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PCI consortium implies Nvidia at fault for its melting cables

Nvidia said the issues were caused by user error but the PCI-SIG pointed to possible design flaws

A major hardware organisation has implied that Nvidia is at fault for the widely reported instances of melting power cables on its new RTX 4090 graphics cards.

Nvidia's latest line of GPUs was released in October but their power cables have been mired in reports of extreme thermal faults leading to some users’ cables smoking or melting entirely.

Specifically, the GPUs' 16-pin 12VHPWR power cable, which adopts the new ATX 3.0 PSU standard released this year, has been identified as the core issue at play. Nvidia investigated the circa 50 extreme cases reported to it and concluded that “a common issue is that connectors are not fully plugged into the graphics card” - an issue of user error. 

However, the Peripheral Component Interconnect Special Interest Group (PCI-SIG), a tech consortium which created the new power standard, and whose board includes representatives from companies including AMD, Arm, IBM, Intel, and Nvidia itself, has sought to distance itself from Nvidia’s claims. 

It stated firms are responsible for rigorously testing their own hardware, and referenced an affected individual who has filed a class action lawsuit against Nvidia in a California district court.

"PCI-SIG wishes to impress upon all members that manufacture, market, or sell PCI-SIG technologies (including 12VHPWR connections) of the need to take all appropriate and prudent measures to ensure end-user safety, including testing for the reported problem cases involving consumers as alleged in the above-referenced lawsuit," the group said in a statement to the press.

“Members are reminded that PCI-SIG specifications provide necessary technical information for interoperability and do not attempt to address proper design, manufacturing methods, materials, safety testing, safety tolerances or workmanship. When implementing a PCI-SIG specification, members are responsible for the design, manufacturing, and testing, including safety testing, of their products.”

In the lawsuit (PDF), the plaintiff alleged that Nvidia “marketed and sold the RTX 4090 with a defective and dangerous power cable plug and socket, which has rendered consumers’ cards inoperable and poses a serious electrical and fire hazard for each and every purchaser”.

PC hardware reviews channel Gamers Nexus replicated the fault through the improper connection of the connector to the graphics card, and recorded the card reaching temperatures as high as 250ºC.

The group analysed cables sent in by affected viewers and determined that wear and tear proved the cables had been inserted at an angle, or with pins loose.

Despite this, in lieu of an audible ‘click’ when the cable is inserted properly, the reviewers noted that it’s very possible for a user to accidentally install the card insecurely. They also warned that those tinkering with cables after hearing about the issue might be opening themselves up to failure.

The 12VHPWR is a new power standard and used in Nvidia’s RTX 4080 and 4090 cards in place of the two eight-pin connectors that were used with the firm’s older cards. Rival AMD still utilises this older solution, having opted against including the 12VHPWR on its newest cards.

PCI-SIG’s statement is seemingly aimed at quashing fears that the thermal problems are endemic to the new standard.

IT Pro has approached Nvidia for comment.

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