'Hot' chip sets spark dealer delight

Queensland is the latest hot spot to experience an upsurge of overclocked Intel Pentium CPUs.

As many as 3000 to 5000 may have been put into circulation in the state since mid-December estimates Ray Shaw, managing director of Brisbane distributor and reseller Intermedia.

The scam involves Pentium 166MHz chips in brown ceramic packages re-marked as Pentium 200MHz and 233MHz MMX processors, Shaw said.

Shaw identified 22 Queesland discounters who were selling the re-marked chips after end users began calling him to complain about the situation. They had been alerted to potential problems by an article in Brisbane's Sunday Mail that identified Shaw as an independent expert.

"In two days we got more than 100 calls. I was floored by the response," Shaw said.

In virtually every case, Shaw found 166MHz processors had been re-marked. Since Intel only uses black plastic packaging for its 200 MHz and 233 MHz products, the grey-brown ceramic package encasing the 166MHz makes visual verification easy.

"A few of the companies have been ethical and replaced the chips -- but 90 per cent haven't," Shaw said.

Threats of violence and arson have been made against him since he began pointing the finger in the reseller community, he said.

The suspect chips, which overheat and cause intermittent machine hang-ups when run at higher clock rates, have their markings ground off to hide their true ratings. In some cases, importers have also changed motherboard BIOS settings so the screen display claims the slower chip is running at the faster speed.

Dealers taking part in the scam can pocket $150 to $250 dollars for each processor -- a tempting sum given the ongoing margin pressure in reseller channels.