Understanding Chip Errata: What it is and Why it Matters?

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What is Chip Errata?

Chip Errata is a term used to describe corrections or updates which are applied to a chip. This is usually after it has been released to the public, and is intended to address any errors or issues in the original design.

It’s a dirty secret that all chips have bugs. When hardware complexity reaches a certain threshold, it becomes too complex for humans to manage, leading to oversights. If you look into it, you’ll find that every chip will have a chip errata sheet – a list of bugs that the manufacturer is aware of.

Example: ESP 32 Chip Errata Sheet

ESP32 Errata Sheet
ESP32 Errata Sheet

Example Chip Errata & their Workarounds:

Example Chip Errata & their Workarounds

If the errata sheet becomes too long and the bugs too major, the manufacturer will often take the expensive step of fixing the bugs and doing another ‘spin’ of the silicon.

This isn’t always the solution, but sometimes it’s the only way to get the chips back up and running correctly. Unfortunately, this is a cost of doing business with these types of technologies.

However, if the manufacturer takes the right steps and is diligent in their testing and maintenance, they can keep the bugs to a minimum, and the chips running efficiently.

We only notice these bugs in large, expensive, and critical integrated circuits (ICs) like CPUs because they are held to a high standard. This is justified, since these ICs are the “brains” of any large computer, and the glitzy peripherals are useless if the brain is impaired.

As for other chips, most of them escape any notice for two main reasons:

  • There is no thorough post-silicon validation for these chips, so they cannot fail if they are not tested; and
  • Since people have low expectations for these chips, they are less likely to be noticed. In other words, the lack of testing and the low expectations for these chips make it so that these bugs tend to go unnoticed.

Why it Matters?

Chip errata is a critical issue for the semiconductor industry, and anyone involved in the development and production of electronic devices must be aware of its potential consequences. Even tiny errors in chip design or manufacturing can have major impacts, such as causing a device to crash, malfunction, or consume more power than intended. Furthermore, it can create security vulnerabilities that make devices more prone to hacking or other cyber attacks.

Recognizing and solving chip errata is a complex and lengthy process that requires rigorous testing and analysis. However, ignoring it can be costly for companies, as they may need to recall and replace faulty devices, or be held legally responsible for any damage caused by them.

It is clear that chip errata must be taken seriously, and companies must be diligent in their efforts to identify and fix any flaws in their microchips or integrated circuits.

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