Windows 10: On buying new or used Laptop / PC beware of Conexant chips

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  1.    08 May 2018 #1

    On buying new or used Laptop / PC beware of Conexant chips


    Like most of you know most laptops used to ship with audio chips from either Realtek or Conexant up till a year back .

    The funny thing is Conexant had went bankrupt on 2014 after achieving a revenue less than 190 million usd through out the year 2013 handing the lead to Realtek with revenue close to 2.5 billion usd .

    Why this is funny ? because most pc and laptop manufacturers persisted to ship devices with Conexant chips up till mid 2017 . How was this possible is beyond me , but maybe they could nail a huge stock of chips at a pretty low price on company's fight for survival that it took those manufacturers years to disperse the amount fully .

    Now there is a catch , sweet Microsoft whether decided to legacy out those chips or whether the chips really have a problem in architecture with its most recent build 1803 of Windows 10 , are putting a lot of manufacturers into stress trying to handle the situation with care so not to backfire at them to be forced to collect / replace recently sold units with such chips.

    Manufacturers like HP , IBM , LENOVO , DELL had been facing a lot of support requests regarding the situation with minimal understanding from buyers of why their audio isn't working or have problems on new windows update . The answers now vary from "We are sorry but your current device warranty has expired please refer to whatever blahs and follow those loops before contacting us" to "Please uninstall the current Conexant driver and use windows default HD audio driver and use the hide updates tool from Microsoft to stop the driver from updating" to "Your device isn't eligible for this windows update" .

    Now I really don't know how to think about this situation yet or how to handle it , or to who to point the finger at but for a start if you are buying , you may come across discounted units from last year or other units being sold used . Do bother yourself by googling which chip it uses for audio just to save yourself the hassle of nailing a brand new legacy hardware :)

    Cheers


    --Edit--
    There had been few updates out to tackle this issue of these are :

    Conexant SmartAudio HD Driver 8.66.76.52
    Conexant SmartAudio HD Driver 8.66.76.64
    Conexant SmartAudio HD Driver 8.66.83.53

    The origins of the updates are unknown but they are known to work but there are 3 cons : their maximum speaker volume and mic volume are known to be lower than previous versions , also the dolby gui had been changed to a less featured one that gets stuck often (equalizer seize to work where a restart maybe be required) , that and mic filters such as acoustic audio filter and noise reduction had been removed from SmartAudio CPL (leading to deteriorated mic quality) .


    The catch is , trying different / moded / different manufacturers drivers are the only options available for legacy hardware .
    Last edited by nIGHTmAYOR; 31 May 2018 at 10:51.
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  2.    19 May 2018 #2

    After further investigation into the situation Microsoft is to blame for this move as there are several catches in this situation :
    1 - Why does Microsoft force install a driver known not to work on its latest build and they do know it wont work (Do note that when it comes to sound we are talking a list of very very few manufacturers where conexant up till a recent time came second on it and sound is a major component to overlook like Microsoft pretend it did)
    2 - If the chip works (featureless) with the default HD audio driver then the chip still has what it takes to operate so no reason to block the driver from working
    3 - The smart move wont benefit much device manufacturers but rather cause them extra support headache and to discard obsolete devices stock
    4 - Home users (the majority of Microsoft Windows 10 users) will find a hassle to block the faulty driver from installing (from Hardware > Device Installation Settings) since this is a Pro only feature despite toggle-able on home edition but has no effect , Microsoft in that case would point the finger to manufacturer first , then when all fail suggest an upgrade to Windows 10 Pro edition which supports disabling automatic driver updates (Little feels like ransom-ware don't you think ?)

    Cheers
    Last edited by nIGHTmAYOR; 19 May 2018 at 10:38.
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  3. Bree's Avatar
    Posts : 8,551
    10 Home x64 (1803) (10 Pro on 2nd pc)
       21 May 2018 #3

    Funny thing is, I have several 'older' laptops (Toshiba/Samsung) in a range of ages from 2009-2011, two of which are in my specs below.

    All have Conexant audio chips. None have had a 'bad' Conexant driver 'forced' onto them by MS. At the launch of Win10 the initial free upgrade to 10240 did install a (working) Conexant driver, but a version upgrade some time after that switched this to the High Definition Audio driver from Microsoft. I can't tell you when it changed, the sound was working so I had no cause to check exactly what driver was in use.

    The big problem with Conexant audio is the chipset/driver was custom-designed for each OEM and even for each specific model. This makes it very difficult to find the right driver. The 'white label' driver from Conexant often doesn't work, you need to find the custom driver for your specific model from the OEM (if it's even still available). Fortunately the generic Microsoft High Definition Audio drive seems to work fine for all mine. YMMV.
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  4.    22 May 2018 #4

    The audio will work yes with the Microsoft High Definition Audio driver but you will miss on :
    1 - Jack Sense
    2 - Noise Filtering
    3 - Volume Boost
    4 - Equalizer and Audio Modes
    5 - Acoustic Echo Cancellation
    A sound card without these is like shifting from FM to AM radio in a car , which is the sad part .
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  5. Bree's Avatar
    Posts : 8,551
    10 Home x64 (1803) (10 Pro on 2nd pc)
       22 May 2018 #5

    nIGHTmAYOR said: View Post
    The audio will work yes with the Microsoft High Definition Audio driver but you will miss on...
    I see your point, but then for quality listening I cast my media to something with far better power and speakers. Basic audio is sufficient for my laptop needs.

