This week Apple has announced that they are initiating a new repair extension program for the MacBook Pro, in order to address video corruption and stability problems with certain models. The program offers extended repair service for the 15” and 17” 2011 MacBook Pros, along with the 2012 and Early 2013 15” Retina MacBook Pros.

Under the terms of the program, covered laptops that are experiencing video issues such as display corruption, system crashes, or other glitches will be eligible for free repairs through Apple. Furthermore all affected systems are eligible regardless of warranty status, making this a true extension in every sense of the word as the bulk of the systems this program covers are past their extended warranty expiration dates. Meanwhile in order to compensate any users who have already suffered from the issue, Apple is also offering reimbursements to those customers who have already paid for repairs.

MacBook Pro Display Corruption (Image Courtesy 9to5Mac)

The MacBook Pro repair program comes less than 2 years after Apple’s last repair program, which in 2013 saw Apple offering free video card replacements and repairs for the mid-2011 27” iMac. And given the similarities between the problems in the MacBook Pro and the iMac, this has raised a few eyebrows. While the 2011 iMac and MacBook Pros use different GPUs, both systems use GPUs from AMD’s Radeon HD 6000M series, with the iMac using the higher-end 6970M while the MacBook Pros used the 6490M, 6750M, and 6770M GPUs.

However throwing a wrench into any common thread between these systems, the last of the MacBook Pros covered by the repair program, the first generation 15” Retina MacBook Pros, used NVIDIA’s GeForce GT 650M instead. There is also the matter of differences in construction – iMacs used MXM cards, MacBook Pros use GPUs soldered on to the logic board – and even differences in operation. Namely, while the iMac used its dGPU exclusively the MacBook Pros all used switchable graphics, which means that the MacBook Pros are often being driven by their iGPU rather than their dGPU.


Early 2011 15" MacBook Pro: CPU & GPU Cooling; the GPU is the topmost chip (Image Courtesy iFixit)

Consequently while we first suspected that this is a common issue revolving around the Radeon HD 6000M series – and certainly we can’t rule that out – there seems to be more that’s going on here than a common failure in one line of GPUs. This could include Apple opting to address multiple modes of failure under a single repair program, or even just pure coincidence. At the same time we haven’t seen a widespread repair program issued by other OEMs for any of these GPUs, which may mean that Apple is the only OEM being seriously affected, unlike NVIDIA’s bumpgate which saw repair programs from a number of OEMs.

For that reason I find myself wondering whether another factor such as cooling has been playing a role here. Although these Apple devices all use different coolers, one common element in Apple’s iMac and Retina MacBook Pro designs has been the comapny's aggressiveness in controlling the thickness of those devices, leading to them pushing the envelope on cooling relatively high TDP processors in tight spaces.

In any case, the full details of the program, including the affected models and repair instructions, are available over at Apple’s website.

Source: 9to5Mac

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  • TiGr1982 - Friday, February 20, 2015 - link

    Nothing particularly shocking here - this resource, as most in North America, "pray" on Apple most of the time. So that's not news, really.
  • TEAMSWITCHER - Friday, February 20, 2015 - link

    Of the four 2011 Macbook Pro's in our shop, only one has suffered this issue, and Apple took care of the problem in just short two days. This "HUGE PROBLEM" has largely been handled already. I highly doubt ASUS, DELL, LENOVO, of SAMSUNG could have (or even would have) fixed the problem any quicker.
  • Black Obsidian - Friday, February 20, 2015 - link

    Asus, Dell, and Lenovo (can't speak to Samsung) have well-oiled troubleshooting and RMA processes that will resolve your issue in as little as one business day, and are capable of escalating all the way up to "clearly there's a systematic defect here, we'll replace the whole thing with a different model."

    Then there's Apple, who needed 4 years and a class-action lawsuit to do right by their customers.

    It's unfortunate that paying the fat margins Apple commands doesn't get you anything close to the support that Asus, Dell, and Lenovo provide on razor-thin margins.
  • klagermkii - Friday, February 20, 2015 - link

    Please. I can tell you that Dell or Samsung aren't going to do anything about your out-of-warranty laptop. Apple is quite fine at dealing with problems within warranty or AppleCare.

    This is Apple offering to fix a five year old laptop for free. Dell et all just cover up their problems, while their customers shrug their shoulders and have grown to expect their laptop to die so don't suspect any broader failure trend.
  • Daniel Egger - Friday, February 20, 2015 - link

    > This is Apple offering to fix a five year old laptop for free.

