Newegg: Get your fake Intel CPUs here

Can you say "quality control"? If so, you're one up on online retailer Newegg, caught selling bogus Intel i7-920 processors

This story is just too wild to ignore: It seems Newegg has quite a bit of old egg on its face this week after it shipped customers "counterfeit" Intel CPUs that were more like movie props than actual working electronics.

Last week, a Newegg customer ordered an Intel Core i7-920 CPU, which retails for US$288.99 at the site. But what he got was more than a little different.

IDG News' Sumner Lemon puts it rather drolly:

The fake processor, sold as a standalone or "boxed" chip, came with an instruction manual comprised of blank pages. In addition, [a] sticker on the outside of the box misspelled the word "socket" as "sochet" and other words on the box were spelled incorrectly -- subtle but clear indications that the contents inside were not genuine.

Subtle but clear -- you betcha.

Actually, it gets better (or worse, depending on your perspective). According to photographs posted at the HardOCP forums where the story originally surfaced, the "chip" came with a "heat sink" that was simply a blob of molded plastic. The CPU fan, visible through a cutout in the box's packaging, was a decal glued to the "heat sink." In other words, it was a picture of a fan, not an actual fan. The "chip" itself appears to be a piece of tin with perforations where you'd normally find circuits.

According to reports, Newegg got 300 of these things from its now-former supplier, IPEX. Apparently the guy they hired to do random out-of-box inspections was in the bathroom when this shipment arrived. Or maybe he was on a three-day bender in Tijuana. Or maybe they simply don't have anyone inspecting their products as they come in the door.

Newegg's initial, somewhat amazing explanation: These were "demo versions" of the Intel chip, mistakenly mailed out to customers instead of the actual ones. Per an email NewEgg sent to its customers:

Please take a moment to examine the product you received thoroughly to determine if you in fact received the wrong product. The Demo Version of these CPUs were purchased between March 1, 2010 through March 4, 2010 and will have FPO/BATCH# 3938B006 printed on the product's packaging. Additionally, the Part Number on the heat sink will read CNFN936612 and there will be no wiring on the heat sink itself.

Also: The bill of goods will have been filled out using crayons and contain pictures of unicorns. And the popcorn used inside the box will be actual popcorn (but please, don't eat it).

About the only thing these chips could demonstrate is that if you're planning to go into the bogus CPU business, it might behoove you to learn how to spell "socket."

Using information it says it got from Newegg sources, the HardOCP site reported (incorrectly) that the source of the bogus chips was D&H Distributing. That earned it an immediate nastygram from D&H's attorneys, who insisted HardOCP post a retraction on its site and keep it there for a month.

So to be perfectly clear: D&H Distribution is not in the business of distributing fake Intel CPUs that have fewer working parts than a Barbie doll.

Newegg did subsequently publish a more accurate statement on its Facebook page, calling the chips "questionable" and "counterfeit." But really, even that doesn't begin to describe them. And it's giving full refunds (duh) to anyone who got one of these.

I have to wonder, though, if it would make more sense to hold onto them as collector's items. I mean, how often does a major electronics dealer get pwned this badly? They could be worth actual (not fake) money on eBay one day.

As for Newegg, I think the company needs to start hiring bipeds with opposable thumbs to work in "quality control." Even really smart chimps would do. Somebody needs to make sure that if it's supposed to come from "Intel," the box doesn't say "Entell."

How much would you pay for a bogus CPU? E-mail me:

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Robert X. Cringely

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