display anything — or displaying a number of colored lines across the screen.

Because Nvidia is the self-described world leader in visual computing technologies," the faulty video boards can be found in virtually every brand of laptop computer, including top-selling Dell and HP laptops.

Determining whether you own a laptop that is equipped with one of the affected boards is relatively easy. On most Windows laptops, all you need to do is:

(i) click on the Start button on your screen;
(ii) click on the Settings button;
(iii) click on the Control Panel button;
(iv) click on the System button;
(v) click on the Hardware button;
(vi) click on the Device Manager button; and then
(vii) click on the Display adapters button and read the identifying information concerning the specific video graphics card in your laptop.

What if you find that you have the Nvidia GeForce 8M Series card in your laptop? Unfortunately, there's no easy fix and no sure way to prevent problems from occurring. For most consumers, a watch-and-wait strategy is probably the most realistic option.

Consumers who find the card in their laptop can report it using the complaint form.