What I'm seeing in those photos—content shifted by a few pixels—is almost certainly a software bug. A hardware failure would almost always give you a block of absolute garbage. It's remotely possible that there's a defective register in the GPU, resulting in the low-order bit sometimes reading out a zero when it should read a one, which might cause that if that register were used as the source or destination address for a block move, but the odds of something like that happening are pretty small, and the odds of the chip being even halfway usable in that sort of state are remarkably close to zero. But you never know.
I would suggest that you install gfxCardStatus. This menu bar extra does two things:
- It provides notification when your system switches between the integrated GPU (Intel) and the discrete GPU (AMD or NVIDIA). If you experience problems at those transitions, it is almost guaranteed to be a software bug.
- It lets you pin the GPU mode to either the integrated GPU or the discrete GPU. This can tell you which GPU or GPU driver is broken.
Note that if you decide to pin the integrated GPU, you'll probably have to do so while Photoshop is not running, as most of those sorts of apps are on a blacklist that pins the discrete GPU automatically on launch.
With that said, let me be perfectly blunt: GPU drivers seem to almost invariably suck (and have sucked for as long as I can remember). For the first several months after I got my previous MacBook Pro, I experienced *constant* graphics corruption problems. After a little research, I determined that everyone was seeing them, and that it only occurred when using the integrated GPU, so I configured my system to use the discrete GPU exclusively. Eventually, after filing lots of bugs and doing lots of swearing, they finally got it straightened out, but it isn't uncommon. At all.
As for the logic board failures, that's usually a thermal problem. Someone probably didn't assemble the computer with the right amount of thermal paste between the GPU and the heat sink, resulting in overheating when the GPU is under load. You might be able to work around the problem by using one of various tools that let you tweak the fan calibration.
If that doesn't help, then the GPU's heat is probably causing one of the BGA solder balls to not make proper contact with the logic board, which means that your logic board needs to be reflowed. I'd expect that to be cheaper than a replacement logic board, though if the problem is caused by using the wrong kind of solder and/or not keeping the chip cool enough, there's no guarantee it won't just fail again after another year.
But before you go to such extremes, call Apple anyway. Then press zero until you get a live human. Ask to speak to Customer Relations. Tell them that you've seen the thread, and that you're experiencing the same failure out-of-warranty. Ask them to make a warranty exception. They're the only team that can typically do that, so you might as well skip all the tier 1/tier 2 tech support and go straight to the people who can actually help.
Hi, thanks for your message. I did go to the Apple store, showed the tech guys the same pictures I posted here. They said it's logic board/graphic card failure (I hope I understood them correctly). I told them about this thread and the one on the apple.com website. They said they never heard about this issue with early 2011 models. The funny thing was they said, well you know people say all different kind of stuff on forums
So, I paid $310 to get the new logic board + 8gb RAM, although they said it usually costs ~$500-600. I didn't really care as I'm covered with Squaretrade warranty. I picked up the laptop today, so far it's working fine.