Nvidia is in the news again, but not for good reasons. After the launch of its GeForce RTX 3080 graphics cards, most of which are in short supply still, there have been reports of the GPUs randomly crashing.
There have been several theories floating around online but a site called Igor’s Lab speculated that the crashes were caused by cheap capacitors used by third-party GPU makers on their RTX 3080 cards. The report goes on to say that once the GPU’s boost clock gets above 2GHz, it overloads the capacitors and causes it to crash. According to the site, the issue seems to be affecting certain custom models of the card but not Nvidia’s Founders Edition SKU cards.
As it turns out, there seems to be some validity to those theories as EVGA, an American computer hardware company that produces Nvidia GPUs, cited it faced issues with the capacitor layout originally used in its RTX 3080 cards. The company claimed that it never shipped the original layout to its customers. EVGA explained that while a design with six POSCAPs “cannot pass the real world applications testing,” it later tried a design with four POSCAPs and 20 MLCC caps that worked better.
If you didn’t catch that, just know that there are the two types of capacitors used in modern GPUs: MLCC and POSCAPS. Tom’s Hardware explains that both capacitors have their pros and cons. They said that MLCC are smaller but performs better at higher clock speeds and while POSCAPS are larger but are not as good when running at high clock speeds.
EVGA said the solution was to lower the boost clock manually, which seems to resolve the issue. However, this will definitely be disappointing for those who put the extra cash down for an overclocked card and aren’t able to push it to
Currently, we don’t really know if the capacitors are really the root cause to the problems with these graphics cards but this has spurred several industry players to respond.
Asus posted on Facebook saying that its TUF Gaming and ROG Strix GeForce RTX 3080 and 3090 graphics cards use only MLCC capacitors for decoupling close to the GPU.
“During development, we discovered the improvement this makes to RTX 3090 and 3080 overclocking headroom, so we made specification changes before we started shipping cards to reviewers and customers,” the post said.
Gigabyte also gave its take on the current situation, stating that it believes it is false that POSCAP capacitors independently could cause a hardware crash. “Whether a graphics card is stable or not requires a comprehensive evaluation of the overall circuit and power delivery design, not just the difference in capacitor types. POSCAPs and MLCCs have different characteristics and uses, thus it is not true to assert that one capacitor type is better than the other,” they said in their statement.
The device maker went on to say that its GeForce RTX 3080 gaming OC and Eagle OC series graphics card were designed in accordance with Nvidia’s specifications, and have passed all required testing. They are said to use high-quality, low-ESR 470uF SP-CAP capacitors, that meet the specifications set by Nvidia. The cost of SP-CAP capacitors is not lower than that of MLCCs. Gigabyte went on to say that it values product integrity highly and definitely does not reduce costs by using cheap materials.
Both MSIand Zotac have also issued statements that basically claim that the capacitors they used are not the cause of the GPU issues reported. They believe that Nvidia drivers would be able to address the stability issues that are plaguing the cards.
Nvidia seems to believe this too as it released a new driver (version 456.55) on 30 September to address the stability issues facing its RTX 30 GPU line. Based on reports from PC World, there is good news to be found as one of their cards that was previously crashing stopped after being updated. But there is one trade-off to this fix, according to PC World, the update “slightly limits” the top clock speed on the GPU boost.
So, what do you think? Would the issues reported on Nvidia’s RTX 3080 affect your decision to buy one when they finally become available? Let us know in the comments below.
*Editor’s Note: Added statement by Gigabyte Malaysia