    ...A sound card without these is like shifting from FM to AM radio in a car , which is the sad part.
    Yes, again I see your point. The MS HD Audio does switch to headphones when I plug them in, and the basic enhancements are there too (bass boost, loudness, etc.) but as the heart of your entertainment centre I can see why those may not be enough.

    I use the PC as a tool for preparing media to be played elsewhere. For complex filtering I can always use Audacity, so I just need to hear where I am while working. Microsoft's generic driver means I don't have to junk my laptop(s) because the Conexant chip won't work at all, which was sort of the tone of your OP. :)

    I agree, if you want to unlock the full capabilities of your sound card - avoid anything using Conexant. Otherwise, just put up with basic sound.
      My ComputersSystem Spec


  6. Posts : 21
    Windows 10 64bit Professional
       22 May 2018 #6

    nIGHTmAYOR said: View Post
    The funny thing is Conexant had went bankrupt on 2014 after achieving a revenue less than 190 million usd through out the year 2013 handing the lead to Realtek with revenue close to 2.5 billion usd .
    The funny thing I discovered when I looked for updated drivers for my laptop and couldn't find the Conexant web page, but then I understood the page didn't exist anymore so that means bankruptcy.
    And another funny thing is that the major computer hardware manufacturers (guided by the master M$crosoft) have made a lobby system with ever newer hardware which is no more compatible with the previous one so if you need a replacement spare part, you have to try your luck in the second hand market.
    Nowadays computers, and especially laptops, have a very short lifespan due to drivers are personalized to the specific manufacturer which after 1-2 years doesn't update the drivers anymore.
    This will result in future incompatibility with operative system monopoly marketing tactics as well processor manufacturers which in turn impose their own.
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  7.    22 May 2018 #7

    Here's the bottom line. If Toshiba puts a certain chipset in a computer, there is one company that is responsible for providing drivers for it....Toshiba. If HP puts a chipset in their computer, then HP is responsible for providing the driver. If Asus puts a chipset onto a motherboard that they sell - then Asus is responsible for providing the driver. Conexant is not responsible to provide the driver to the end user of an HP computer with their chip in it and neither is Microsoft.
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  8.    23 May 2018 #8

    NavyLCDR said: View Post
    Here's the bottom line. If Toshiba puts a certain chipset in a computer, there is one company that is responsible for providing drivers for it....Toshiba. If HP puts a chipset in their computer, then HP is responsible for providing the driver. If Asus puts a chipset onto a motherboard that they sell - then Asus is responsible for providing the driver. Conexant is not responsible to provide the driver to the end user of an HP computer with their chip in it and neither is Microsoft.
    What you are saying is entirely correct but there is a catch :

    Chips manufacturers strategies varies from providing 1 - open source drivers to 2 - compiled source files with APIs for hardware manufacturers to use to control the driver or add extra features .

    For compiled sources if for any reason fails to function the hardware manufacturer is in checkmate .

    One would expect though that on conexant filing for bankruptcy they should have released their drivers catalog as open source which we are not sure they did .

    Yet if they did this opens up for major security exploits where exploiters can harm the hardware or spy on it with ease through manipulating the hardware directly (com) and not through the OS / Driver APIs which works on filtering some of the exploits .

    So its better to believe it's rather Microsoft's duty to accept backward compatibility to drivers once they are certified for running on a windows version , where Microsoft already claims it does that and has a tab for it in file properties which miserably fail though .
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  9. Posts : 887
    Windows 10 Home x64 and Pro x86
       23 May 2018 #9

    I agree with @NavyLCDR and I disagree with you.

    The responsibility lies with whoever you paid for your computer and who therefore have an obligation to you, not with MS. Furthermore, MS said at the outset of Windows 10 that it would be provided 'for the supported lifetime of the device', a period which is determined by whoever you paid for your computer.

    Denis
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  10.    25 May 2018 #10

    Try3 said: View Post
    I agree with @NavyLCDR and I disagree with you.

    The responsibility lies with whoever you paid for your computer and who therefore have an obligation to you, not with MS. Furthermore, MS said at the outset of Windows 10 that it would be provided 'for the supported lifetime of the device', a period which is determined by whoever you paid for your computer.

    Denis
    First of all the topic is the conexant crisis in particular and how to solve it . Also please remember that your money doesn't just go to your laptop's manufacturer just but to Microsoft too weather windows was bundled or bought and the manufacturer managed to hand you a running driver to windows 10 when bought , mind you their updates should mainly revolve around emprovements than rather battling Microsoft. And please don't forget legacy-ing is always Microsoft's call before it's manufacturer's since it Microsoft who decides a device is eligible for backward compatibility or not. Plus you miss the point where microsoft force installs the broken driver it blocked so people have to (pay) to upgrade to 10 pro version to disable automatic driver updates.
    Last edited by nIGHTmAYOR; 25 May 2018 at 03:41.
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