How Good (Or Bad) Are Fake Power Semiconductors?

We all know that there’s a significant risk of receiving fake hardware when buying parts from less reputable sources. These counterfeit parts are usually a much cheaper component relabeled as a more expensive one, with a consequent reduction in performance. It goes without saying that the fake is lower quality then, but by just how much? [Denki Otaku] has a video comparing two power FETs, a real and a fake one, and it makes for an interesting watch.

For once the fact that a video is sponsored is a positive, for instead of a spiel about a dodgy VPN or a game involving tanks, he takes us into Keysight’s own lab to work with some high-end component characterization instruments we wouldn’t normally see. A curve tracer produces the equivalents of all those graphs from the data sheet, while a double pulse tester puts the two transistors through a punishing high-power dynamic characteristic examination. Then back in his own lab we see the devices compared in a typical circuit, a high-power buck converter. The most obvious differences between the two parts reveal something about their physical difference, as a lower parasitic capacitance and turn-on time with a higher on resistance for the fake is a pointer to it being a smaller part. Decapping the two side by side backs this up.

So it should be no surprise that a fake part has a much lower performance than the real one. In this case it’s a fully working transistor, but one that works very inefficiently at the higher currents which the real one is designed for. We can all be caught by fakes, even Hackaday scribes.

Continue reading “How Good (Or Bad) Are Fake Power Semiconductors?”

Inside A Fake LM358

[IMSAI Guy] got some fake LM358 op-amps. Uncharacteristically, these chips actually performed well even though they didn’t act like LM358s. [IMSAI Guy] did a video about the fake chips and someone who saw it offered to analyze the part compared to a real LM358 to see what was going on. You can see it too in the video below.

A visual inspection made it obvious that the chip was probably a fake. X-ray analysis was a little less obvious but still showed poor quality and different internals. But the fun was when they actually decapsulated the part.

Continue reading “Inside A Fake LM358”

How To Spot A Fake Op-Amp

We’re all aware that there are plenty of fake components to be found if you’re prepared to look in the right places, and that perhaps too-good-to-be-true chip offers on auction sites might turn out to have markings which rub off to reveal something completely different underneath. [IMSAI Guy] saw a batch of OP-07 laser-trimmed op-amps at a bargain price, so picked them up for an investigation. You can take a look at the video below the break.

A perfect op-amp has a zero volt output when both of its inputs are at the same voltage, but in practice no real device approaches this level of perfection. It’s referred to as the offset voltage, and for instrumentation work where a low offset voltage is important there are parts such as the OP-07 which have each been adjusted using a laser to trim their components for the lowest offset. This process is expensive, so naturally so are genuine OP-07s.

Identifying real versus fake op-amps in this case is as simple as hooking the chip up as a unity gain non-inverting amplifier and measuring the voltage on the output (we can’t help a tinge of envy at that Keithley 2015 THD multimeter!), from which measurement the fakes should be clearly visible. First up are some 741s with their > 1 mV offsets (though an outlier 741 had a 40μV offset) to show what a cheap op-amp could be expected to do, then we see the OP-07s. Immediately with an offset of > 1.2 mV  we can tell that they’re fake, which as he admits for the price is hardly a surprise. Meanwhile we’ll keep an eye out for Korean-made 741s like the outlier low-offset device.

If you’re interested by op-amp internals may we suggest a look at the first IC op-amp, meanwhile this isn’t the first fake chip we’ve seen.

Continue reading “How To Spot A Fake Op-Amp”

Fake Graphics Cards And How To Fix Them

When shopping online, there’s plenty of great deals out there on modern graphics hardware. Of course, if you’re like [Dawid] and bought a GTX1050 Ti for $48 from Wish, you probably suspect it’s too good to be true. Of course, you’d be correct.

[Dawid] notes from the outset that the packaging the card ships in is unusual. While it’s covered in NVIDIA and GeForce branding, there’s no note of the model number or even the overarching series. The card is loosely packed in bubblewrap, free to bounce around in transit. Upon installation, the card reports itself as a GTX1050 Ti, but refuses to properly work with NVIDIA drivers and routinely causes a Blue Screen of Death.

Upon disassembly, it becomes apparent that the card is merely a poorly manufactured GTS450 Revision 2, over five generations older than the card it was advertised as. Thanks to the mismatch between the actual hardware and what the card reports as, the drivers are unable to properly work with the card.

For those that have been scammed, there is some hope. [Phil] has had experience with several of these cards, which similarly misreport their actual hardware. To correct this, the cards need to have their BIOS flashed to reflect reality, but the fake cards don’t work with NVIDIA’s NVFlash tool. Instead, they must be flashed manually using an EEPROM programmer. Once the cards are flashed with an appropriate BIOS, they can be used with the proper drivers and will function properly, albeit with much less performance than was advertised.

It’s an interesting insight into the state of online shopping platforms, and the old adage remains true – if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Plus, hacking GPUs can often have great results. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Fake Graphics Cards And How To Fix Them”