    The oldest of the affected laptops is not even 4 years old. The failure typically occurs 2-3 years after buying them and Apple had their customers pay lots of money to mitigate (not fix!) the problem in many cases reocurring again after short time.

    It sounds nice when you tell it your story like that but the reality is that some paid big money and time to get the problem fixed when in reality Apple only replaced a time bomb that just went off with a new one that was still ticking. A real fix is the absolute minimum Apple can offer for the damage they've caused...
  • Crunchy005 - Friday, February 20, 2015 - link

    In my experience Dell does not have a great troubleshooting process and if you have ever owned a Mac and been to the genius bar or talked to AppleCare support they are just as efficient if not more so. My first mac I owned was a early 2008 MacBook pro. It was one of the models that had the defective Nvidia card in it, thanks Nvidia for that shipment, anyways I brought it to apple they sent it in and my new one came back in about 3 days shipped right to my house. These models also got a repair extension like this 4 years down the line (ie. after applecare is done). So most cases of this have most likely already been fixed through applecare and only the 2011, 2012 models will be out of the applecare coverage at this point. The fact that it took 4 years is it is apparently a large enough issue that they are extending service for issues with the GPUs. I don't know why apple is getting attacked for doing this 4 years down the line when the issue would have been fixed UNDER WARRANTY up till about a year ago for the oldest models.
  • TEAMSWITCHER - Sunday, February 22, 2015 - link

    You're kidding right?
  • Daniel Egger - Friday, February 20, 2015 - link

    With the invention of the Genius Bars the service quality went *way* down. Years ago when a device was broken you would call them, they'd send UPS with matching packaging, you put your device in, you seal it, they take it away, deliver it to the depot, fix it and ship it back the same night. My personal record for a logic board swap was a mere 22h.

    Now when you call they'll only schedule a Genius Bar appointment (in a week if you're unlucky) in the next bigger city where you have to drive your stuff to, then sometimes you have to wait in shop for your genius, then they'll look at the device, try stuff, take it in (which can easily take an hour), you drive away and a few days later (if you're lucky) you get a call and may drive back to the city to pick up your device.

    That's a *worlds* difference, from the absolute best service you could get anywhere to the absolute worst you can get anywhere.

    All others may not be quite as swift as Apple was back then but at least they're not wasting my precious time by letting me travel long distances and having me wait...
  • MasterRee - Saturday, February 21, 2015 - link

    Daniel, I understand that's been your experience, but I don't think you're being fair. This is definitely not the worst service you can get anywhere. Have you dealt with the Geek Squad at Best Buy? The service at the Genius Bar is generally much higher quality.

    If you have Apple Care you can still do just what you described. You can choose to go one of the stores whether you are in warranty or not. The stores are in large population centers. That is where the most return on investment would be and is true of many retail chains that have a limited number of stores (for example, Ikea). I would also point out that I don't know of any other OEM that has more stores in more places than Apple. There is also the option of authorized third party service providers who can repair Apple products and honor Apple's warranty because they are authorized by Apple and will be reimbursed by Apple for warranty repairs. Those providers are generally numerous and may be much more accessible than an Apple Store.

    If you can't make a Genius Bar reservation, then you can always walk in, but like anywhere that takes reservations - you may have to wait if you don't have them. This is not a unique problem to Apple and I think they generally as good or better service than any other consumer line of computers.

    And to posters referencing service under the Dell, HP or Lenovo enterprise contracts that may indeed have faster turn around times or better repair options, that is an entirely different business and warranty model and should not be properly compared with a consumer product line's service and warranty. The costs of those contracts are far higher and are specifically targeted at the enterprise. If you compare Apple's warranty and service options to other consumer electronics warranties and service options I think you will find that they compare quite favorably.

    I'm not denying that Apple's service options could be improved, but I think they are far from the "absolute worst you can get anywhere" even at their worst.
  • TheFreeman - Sunday, February 22, 2015 - link

    I created an account because I wanted to clear something up: to my knowledge, any ThinkPad can be purchased with this "enterprise" warranty. I've had Lenovo ship out parts for my machine within 16 hours before, as well as send out a technician in 2 business days. I do not own a business, I just bought the extended warranty for 3 years (and $300). Comparable to Apple Care.

    I still feel Apple is ahead of Lenovo in most other areas, but not extended warranty service.

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